Sunday, May 31, 2009
Rolling or swimming?
During a rare weekend in town, I decided that a bit of rolling on Long Lake would be in order. The lake is about 10 minutes from the house and the entire east shore is a regional park. Rice Creek, recently wrested from the control of the army, flows in and also flows out in its journey to the Mississippi River. Heck, sometimes its running high enough so a dummy in a Q Boat could do some pretend white water stunts and tip over and lose his Ray Ban's. That was not the case yesterday but the wind was howling out of the north and the fisherman were competing for the good lee shores.
In the past few years there has been a police dock out at the boat landing/fishing pier and yesterday had a New Brighton police reserve officer sitting in his squad car in the shade. It had to be nice duty on a really nice day and he was talking to the boaters as they launched, checking life jackets, the usual stuff. I paddled out for awhile, headed up for the creek, and then turned around for the wind assisted ride back. I had put on the tuliq by that time and was doing a roll of two, coming dangerously close to hitting my stick roll. At about 250 yards off the beach another kayaker went over. While assisting and explaining the mechanics of the assisted T rescue (no real danger here, warm water, wind blowing to shore, no wake zone, etc), I noticed that the officer was on the dock with his binoculars trained on us. I waved, gave the thumbs up, and carried on. All was well and about 100 yards offshore I did a couple more rolls and, once more, almost got up with the diabolical stick. When I landed, my rolling had apparently aggravated the officer and I was informed that swimming was not allowed on that part of the lake and that water play of that nature should be done at the beach, about a half mile up the east side of the lake.
This is not the first time I've encountered this attitude and apparently I'm not alone. It would seem that our friend Michael, the Quebecois CKayaker, had the same problem awhile back if I remember correctly. While in Madison, the People's Lifeguard Collective are quick to order you to do whatever comes to mind at the moment. I've been chastised on Lake Monona for landing too close to the swimming area. I had launched from their earlier, when it was deserted, to clear my head with a paddle after a particularly successful beer festival on the very same lake the day before. When I returned, head as clear as a bell, two hours later, there were two people on the beach and none in the water. He ordered me to go back out and land somewhere else but I simply shouldered my boat, told him to call the Beach KGB if he felt he needed to, and walked up the hill to my car. I was also taken to task on Lake Mendota for rolling too close to the swimming beach. Even though I was well outside the outer ropes, the tanned, muscular, Speedo sporting member of the PLC (see above) considered me to be within his jurisdiction and felt that my kayak constituted a banned 'water toy'. Once again I was forced to shoulder the boat, walk away, and risk interrogation by the Beach KGB if he chose to summon them. I think he was pissed because I had ignored his bellowing on the megaphone but I honestly had no idea he was bellowing at me. It was windy, the tuliq covered my ears, I was underwater a fair amount of the time, and the megaphone sound had the quality of one of those fast food drive up window intercoms.
In any event, the New Brighton guy was much more easy going, reasonable, and civil than his fellow water guardians in the People's Republic of Madison, a name favored by the Old Man when he learned that No 1 Son would be attending college there. I told the officer that were he there on Wednesday nights in the summer, he would find not only the Rice Creek Paddlers in their racing canoes and surf skis, but also various middle aged nuts wearing tuliqs and tipping their boats over reapeatedly. I also thanked him for keeping an eye on the water and told him that next time I showed up, which will be roughly two hours from now, I would let him know that he would likely be seeing as much of the hull of my boat as he would the deck. We wished each other a good day and away I went. Water toy, danger to public water safety, attractive nuisance, or just a fun thing to do on a warm spring afternoon? It makes me wonder what the public is thinking when we paddle out and then spend an hour tipping our baots over. Any insights out there?