Sunday, December 26, 2010

Reading

Season's greetings to all!
I was one of the lucky ones who had time to go out in a kayak on Christmas Day. It was a good moment of peace, between the rush of Christmas morning and the over-eating of Christmas dinner. There was a short window of opportunity, and I was glad to take advantage. The weather hasn't allowed for much paddling for the last couple of weeks. My time has been occupied, too. But I did get on the water twice this week. It took threading my way through a new tangle of logs on the shore at Cadboro Bay's Gyro Park. The winter storms often toss logs across the sandy boat ramp at one end of the park. This year, it looks like waves and logs have been beating on the little seawalls for the houses along the shoreline.
People walking along the beach in winter always stop to watch me launch, and shudder when I wade out to stand ankle-deep next to my boat. Piffle. The water isn't much colder in December than it is in August. Well, the air is colder. On mild winter days, it's hard to tell that it's actually winter. It could be almost any month of the year, when I look at the shoreline of trees that are mostly Douglas fir and pine... it would be a very cold August, but the weather on Christmas Day was nothing to complain about.
Reading the weather is something that gets easier to do with practise. And the practise gives me more chances to learn what generally works when reading the weather. When the trees are dancing in the wind outside my windows, I know that the breeze out on the bay is too stiff for a relaxed solo paddle in my little inflatable. But in winter, the trees have no leaves to catch the wind. They may be deceptively still. In winter, it's better to go outside and feel the breeze than try to guess by looking through the window.
Rain means less than it might when I'm trying to decide whether a day is good weather for paddling. It's less fun to go kayaking in the rain -- it's no fun when the rain is slanted sideways by a strong, cold wind! There are enough times that the rain starts when we're already on the water, or launching at a beach we don't often visit. I paddle in the rain often enough that I don't need to launch at my home beach on a day that rain is pounding down.
I read the weather by looking down at the bay when coming back from somewhere else. Both of the major roads leading back home from downtown or the University are steeply slanted, downhill to the bay. Blue water is a cheerful reminder that there's plenty of daylight left to get on the water. Grey water might still be worth paddling -- or there might be a storm coming.
I know all the shores of the bay, so the sight of waves breaking against rocks tells me the direction of the wind, and its intensity. Whitecaps in the middle of the bay are something else that catches my attention, too!
After a series of days with so much wind that there were whitecaps even on the water that rises around the concrete octopus in Gyro Park, it was great to get out on Thursday and again on Christmas Day. Got to see the neighbours again: people walking dogs and grandchildren, ducks quacking quietly to each other in mellow conversations about how they really didn't need to migrate any farther south this winter, and otters tumbling in Sheep Cove. The ducks were many and various, from buffleheads to ruddy ducks and I think mergansers as well. The herons don't mind me paddling past, but whenever I've stopped to take a photo of one, it has squawked and flown away. So I let them be for a while.
I let the otters be, too, when I came on them feeding in Sheep Cove. The otters aren't usually out & about at high tide -- usually it's low tide when they are ducking down and coming up with something to eat. It's possible they were waiting out a windstorm, and glad for some calm weather to look for food in peace. They didn't need me hanging around to cramp their style.
Instead, I went back to the beach, and ran into Mike Jackson. He was out in the sweet handmade kayak he owns, the one that looks like canvas sewed over a thin wooden frame. With his Greenland paddle, this is a very Inuit look! By contrast, my multi-coloured inflatable and old round-bladed paddle have a very commercial look. Still, we were both enjoying the day as we should.
The day ended well, with a family dinner complete with all the trimmings. And with good wishes for a new year, with many more paddle outings, in familiar places and the new ones we've dreamed of visiting.

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