Some days, I’m just not productive. My brain isn’t working, I’m distracted, or things just… somehow don’t ever work out right. Monday was one of those days.
But you know what? That’s the whole advantage of being a salaried employee with flex-time – if I can’t seem to get anything done one day… I can always just stay late on a day that I can get things done. And on the day that I can’t get things done, I can go home a bit early.
Today, I chose that option.
Granted, it was only an hour early. But when the sun sets right when I normally leave work, that hour makes all the difference. I escaped, drove home, and immediately tossed my little inflatable dinghy into my pack before stepping out the door.
It was glorious.
Beautiful views, excellent river-sounds, and basically nobody around since it was barely above freezing. I stayed close to the shore, because of the mentioned temperatures, but ended up tying up to a nearby dock and just… floating.
The river rushed by, swollen by the recent rain, and I just stared at the sky, caught up on messages from friends, and read my book until I couldn’t quite feel my hands.
A Thanksgiving adventure – Kayaking the Willamette River
Thanksgiving is going to be different this year. This is my first year being single in half a decade, and thanks to the COVID Pandemic it’s also the first year that I can’t travel, and don’t have any friends still in town. I’m flying solo, have a ton of vacation to burn, and am feeling energetic...
Many years back, my friend Mike bought an inflatable Kayak.
A few weekends afterward, we christened it The Bogmaster 3000, after we spent a day on the Androscoggin river, up in Maine, paddling around an exploring the various estuaries and (unsurprisingly) bogs all along the shoreline. Since then, Mike and I took it out more places than I can count… and he took it out on his own for enough adventures that I still have a sense of lingering jealousy.
So I bought my own.
I mean, I hadn’t really planned on it, in my defense. But this summer I finally got to go backpacking regularly again, and saw so many beautiful alpine lakes… the thought of just floating around in the middle of them was too much to bear. Since then, I’ve kept an eye out for a small, lightweight, packable kayak that I could bring with me on backpacking trips.
Well, I finally found one.
The Klymit lifewater dinghy.
Doesn’t… doesn’t sound that badass, does it? Yeah. Not the coolest name out there, I’ll freely admit.
But you know what? It weighs in at 3 lbs. 4lbs, with the paddle. It packs down to the size of two nalgene bottles. It’s easy to inflate, and the paddle collapses down nice and small.
What more is there to want?
I posit: Nothing.
I actually got it in the mail a week or two back, but I simply hadn’t had the time, energy, or interest in taking it out onto the river yet. Thanksgiving, though, instilled in me a beautiful sense of serenity and relaxation – exactly the mindset that called for floating around on a crisp sunny day.
I could see my breath in the air, and the folks hanging out on the boat launch definitely gave me a few side-eyed looks as I inflated it, and cast off into the light mist. I had a tee-shirt on, but everything I was wearing was warm and synthetic – easily enough to keep me warm if my maiden voyage went the way of the Titanic, and something went wrong.
Nothing went wrong, thankfully – though it was cold, there were no icebergs to be seen, nor any sharp or pokey objects that could puncture my noticably unarmored hull. One downside to a lightweight inflatable Kayak / raft is that the skin has to be super-thin in order to save weight… which meant I was definitely a little bit paranoid about my first jaunt into the water.
Ed Note: It’s not actually Acadia Sound. It’s correctly named “Somes Sound”. All references to Acadia Sound have thus been edited. Is it weird that I write these editors notes, even though I’m both the editor and the author? Meh.
Mike owns a Kayak. I’ve mentioned it, and some of the adventures that have occurred within its inflatable hull, before. But when we were talking about when to head up to Acadia, we realized the scope of what this inflatable kayak actually mean – we could explore any of Acadia’s waterways, without worry of trying to find a place to rent the kayaks.
Thus, on Sunday morning we pulled out a map. Actually, first we went and hiked up The Beehive, a mountain hike that involves a lot of steep rock scrambling that’s aided by large iron runs in the cliff. But after that, we pulled out a map and started ticking off places we’d already been, and places that kayaks weren’t allowed. In the end, that left us with about half a dozen spots that we could explore, not including the outer coastline – we decided against that since neither of us really wanted to test an inflatable kayak in ocean swells.
Since we had a half dozen possible spots, we went with the scientific method to choose our launch point: we’d start driving, and drop into the first one that looked cool. Simple and efficient, and that’s how we found ourselves walking into an extremely high-class art boutique, asking the owners if we could park in their lot while we explored Somes Sound.
Unfortunately they did mind, since they’d technically be liable for both the car and us launching from their docks, but they were nice enough to point us towards a local boat launch that bordered on the marina at the end of the sound. We drove over, inflated the Bogmaster 3000, packed in our lunch and camera, and headed out into the “open ocean”.
