Thursday, July 21, 2011

July 21 - Kabetogama Lake Departure and Eagles at Lost Lake

We awake at daybreak to the lonesome call of a single loon nearby in the small stream that feeds into the lake.  We eat quickly, enjoying the our padded seats in the camper for one last mea before heading out into the woods, then wheel the boat down to the water's edge on our handy dandy folding two-wheeled dolly (we've named Dolly).  We were all prepped last night so this morning launch would go quickly.  As I put finishing touches on the boat stowage, and tie our last few items to the deck, Diane shuttles the camper to the public boat launch at the visitor center nearby where we can leave it parked for free during our voyage.  The campground host has generously offered to give her a ride back when we discussed our plans with him last night so by the time she returns everything is ship shape and we are ready to push off.  Setting off in light winds heading east, the wind is at our backs, and thankfully light, although moving in this direction, the air feels stifling with no apparent motion.    These are strange waters to us and as the dock where we departed from falls quickly away from our stern, the wooded shores ahead and all around seem to take on a certain sameness, and strangeness.  There are really no significant landmarks at least according to our usual sensitivities, and we begin to fine tune our awareness, picking off gentle swells and sweeps of the shoreline, and distant points where the subtle color of the wooded shore is the only hint of a point of land sticking out into the water.  We pick our way carefully along the coast to stay oriented and then island hop keeping close tabs on the chart.  With each passing waypoint identified and confirmed with a compass sighting our confidence grows and concerns of finding a way back are diminished. Our way now is forward, and ultimately 40 miles ahead stitching several big lakes together over the coming week.  

The wind continues to build and pushes us ahead along with our paddle strokes at over 3 knots.  There are a few number buoys on the chart, but they are too far and small from our perch almost at waterline to use to confirm our route, as getting close enough to confirm a number would take us into bigger water and away from our preferred line of travel.  

As we approach our intended campsite tucked away on a protected shore of Lost Lake, down a small channel leading off the main body of Kabetogoma Lake proper, we are greeted by two full grown Bald Eagles - one with a fish in his grasp on a rock shelve just up from the water's edge.  They are both easily 24" tall, standing erect, and we get a good look at them as we float by on the gentle breeze.  Then, just as we round the last point before the place where the camp should be we spy a pair of loons nearby, who linger confidently as we peer at each other.  It seems reluctantly, after sizing us up for appropriate guests to their lost lake, they dive and are gone.  By 1:00 pm we are camped, hammock hung, 8 miles from our put-in on a breezy point overlooking our "private" lake.  No one else will be camping within eyesight or earshot tonight thanks to the thoughtful planning of the National Park Service who established these small group campsites throughout the park.  

We rig the now empty boat for sailing and make two runs across the lake to test out rigging and sail/boat handling characteristics in various wind angles. We practice hoisting and dropping the sail while on the water and secured into our two cockpits sealed with spray skirts, and make note of changes to the rigging which will facilitate this operation more smoothly.  Once back at camp when this was completed, we donned swimsuits and dive in to the comfortable water, first getting refreshed, then to practice deep water recoveries - getting back into the boat away from shore after it has capsized. Pulling the boat out into deep water we are both a bit apprehensive of the techniques we'll use.  In theory, we know what is required, but in practice, with gear on the deck, and bulky life jackets on, we are not sure how smoothly the operation will go.  After a brief discussion of a plan, I stabilize the boat from one side while floating at the waterline and Diane grabs the cockpit combing from the other and with a massive dolphin kick and lunge she is heaved out of the water and face down 1/2 on the deck and still 1/2 in the water.  The boat accommodates this odd payload with finesse, it's buoyancy on the gunwales increasing as they become submerged due to the protected inflated "sponsons" that add tension to the final skin stretch over the aluminum framework of our delicate craft.  With a few more wiggles, her legs are in the cockpit and amazed she looks down on me still in the water and says "your turn!".  Diane stabilizes the boat with a deep brace and I lunge up out of the water and over the opposite side and repeat the beached fish maneuver to  settle into the rear cockpit.  Wow, it worked just like it was supposed to. We try a few more times, refining our approach so when/if this situation should occur in choppy water and high wind, we can repeat it successfully without too much conversation.

From 2011 Summer Trip

From 2011 Summer Trip

From 2011 Summer Trip

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