In camp there is a woodworking shop and I have spent many hours there. I have made for myself a traditional Greenland storm paddle. I didn’t have a spokeshave or a hand plane, small delicate cutting tools, but I did have a rip saw, a giant man eating machine, which I tried to use delicately. Mostly it worked out all right, though there were a couple of times when I sawed off much more than I should have (just wood, no fingers).
I intend to make another one, so that on my trip I can take the better of the two, but for now I think it came out okay. In fact, I’m extremely proud.
It’s called a storm paddle because it’s much shorter than a typical Greenland paddle. In order to put one end in the water, I hold it by the opposite end, almost like a canoe paddle. Then, to stroke on the other side, I shift both hands, blade to shaft and shaft to blade, so that I’m holding it from the new upside. It adds an extra step into my strokes, but it’s lighter weight and without much paddle above my top hand, there’s almost no wind drag, especially appreciated in a storm.
This morning I took it out on the water and ran my GPS speedometer. It was tricky getting used to the new technique and I still don’t have it a hundred percent, but it was fun and good training. On my trip I’ll be keeping a storm paddle with my boat as a spare, so it’s important that I become proficient with it. I maintained a speed of about three knots, a full knot slower than with my winged paddles, but still steady progress.
I did a lap around the lake, about a mile, and then decided it was time to get wet. I would roll with my new paddle, or at least try. ‘No problem, I regularly practice Greenland style rolls with my winged paddles’.
I tipped my boat over and felt the water rush around me. In a moment my paddle was up near the surface and I swept it out swinging my body around with it and pulling my hips under me. I arched my back, dropped my head back and stuck my chest out for a beautiful finish.
I was out of the water with my back against my back deck, for a second, and then was going over on the other side. I brought my paddle down for a bracing skull, but short as it is, it wouldn’t reach the water without a hand shift, I tried desperately to reposition the paddle, but it was too late and I was again underneath. No problem, I could always roll back up. Underwater, I finished shifting my hands, wound up for a roll, swept and came back up. I went over on the other side right away. It happened once more, before I wet exit.
I took a moment to breathe, then swam the short distance to the dock. I dumped the water out of my boat, got back in, and tried again. Slowly but surely, I would get the hang of my new Greenland storm paddle. And in the meantime, I’m enjoying being back at the starting line. I have about a month and half left before I fly to Europe. Ready or not, here I come.