By Johna Till Johnson
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Every good kayaking story starts with “So there I was,” according to Carl Ladd (of Osprey Sea Kayak fame). In keeping with that adage, here goes:
Setting off along the Maine coast
So there I was, bobbing up and down on the frigid waves crashing into the rocky coastline of Maine’s Sheepscot Bay. The swells were substantial—four to six feet, big enough to rip someone from her kayak and deposit her and the boat on separate rocks.
That exact thing had recently happened, in fact, to another paddler.
Fortunately neither she nor her boat sustained damage, but it was a strikingly close call. One moment she was riding the surf, high over our heads, after a larger-than-usual wave broke suddenly. The next moment she was struggling in the water, and we all winced as we heard the hollow sound of her fiberglass boat crunch into the rocky shore.
By Vladimir Brezina
… the ragged rock in the restless waters,
Waves wash over it, fogs conceal it;
On a halcyon day it is merely a monument,
In navigable weather it is always a seamark
To lay a course by: but in the sombre season
Or the sudden fury, is what it always was.
T.S. Eliot, The Dry Salvages
The Dry Salvages is the third of T.S. Eliot‘s Four Quartets, a landmark of 20th-century English poetry. In a prefatory note, Eliot tells us that the Dry Salvages are a group of isolated rocks offshore in the Atlantic Ocean, but in the body of the poem they are never mentioned again by name. Rather, their symbolic reach expands immediately to encompass one of the larger themes of the poem, that of water as the eternal agent of birth and death. It might seem, therefore, that the Dry Salvages are a mythical place.
But they are real, and a couple of days ago we paddled out to see them.
Posted in Kayaking, Literature, Nature
Tagged Four Quartets, Islands, Photography, Poetry, Rock Garden, Sea Kayaking, Seals, T.S. Eliot, The Dry Salvages
By Johna Till Johnson
“Rocks are our friends,” says Carl Ladd.
I look at him skeptically. That sounds insane to me. I’ve just met Carl, who runs Osprey Sea Kayaks in Westport, Massachusetts. From what I can tell he’s a talented paddler and a successful businessman with a wickedly dry sense of humor.
He doesn’t seem nuts.
But as I see it, rocks are not our friends—particularly when they’re combined with wind and waves. Rocks shatter kayaks and gear, and do worse to paddlers.
That’s why I’ve spent a fair amount of my paddling career learning how to avoid rocks. And it’s why I’m less than convinced by Carl’s comment.
Of course, maybe I’m the one who’s nuts—since I’m planning to spend a glorious cloudless weekend getting better acquainted with rocks, despite my opinion of them.