Getting out on the water and paddling is one of the most important things I am doing in order to prepare for this expedition. Since I am expecting plenty of wind, rain, and even snow during the expedition, I am trying to seek out all those conditions. When I go out paddling these days I try to get as much variety as possible. If there is a wind blowing, I take a course that forces me to paddle in every direction and get a feel for dealing with the waves hitting the boat from any quarter. I am intentionally seeking variety and less-than-ideal conditions while training because that is what I will experience on the trip.
A few days ago that meant going out when it was only 36 degrees and there was a cold north wind in my face. That was a great chance to see just how well my mittens and face mask were working at keeping me warm. Making sure that all the gear is adequate is just as, and possibly even more, important than working on my stamina and comfort in dynamic conditions. Once I am out there I will only have what I brought with me. I have to be sure that everything will work properly, keeping me warm, dry, and full of energy. The smallest detail, like how well a glove seals around your wrist, or if a hat comes down an extra inch to cover the bottoms of your ears, can make the difference between comfort and misery out on the water.
But don’t get me wrong: all these training paddles are also a lot of fun! There are some beautiful vistas out on the water, and really no one else out there. Most folks have stored their kayaks away for the year. The idea of paddling when it is cold, or pouring rain, or blowing wind, is foreign to the majority of people. Just this morning when I got to the dock to launch a woman walking her dog looked at me and asked, “Are you paddling? In this weather?” I smiled and over the wind I told her, “Yes, it is a great morning to get on the water!” I was met with a familiar look: the wide eyes and slightly dropped jaw that is the universal sign for, “you are crazy.” I would like to think hearty. Or adventurous. Or some other positive spin on this endeavor. I will think about that and report back on what I find.