Paddling among the ice floes

It was a brilliantly sunshiny day, and the temperature was around 37 degrees F, so Jim and I decided to go paddling in a part of the Genesee River near his place that was “open” (for some value of open). Our usual partner in crime, Stephen B, was busy with family stuff. When I arrived, the floes were pretty dense, very thick, and roaring down the river at about 1.5 miles per hour. I kind of wish I’d brought my Looksha instead of banging up my Thunderbolt. The Looksha is a stronger, heavier boat, plus if I’m going to damage a boat, I’d rather damage the one I’m not going to be racing. Jim paddles a big heavy downriver boat for just that reason.

Trying to get in on the slippery bank, I managed to soak both feet, which is not good. Then it was hard to get turned upstream without going out into the main flow of floes. But we were able to sneak up stream by staying tucked in close to the near bank. Then after a while the ice jammed in on our side of the river, but the other side was very clear of ice for over half the width of the river. We ferry over by turning perpendicular to the current and allowing ourselves to drift downstream as we pick our way across. We ended up repeating this process a few times as the river snaked back and forth. If you choose the right point to cross in a gap between floes, you don’t even lose much paddling time.

The banks are high, and so we’re enjoying the bright sunshine but are protected from whatever wind there might be. It didn’t take long for my feet to warm up, and with my PFD on I didn’t even bother with the anorak I’ve been wearing on the colder days. (I got a really nice paddling jacket for Christmas, but it was one size too small so I’ll have to wait before I get to paddle in it.)

With the river flowing so fast, we paddled up for about 55 minutes, and down for about 25 minutes. On the way down, my feet started to get cold again – Jim said that cold feet are often the deciding factor for how long you can paddle in the cold, and he recommended that I get some neoprene wet suit boots or something. But even cold feet couldn’t diminish my feeling of how great this was. Even a bad day paddling is better than a good day in the gym, and this was a good day paddling.