Friday, March 19, 2010

The river screamed my name

This morning the office called softly to me while the river screamed my name. I simply could not spend another beautiful, precious Spring day indoors and so I took today off and hit the water. The Potomac is on its way back down to normal from last week's wacky 14 foot flood stage level, and so I wasn't sure what I'd find when I put in. I figured at worst I'd be able to paddle the narrow, protected Boundary Channel, and indeed I started out in that direction after completing the comical contortion act required to zip my rear zipper dry suit without assistance (I consider it part of my warm-up). There were signs of Spring life all the way up the channel - wood ducks and geese on the water, herons on shore. Some turtles, still sluggish from the cold water, let me paddle right up to them.

The river itself indeed had some noticeably high current, but nothing unmanageable or dangerous. I headed up the Virginia shoreline to just below Three Sisters Islands, then crossed over to the DC side to see how the Georgetown boathouses were faring. Washington Canoe Club, which had been flooded just a few days ago, looked to be drying out pretty well. Potomac Boat Club looked in good shape too. The docks at Jacks, on the other hand, looked like they had sustained some damage either from the recent flood or from the freezing temps this Winter (I understand the owners left the docks in place all Winter). The ramp from the shore to the docks looked broken and it looks like some of the supports for the docks themselves had lost their buoyancy. The flow of the river around the pillars of Key Bridge just below Jack's created some weird micro-currents, which gave me a chance to test out the effect of the skeg I installed in my kayak over the Winter. I had been worried as to whether it would have the desired effect, since it sits a little forward of where most skegs go (necessitated by the fact that I was retrofitting it through the rear hatch and could reach back only so far). It worked fine. I lowered it and suddenly the stern was locked in place. Great!

I crossed back over to the Virginia side to start the trip back to Columbia Island, but noticed some goings-on at Thompsons Boat Center and so headed back across to the DC side to take a look. They had a crane truck there lifting their ramps into place. I hope they finish today, as Ted is supposed to row there tomorrow.

The trip downriver was fast thanks to the current. I noticed a lot of debris high on the shore - the river must really have jumped its banks last week. Back at Columbia Island I tore off my dry suit as fast as I could - it's hot wearing the darn thing when it's 70 degrees out! - and headed for a delicious lunch at Cosi in Ballston. A very nice morning.