Sea Kayak Symposium

     Yesterday was another very windy day in the wilderness.  Saganaga was rolling and showing off as best as she could those white caps of hers.  She even capsized a few canoes when she took advantage of the strong wind gusts.  She was obviously upset about something and took it out on everyone who wanted to enjoy paddling or fishing on mighty Saganaga.

     Adam was kept busy towing people across Saganaga all day long.  I think he started at 8 am and didn’t get done until 5 pm.  Every time he would go out another party would be in desperate need to vacate the wilderness and wanted a tow back in.  Each trip I would ask, "Are you sure?"  I told him he didn’t have to go back out if he didn’t want to but each time he said, "Yeah, it’s ok." 

     Leif also helped tow some people across Saganaga.  I still picture him as an 8 year-old so I wasn’t about to give him permission to go out on Sag all alone.  I made him call his mom, the Canadian Ranger, to see if she thought it was ok for him to venture out onto the lake.  I know he knows the lake and knows how to navigate Sag but I’m a scaredy cat when it comes to boats in waves.

     We received a radio message around 5 that a group at the Northern Light Portage wanted to get towed in.  Since Leif was already on a tow and Adam had been towing all day, I decided I had better go and pick them up.

     I’m not sure what I was thinking.  Number one, I don’t like to drive tow boat.  Number two, I’m a fair weather fan.  Number three, I hate waves.  The list goes on and on but before I knew it I was dressed up and ready to head out onto Saganaga. 

     I should have mentioned tied with number one for not liking to drive tow boat is not being able to get through the rapids.  Anyone who knows where we are knows you have to go through the rapids to get onto Saganaga.  People do this every day; inexperienced boaters who have never been up here, tow boat drives who are brand new, and probably even small children.  Me? I can’t get through there in a tow boat to save my life.  Well, not without getting stuck or turned around that is.

     That was my first inkling that I shouldn’t have been going on a tow.  I bumped rock after rock with the boat; don’t worry, the motor was safe, I couldn’t get it to lock in an upright position so I held the monster up by laying on it.  I proceeded through the rapids with water pushing me around so I was going backwards with the motor leading the way to Sag.  Miraculously I made it through the rapids with boat and motor in one piece.

     Zooming towards Sag I still felt a bit apprehensive about my mission.  Of course this was my first tow of the year and with sleet slicing my face like pins being stuck into it I again wondered what I was doing out there.  If I thought I was crazy before I got to the open water of Sag I knew I was completely insane after I saw the waves.  Before I had time to think about turning back I was in 3-4 foot rollers being tossed around like a barbie boat in a hurricane.  Each wave would take me up and then pound me back down only to spray me with what felt like freshly thawed from an iceberg lake water.  I would shudder and gasp and try to wipe my eyes before the next monster attacked me.  Boom, smack, spray and pray I made my way to the safety of Clark Island.

     The thoughts that raced through my mind while I crossed what felt like the Pacific Ocean were varied… 

  •  I was indeed crazy and needed to be institutionalized if I made it back safely. 
  •  I had to be the world’s most moronic woman unless I had a twin.
  • People like me shouldn’t be allowed to make decisions.
  • If I made it to the paddlers I would ask them to drive the boat or Larry from Chippewa Inn.
  • I should have prepared my last will and testament.
  • Did I have any spare Liability Waivers in my pocket?
  • I wonder if that is lakewater soaking my pants or did I pee myself?

     There were numerous others but I think you get the idea of what my mindset was like in those minutes that lasted forever as I boom, smacked, sprayed and prayed my way across Sag.  I got to the campsite where the men were waiting and they were happy to see me.  I thought to myself, "If they only knew…"

     They made small talk as they packed up the tow boat.  "Boy are we glad to see you."  "We can’t wait to get back."  "Thanks for coming to get us, you’re the best."  I stopped them after that and broke it to them as gently as I could.  "Listen guys," I said in my most solemn voice, "I made it out here, but I doubt we will make it back without dying."  To this they stared at me with a glossed over look.  I proceeded to tell them about my unpolished skills as a towboat driver and how waves the size of sky scrapers were out there waiting to swallow me and the towboat whole.  They didn’t let my confession dampen their spirits and continued to pack and talk about warm beds, cold drinks and dry land.  I didn’t know what I could tell them to prepare them for their untimely death in the wilderness, they obviously weren’t taking me seriously.

     I started out back towards home and their happy chatter continued.  I thought about asking one of them to drive the boat but then settled on telling them the ride was over at Clark Island.  I figured they could camp there and paddle the remaining mile in the morning.  I wasn’t about to be responsible for the death of 3 men.  When I came to the crossing that was threatening my life my jaw dropped open wide.

     The three to six foot waves that were there had amazingly shrunk down to manageable one to two foot swells.  This was those guys’  lucky day, it wouldn’t be their last day on earth after all.  I was almost giddy as I motored across and laughed at Saganaga and her puny waves.  She thought she was going to stop me with that?  Obviously Saganaga’s middle name isn’t endurance because she was all out of steam and I was heading home.  


    Well, not straight home.  I wasn’t about to attempt to navigate the rapids with passengers when it was almost dark outside.  I decided to bring them safely to the public landing where we could walk back to Voyageur.  Despite the fact I was nearly frozen I was able to get myself into the shower to thaw out.  It was my first and hopefully last tow of the season.

     Why is the title of this blog "Sea Kayak Symposium?"  Because that’s where Mike was during this day of waves and winds on Mighty Saganaga.