Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Paddling on the undercurrents




We have big tides here on Howe Sound.  Yesterdays low was 2.0 feet and the high was 15.4.  The tide peaked at 730pm.

I went out paddling about 620pm last night.  It was calm out in the Queen Charlotte Channel, so I headed out into Mannion Bay.  The currents were crazy, especially around the point of Miller's Landing where there are some reefs and rocks between the north end of Mannion Bay and the south end of Eaglecliff Bay.  The tide may have been slack but the currents were going every which way.  One minute I was paddling with some light wind swell and then it was like hitting a wall, a slow whirlpool where the prevailing swell hit water that was upwelling around the rocks and catching debris (and paddle boarders!) in a slow gyre.  The power of the ocean is incredible, and it grabs onto you gently but with a strong grip.  It was tiring paddling up towards Hood Point, but when you are in strange currents the thing to do is just focus on your technique.  Attention to small details makes a difference when you are uncertain about the forces that are moving you around.  Your end stays in sight, but you must not rail against the swirls and eddies that carry you in strange directions.  You can't rail against the currents either, but it is helpful to know that even though they are powerful, they are ephemeral and it is all about timing.

On the way home, I paddled with the falling tide and raced back along the Eaglecliff shoreline with long easy pulls to Mannion Bay, but to my surprise, I ran into strange currents as I turned back into the Bay and needed to revert to a short power stroke to get me across the glassy calm water that was nevertheless flowing against me.

SUPping is so instructive.  The intimacy between paddler and sea is such that everything is feel and response.  Not enough power to plow through everything, but enough control to go with what is happening. Simple tools, basic techniques, ever changing contexts.