Monday, May 18, 2009

If you don't like the weather........

This years Manitou Madness trip only got to within about 3 miles of Manitou Island. There is still concern about our overly friendly bear buddy and no camping permits have been issued so far this year, although at last word there has been no sign of him so far this year. The plan was to paddle over on Saturday but "The Boss" decided that was not to be the case.

We arrived in Bayfield at 5pm, picked up our permit, and headed for the wonderful fresh whitefish at Morty's Pub, washed down with South Shore Brown Ale. The forecast front was moving in but it was warm and the wind had switched to the south. We managed to get on the water just as the rain began, and the building seas pushed us the six miles to Oak Island at a pretty good clip. We all agreed that of all the outdoor activities that can be done in the rain, paddling a kayak is the most enjoyable because most of you is under cover and the part that isn't is mostly water resistant. The incredible shades of green in the spring take on a certain softness and look very different through the mist than they do in the sunlight. On the other hand, setting up a tent is one of the crappiest activities that can be attempted in the rain. I usually put up the rain tarp, assemble the tents under the tarp, and then stake em down. We all hit the tent, the front moved through, and the wind switched to the northwest and began to howl. The comment was made that it felt more like Camp 4 on Everest than Oak Island; the tents were shaking and waves could be heard crashing on the beach.

The morning dawned with roughly 30-35 knot gusting winds and building waves. The vertical tarp was switched to horizontal to act as a windbreak for cooking breakfast. Plans for a three island paddle tour were unanimously changed to a hike on Oak Island's trail system, lovely trails that wind through the 5,000 acres, trails I'd never been on since I'd never been windbound on Oak before. In addition to the the wind, the fact that is was blowing across 40F (4C) water made getting off the spit a very appealing idea. It was about 15 degrees warmer in the woods and the wind was not nearly as daunting. The winds tapered off around dusk and Sunday brought bluebird weather, 60F (16C) and flat, dead calm seas. The forecast 10-15 knot westerlies never showed up. Our fantasies about being the only people on Oak Island were dashed however. We had planned on company, as there was a group that was supposed to be on the Oak group site Saturday night but for obvious reasons, they didn't show. Just as we were leaving two kayaks pulled up and we recognized MidwestPepe and ladyfriend, AntiUVJane. They had been on North Bay and we hiked within a mile or so of their camp. Had we known, we would have dropped in for cocktails. We all paddled back to Red Cliff together on flat seas and then our quartet visited RangerMark and the GreenThumbChef and were fed the first true summer feast of the season, bratwurst, potato salad, beans, and fresh fruit. A fine end to the weekend.

Certain individuals in both the Gurney, WI and Washburn, WI area (you know who you are!) refuse to paddle on Gitchee Gumee until June, claiming a combination of cold water and gardening responsibilities keep them close to home. It was a wonderful weekend however, and much can be said about being among the first people on the island. Winters effects can be seen, spring is in the air, and visibility in the woods is 5 times greater than when things get leafed out. The big Hemlock trees are even more impressive in the spring and the lake seems unbelievably clear. I wouldn't trade this early spring trip for anything. As my buddy in Cumbria, England says, there is no such thing as bad weather, only poor gear. That was borne out once again this weekend on Lake Superior.
PS While swilling beer and scarfing brats, it was made known that the Valley Aleut II owned by RM and the GTC is on the market. This is a sweet double with deck mounted chimp pumps for both cockpits, dual rudder controls (for a control freak that likes the view from the front cockpit), and a yellow over white color scheme. They liked the boat so much that they sprung for the kevlar layup version. Hey, we're getting old and hoisting big doubles up on roofs ain't as easy as it was! Anyhow, shoot me an email if there is any interest. This boat will be on the SKOAC for sale link and very shortly.

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