Sunday, May 10, 2009

Friday - May 1st - I'm Back on the Water

Yes! Mark Przedwojewski called early yesterday morning, inviting me to join them. He assured me that they would love to have me join them. So, a quick call to Jim and I was off to Racine. And once again Jim would shuttle me back. Plan was to meet them this morning (Friday) at Van Buren State Park about 5 miles or so from where I left the lake.

We were at the Park at about 7:30 in the morning. I had everything ready. I figured that when they arrived they would not want to stop but just have me join them as they paddled by.

In about 45 minutes I could see them coming. I thanked Jim once again and told him I would see him in Chicago in three or four days.

I was right. It was too early for them to stop, so I quickly jumped into my canoe and joined them.

It felt good to be back on the water, especially knowing I'd be finishing with the group I started with.

We battled some rain and fairly strong winds in our faces all morning, which slowed our pace to about less than two miles an hour, according to Toby's GPS tracker.

Just after noon we arrived at St Joseph, MI. I was paddling a little ahead of Toby when I noticed he was heading to shore. Not quite sure what he was doing, I stayed where I was until I noticed Dan and Mark doing the same thing, so I paddled back.

Sail time! The wind had switched and now was slightly quartering us from the northwest. I had never seen a sail used on a canoe, yet alone done this, so I was all eyes. Mark and Toby would be sailing by themselves. Dan and I would catamaran together for I had no sail and would rely on Dan's. Very interesting set-up. Verlen Kruger designed this craft to allow for sailing. In order to do it you need to be catamaraned together or have outriggers when by yourself. Mark and Dan had the outrigger setup which is basically an aluminum pole that stretches out 5 or 6 feet on each side of the canoe with an inflatable outrigger on each side, giving the canoe the stability needed.

Once set up, off we went. Really cool! Right along with the wind pushing us we also paddled. Dan said with the right wind you could easily do 7 - 8 or more miles an hour and just sit back and relax. Our wind was not that strong or directly behind us, but with light paddling we were making 4 plus miles an hour.

Man, could I've used this system when I did my Atlantic to Pacific journey, especially on the big waters of the Missouri and Columbia Rivers. I liken this to my bike portaging. Difference being, biking can be harder than paddling but you can cover more distance on a road than a winding river.

We sailed right until 5:30 when Dan mentioned we should start looking for a campsite. I thought to myself, "Campsite? - It's 5:30 - Campsite at 5:30?" I usually start looking about 15 minutes before the sun goes down and then keep paddling because I figure there's a better one around the corner, so this is new territory for me.

Dan pulled in at about 6:00 near Warren Dunes State Park. We'd come about 30 some miles which was a great day considering the wind we paddled against this morning. Although, I must admit as we each set up camp, I felt we should still be paddling. I could hear my dad now, "What are you doing stopping? You've only put in a half day's work!"

Soon I settled down and found myself really enjoying being off the water and just plain relaxing. After supper we even built a campfire. I've never done this! Although, our time around the fire was short lived because we all were tired.

As I lay in my tent I felt good. I was back on the water and paddling with three great guys. I was hoping in these last few days I'd learn a lot about paddling and these guys are as good as they come. In our first day together I've already learned a ton.

Stopping at 6:00 - in bed without having to set up camp in the dark - campfire - Man, as Dan would say, "It doesn't get any better than this!"

Sorry Dad, but I agree!


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