TIDAL LIFE | On the waterfront: The other view of the view
By NANCY BARTLETT
South Whidbey Record Columnist
July 24, 2009 · Updated 3:19 PM
Anybody find a kayak paddle?
Brass-colored shaft, bright orange end fin thingies? That’s mine.
Yes, I’ve once again contributed some plastic and aluminum to the great mass of floating debris. I lost the paddle overboard in the wee hours of July 6. We were moored in Honeymoon Bay when that big storm blew in. I apologize if my improperly secured equipment fetched up on your beach looking a lot like junk.
For all the effort it takes to get ready, for all those moments when the wind taxes our intermediate sailing skills and I know I must touch solid ground right now or I’ll totally lose it, for all the chagrin I feel after doing something stupid like that unsecured paddle faux pas, boating is always wonderful. There’s nothing like the change of perspective from getting in a boat and going out on the water. Leaving the land behind for a while and spending some time in a tiny, floating world provides a fuller sense of freedom and self-reliance than most any land-based getaway. On the water, surrounded by a life-giving yet ultimately inhospitable substance, you’re aware every moment that you are in charge of your own survival. I find that exhilarating, frightening and humbling.
As islanders, we live with a sense of being away from the main land mass, a separate world, somewhat at sea. And we get a boating fix each time we ride the ferries, but neither of these offers the innate quality of adventure you get while bobbing around in a small craft. (I have heard that riding the Keystone ferry can come pretty close these days.)
Looking back at the shore from out on the water, you can see things that you can’t see from land — things that aren’t visible even when walking the beach at low tide. The land dwindles in size and importance, trees take on a different aspect, houses show a friendlier face. If your vessel is quiet or at rest, wildlife swirls all around and sometimes comes right up and looks at you.
Viewing the waterfront from the water can also help us appreciate our structures and the impact our lives in them have on the land and the sea.
It’s interesting, for example, to see from the water side that the lovely water’s edge home you visited is held up by only half a dozen spindly pilings. It’s enlightening to note that a landslide has undercut a favorite beach access trail.
For waterfront landowners, a boat is a great platform from which to check out the condition of your property. When you get out from shore you can see better how the bluff is doing. From there you can check for signs of erosion, see where water might be flowing over the edge, inspect the condition of any roof drainage piping you might have dangling over the bluff face. With this view of what’s going on with the bluff, you can better plan repairs before damage occurs, or strategically plant vegetation to slow the flow of runoff.
But most of all, boats offer fun and adventure.
During our recent weekend voyage, when we were spanking along and the spray was flying, I found myself humming the catchy tune of an old Seattle boat- show radio jingle: “Life is pretty dry without a boat.” In quieter moments, my favorite line from Kenneth Grahame’s “Wind in the Willows” kept running through my mind: “There is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”
Sailboat, water-ski boat, fishing boat, rowboat or kayak, I hope everyone gets a chance to spend a little time messing about on the water this summer.
And if you find my paddle, drop me a line. I’ll come get it.
For more information:
Whidbey Island Kayaking Company — Sea Kayak Tours, click here.
Whidbey Water Works rents boats at Coupeville. Contact them by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-505-3800.
Boat Ed provides a free on-line course on safe boating as well as certification;click here.
And Whidbey has several yacht clubs; click here.
Check out my Tidal Life Blog.
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