Friday, February 12, 2010

Out in the Dark

Ever paddle at night? Was it on purpose?
I've been kayaking in the dark a few times, and it was always a fascinating thing to see dimly-guessed shapes, and plenty of reflections. It's really interesting to watch the light fade out of the sky, and even more interesting in some ways to be out before dawn and watch the sky get brighter and brighter. The sun is almost a surprise!
But it's when the sky is getting darker that I'm getting more and more alert. It's like the mop of grey hair on my head has turned into long antennae reaching out into the dark to help me try to be aware of what's going on.
Out on the water yesterday, I realized that it wasn't just getting dark because it's still winter. (Yeah, yeah, I know that most people don't consider February STILL winter. I spent fifteen years in Edmonton, where the seasons are not spring, summer, autumn and winter, but Almost Winter, Winter, Still Winter, and Construction. By Alberta standards, February is only half-past Winter. But here in Victoria, half-past February means there were two cherry trees blooming on the open shore.) It was getting dark because the clouds were coming in thick on the weather front, AND it was the end of a winter's day. I was glad to know that I'm familiar with this bay in most kinds of weather and most times of day. While I don't paddle in a howling gale or after midnight, I've been on the beach in both those kinds of weather.
It's a darned good idea to get to know your home waters at different times of day. What colours are the lights on the buoys and lighthouses, and how often do they blink? You can tell the lights apart, here, by their frequency, duration and colours. What are the lights like on the shoreline? Get to know how your home waters look at sunset and at night. Even if you don't intend to paddle in the dark, an afternoon outing can end up getting pretty dark if the current and wind pick up and delay your return. It's always good to be sure where you are.


  1. Agree wholeheartedly, Paula. As folks might gather from our postings, night paddling (with due care and attention) is one of our favourite times to be on the water - it's a whole different world. Duncan.

  2. There's a great story told by the owner/operators of Body/Boat/Blade, a kayaking business in the San Juan Islands of Washington state. Both of them, with a friend, were doing a lot of night paddling while circumnavigating Iceland. "Night" is a relative term that far north, close to summer solstice. In that weird dusk and dawn light, they paddled at midnight and during the wee, small hours, to make up for taking afternoons off when the wind picked up. A whole different world is a good way to put it -- one night they were deeply disturbed by what they saw and felt about the shoreline. It's really their story to tell... but after that they decided not to paddle there at night any more.