Today was quite a departure for me. Normally I avoid paddling on the bay like the plague, both because of the waves and because of the power boaters. But there is a race coming up in a few weeks that’s the culmination of the kayak racing season, and it’s nearly 10 miles up and down “Long Lake”. So I figured I needed to do more distance, and I also needed some experience on lakes. I thought I’d try paddling up to the Bay Bridge and back, since Dan says that’s 5 miles. (It turns out that Google Maps Pedometer shows it being more like 5.3 miles.)
I tried to get the other members of the B-team to come with me, and while a couple of people said they’d try to come, I guess the threatening clouds and very cool temperatures scared them off. In retrospect, I can’t say I blame them, although the mid-60s temperatures were perfect for exercise with a insulating PFD on.
I followed the channel markers out to the end, which is about 0.5 miles and where the Wednesday night races turn around the first time. It took me just over 6 minutes, so I thought I wasn’t doing a very good job of going slower than my usual race pace. Unfortunately after that point, there were no familiar landmarks. I could see the bridge down the bay, and it looked like there was no real way to judge how close I was getting to it except the stop watch. In retrospect, I wish I’d plotted the course on the Google Maps Pedometer before I’d gone, because then I would have realized that those two prominent points on the east side were at about 1 mile and two miles respectively.
In the channel, the water had been flat calm, which I was pleased about. But around the 10 minute mark, I started to notice I had a bit of a following surf. Not much of one, but I was concerned because it meant I’d have it in my face on the return trip when I was tired. After 15 minutes, my shoulders started to ache, and the following surf was getting kind of high. I told myself I’d turn back at the 30 minute mark if I wasn’t close to the bridge. At the 20 minute mark, there started to be a swell coming in from Lake Ontario coming in from the front, as well as the wind driven waves coming from the rear, which confused matters. At the 32 minute mark, I was in amongst the bridge piers, and as well as the waves hitting me from both directions, there were weird reflections from the piers as well as motor boat wakes to content with. I had to forgo my planned stop to recover and drink some water, because the waves were so complicated that I didn’t think I dared stop paddling.
When I turned, I discovered that the wind had risen to quite a brisk breeze, and the waves started breaking over the bow of my boat, although not usually hitting me in the stomach like it has done in really high swells. I also found myself in the middle of an amateur sailboat race. I was scared shitless that one of them would either come straight at me and expect me to give way, or just not see me, because there was no way in hell I was going to turn sideways to those waves or stop paddling. I was ready to yell “If I stop paddling I’m going to die” (a slight exaggeration) at anybody who tried to challenge my position, but fortunately they managed to tack in front of me and behind me. Most of the sailors made real messes of their tacks, and I swear I was making faster progress to their upwind mark than they were.
As you can see from the course line, I was further out into the lake on the way back, rather than trying to stay close to shore to try to get some shelter. Some of that is deliberate because I didn’t want to deal with reflected waves from the shore, and some of that is just because I was keeping the boat pointed almost directly into the wind in the parts where the wind was strongest. Also, the map above shows that there are several marinas and residential communities that were ready to disgorge fast motorboats at any moment, and the few times it happened I was glad to have some time and distance before their wakes hit me.
As I passed the point that I now know marks 1 mile from Bay Creek, the waves diminished quite a bit and I could turn towards the channel markers without fear of quartering waves, although the wind was blowing in my face. The last half mile through the channel was almost flat calm again, and I managed to push hard and do it again in about 6 minutes.
My total time was 1:12, and I was tired, wet and mostly happy. And I didn’t think about my job situation at all the entire time.