Thursday, March 6, 2008

I Love My Boat!

I have my own boat. It is a Compass 12.5 by Native Watercraft. You can search for it and read about it and see pictures. I love my boat. I am afraid of water. I really am. I cannot swim. But I love the water. I love the rhythm and the sway of it. I love the smell of it. I love the way sunlight sparkles off the waves and I love the way reflections glow when it is calm, doubling the beauty of the nature along the shoreline. I love water birds and beaver and otters and turtles and snails. I love the physical sensation of paddling and feeling the boat push forward. But I cannot swim. I am afraid of the water. So why did I want a boat of my own? What is a fear but a thing to conquer? This one needs to be conquered. The only way out of the fear is into the fear, into the water. My boat weighs 26 pounds. I can lift and carry it on my own. I can put it on top of my van on my own and tie it down on my own and drive to the lake on my own and carry it to the water on my own and get into it on my own and paddle it . . . on my own. No waiting for an agreeable companion with a similar schedule and interest to help carry a heavier boat and paddle their end. Independence. The chance to work the fear on my own, at my own pace, on my own terms, in my own time. The first time I got into my boat, it took me an hour. To work up the nerve to even sit in it. And just as I got in, in the calm little bay at the end of the lake, water skiers showed up. And suddenly, the calm water was waves. Someone shouted to me to turn into the waves and face them so I would not feel the boat was going to be pushed over. Well, that would mean I had to know HOW to turn the boat, now wouldn’t it? Calm the panic, slow the breathing, still the racing heart and think. Paddle. Turn. Steady. You sit down low in my boat. It is open like an canoe, but you sit on a seat in the bottom, not up by the rim, so your center of gravity is lower and it feels more stable. You paddle my boat with a kayak paddle, so there is no switching of the paddle from side to side, merely a dipping of one side or the other. So that first time, I practiced steering to face the waves and I practiced keeping calm. When the skiers’ boat left the bay and the waves calmed, I turned a few circles and tried a few straight runs. Slowing and stopping. And every time I felt the panic, I just stopped and waited for it to pass. And it did. And I worked it all some more. Until I got brave enough to take a run along the shore. Before I had to give it up for the season, I went out three separate times one week in south central Wisconsin. The docks and boats were mainly off the lakes and there were no skiers, only a few fishers in their flat slow boats. One day, there were snail shells floating in the water, and I practiced steering along side them to scoop them up. One day, there was a beaver on the shore that dove into the water and swam under me and surfaced a ways ahead. I paddled along side him for maybe 50 yards before he made another dive. I paddled with a beaver! I! Paddled! With a beaver! There were kingfishers and herons and hawks. Dragonflies and frogs. Autumn foliage on the banks, red berries of sumac and highbush cranberry, tan stands of cattails, and finally, sunsets reflected on the water. I love my boat. I am still afraid of the water, but less so. I love the water.