The Little Man in the Kayak – Mallow’s Bay

Real talk. I am afraid of the water. Not the surface of the water but the underneath. It freaks me out. What’s going on down there? It’s a freak show. It’s a larder, a pantry, a toilet, a menagerie.

There is a primal, archetypal fear of the dark, unseeable unknown beneath you. It’s a survival instinct. Our lizard brains know that we are not at the top of the food chain or that we share it.

That’s part of what makes Mallow Bay’s ghost ships an eerie thrill. Aside from the history and visual spectacle.

You’re padding along and feel a thunk on the bottom of the boat. A scrape. You put your paddle in the water and feel it hit something. You may even get stuck on top of something. Even though you know it’s the burned down shell of a WWI ship it still feels like a sleeping creature. Like you’re paddling over two hundred partially submerged dormant behemoths with their spines barely breaching out of the bay. As you maneuver your way through the pegs and beams you suddenly realize that you’re inside the ships walls.

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The sea grass tugs at your paddle. Sometimes a gentle tug and sometimes like it wants to take the paddle from you. It gives the water there a personality.

Cormorants perch on posts and skim the water yards away. Kingfishers blare as they fly from tree to tree. Bald eagles perch high scanning for fish. Ospreys glide overhead.

Prep

And then there were waves. I wasn’t expecting that. We maneuvered our way through a ship like an obstacle course and then went out into more open waters. Once you left the shelter of the cove stuff got real. I thought, “This. Is not flat water.”

I was imagining what it would be like to be upside down in the water in the waves. I told a friend about it and she asked how big the waves were. I thought about for a second. Might as well have been “A Perfect Storm” as far as I’m concerned. Half way up a wall of water and screaming into the wind and water. In reality, they were probably 2 ft. tops. There was definitely some rolling and occasionally the front of the kayak would slap down into a trough. As soon as you stopped paying attention — to take a photo for example — you’d get rolled sideways a little or your inner ear would get confused.

It was a gentle introduction to the realities of being on the water. It ain’t all flat, peaceful and serene and there’s a fine line between one flavor and the next. Between idyllic recreation and imminent danger in some cases.

I was a little over-confident up to that point. You know, having been in a kayak twice. Like Poseidon himself!

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I did something I financially shouldn’t have. I bought a waterproof and shockproof camera.

All the photos from the trip.

You can read the following paragraph and then skip the rest of the geekery:

I got sand all over my hands when I was getting back into the kayak after lunch. That means I immediately got sand all over the camera. Then I noticed that I also got greek salad dressing complete with feta all over the camera as well. Sand and greek salad dressing. And chocolate chip cookie crumbs. And apple juice. That’s bad for electronics. So I dunked the camera in the bay water to clean it off and went right back to taking some of the better photos from the tour.

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It’s decent and has interesting features. The image quality is — I’m not sure about the quality yet. Seems like there’s some in-camera processing going on that I could do without. The colors are a little more saturated than I expected and there’s in-camera noise reduction that I don’t like (and just figured out how to turn off). It was an overcast day, though. I’ll have to do some photo tests in the great outdoors  when it’s sunny.

I mean, compared to a full frame like the Sony a99 … well, that’s not even a fair comparison. It did a fine job on the water, though. I didn’t have to worry or think about it at all and the pics were better than the ones I took the previous week with the a55 and 50mm lens in the DiCaPac bag. The latter is handy, too, but no other lenses that I own would fit inside it and it obviously doesn’t protect the camera from jarring and dropping. Also, once the camera is in the bag it’s very awkward or impossible to change the settings.

Ah, I turned off the noise reduction. Much better. You’ll have to remove some color noise (I use Lightroom). Oh. And I haven’t seen a way to manually change the ISO, which is strange to me.

It’s a good little machine, though. It’s pricey but well worth it if you’re going to be doing things that will put a normal DSLR in grave danger. I’m liking the photos more and more as I learn my way around it. Stabilizing it with a gorilla pod braced against my torso helps a lot but, again, so many of my photos are taken in frustratingly low lighting. C’est la vie.

Kayak Your Chi

I’ve heard that some athletes use visualization techniques to motivate and propel themselves. Like envisioning a beam of energy projecting from your navel — the third (yellow) chakra.

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When you’re paddling, the guides/instructors make a point of telling you that you’re not pushing your way through the water. You’re planting your paddle and driving forward through your core. Your center is propelling you.

Each time now I take a a few minutes to try to go as fast as possible. I watch the guides and how effortlessly they glide along. No tension in their grip or strokes and no over-exertion. Then I try to gun it. The rocking figure eight type motion from the core. Generating power without resorting to arm and shoulder power. I usually end up drifting one way or the other.

What helps, though, is when I do one of two things. I look at the bow(?) and the wake. I focus on that and the strokes come together as if I’m being pulled along by that yellow beam of energy. If I really want to clip along at a good pace I make sure to look at the paddle as it goes into the water with each stroke. It helps to get my torso engaged for the windup, so to speak.

Then I relax and glide to equilibrium. Never stillness.

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