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You Don't Paddle Into the Wind
Oct
25
2013

            Warm sunny weather can be difficult to find in the region once the fall sets in, and I took advantage of a warm day to head out on Lake Colby in Saranac Lake for a quick paddle.  I set off from the boat launch making quick progress across the lake.  Lake Colby has a few arms which are fun to explore, and they also serve the purpose of blocking out any noise that comes from Route 86.  It is amazing how quiet it can be on the far side of the lake. 

            I paddled down the first couple arms, but didn’t see much in the way of wildlife.  In the near future there will be ducks on the backside of the lake as they migrate south.  But on this day all I found were a few common loons and double-crested cormorants. common loon - Larry

            As I swung back across the opening of the lake, I realized why I had made such quick time on my way from the boat launch.  I had the wind at my back.  Now it was broadside to my boat and I couldn’t turn into the wind to face it.  The breeze was too strong on my mostly empty canoe.  I swung around with it and headed to the shelter along shore where I was able to get the boat positioned to face into the wind. 

            Then I was off – paddling back across the lake.  I had thought about checking out more on the backside of the lake, but knew that would lengthen my time paddling into the wind.  My boat is a two man boat and its high profile was going to give me trouble.  For that matter I didn’t even have Wren with me who would have helped by adding weight to the middle of the boat.  So I knelt down toward the center of the boat and focused on making steady progress, heading to a distant point of land where I could find shelter and some rest once I got there. AMC - Lake colby

            One of the difficulties of solo paddling with a stiff breeze is that you end up getting stuck on one side of the boat in order to keep the boat pointed straight into the wind – the wind generally comes slightly from one side or the other.  Switching sides means j-stroking into the wind – more difficult to do than paddling forward.  And while I used the wind to my advantage so that I didn’t have to j-stroke (letting it help keep my bow pointed straight), I paddled hard on the left side of the boat as the wind came in slightly from the right.  It was a tough go and I was hot, thirsty, and tired through my efforts by the time I reached the point. I hid behind it for a spell, getting a drink and resting.  If I had stopped to rest part way I would have likely been unable to get the boat pointed correctly again in the middle of the lake once the wind had blown me. 

            After a brief rest I set the boat up so that I could paddle on the right side of the canoe as I made the next leg of the trip.  I knew eventually I’d have to go back to the left side of the boat, but I needed a change to keep my upper body from burning out.  After a short ways I switched back and by this time I was gaining the benefit of the far shore – which was blocking the wind.  Relieved, I allowed myself to stop briefly and get another drink before finishing the paddle.  I was happy with the workout, but even happier to be finished.   

Hunkering down with Adirondack arts in late fall
Snow up high on McKenzie

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About The Author

Alan Belford has spent much of his life outdoors exploring and learning about wildlife – particularly birds. Alan is often out hiking, paddling, running, or cross country skiing – with his Labrador retriever Wren at this side. A certified teacher and former cross country, baseball, and ultimate frisbee coach, he loves teaching others and has taught multiple natural history (specializing in ornithology) courses for both college students and the general public. He is a licensed guide in New York State, he has traveled widely both domestically and internationally, and he is also a published travel writer and photographer – focusing on outdoor and nature writing.

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