Thursday, September 18, 2008

Kayaking on the North Shore

A weekend itch, a hum, an expectation, when the weather obliges, and many weathers oblige. Though a schlep to start out of course. Haul the boat from the backyard, hose off the dirt thrown up the the rain, flip it onto the SUV rack, strap it down -- a 14 foot Walden Expedition, lobster red. Carry yourself and the kayak down to the sea. With an appetizing crunch push off from the sand. Then, miraculous reversal, the sea and the kayak are carrying you -- out past the splashing families, the boatyards, the bobbing floats beneath which real lobsters scuttle, shrewdly untempted (in my mind) by the locals' traps. Along the islets and shores of this rocky bay, dotted with seaside mansions old and new. I alternately dart and drift, the dripping double-bladed oar in its steady rotation, half push half pull, always reminding me of a dragonfly's wings, or resting comfortably athwart the cockpit, as the boat slides along under its own momentum or simply bobbed by the waves. A little outside the mouth of the bay the wind and the swells pick up and I paddle harder, with more consciousness of having to choose a direction -- northwest round the point to Salem, southeast across the harbor with its forest of masts, and the lighthouse in front of me. Further out, Great Misery island, where more intrepid paddlers in wetsuits habitually venture but I haven't attempted yet, probably never will. An hour and a half floating on the waves with my feet up and a modest, half imagined weekender's sense of the power and pull of the sea is quite enough adventure, right now.

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