Yesterday I was out on the River getting in some quality kayaking in what was the most gorgeous day. My upper body strength must be astounding because I rowed 6 miles in just under 2 hours without hardly any effort, despite the fact I was rowing the equivalent of a cork in bathtub and was fighting the crazy hydrodynamics of a rain-swollen Charles River.
Behold, I am cute and mighty! \0/
And it sure as hell wasn't the kayak contributing anything to my fantastic time. After a season of rowing all the sleek kayaks with rudders and skegs, I had a basic kayak with no rudder or skeg. (All the good ones had been rented out overnight to a group taking them off-site. Pooh.) I was rowing a Necky Manitou 13. While it is a peppy, responsive little boat, it's also a lot like rowing a cork in the bathtub like I said.
To be honest, I'm falling more and more in love with the Necky Manitou 14. Much as I love the Wilderness Systems Zephyr, there's something about the Manitou 14 that just "fits" me so well.
Aside from a less-than-optimal kayak, another thing against me was the odd hydrodynamics of the Charles River Lakes Region this year thanks to the crapload of rain that's hit us all summer. The river is behaving more like a lake that just happens to have a shockingly strong river current meandering through it. This river current is actually visible in the form of surprisingly choppy water that requires you to put some effort into fighting it if you're rowing against the current.
How screwed up is the hydrodynamics of the river? All the river plants are taking a beating this year. Depending on where they are, they're either getting swept away by the strong river current, or they're drowning in the rain-swollen calm areas. It's a little eerie to see underwater fields of lily pads with "channels" through them that have clearly been carved by Mother Nature. Parts of the river are now accessible that normally wouldn't be because of the profusion of plant life.
Now, no doubt, you want to hear about how I saved a little old lady from getting beaten up by a swan.
First, let me set the scene. There's a section of the river that has a lot of islands and promontories jutting into the river. In this one particular area, it gets pretty narrow, just big enough for two kayaks to pass through. Worse, it's a bit of a blind curve because of the trees growing on the islands and the shore. You can't see who might be up ahead until you're already nosing into the blind curve.
Up ahead, I could see a trio of kayakers consisting of an older woman and two teens passing through this narrow area. Because I was rowing along at a pretty good clip, I was gaining on them pretty quickly, but I figured all three would be through that area before I caught up.
As I turn the corner, I see the older woman is stalled right at the opening that would bring her into the wider river, and that the kids were a couple of yards ahead.
I think, "No problem. I'll just navigate around her."
As I do that, see that a family of swans is blocking any hope of moving forward. We're talking two monster-sized adult swans and five — count 'em five — juveniles. The juveniles were almost as large as the adults, but were still covered in grey fluffy down. There wasn't even a hint of a white feather on them.
Now, I think you need to realize something important here (aside from the fact that swans are evil, I mean). When you're sitting in a kayak and you're barely 5'1" in your stocking feet, an adult swan in the water is as tall as you are. In short, it can look you right in the eyeball while it decides whether or not it's going to kick the ever-loving shit out of you.
And this little old lady in the kayak was shorter than I am.
Needless to say, life was looking to get interesting.
- Our Heroine (OH)
- Innocent Little Old Lady (ILOL)
- Evil Mommy Swan (EMS)
- Fuzzy Baby Swan (FBS)
Our Heroine (OH): [sees evil swan family with two adults and five cygnets] Oh, shit!
Evil Adult Swans: *glares at kayaks*
Fuzzy Five Baby Swans: *swim, swim, swim*
Innocent Little Old Lady (ILOL): Aren't they beautiful? I've never been this close before!
OH: Don't. Move.
Evil Mommy Swan (EMS): *sidles up to ILOL's kayak*
OH: Don't. Move. You might set them off.
Fuzzy Baby Swan (FBS): *darts over to my kayak and settles in about 6 inches from my right hand*
ILOL: Set them off? What do you mean?
OH: Swans are evil. If you make a wrong move, that swan floating right next to your boat is going to go bonkers and attack.
ILOL: It's a bird.
OH: A bird that's big enough and mean enough that it can break bones if it hits you hard enough. You'll end up tipping over and wind up in the the river. So, don't move until I tell you to move.
EMS: *glares at ILOL and pulls right up to her cockpit; ILOL and EMS are now eyeball to eyeball*
FBS: *innocently looks at OH like it can't quite make out what kind of bird OH might be*
ILOL: Ummmm, they're bigger than I thought they were.
OH: [looks at FBS] Don't try and pat it. They'll take off your hand at the wrist.
FBS: *looking fuzzy, cute, and innocent like it wouldn't hurt a fly*
EMS: *continues glaring at ILOL*
Meanwhile, Daddy Swan (I assume it was the male because it was bigger than the Evil Mommy Swan menacing the Innocent Little Old Lady) had corralled the remaining four cygnets and had gotten them out of the way of our kayaks.
EMS: *twitches head to see where all her babies are*
OH: Get your paddle in the water. Slowly.
ILOL: *does as she's told*
FBS: *studies OH's kayak*
EMS: *turns glare back on ILOL and makes a warning trumpeting sound without even opening its beak*
OH: Move, move move!
ILOL: *starts rowing like a bat out of hell*
OH: *waits until ILOL is clear and then rows even faster just as EMS starts turning the evil glare on OH*
The whole thing took less than two minutes. During that time, the two teens realized that they had lost their grandmother and were turning their kayaks around to look for her. They saw she was with a second person, and figured she had stopped to talk to me. What they didn't realize that we were dealing with two adult swans who were not at all pleased to see us.
As soon as I caught up to her, the Innocent Little Old Lady said she never knew swans were evil. I explained that kayakers on the river make it a habit to warn if there were swans close by to other kayakers.
Anyway, it turns out that this was the first time this Innocent Little Old Lady had ever been in a kayak. (Good for her!) And that she was there with her grandchildren because she was curious what it was like. She even asked me about lessons.
Anyway, she thanked me for helping her out because she didn't even know that she had gotten herself in a tight spot. I told her it wasn't a problem.
As I rowed off, she was telling her grandchildren about our little adventure with the swans.
So, that's how I came eye-to-eye with the Evil Swans and lived to tell the tale. :-)
The cool bit of this story is that I actually got to hear a swan's trumpet. I never heard it for myself before.
It's actually kind of menacing when a swan does it while glaring at you.
The the moral of the story: When in negotiations with Mother Nature, keep in mind that Mother Nature always wins. All you can do is remain calm until the crisis is past.