Today’s paddle reminded me of when we first ventured out with a freeform collection of kayakers in 2000.
2000: The route was forged by the lead paddlers to a known destination.
Today: As Mark and I headed out from Weinam Creek towards the mangrove channel across Garden Island, the rest of the group were being carried equidistantly south on the incoming tide.
2000: Aside a whistle or a signalling mirror, there was no way of attracting anyone’s attention.
Today: This could have changed with the advent of UHF, VHF and improved mobile phone coverage
2000: Any attempt to get the lead paddlers’ attention was fruitless.
Today: But it hasn’t. Radios are left behind, not turned on, cannot transmit, are on a different channel or use a different frequency. Today we had UHF. Others VHF.
2000: Many hours were spent watching paddle blades flicking somewhere up ahead.
Today: We were drifting off Karragarra second guessing whether the distant sails were now heading straight for Russell Island or coming around towards Karragarra.
2000: By the end of the day we were tired and still trailing.
Today: We were tail end charlies in the company of two experienced paddlers. I do not have a GPS and find it difficult to know exactly where I am in relation to the channel in this part of the bay. Over the years I have seen number of paddlers make a dangerous nuisance of themselves in this area. Some should be pleased all they copped was a honk from vessels with limited options and the right of way. Today we tracked to the south then west of the channel while paddles strung out over a kilometre flicked their way across the channel numerous times for the sake of a couple of hundred meters and few minutes.
2000: Being out on the water was magical and the company at the destination a lot of fun.
Today: Somethings do not change.
2000: Within any group there has been a mix of straight line, speed paddlers, plodders, explorers, heroes, sages and newbies. Strong personalities have influenced themes from those who set their invitation bar to 60Km/day to a more inclusive and relaxed era.
Today: It felt like the paddle was being subject to a performance efficiency drive with comments about who had taken the most direct/shortest/fastest route.
As I watched the paddle blades flicking in the distance it reminded me of what it was like to paddle with the group in 2000. While I was not tired and no longer have to be at the back, paddling the most direct route or the fastest time is irrelevant bordering irreverent. Paddling to the same place at the same time or paddling for fitness remains an enigma. While muscles are an unfortunate side effect they have their uses.
We have been fortunate to have one enduring advantage not readily available for all – there are two of us. Our early experiences made us self-reliant in more ways than one. For the time and efficiency division may wind and tide favor your chosen route and I will see you back at the car.