Sunday, July 2, 2017

Water, water everywhere

By David Horst

We set out knowing we would be rained on.

One of the glories of kayaking is it doesn't matter if it rains. Your boat and your sprayskirt cover the bottom half of you and your raincoat and hat shelter the rest.

We were paddling the Caldron Falls pool of the Peshtigo Flowage -- one of eight days of paddling organized by North East Wisconsin Paddlers this season.

Camping at Gov. Thompson State Park, we are paddling an 8-mile out-and-back route Saturday and the High Falls pool on Sunday. Today's route is landing #13 to landing #12 and back.

The clouds were gathering and the forecast has made thunderstorms a certainty. But, remember, I no longer trust weather forecasters.

On the way back the rain started. It got harder. An
d it got harder yet. Buckets of rain water were falling from the air. It seemed like there was no room for any more rain.

I joked that you didn't need to put your paddle into the lake because there was just as much water above the surface as below.

Then the thought: What if this turned to hail? Ouch!

It didn't.

Had there been lightning, we would have immediately headed for shore. Rain is just part of the experience.

Later, fellow event planner Tom Young told the 30 or so participants that they had just finished an important confidence-building experience. If they could endure through rain this intense, they had nothing to fear in paddling in the rain in the future. They had been there, done it.

That's the confidence in numbers that come with these trips. You see other people doing it, and you know skilled paddlers who are certified safety instructors are with you. When you paddle again in smaller groups, confidence comes along.

FALSE CONFIDENCE: No matter how much confidence you have going into a paddle, follow these precautionary steps:

  • Paddle with a buddy.
  • Let someone on land know your approximate route, take-out point and arrival time.
  • Always, always, at all times wear your PFD (personal floating device or lifejacket).
  • Use your sprayskirt. It keeps water out of your cockpit and can make the difference between a lean and a flip.
  • Learn on-water rescue and self-rescue techniques. 

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