Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My First and Only (so far) Water Caching Experience

 WARNING:  This story contains scenes of a graphic nature that may, to some, be extremely disturbing.  Be warned before reading, this story may induce nightmares, tremors or sickness of a violent nature and intestinally related.  It is only after months and months of therapy that I can now relate this story to you as hopefully a learning experience.  By continuing to read further you take it upon yourself to suffer the consequences without any fault being cast upon or towards either this publication or the teller of the story.

Last August , after months and months of arm twisting, friendly bullying, and taunts of a genial manner, that I finally agreed to go kayaking with a close friend and fellow geocacher:  Tim, or ATT "All-Terrain Tim" (please note the name was changed to protect him from harassing calls) as those of us close to him lovely refer to him.  He was, in part, tired of my whining about filling in my D/T grid.  He agreed it would be a short trip and that "he would take it easy on the old man!"  As the day of our adventure rapidly approached my dread of the event steadily reared its ugly head.  Here I was closer to 60 years old than any other even number, and the last time I had been out on the water in anything smaller than an aircraft carrier was when I was about 7. That plus the fact that I am, as my doctor states, in bad need of a sever weight reduction regime.   My concern was not that I would drown, although in the days just before the adventure those thoughts did cross my mind.  No, the main worries were that I, Suffolk Papa of the geocaching couple SNAP!!! would embarrass myself by going into the water before or just after pushing away from the dock and then several times afterwards just to ensure the embarrassment set in good and deep.

The morning of the adventure arrived.  It was to be a gorgeous day with calm winds that were supposed to gradually increase through the day.  We rented a Kayak from a local source and I guess my first clue that something was afoot was when the "kid" at the counter said to "go pick out one you like" with a smirk on his face.  I questioned ATT about the difference in kayaks and he stated something about "Won't really matter for this short of a trip".  That being said I pointed to a kayak and the "kid" helped us load up and get on our way after paying him for the experience I was about to undertake.

We arrived at the launching point and we once again paid for the experience, just a few dollars more and my sense of dread that had given me concern most of the night before was dwindling into a memory.  "I could do this" was all that I heard in my head (at least at this point).  We readied ourselves and ATT gave a few pointers to the less experienced "old man".  When he was done with the pointers I jokingly said to myself - well if that's all there is to this - this should be a SNAP!!! (pun intended).

We started by going up river which gave me a chance to learn to navigate the channel.  Paddle, paddle, paddle - seems to be easy.  Why am I going in a circle - was one question that popped up but I soon figured out what I thought was a good plan of attack on the watercraft and the channel.  Once we had a good handle on paddling and turning (or so I thought) we reversed course and set off down the channel.  Over the next half hour or so we located several caches, of which ATT retrieved all of them from the banks as "he didn't want to chance my turning over just yet."  In the back of my mind at this point I seem to remember a small voice whispering "Yes, he’s waiting for the water to be deeper before you turn over" but I managed to pretend I didn't hear it.  I did notice that we were headed due South and the wind was out of the North and was gently pushing us along.  I also remember asking ATT at least twice during the first hour, "Tim, are we going to have any problem getting back against this wind?"  His answer was a laugh and some comment about our low profile on the water and the wind not being anything to worry about.

I'm not sure how long we had been out on the water but we had located seven caches plus the first stage of a multi when we rounded the turn and the thoughts and dread from last night returned in a flash.  There lying before me was what appeared to be open ocean!!!  In reality it was the upper part of North Bay and, as ATT so eloquently put it in an attempt to calm me and the savage beast that was swelling up inside me: "We are just going to skirt the edge and pull in right over there (pointing at a 45 degree angle).  The beast retreated and I looked at the seascape for what it really was.  Gentle waves, a nice breeze at our backs, and we were just going right over there!  Looking back on it now, it really wasn't that bad.  The gentle breeze pushed us along and all we had to do was steer and as we pulled into the next channel the reeds blocked the breeze and the water was extremely calm.  We pulled into a small group of cypress trees and I even managed to extract myself from the kayak to retrieve the next cache.  Like a champion, with my chest puffing out with pride,  I signed the log, returned the cache to its proper place and managed to get back into the kayak without even thinking about flipping over!

We managed to grab two more caches and the final for the multi when ATT turned to me and asked me a question which really should have been my second clue that not all things were as they seemed.  It basically was put to me that it was time to head back BUT instead of paddling all the way back to the dock there was a second option.  ATT would take me a little further ahead where there was a place for me to wait (about an hour/hour and a half).  He would paddle back to the dock, where he would drive around to where I was waiting and then pick me up.  In retrospect, the pride that had swelled in my chest concerning the aforementioned accomplishments must have deprived my brain of oxygen because I, for some silly reason, brushed back his attempt to save me from what was about to come and I volunteered, yes, you heard that right, I volunteered for what lay ahead.  The next thing I hear was a voice that sounded strangely like me saying "Heck No - let's go - let's paddle all the way back!!!"  I do not honestly know, even now, months later, if it was pride, ego, or maybe even total exhaustion that was my down fall, but the story that follows is entirely my fault!!!  At this point in the story I must repeat the warning that I shared with you at the beginning of the story.  Be warned: the rest of the story is not pretty!

