Chop, Chop

Chop: Short, steep isolated waves caused by local winds
which give a small boat an uncomfortable action
The Dictionary of English Nautical Language

As my kayak plows into the next wave, water splashes over the pointy prow and catches me full in the face, adding to the uncomfortableness of the action of this particular small boat. I’d make a pointy comment but I’m busy paddling hard against the wind and the aforementioned chop, progressing, albeit slowly, toward the small island ahead of me.

We are four seniors, crossing a great stretch of open water that Google Maps inexplicably represents as only about 300 metres: Something to to do with the distortions of the Mercator Projection, perhaps? Distance quibbles aside, our flat-calm morning paddle has suddenly deteriorated into hard work.

But as we reach the island a blessed calm descends, just like that. A small projection of land upwind from us is sheltering this patch of water along the shore. We skirt the leeward side of this island for another 400 metres or so, before popping out into another unsheltered strait requiring all our attention.

Trough-crest-trough, splish-splash-sploosh. And repeat. This isn’t my first choice of kayaking conditions, but I’m not unduly concerned. I have little fear of being swamped and I can see the next target island ahead, with its inevitable patch of calm water: Rest awaits.

In any storm, there is a lee somewhere.



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8 Responses to Chop, Chop

  1. Alison Uhrbach says:

    I’m quite scared of being on the water myself (true Prairie girl) so when I kayak (which is rarely) I cling to the calm by the shore. Perhaps you’ll inspire me to head out a little further into the “chop” both in kayaking, and in life?

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Alison – Yeah, I don’t trust myself on bodies of water larger and murkier than community swimming pools, but it makes all the difference to have companions. In kayaking and in life, I guess.

  2. Tom Watson says:

    Now, during that only 300 metres or thereabouts stretch, you didn’t make any “pointy comment?” Not even under your breath?
    If you didn’t, you’re far better than I might have been in the same circumstances!

  3. Judith Umbach says:

    Well beyond my ambitions! Your prose almost made me sea sick – excellent prose, motion-filled results.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Judith – Thanks! Regarding your light trigger, I have read that Spike Milligan said, “The best cure for sea-sickness is to sit under a tree.” Something to be said for that, both literally and metaphorically.

  4. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – Your story about paddling strenuously into the wind reminds me of doing the same, albeit off the coast of Playa Blanca, Mexico. With head down I was working my way towards that fabled sheltered lee shore. When I looked up to check my directions I saw three dorsal fins cresting a wave about 50 feet in front of me, and coming right at me. After I got my heart out of my throat and back down into my chest, I realized that they were dolphins/porpoises. They stayed in the cove for the next week and came out to play every time there was a kayak on the water.
    John W

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      John – OMG. I’ve never heard of sharks (or whales, for that matter) attacking kayaks, but then you might not, eh? No one left to report . . .

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