sabbatical reflections: night canoeing

one of the coolest things that happened on sabbatical was learning how to night canoe!

this wasn’t something i set out to do intentionally; it happened out of necessity. and i really loved it.

the situation: for the first week, across the pond where i was living, my friend-mentor, peter, was preparing for a gathering. as a part of that, he had a couple of people with him, including a chef. for all the nights the chef was there, peter invited me to come over for dinner that the chef was making. at first, i struggled to accept this, but then i let go and it was lovely.

dinner each night was at 6 and i had to canoe over from my side of the pond to peter’s side to get there. while i was there, sun would set. there’s a path through the woods to get back but, even when you know a path (which i didn’t), hiking 45 minutes through the woods at night is not a particularly appealing offer. so canoeing it was.

the first night, peter walked me down to the water where my canoe was parked and told me how to do it. the basics: turn your headlamp off because in the marine layer, the mist is so present that light is useless. it just creates like a bubble of light around you and you can’t see very far (kind of like using your highbeams when driving through fog). then, let your eyes adjust to the dark. even without stars, this happens pretty quickly. get in the boat and start paddling. then, listen to the land (the tide rip behind you, the creek in front) and watch the tree line around the pond. eventually, you will find it pretty obvious to know where you are and once you get close to arriving, you can use your headlamp if needed to make sure you hit the landing.

the first night, i was terrified. what if the canoe tips? what if i run into the creek? what if i hit a rock near the shore and flip? what if an animal bumps the canoe and it flips? (and like 1 million other thoughts about how the canoe might flip). but he kept his headlamp on from the shore to help me orient.

the first night, i missed the landing by like 8 feet. the second night, i hit it dead on. and most other nights, i hit it within a few feet. peter stopped giving me the orientation light cause i’d figured it out. we did have a little holler system so i could let him know when i’d landed. it was cute, imho.

and once i’d gotten through the fear and the mechanics, it was fucking beautiful. canoeing on a still pond in the dark with nothing to hear but the wind and water is just… 10 outta 10.

the most beautiful experiences were close to the new moon. i’m not sure if there’s a direct correlation here, but the water was bioluminescent when the new moon was near. and there is nothing like canoing in a bioluminescent pond on a clear night with stars above and below you. it’s like paddling through space.

anyway, learning how to canoe across the pond at night was one of my first big hurdles to overcome while out there. it’s hard to describe the feeling of accomplishment. but it was big and real and even though now it feels like a small thing, i will probably never be the same having worked that through.

anyone up for a night canoe on the quinobequin?

none of these photos are of me actually night canoeing but you can get a sense of the size of the pond i canoed across and you can see the canoe i used and the overall voibe.

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