Sunday, March 22, 2009

Test of Fortitude

March 14th, 2009 Saturday

Down to The Shores for my regular weekend paddle. Surf was up just a bit, about 2 to 3 feet, occasional sets up to 4 feet. I had packed a few snacks to eat along the way; some bananas, apples and oranges along with a couple of water bottles. Usually I bring only water, even on my long trips. Surprisingly enough my typical breakfast of cereal, fruit and a glass of orange juice will last me for my entire trip. I hooked my dry bag behind me, stashed my water and my tube of sunscreen in the forward bungee and set off through the surf. Made it out through the surf the first try, though I got soaked by the surf. But as I came up out of the wave that had just crashed over my head I noticed my brand new, as yet unopened, tube of sunscreen floating in towards the beach.

Not wanting to litter and loose an $11.00 tube of sunscreen I did an immediate U-turn. Back to shore and located my tube. Hopped back on the kayak for another attempt at the surf. This time I was not so successful. Tipped over. Back on again and began paddling out. I was again overthrown by a powerful wave. And this time I lost one of my water bottles. So I pulled into shore and dragged the kayak up out of the water. Located and retrieved my water bottle. Then I took a rest and caught my breath before trying one more time. This time I was successful without loosing anything.

Even with all that extra energy expended getting out, I was feeling good and took off for the western kelp bed. Out at the kelp bed just off the Children’s Pool I spotted something very odd floating on the surface in the kelp. It was a very large black and white mass. I need to wear eyeglasses to see details of objects at a distance. Not wanting to loose my glasses I do not wear them out at sea. (I have a couple of cheap sunglasses that I have beach-combed). The mass looked like it could be a flock of birds. But, if it was, they were the most unusual birds I have every seen. I started paddling towards them. They made no reaction to my approach. As I got about 50 yards away I was able to identify these birds. It was a flock of black and white party balloons.

So to do my part for the environment I attached this raft of balloons to my kayak and paddled off to continue my trip. I looked back a minute later to see that I was leaving a trail of single balloons behind me. It was clear that they were not all securely tied together. So I spent about ten minutes popping the balloons and collecting them into my kayak. Then I chased down the escapees and brought them onto my kayak for safe keeping. Too many times have I found remnants of party balloons wrapped around kelp plants or Gorgonian coral to leave them in the ocean. I met two kayakers that were going back to the beach and asked if they would mind taking back my find, as I was going to be out another couple of hours. They were glad to help.

I continued south towards Bird Rock. Stopped a couple of times for a bite to eat. For not having done a long trip for some time I was feeling pretty good. But as I neared Wind and Sea I stared to feel a little nauseous. Now, I rarely get seasick. Having spent many years sailing in Alaskan waters in all types of seas I am not usually susceptible to this ailment. But for some reason I was feeling so now. I turned back and was paddling home. Soon I began to feel very weak. What was coming over me? Could it have been my sitting still for so long picking up the balloons? Or was I hit suddenly with something else that was causing me nausea? Whatever the case it was all I could do to keep paddling.

Even turning back this soon I still had a couple of miles to go to get back to my starting point. This was a test of my fortitude. Going in to another beach would only be a temporary relief. Going in and out of the surf would just expend energy I could not afford to use. I must get back to The Shores. I was in no immediate danger. But I knew that I had to keep going. My illness was definitely sapping my strength. And it was taking a toll on my mental ability to keep going. But I just kept telling myself to paddle. Slowly and consistently and I would make it. Occasionally I would become discouraged. But I would realize that this mental state was actually causing me to lag more than any physical ailment I was suffering.

I eventually made it back to the beach. And I had to visit the nearest cylindrical metal altar where I bowed and prayed to The Great Norse Sea God, Hrolfr. After propitiating The Gods I felt better and proceeded to stow my kayak.

Thinking back on the episode I have given some thought to just what it is that allows people to survive stressful situations. Although I was in no danger of expiring this did give me insight to what people who are faced with life threatening situations may go through. And I also realized that the best thing to do if you do find yourself in such distress is to keep a good attitude. Despair is probably the worst thing that can happen. As long as you have any life left you must keep going. If some outside force takes your life, or your body shuts down do to circumstances beyond your control is one thing. But, I believe, as long as you have one once of strength left you must strive to reach your goal. And now I have to get back out there.

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