I decided enough was enough and started a firm stroke back, moving at a diagonal to avoid the brunt of the wind. Didn’t help. I just kept paddling till my back ached so bad I was ready to hop in the water for a minute to stretch the muscles. I started to get really tired. I tried every conceivable position in the kayak to paddle to distribute the burden to other parts of my body besides my arms and to relieve my back.I was paddling with just my shoulders, then just my hips. And the wind gusted again and again – 20 knots per hour, maybe. If I stopped my stroke to rest, I’d lose two or thee feet.
This was not good. I just kept aiming diagonally for shore and screamed curses because I didn’t think I could get the kayak in. I was in sight of houses on the shore and the people there had no idea I was fighting possibly for life. Then, the nipple on the paddle – it inserts into an O and holds the two blades in place when you paddle – slipped and the two parts of the paddle were turning and not remaining firm in the water. This was making me expend even more strength to keep the blades in place to catch the water. If I let myself go, I would have spent the late afternoon and possibly the night sitting on the St. Lawrence drifting. I hadn’t brought enough whiskey or beer for that.
After an hour and a half of paddling almost sideways to the wind, I could see the cross on the church at Grandes Bergeronne and aimed at it. No, I did not have a conversion, but it was a good landmark. Finally, slowly, I got close enough to land so that it acted as a drag on the wind and sheltered me. I was exhausted as I pulled into the harbor and got out and staggered to the shore. I had never been so frightened on the water in my life. I don’t want to repeat that. It took everything I had to get back. I never thought land looked sweeter in my life. It is a good experience to remember and I don’t intend to repeat it. One could argue I picked a bad time to go out. Sure. Is there a good time? Look at Scott at Antarctica. The problem was, I couldn’t wait for ideal conditions – I wasn’t going to be there for long and I was willing to take my chances. Hell, if I had died, it was doing something I loved to do.
I drove back to Tadoussac….was assured I was going out that night to dinner!