Restoring the Sacred

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Closer to God in a Kayak IV

(Click on photos to enlarge)

The Humpback and Her Calf

Not too long after the return of the USS Saratoga, I went out (still in the 9-footer) on a cold day when the west wind was blowing at a velocity that would not make it easy for a kayaker paddling into it. I decided to stay closer to shore than usual, and headed south toward Jacksonville Beach. After paddling for about an hour, and realizing my course had been gradually pushed about a mile farther to the east than planned, discretion dictated a turn toward home. On my return, I noticed what appeared to be a yellow block floating ahead and much farther to the east. As I got closer to the unidentified floating object, I thought I saw arms moving around it. I did see arms moving around it; they were Jim Stehr's arms (he was sitting in his kayak), and they were waving at me to come to his location. I headed his way, and very soon discovered what he was doing farther out than usual for Jim (he could most often be found closer to shore expertly surfing the waves). He was watching a huge Humpback Whale and her calf doing what cetaceans do when they have an ocean almost to themselves. They were having a ball, breaching one after the other and sending streams of water skyward through their spouts. It was magnificent, and we watched the show for almost an hour as we (quietly and totally unaware) drifted farther and farther east – away from the beach. Finally, the performers declared the show over by diving and staying down (cetaceans go underwater for much longer periods of time when compared to other mammals, and there is a long range in underwater duration depending on physiological differences among species, according to Wikipedia). Jim and I, understanding our lucky encounter was at an end, turned toward the beach only to discover how far to the east a strong west wind can move kayaks with idle paddles over the course of an hour. It was a long, arduous, and cold trip back to the beach, but the smiles on our faces could have brightened the darkest night.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, that was to be my last adventure (except for some spectacular surfing and even more spectacular wipe-outs) in my little 9-foot Frenzy.

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