Life events and some (non life-threatening) medical issues have kept me out of my sea kayak for a couple of months – the longest absence from paddling I’ve had in decades.
Earlier this week I took my hopefully rehabbed body out for some sea trials. My standard voyage is a straight shot from English Bay Beach to the Jericho Sailing Association, about 45 minutes of brisk paddling against the stiff breeze of the afternoon inflow. Since I was testing my recovery, I raised the sail and did a series of paddle-sailing broad tacks up either side of the wind, adding some distance and about twenty minutes to my crossing time, but reducing the load on my body to about half of paddling directly upwind.
One benefit of my enforced hiatus from kayaking was to experience paddling with refreshed appreciation. I reveled in the simple magic of being afloat, the gentle rocking of the boat, and the cheerful slap of wavelets against the hull as I cut through quartering seas.
The closest I’ve come to military service was a couple of undistinguished years in the Navy League Cadets. Still, I’ve always admired the unofficial mantra of the US Marine Corps: Adapt, Improvise, Overcome. In my own humble way, I’ve adopted this approach on my sea kayak expeditions, jury-rigging repairs to broken gear and revising routes as weather and endurance demand. It’s also a good motto for dealing with ageing and injuries.
With age, the body repairs itself more slowly – and sometimes less completely. But the Marine can-do attitude endures. Tennyson had his Ulysses express this spirit far more elequently than I can:
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.