Our travels took us through many adventures, but the first was the most dangerous… not in terms of getting hurt or anything, but in terms of self control: we were paddling through one of the major marinas, and there were boats tied up all around us. Tied up and just waiting to be plundered by a pair of buccaneers such as ourselves. See, I had my hat. And that hat? That hat is awesome. And with an awesome hat, comes a strong urge to become a pirate… and if you happen to be on a “boat” already? Well, that urge becomes almost too much to handle.
Thankfully, Mike kept us true to course by distracting me with the one thing that could distract me from good piracy: Rock climbing! The opposite shore was almost all perfect straight-sided cliff faces, and Mike and I aimed the Bogmaster 3000 for a small spot that looked like a low enough angle for us to clamber up and tie up to for a bit of land-based exploration.
The clambering around on rocks and ledges was quite fun, but The Captain (Mike) and I quickly longed for a return to the nautical life. And so, after failing to find the playboy mansion (which we totally expected to find) we returned to the Bogmaster 3000, untied from the cliff, and headed back into the “open ocean”.
As we paddled away from the cliffs we set our scopes on a medium-sized island shoved right in the mouth of the bay that we were in – we had been getting a bit hungry, and it seemed as good a spot to land and have some lunch as any. Unfortunately, we weren’t the first to decide that island would be a good spot… as we pulled into a small cove, we saw a large sign barring our way,
“NO ENTRY! BALD EAGLE NESTING GROUND!”
Damn. So instead, we charted a course around the island, and into the open waters of the main bay of Somes Sound.
Out here the water turned into the kind of chop that a pirate lives for – not enough to make the paddling hard or dangerous, but just enough to make us feel like we were actual sailors on the open sea. We were aiming for a small beacon in the distance… a small little buoy gleaming orange against the dark blue of the water. As we sliced through the oncoming waves we started singing a bit of a sea-shanty, falling deeper and deeper into the dangerous waters of “pirate talk”.
By the time we moored up to the buoy (that’s right. We moored to it. I pulled the anchor line and lashed that thing to a bolt on the buoy like a true sea dog) we were completely infected by Pirate Talk. Mike actually recorded a few minutes of our trademark inane banter, where I called out what was happening and possible piracy targets (in an excellent pirate accent, I might add), and Captain LeVasseur bellowed out orders with authority that rivaled that of Barbosa himself.
It was such a level of inane fake-piracy that I could feel Blackbeard rolling in his grave, getting the Queen Anne’s Revenge ready to burst from the waters just to shut us up.
And so, since the first-mate’s job is always to protect the captain and ship, I called for us to cast off from our mooring and continue our nautical adventures… to the tune of slightly less piratical banter.
The hour was starting to get late, and more importantly it was starting to get cold, so we headed back towards the small local dock that we’d launched from. On the way we attempted to board a sailboat that was cruising around between Eagle Island and the shore… but unfortunately a kayak can’t really keep up with a sailboat, much less run it down when the wind is blowing strong. After two failed attempts at pulling along side and demanding their wine and women, we turned towards the nearby shore to do a bit more exploring before heading back to dock.
This time, we stayed and paddled around a small cove instead of actually going ashore. The reason for not going ashore? We were in the middle of a small “kelp forest”, where the seaweed grew thick in these awesomely cool pillars that you could see through the clear water of the bay. Mike pulled out his GoPro camera (waterproof, of course) and took a few most-excellent underwater shots while I paddled around the small cove.
The kelp entertained us for almost 15min, but unfortunately it was in the shade… and the day was starting to wane quite chilly, especially for those of us on the water without jackets on. And so we started making a beeline for the docks. On the way we tried pirating another row-boat that we saw cruising around, but his head start left him docked before we could get close enough to shout a challenge… and challenging a docked boat just isn’t the same as a boat on the water, so we held off our assault in favor of simply getting to shore.
The nice thing about an inflatable kayak is that it’s easy to store in a smaller car. The bad thing about it is that, instead of simply washing it off and putting it on a rack, it takes almost half an hour to deflate everything and stow it away in its travel bag. Thankfully we weren’t in any rush though, and packing the Bogmaster 3000 away gave us just enough of an extra appetite for the meal of the night: heading into Bar Harbor and devouring an entire rack of ribs, a 1.5lb lobster, a plate of fries, a beer each, and a plate of Quesadilla’s as an appetizer. A worthy meal of worthy pirates. Or, at least, attempted pirates.
Map for the Map: A = the Marina B = our tie-up point and land-based adventures C = Eagle Preserve Island D = tying up to the buoy and playing pirate E = Attempted piracy numbers 1 and 2 F = exploring the kelp forests G = Attempted piracy #3