Two Fast, Two Furious
June 5, 2022
Any fool can put a sail up. A sailor knows when to take it down.
Words to live by if you’re ever in charge of the watch on a boat. Or sailing a boat not meant for canvas on a river better suited to a barge.
Several consecutive days of westerly winds had us thinking our paddling days were over. After all, the prevailing prairie breeze is west. What’s not to like?
Consecutive is another way of saying complacent. The winds were helping all right, but building every day. Blowing harder meant going faster? And like I just said, what’s not to like?
I began to have doubts when the bends in the river ahead were being obscured by blowing sand and dust. Obscured in that they disappeared completely in yellow-ish clouds that tore down wind and rose above the tree tops.
The sailor in me was finally shaken wide awake when I saw the gaff in Jan’s rig nearly horizontal and him contorted over one side of the canoe in an attempt to keep the featherly craft upright. I was able to notice these things not because I wasn’t paying attention to my own boat, but because I was totally out of control and headed straight for him despite putting all my weight behind the steering paddle that was now bent at an angle I hope never to see again.
Had the gust not swept us by, Jan would never have known what hit him. Straightening out Kai Nani and regaining my senses, I hollered over to Jan that we were dousing saul and taking stock. Pronto. The winds were too wild and the two of us were going two fast.
Now, not only does nature abhor a vacuum, she detests an imbalance. The westerly wind that had us making east miles and going fast was now, according to Mother Nature, going to be replaced by an equally appalling easterly breeze. Easterly implying in-your-face headwinds of 25-40 km/hr that had going not just slow, but barely going at all. Or worse yet, backwards. Paddling furiously seemed only to invite another round of Nature mocking our pitiful efforts with an even harder puff. We spent the next 4 days paddling into headwinds that turn your arms into pool noodles after an hour.
Prairie winds. Two fast and two furious.