After reassuring himself that I was not delirious, ATT and I set our sights back to the small part of North Bay.  What was, a few minutes ago, gentle waves with a nice breeze coming out of the North had turned into waves, and even though I am sure they were about a foot high with white water on the top of almost every one, they appeared to me to be at least three or four feet high, with white water cresting the tops.  The gentle breeze that had at one time this morning gently caressed our cheeks had escalated into a full on flurry of wind out of the North East!  ATT paused as I readied myself, took a few breaths and then commenced to, at least in my own mind, to paddle like an Olympic champion against the raging sea.   It did take some time, and ATT was having entirely too much fun paddling circles around me like a little puppy teasing a cat, constantly taking pictures of Papa SNAP!!! struggling onwards towards the finish.  I did eventually make it to the mouth of the first channel.   I slowed my paddling, taking deep breaths trying to calm my beating heart and gently progressed towards the turn ahead.

 ATT was busy laughing and cavorting back and forth in front of me as we approached the turn.  Then it happened, just as the turn approached.  The once calm and serene creek or brook or channel turned into a monster.  We made the opening of the turn and should be headed directly northeast.  The problem was that the gentle breeze that had once been coming out of the North was now a gale force wind out of the northeast!!!  For at least the first few minutes I seemed to be maintaining my station (that means, or at least I think it means that I was neither progressing forward, nor being pushed backwards).  Then it happened: I needed to take a break!  The problem was as soon as I stopped paddling, I was being driven backwards by that gale force wind I mentioned earlier!  I screamed in frustration, took several deep breaths, bent my head forward and commenced to paddle as if my life depended on it (and at this point of the story I was beginning to think that it might!).  I paddled like a champion (once again), there was water splashing everywhere, I must be making headway the way water was flying!!!  I paddled for what seemed like hours, I knew I was making progress down the canal - I just had to be!  That's when I peeked - just a quick peek but a peek none the less.  I looked to the side to see how far I had paddled since making that turn.  500 Yards?  No!  100 Yards?  No!  50 Yards?  No!  Here I was paddling for all I was worth and as I looked at the shoreline - I was disheartened to see - I was maintaining my place, neither forward nor backwards, in the exact same spot I started in!  I immediately collapsed but immediately realized - I was now being pushed backwards by the wind, and at not a casual drift as I had been in the early hours but at an alarming rate!!!  "HELP!!!" I yelled into the distance as I realized ATT was so far ahead of me he appeared to be nothing more than a speck on the horizon!!!

 Ok - I had managed to get ATT's attention but I soon learned that I had to keep paddling as if my arms were propellers because I soon realized that if I hesitated for even a second I was being pushed back towards the gaping mouth of the bay at an unbelievable sped.  Lucky for me ATT appeared as if propelled by a 150 horse power outboard motor.  He paddled circles around me with a questioning look and it only took him a second or two to realize I was so spent I must have appeared wraith-like in appearance.  He circled me once or twice more and suddenly he had a tow rope attached at the front of my kayak.  He told me to hang on as we slowly built up speed into what now felt like gale force winds.   Now, as embarrassed as I was, I did not want to feel totally useless even though I was being towed into port so I at least attempted to appear as though I was assisting ATT by paddling to help him pull me in.  Trouble was twofold.  First, as we were gathered speed the paddle started to feel like it was being ripped out of my hands, second was that ATT was paddling so fast that I was being drenched by the spray from his paddles.  Then the speed increased even more, I felt I could get out of the kayak and water-ski if only I could stop the torrents of water that now began to feel as though I was being water-boarded.  It didn't take ATT long to paddle us back, all the way to the dock but I swear I heard some egrets complaining out the huge wake that was coming off of our two kayaks as ATT paddled us back to the pier!!!

 As ATT pushed my kayak into the slot at the pier it certainly felt as if I sort of rolled out of the kayak and then every-so slowly attempted to stand on my own two feet.  All I know is, it was the first time in my life I actually saw Tim panting.  Come to think of it - that was the first time since I have known Tim - that he actually looked somewhat tired!!!

 There you go - that is the tale of my first and only time I have combined kayaking and geocaching!!!  But the more I think about it - I might just try it again.  That is if Tim is willing to be there for me!!!

 To tell you the truth - I may have exaggerated just a little concerning the details in this story.  I do know than when I read the paper the next day the weather section said winds had accelerated the previous day and had topped off with gust of about 40 knots.  Not exactly gale force winds, but definitely more than I could handle.  Thanks Tim, for a great day on the water, geocaching and filling in part of my D/T grid!!!