Monday, July 25, 2005

This Afternoon at Sebago

In a rare escape, Laurie and I managed to slip away to Sebago Lake on July 12. Finding the park entrance was a bit of a treasure hunt, but we got there eventually.

Laurie did not grow up in small boats, the way I did, so she does not have a well-tuned sense of her ability and of the actual danger posed by weather conditions. She's a good boater, but doesn't have the context to know it and appreciate it. So I didn't say anything when I saw the flags blowing out straight. So much of danger is a matter of perception. Too much of the wrong kind of fear actually creates danger. Better to poke out and see, rather than influence the mood by playing it up or down.

"It wasn't choppy on the map," she said as we emerged from the aptly named Crooked River. But she calmed considerably when I pointed out that if she dumped she could easily walk to shore. The sand bar shelved out for many yards. The bigger waves had tripped and stumbled on the outer margin of these shallows, so we rode only the half-size remnants. They were steep, but small.

We ventured along the shore, with no particular destination. When a cove opened to our left, we turned to surf into it. A couple in a canoe was entering it from the opposite direction. I would not really have wanted to be in an open boat with no flotation in the larger waves further out in the lake, but I didn't see where they started, so I don't know how long they dealt with it.

As regulars on Winnipesaukee, we were amazed to find that the white beach at the back of the cove was part of the park, so we could land and have lunch. What's the matter? Not enough rich people in Maine to buy and fence off the shoreline? Let's enjoy it.

After lunch and a bit of shore exploration, where Laurie enjoyed childhood memories of a family trip to Sebago Lake in the mid 1960s, we set out again to go a little further down the exposed shoreline. We didn't have a ton of time to play that day, but we wanted to get a little more wave time.

Beyond the lunch cove the waves were bigger than we'd seen so far. The water was deeper and they'd run the length of the lake.

After we rounded the next point, we curved around behind a small island, nearly a peninsula. Waves broke over the teeth of rocks in the shallows that nearly connected it to the mainland, so we went around the end. Then we came in behind it to play in the wind-generated current pouring through over the rocks.

After a few minutes in shelter, we emerged to head back to the river. Enroute, Laurie suddenly diverted shoreward.

"I'm going to swim!" she called, indicating the floats of a swim beach. Everyone had left it as the afternoon waned. I rode in behind her to a wet landing on the beach. Waves swept the length of the boat as soon as it stopped at the sand. We had to hop out and drag our boats up fast, to avoid getting a cockpit full of water.

After splashing around the swim beach for a while we boarded again. Laurie challenged herself by getting aboard out in the water. She did it without any unscheduled additional swimming.

Wind and waves came from the most troublesome angle on the last leg. The short, the steep and the ugly kept trying to make our rudderless boats yaw. I've learned that you can ride the oscillation and maintain your average heading more efficiently than rigidly trying to stop every deviation. It doesn't seem to be something that can be taught, only discovered for oneself.

The waves going into the river acted like conflicting wind and tide. The river didn't seem to have much current, but it was enough, with the wind and the shallows, to make some weird stuff.

Once inside, we were able to outdistance a motor boat admirably observing headway speed. We coasted to a peaceful finish. Nice afternoon.

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