Getting It Right at the Finish

Looking right I see Dave a long ways away paddling in a path off mine. I look at my GPS and check my old-school compass. Why he is heading so far south? All things are going right but I have zero band width for navigation errors. I yell my concern and he stops paddling long enough to say he was wondering where I was going.


There is an edge to our dialogue. I pride myself on navigating and generally think I’m right. We haven’t paddled a mile more than our point-to-point mileage. So what the f#@k was he doing paddling south? In a matter of seconds my fuse is near its end. I want NOTHING to do with a delay or additional mileage because Dave can’t get it right.

He doesn’t deviate from his course and is pulling away from me. I shout that I am coming over – we need to figure it out. As I near my voice carries a tone of accusation, ‘where are you going – even my compass bearing has me going on the right path’. He states the waves are pushing us north so my navigation is wrong. Again I tell him he is wrong because my GPS is tracking correctly.


And he is right, I am wrong. I’m lucky to be paddling with him. He is competent, experienced, and level headed in a way that is assuring even if things got really tricky. It is a rare combination of skill and personality. …and he is patient!

Land in the distance.

Land in the distance.

The last few rest stops I watch our position on my GPS as I lazily bob through 3-foot swells. I wonder if Dave notices we are drifting 2-3/10ths of a mile during each stop – in the correct direction. A light breeze is to our backs and waves are pushing us to our destination from the southwest. I can’t believe our good fortune and at the same time I refuse to verbalize it for fear of jinxing it. Dave, too, has said nothing.

I had hoped to see shore at about 15 miles out. There has been a steady layer of humidity over the water and even at mile 50 all there is haze. I’m significantly less wigged about being on the open water. The swells are bigger than mid-day but have nominal weirdness. Boats of all sizes begin to appear, and I begin to worry about wakes from freighters. Momentarily I panic because my course looks to intersect with one on our left. I glance at Dave and realize I have again drifted significantly off course. Fatigue is beginning to show its effects.

The finish at Ludington, MI.

The finish at Ludington, MI.

Though I had hoped for it even before starting, we were suddenly almost finished. It felt like a split second switch going from not wanting to jinx its conclusion with conversation to a panic that it was over. I could see my parents, family and friends running along the pier, cheering us home.

Dave might not have been used to all the hub-bub that comes with my family. I had nephews wading in to help us dock and my Mom rushed in for a congratulatory kiss. Dave got one too!!

Pulling up to a warm Michigan welcome.

Pulling up to a warm Michigan welcome.

I had trouble getting out of my boat and almost fell into the shallow water. My 51-year-old body had been a great sport through the whole trip – no cramps or muscular lock-ups. Standing turned out to be a little trick. As soon as I found my balance I looked at Dave and said, ’Can you believe that tail wind!!’

Looking at my GPS it recorded 16:32 hours covering 62 miles. I had planned for 20-30 hours. What a deal!!

Walking to the car with my first load I wondered what had just happened. For some reason I was confused and even found myself questioning why I did it. Really weird. It was great to involve my parent, family and friends – I was also grateful things did not go wrong with everyone occupying a front row seat. Maybe it will get clearer on the drive back home to Utah.