I have found more than once that the wind can be a fierce enemy for a paddler, often more to be feared than rocks or waves.
We, that is Hal, RiverAddict and I, were nearing the end of our day trip on the Penobscot River at Bangor, Maine. It was a beautiful summer's day, with a cool breeze to temper the heat, and we had run long exciting rapids and told each other many tall tales.
There was one more rip to run, over the remnants of an old driving dam that had been removed over a century ago. They formed a smooth ledge that reached from bank to bank, and the outflow rippled into the head of tide where the fresh water of the river mingled with the salt water of Penobscot Bay.
Our destination, the small craft dock behind the Sea Dog Brew Pub, was still over a mile away, barely visible past three bridges downriver in Bangor. But it was merely a tantalizing goal, as a sudden and violent headwind blew up whitecaps in our faces. The incoming tide pushed the current back upstream against us as well.
I was blown onto a sandbar mid-river, as the wind pushed the empty bow of my boat onto a gravel shoal. I ceded defeat, turned my boat around and rode the wind back into shore, where Hal and RiverAddict stood chatting with Jim Fahey, the local Maine forest ranger. Jim saw my plight, and we decided to lay large flat stones into the front end of my boat. What a difference! I pushed off again, and was now able to keep my bow pointed downstream and into the fierce headwinds screaming up from the bay.
I still had to give a mighty heave with each paddle stroke just to stay even with the shore, and it seemed any headway I could muster was a matter of maybe a foot or so each time. It took an eternity, well at least an hour or two, but we paddled first under one bridge, then another, inching up beside the shore, until we finally reached the dock.
Two big splashes, as I returned the heavy stones to the watery depths of the Penobscot, and our trip was done. It goes to show you need to trim the weight evenly in your boat if you want to keep it on course and going forward.
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