The sky is steel grey. The sea is slate blue and textured. Rain appears on the horizon but I feel only the occasional sprinkle. Muscles used to cubicle life talk back to me as my paddle strokes turn mechanical. Push across with my top hand, pivot around my spine and add a slight crunch as needed. I feel good. I have burned through the quick, superficial energy that gets me out of Sakonnet Harbor and warmed up by the point and have switched to the stored energy that will fuel the trip. My eyes focus on the next landmark that will be my reference.
I reach Town Landing when the wind shifts and picks up along with the speed of the outgoing tide. This is what will crush me but there is nothing for it. I huff, add more crunch to my stroke and shorten my reference points. Thoughts of how much the trip has started to suck are mixed with dreams of triumphantly pulling into the landing at the shop and being surrounded by smiling friends congratulating me. Underlying everything is a joy to be out on the water in such a beautiful place. The forces of nature push me out to sea so I angle towards shore more and run through my bailout options.
Breath rushes from my mouth. My heart beats furiously and muscles cry out for respite. I register the river entrance ahead and there is a sinking feeling as I watch how fast the water is moving. Half tide was not in my plan, at least not with high winds urging it on. I ferry across to Boater’s Beach. Excitement adds adrenaline as I cross eddy lines and dance briefly in the channel.
I try to ignore the pain but I have never heard my body scream like this before. I am spent but have no other option than to continue. The boat ramp is the bail point but I need to get there first. Dispirited, I flog myself onward. The dredge is a dangerous spot with the water moving so fast. Identity is lost in the struggle forward. There is no time to rest, that would invite disaster.
Relief floods through me as the wind is blocked by the island. Instinct has found an eddy that helps me move upriver. Some shred in my core paints pictures of the final yards to the shop and how good that will feel. I have ticked off every bailout point on my list and only Hick’s Bridge is left to get past.