August 23, 2012

Good to be home

THE NICEST THING about the Pacific Northwest is coming back to it.  It’s so good to be home, even if the darn cat is yowling her disapproval of having been dumped at the cat hotel once again.

But Hawaii was good, too. Not at hot as I thought it would be at this time of year and less humid than I had imagined. Kauai, the Garden Island, is mostly surrounded by heavy surf, but we stayed in a house on Hanalei Bay, partially sheltered from the swells of the north-east trades. This is where the single-handed TransPac race from San Francisco ends. This is holy ground.

As the sun went down at happy hour, I sat contentedly sipping a cold beer, watching 20 or so anchored cruising yachts swaying from side to side like metronomes.  It has been a long time since I was in an open anchorage on a sailboat that did that, and I can’t really remember how annoying it is.  I do think, however, that it seems quite reasonable compared with the motion you experience on the open sea.  Nevertheless, I was glad to be sitting on an unmoving house deck near a large fridge with a heart-gladdening supply of beverages, and enjoying a stunning view of the bay and its magnificent backdrop of sheer mountains.

Hanalei Bay is wonderful for swimming, and the occasional sets of breakers are ideal for learner surfers.  The water is warm and translucent.  It feels like blood temperature after a minute or two.  The snorkeling is surprisingly good around the corner from the bay, in places where it doesn’t look like any fish should live. But they’re there, all right, perky little guys in bright technicolor uniforms.

My first experience of sit-on-top kayaking didn’t go well.  I disgraced myself by having to drop out of a group headed for the ocean after a short trip up the river.  I was the only one in a single kayak, and I couldn’t keep up with the doubles.  My shoulder hurt and my muscles ached. I’m obviously not in the shape I used to be in. I’m a rower and a sculler.  If they’d been sculling I would have shown them something, shoulder or no shoulder.

The zip-lining went quite well though, after I screwed up enough courage to fling myself off those lofty towers.  Nine separate zips over river valleys, ravines, and forest canopies hundreds of feet below.  I even learned how to turn in mid-air to face forward, instead of zipping along sideways or backwards like a bag of dirty washing.

The only sour note came at the end of the trip, at Lihue Airport, where a TSA security guard patted me down, made me empty my pockets, and closely examined the contents of my wallet. He was a natural bully, peremptory, and sarcastic to boot, quite unfit to be dealing with the public. But he had the power to make me miss my flight if I raised any objections, so I played the scared rabbit and he lost interest in me.  In days gone past I had the upper hand in situations like this.  I was a newspaper columnist and I would write stories about what happened to me.  I named names and the bullies learned lessons.  Now, however, I’m just one of the great suffering hoi polloi and have to take my lumps with the rest of them.

No matter. It was a great vacation and it’s wonderful to be home.

Today’s Thought
Summer is the time when one sheds one’s tensions with one’s clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. A few of those days, and you can become drunk with the belief that all’s right with the world.
— Ada Louise Huxtable.

“Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup.”
(25) “Don’t put him on the cloth, sir, his feet are all wet.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)



jrraines said...

"I was the only one in a single kayak, and I couldn’t keep up with the doubles."

The doubles were longer: HULL SPEED.

Maybe the olympians can exceed hull speed but it is the main determinant for mortals.

John Vigor said...

You know, that did occur to me at the time. But I was still the only onion in the petunia patch and it was demoralizing.
I also thought the single sit-on-top kayak stuck to the water excessively and didn't glide easily like a proper Eskimo kayak. It was probably extra beamy, to offer stability to paddling palookas like me.

John V.

Ken said...

Ouch! I'm sorry John, but no way is it possible for any man to steal away his family on a small boat voyage as you did and then have the word palooka even 'near' a sentence describing him.
Just saying!