Love Affair
3562
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Love Affair

Love Affair

 
October 2022
 
 
‘That is the wonkiest paddle I have ever seen.’  This from a fellow yachtie who had tried in desperation to catch me in an electrically powered skiff. He had seen me headed downstream as he headed up. Figuring for a gam (nautical talk when two vessels at sea come alongside each other and stop briefly for chat), he turned around intent on chasing me down. He couldn’t, despite pouring on the electrons. 
 
Stopped for lunch and worrying about how to get over the dam at Portage du Fort, I recognized the boat that I had seen headed upstream tie up on the finger opposite Kai Nani.
 
After an introduction and some preliminary banter he could not contain himself. It was obvious something was on his mind and what followed was a 20 minute harangue deriding not just my ‘wonkie’ paddle, but my technique as well. If I had any sense at all, I would take his well-meaning advice to heart, put it into practice immediately, and finally get that canoe of mine moving proper-like.
 
 
Considering I had just dusted his double-engined electric speedboat, it was all a bit curious. Not claiming to know anything about paddles, I explained that Spencer Meany, the man who had crafted it, most certainly did. Of this particular paddle, I knew but two things: It worked beautifully; and I was in love with her.
 
I know this paddle better than I know my hands. I don’t just know her curves, angles, and contours, I know the thickness of the varnish on the handle and shaft.  I don’t just know the shape and profile of the blade, I can tell you if there’s the smallest of nicks in the tip just by the feel of the water flowing over it.
 
For the better part of six months, I have held her in my hands every day, for hours and hours on end. I have held her lightly, using only my fingertips, brushing the water as if painting on a life-size canvas. I have gripped her with all my strength, plunging the blade into swirling madness, desperate to urge Kai Nani forwards, backwards, or sideways. I have held onto her with hands so cold and frozen that they were indistinguishable from the solid birch that makes up her spine. 
 
She creates the bond that ties me intimately to the water. It is she that makes us one. One integrated whole, bound together by purpose. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens until I pick her up, wrap my hands around her, and lean on her. The blade slips soundlessly into the blue, my fingertips just kissing the surface, and I lean. Kai Nani responds as if seduced. Sluggish at first, and then, in earnest.
 
I cared for this paddle more than any other piece of gear I carries. I fretted about the varnish wearing off on the handle, less the exposed wood dry out and crack, the weakness in her joins exposed. I fretted about smashing the tip into rocks lurking unseen below as we swept our way east, always east, on chocolate brown waters. I fretted about her being stolen away if left unattended and lost if misplaced. Without her, I was literally and figuratively dead in the water.
 
I gave a great deal of thought to the paddles I would use on this trip. I purchased and trialed 7 different, custom-made paddles. I settled on two, bringing along a spare for the worst parts of the trip through BC. As I suppose must always be true, never ever did I imagine I would fall in love with the wonkiest one.