Paddling a 16 ft canoe over a large calm blue lake with the wind at your back, and the sun blazing high in a cloudless sky is an experience not many of us get in life. Therefore i know i am blessed.
Four years ago i bought a Anar canoe, it's not the best, but it's just what i needed at the time. It weighs 43 kilos, so it's heavy, and especially heavy to load on top of the roof rack of my Nissan x-trail, which happens to be quite high in comparison to the average car. Even though it's a struggle to load and unload, it sure is one of the best items i have ever bought in my entire life, there is no doubt about that.
For me i find it gives me the most exhilarating experience of my entire life. Funny that i choose such words to write about canoeing, but i can't think of anything else that in my 52 years on this planet has given me such pleasure, for such a long period of time. Sure i've had bouts of ecstacy and and persistent highs in my lifetime, but that doesn't compare to the enjoyment that i receive from this 16' floating vessel, and of course all the attachments that come with this lifestyle, the camping, food, map reading, solitude, peacefulness, and most of all, how it makes you feel completely present, in the Now.
Before i continue, i know not everyone can be blessed to be living in such an amazing part of the world, and i am filled with eternal gratitude to all of those people who have been, and who are still in my life, who have moved me, shaped me, and guided me in some form or another, whether that is through love, disappointment, anger, sadness, and of all the lessons i have learned to struggle with. I want to thank you all, sincerely, for it is all these challenges in my life that has brought me here today, and a good deal of luck and wanting.
You see things from a different perspective from the water. There's a new learning that's involved, and in some cases you have to make decisions so that you do not put yourself into a survival situation. For me, being on the water is one of the most wonderful experiences in the world, but if your not careful it can also be very dangerous experience. The golden rule is, that you have to be mindful of the weather. The weather will be a blessing or a curse, and that can change like a switch. If the weather can change rapidly then so must you, and therefore you must be humble to nature's temperament.
Some days you will have to fight gale force winds pounding at you head on and then watch it quickly change, hitting your canoe from the portside (left), and then suddenly switching to the starboard (right) side. You're basically being blown all over the lake, and it will drain you of energy very quickly, especially if you are inexperienced.
I had this experience once and it was very demanding but also very exhilarating. The rain was pounding on my face so much that i couldn't see my buddies up ahead in their canoe. The galeforce wind was blowing against me was so hard that no matter how hard i paddled i felt i wasn't making any progress whatsoever. White caps swirled around me. My boat lifted and lurched on top of the water, torrential waves spraying me continuously with stinging water pellets in my face. I paddled constantly, as fast and as hard as i possibly could, switching sides with every twitch i felt from the wind. Two strokes this side, then bam! The pounding wind hits the Starboard bow, sending it almost too far to salvage. Switch again, paddle paddle paddle to bring it straight again. And on and on it went until the wind and rain died down in what felt like an eternity. Soaked and tired and hoping that the canoe doesn't flip over, i screamed out loud and at nobody in particular "Come on, is that all you got". I was buzzing with adrenaline and laughing like a mad man. Never have i had such an amazing experience before like that, i couldn't stop smiling for days after.
On another day, i was paddling on a lake that looked like glass because there was no wind at all interrupting the water's surface. I was in the middle of the lake, making slow J- strokes with my paddle and enjoying the sun's rays on my face while listening to the gentle but mesmerizing sound of the paddle dipping in and out of the water. The sun's glare was glistening like diamonds on a mirror, and a sudden fish jumping out into the air caused what looked like a scattering of jewels thrown across the water. There was no sound but the occasional bird singing on the lakeside. Peaceful was an understatement. Serene it truly was.
When you are in that frame of mind, or should i say 'out of your mind' in the sense that your are just 'being' and not thinking, you get a kind of sixth sense when you are about to be taken out of that euphoric state. It caught my attention that the birds were chirping quite loudly then all of a sudden, nothing, an eerie silence, not like before where it was serene and pure, but this time a sense of foreboding came with it.
It started with the clouds. They darkened in appearance, and covered the sky above in what seemed like five times the normal speed, as if you have pressed the fast forward button on the dvd player. Across the lake i spotted white caps coming towards me, far away but generating speed. White caps are something to be concerned about when on the water as this indicates waves that have built up speed by the force of the wind and have 'crested ' (broken on top of the water). These can over-turn your canoe if you are not careful, and it's a good warning sign to any canoeist to be vigilant. I had to brace myself and start to either turn the canoe Bow (front) facing the onto coming waves or turn and let them hit the Stern (back end of the boat). What you don't want to happen is for the waves to hit hard against the port side or starboard side of the boat as this will cause the boat to flip if enough force is generated. I turned the boat so the waves will hit the Stern and push me towards the shoreline. I knew there was no point in fighting against this assault of wind and waves, so i just let it come. And come it did. I got blown hard, and for about 500 metres. Thankfully all of the it's power was against my back and sending me forward with a good speed. I had to position my paddles in the water to guide my canoe, which had now become a speedboat by all comparison, and steer me on to the coming sandy beach up ahead. If there had been rocks or some other form of disaster to which i was being blown onto, then i no doubt would have turned the Bow facing into the wind and tried to make a safe situation out of this odd occurrence. After being 'beached' and accepting the situation for another 5 minutes or so, the clouds started to disperse and the wind stopped blowing, and the water returned to its serene state. I however was left in a bewildered state of amusement, but happy to be safe albeit disheveled.