This post started out a lot differently in my head. It started last Saturday night when I paddled over to Masonboro Island at high-ish tide and walked around. I thought about how the view from the back becomes the view from the front when you’re paddling by yourself. How calm. How peaceful. How lovely. Usually when I paddle alone, I paddle around Harbor Island so that I can easily get out and walk to my car if something happens. Never was that, as a good idea, made more clear than during the end of my paddle on Sunday. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I like Paddling Alone

I love paddling with my group, but I don’t mind a loop around Harbor Island by myself. I can go fast or slow. I can stop (but I almost never do). I can mess with my stroke or practice turning, or just amble. I can go whenever I want if I don’t have meetings, because I’m a freelancer. I can make it up later. Paddling through the salt marshes by myself makes me feel like I’m on another planet, even though I’m probably only two miles from my house as the crow flies. John B taught me how to standup paddleboard. He loaned me my first board but with the following condition: “Katie, before you ever EVER go paddling, you need to check the wind and the tide and the weather.” I do this religiously. I do it while I’m at my desk wishing I could paddle. I do it when I’m in the car at a stoplight. I go outside and look at the clouds and study them. I pull up beach cams when I should be writing product descriptions. I’m obsessive about the weather. If I’m by myself, I have to be extremely careful.

How Sunday was Different than Saturday

On Sunday I had it in my mind that my husband and I were going out at about 8am. Mid-tide ish. He has a kayak. He’s used it about three times. I was overjoyed to have him go with me. He wanted to go to Masonboro. I didn’t re-check the tide. That was dumb. Before you paddle, check the tide. When you’re paddling in deep water, the tide doesn’t matter as much for beginners, but it can affect the area where you’re getting in and out. Suddenly, the dock is higher or lower. Suddenly four points of access become one or two and a bottleneck forms. It can affect the funneling of water through bridges. If you’re paddling in salt marshes, it can mean the difference between getting home and getting stuck.

To Make a Long Story Even Longer

Sunday, we paddled to Masonboro on a day with the full moon when the tide was going out. I wasn’t careful. My husband doesn’t paddle enough to think about the tides (but we had a chat about that later–a nice chat, after the yelling). It was a gorgeous day. The water was clear and glassy. I hefted my board across the island and into the ocean, where I practiced paddling it with the ocean swells moving like whales under me. (It’s my new race board–it hadn’t been on the ocean with me.) I went swimming. Some dolphins showed up. It was perfect. Unicorns were pooping rainbows, it was so perfect. Then we crossed the island to leave. And saw the 1/2 mile of mud.

We should have stayed and waited it out. We didn’t have enough water or sunscreen with us. That was dumb. So instead we started walking through the mud. And the oysters. Until I stepped on an oyster. At which point I started howling at my husband that the next time we went out together I WAS CHOOSING THE ROUTE. That wasn’t very nice of me. There were some ladies scooting across the mud and shrieking that they didn’t know about the tide. None of them had checked the tide. I’m telling you, people. CHECK THE TIDE. It is so dangerous to be out without knowing what the tide is doing, especially if you’re in salt marshes with oysters and skates and stingrays. If you’re new to water sports, it is your responsibility to learn about the different conditions that affect what you’re paddling in. We walked and scooted and floated for 3/4 mile before we got to water deep enough to paddle home. That water was the Intracoastal Waterway. My cuts got caked with mud. My husband paddled my brand new (to me) custom Bark upside-down and backwards through 3 inch water while I used the kayak as an aquatic wheelchair and pushed my way through the mud to the deep water where I could flip my board over and paddle. I’m now out of the water until the foot heals, on two kinds of antibiotics, painkillers, probiotics, vitamin E and humble pie.

Lessons from the Back

From this experience I have learned:

  • Keep checking weather conditions until I leave.
  • Carry my cell phone (which I had, and wouldn’t have done any good here).
  • Take a little money and my ID with me. (Saturday, it would have been much more fun to downwind to Dockside and drink beer and call a cab back to Trail’s End. But I had no money.)
  • Take water, food, and sunscreen if I’m not going to be in continuous motion (if I’m planning to beach it for a while during which the weather could change).
  • WAIT OUT THE TIDE change if the other alternative is to walk on oysters for 3/4 mile.
  • Try not to yell at husband. That doesn’t work well when you need him to do things for you because you can’t walk. Sorry Joe!

What have you learned the hard way?


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