Why I Choose to Kayak at a Time Like This

This wasn’t something I intended to write. I intended to write only about the trip itself – an escape to the water for a bit of whale-watching. After reading an article posted to my local kayak club’s Facebook group, I felt compelled.

The article, in the Chicago Suntimes written by the owner of a paddle sport coaching business, looked at the couple’s decision to not paddle.

At a time like this

I was expecting closed launches and unsafe water access (due to environment or close proximity to others). What the reason turned out to be…I found shocking. I should have been prepared for it as they opted not to ‘recreate in such a public fashion’ – though clearly others were hiking and cycling – while so many others were suffering.

While they discussed the risks that could have impacted first-responders, the ultimate reason they chose to stay home was launching would have earned them judgement for heading out ‘at a time like this’

Better they should do their part to support the general appearance of physical distancing that normalizes this abnormal behavior and helps keep everyone safe.’

I understand people are suffering. Jobs have been lost, making ends meet is a challenge, some are sick, others have lost loved ones. I have a good friend on home quarantine right now – having been infected.

To stop living, to stop doing our normal activities at a time like this does not show support. What we need to do is as much of our daily routines as possible, where possible, and when possible.

This does not imply we put ourselves or others at risk.

As for impacting first-responders 

I agree we need to take additional precautions to limit the need to call. Don’t take chances. Stay well within your skill set and experience levels. Capable of hiking sheer bluffs…great. Is that level of extreme smart now? No. You can hike easier terrain. That’s a sacrifice you can make.

As for the risk associated with kayaking, it is there. It’s inherent in the sport. I know my capabilities, I know the conditions I’m heading out in, and I’m not taking any chances. I can safely enjoy the sport without putting anyone at risk – or pulling first-responders from the crisis at hand.

And about what others may think?

Go ahead and judge if you want. I don’t care what others think of me. That’s their problem, not mine. And if I am being judged, or you’re on the fence reading this, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

I likely have done far more to minimize my risk of spreading COVID-19 than most. I started my self-imposed quarantine in early March. Aside from a paddle last month and today’s, where there were 6 or fewer kayakers following all social distancing protocols, my close contact has been limited to my daughter and my girlfriend. She has done her part as well, with contact with others being as limited.

My outside excursions are to the bank (drive up teller), the post office (box only, no counter contact), and grocery stores. If not for others, the very ones likely judging me, hoarding flour, soap, toilet paper…., I’d only have to make one stop once every two weeks. I am very conscious to minimize contact, even using self checkout when available. 

I do not not order takeout or delivery – yes it keeps the economy going, but it adds a layer of risk through non-essential contact. I avoid walks in parks and most neighborhoods as far too many are out in those areas increasing the contact risk. Trails at Point Defiance Park, though the park is closed and access gated, still has more than its share of foot traffic. Narrow sidewalks and trails means less than the 6 feet of required social distancing. Thanks, but no. I’ll kayak.

And I did today. 

Six of us launched just north of the Mukilteo Ferry Dock, headed into 9-16 knot headwinds and against the current to the dock on Whidbey Island. Time in the surf, ferry wakes, and a glimpse of whales – likely humpbacks based on the size of the spray. Never less than a boat length between us, 20 at times. Even at lunch, distance was maintained. All well within our skill set and conditions we could handle, so minimal risk of assisted rescues and less in needing first-responders.

Until we are ordered to stay on our own property, at which point I will kayak off my deck, I will continue to be out. I will continue to do everything possible to minimize contact with others while doing it and every other activity in my daily life. Before you decide to judge it, take a look at your own daily activities.

Next week, Deception Pass.

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Spray over the bow - launching from Owen Beach on Point Defiance for leg 3 of the H2O ProjectCopyright: Robert Nissenbaum, 2019; rnissenbaum.com
Nisqually Delta to Owen Beach, 23 February 2019, Robert Nissenbaum looking toward Salmon BeachCopyright: Robert Nissenbaum, 2019; rnissenbaum.com