A sunny sky with temperatures in the low thirties and 0 to 5 knots of wind. These were the conditions I was looking for to take my kayak out on the pond on a winter day. I had the sky and temperature, and I had five to 10 knots of wind. Close enough. It was a Tuesday. Normally, I am at home writing for the day on Tuesdays. But the day looked promising, and I was excited to try winter kayaking. I decided to play hooky. I dressed warmly.
My legs and feet, which do not participate in the workout when kayaking, would become cold. I put on my long underwear and the warmest socks I own. On my top, I wore long underwear, a turtleneck, and a river jacket. For my hands, I put on glove liners beneath winter biking gloves. I had a warm hat and my PFD. I manhandled the kayak into the back of the truck and secured it with a line. I drove the short way to the Hines Point town beach. I manhandled my cumbersome craft back out of the truck and down to the waters of Lagoon Pond. I put her part on the beach so I could step in dry.
The day was gorgeous. Once settled into the cockpit, I pushed off from the shore with a short and narrow piece of wood. I did not want to step in the frigid water, and I did not want to damage my paddle. I made a few strokes and was soon out in the pond. Two men were working on the planks of a nearby dock. I glided past them, 20 feet out. I was in good spirits. I turned my paddles through the calm water. The sky was a chilly blue.
I headed out from the shore. I passed the beach I like to call Crescent Beach due to the shape. The tide was high, and the sandspit mostly covered. I kept on, very content. I began to find my rhythm. My blood began to flow, and my upper body warmed up. I was going through a sparse mooring field. Most of the boats were out for the winter. The winter kayak was everything I had expected. The peacefulness was the same as a snowy trail in the woods. The type of quiet was similar. I was by myself on the pond. I made my way towards Hines Point. Far ahead, a flock of birds rose from the water into the sky.
I began to feel the northwesterly wind as I left the protection of the shoreline. My desired zero- to five-knot day was not to be. I turned my paddles with more effort to counter the headwinds.
As I rounded Hines Point, I felt the brunt of the surprisingly contentious wind. I can not imagine it was more than 10 knots. But it was stubborn and persistent, and not to be taken for granted.
I muscled my way. My bow crashed into the small seas. Wind-driven spray blew over the kayak. I knew this would be the toughest section.
I turned southerly when I could. The change of course did ease the conditions. The wind moved from my nose to my beam and stern quarter. Still, it was no picnic. The wind wanted to turn my bow. I worked to keep course. I steered along the western side of Hines Point. The wind and seas let up more as I passed in the lee of the shipyard on the opposite shore. I headed for the small cove. I went all the way into the cove. I then went left at a diagonal.
The little shed at the bottom of Skiff Avenue and the houseboat anchored off the Lagoon Road bridge were in the offing to my port side. The shrink-wrapped boats of the marina were in their cradles. I passed the marsh towards the northern shore.
For a moment, all was bliss. The wind disappeared altogether. I was in the lee of the shore with the sheds of the shipyard and other structures. Each paddle was wonderful. The hull of a pretty sloop with its mast unstepped stood on its stands. I went toward Oak Bluffs about 150 feet out from the shore. The graceful curve of the Lagoon Drawbridge was in the distance. I felt the impact of the wind again as I passed Wind’s Up. Low-lying Beach Road did not offer much protection by itself. The way was hard going again.
Wind-driven spray hit me. I looked at my river jacket, and saw it was splattered with water. I would have been wet and cold without it. I needed to pass the bridge to the eastern shore, where I would turn inland. From there, I anticipated a downwind sail to the head of the pond. It did not turn out exactly as I had thought. The wind was on my stern quarter when I began my next leg. Again, it sought to turn my bow. I struggled to maintain my course. I could only paddle on the starboard side.
Finally, I decided on a new tactic. I would tack out into the center of the pond and then turn for the head of the pond. The wind and seas would be directly behind me. The strategy worked somewhat. I still had to compensate with more paddles on the starboard side. But the way was easier going. The back section of the pond is a much wider swath than the forward section. I stopped a few times to rest and just let the wind carry me. I listened to the water lap against the boat.
I went nearly all the way to the herring run. The rays of the sun showed brightly and warmly over the water. I turned to cross over to the western shore. For a moment again, the wind and seas were gone. A small cruiser sailboat was beached by some storm. The exposed hull and keel rested in the sand. I imagined she once had been a seaworthy little craft. I was hoping that the easterly turn of the shore would provide some relief when I turned back towards Hines Point. I stayed close to the shore to maximize the benefit. There was some protection, though the wind remained northwesterly and did not comply as much as I had wished.
I focused on my paddling on the last leg of my expedition. Place only the blade in the water and pull out early on the backstroke. More than this utilizes more effort than is gained in progress.
A few rowboats were washed up into the woods. The abandoned shell of a motorboat was washed up on the beach. I went at an easy pace, looking ahead but not hurrying. The last dock appeared. I was almost home. I passed the dock and pointed to the beach. I increased my speed as I approached. I lifted the paddle out of the water. The kayak skidded up onto the sand.
I look forward to that sunny day in the low 30s without a wisp of wind.