Blowing in the BWCA
The wind has been blowing like crazy the past few days. Wind speeds have been consistently in the 10-20 mph range with gusts up to 30 mph. It can’t seem to make up its mind what direction it wants to blow from. From North to South to East to West and everything in between it has come from almost every direction.
Paddling in the wind is not my favorite time to paddle. But since I paddle whenever I get the chance I took my kids and two nieces out for an overnight in the Boundary Waters in spite of the never-ending wind. It was a bit more challenging then I expected and it bothered me that I couldn’t control the canoe as well as I would have liked.
We got a tow to the portage into Red Rock and only had to make it to a campsite. With four kids ranging in age from 9-16 I decided to take both a Minnesota 4 and the Canak made by Wenonah. The Minnesota 4 is 23 feet long and has 4 seats with the middle seat capable of seating two smaller kids side by side. I figured we all could have fit into the MN 4 with our gear but thought it would be more fun to have the Canak(a solo canoe kayak hybrid) for use at camp.
The water level in the BWCA is crazy low right now and that made taking off into Red Rock Lake difficult. There were rocks all over and with a 23 foot long canoe it was hard to find a place to float that wasn’t touching rocks. Eventually we made it out of the bay and into the big wind only to realize I couldn’t get the canoe to steer the direction I wanted it to go. I figured I had too much weight in the front of the canoe and had to head over to a campsite to reposition the paddlers. Josh, the only boy in the group besides Rugby and the youngest was paddling the Canak. He did a terrific job by himself in the waves and after we switched places in the canoe we were able to get to our campsite.
My nieces hadn’t been on a Boundary Waters trip before and they did an awesome job. Everyone helped to put the tent and hammocks up and then we took a refreshing swim. Josh and I wanted to go fishing since we had heard there was some fish to be caught in the bay. My niece Chelsea decided to come along with us and thank goodness she did. Who knows where Josh and I would have ended up without her help paddling us back to the campsite. Needless to say, we didn’t catch any fish and didn’t venture back out onto the lake until the next day.
The wind hardly let up during the night and when it was time to paddle back to the portage it was blowing forcefully. This time the canoe was tracking very nicely but I had loaded the Canak too heavily in the front and Josh was struggling to steer it. We had to paddle backwards into the waves to retrieve him in the Canak and tow him along with us because he couldn’t keep the nose of the Canak headed in the right direction. With all of the messing around in the waves I was amazed we didn’t flip the canoe or the Canak.
My nieces and children were forced to listen to me cuss and yell about the wind and the waves. I was quite cranky a couple of times when I didn’t think people were paddling hard enough or when the wind was making carrying the 64 pound canoe difficult. I threatened both my dog and my daughter but amazingly my nieces both said they had fun. I thinik by that time they were afraid of me so what else could they say?
I hope they had a good Boundary Waters experience in spite of my ranting and raving. I guess I was nervous to be responsible for everyone’s safety. With the wind blowing like it was it would have been a struggle to make any rescue attempts and although everyone was wearing lifevests it was stressful for me. I think I need to be more like a bottle of wine, chill and mellow with age and then hopefully they’ll agree to go camp with me again. After it quits blowing in the BWCA.