Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Omar Kayak

Apparently, I am Groo the Wanderer when it comes to kayaks.

I spent my birthday the way I always choose to spend my birthday – away from whichever office I call home at that time. So in recent years I’ve ended up in Atlanta, on Mt. Rainier, and hiking up Little Si. This year I took the day off and chose to kayak on the Mercer Slough.

I’ve mentioned the slough before – it is bottomland that was underwater before the locks were cut and dropped Lake Washington. A series of channels were cut creating a network that looks like a backwards “P”, about two miles long. It is the home of ducks, geese, turtles, eagles, otters, and herons. Beautiful place, situated where you would least expect it.

So the Lovely Bride and I hied to Enatai Beach Park, which is situated under the Eastern support pillars of the I-90 bridge over Lake Washington. The LB had called in advance, and we called dibs on a pair of nice single- person kayaks. The LB got in hers, and was pushed out into the choppy waters of Lake Washington, but quickly got the hang of using the foot-controlled rudder. She was a natural.

I was less than successful. I got into my kayak, was pushed out, got five feet from shore, and immediately rolled the boat over. I pulled myself out, sopping wet, got advice from the helpful and friendly staff to lean back more to settle my weight, was pushed out, got out ten feet and rolled over AGAIN. Then the helpful staff pulled out an ocean kayak without a working rudder but with a broader beam for my …um … broader beam.

They pushed me out. I got fifteen feet from shore, hit some previously undangerous-looking rocks, had a panic attack, and rolled the boat over AGAIN. This was beginning to look like a Monty Python routine.

The Lovely Bride glided back into shore as I admitted defeat (I also told the helpful staff that “You know, this was MY idea”). So we reconvened and went with a two-person kayak, of which someone said was a sure way to break up a relationship.

Of course, I had sunk three boats at this point, so I definitely willing to be more accommodating in sharing the command of a two-person ship.

Lake Washington was extremely choppy from a solid wind blowing from the south, and we spent most of the first half-hour fighting our way around the point to the slough’s entrance. And luckily, we did not roll the boat again. The trek up the slough was wonderful, having a broad flat, calm space of water just south of a major city almost all to ourselves. We so plenty of ducks, a heron, heard but did not see a den of otters, a couple turtles, and almost no one else on the water. It takes 1 and a half to two hours to make the circuit - we completed it in three.

It was blissful. And even though I know now that I am closer to Steven Maturin than to Jack Aubrey, I had a great time.

Happy Birthday, me.

More later.