Up at 5AM, on the water for 7:35. At first, I paddled through thick fog that was backlit by the rising sun into a luminous white. It looked rather like a Hollywood effects tech’s idea of “going to heaven.” Heaven or not, the prospect of running the Upper Rapids blind was pretty daunting, but fortunately the fog burnt off as I went.
This is my grandfather, Lieutenant Colonel George Leslie Torrens. I never met him, though I was in my teens by the time he died. He’d left the service under a cloud during the Second World War, after diverting tightly rationed resources – army vehicles and gasoline – to a family wedding. This was so scandalous that he and my grandmother parted and he was rarely spoken of. Growing up, I was given the impression, without ever being directly lied to, that he had died long before we were born from wounds received in “The War” (though which war was conveniently unspecified.)
Back in the day, I had a bombproof kayak roll. But gradually, I fell out of the habit of practising it. When I first abandoned whitewater and surf paddling in favour of exclusively ocean kayaking I kept it up. But over the years, I persuaded myself it wasn’t really essential for sea kayaking and probably wouldn’t work anyway with my sail on the boat. Besides, my brace worked fine (except when it didn’t.) Somewhere along the line, I convinced myself that age made it unlikely I could recapture my roll.
Displacement Hull Boat? Check. Wood Paddle? Check. Chunky PFD? Check. This must be me, surfin’ the 90s.
But this year, one of my personal and professional goals is to regain my roll. And to do it like a girl.
A routine inspection of my paddling drysuit had revealed a pair of notches in the latex neck seal. Stress risers like these will propagate under tension into full tears ̶ usually at the most awkward moment possible, like the first day of a multi-week tour. So it was off with the old and on with the new. Continue reading →
The picture was a combo pack of cute: a little Inuit girl carrying a squirming husky pup. “That’s a nice doggie you’ve got there.” I said as I crouched down to her eye level. “Yes,” she agreed, then added very matter-of-factly, “but he’s lame, so we’re going to have to shoot him.” Continue reading →