June 1, 2003

rowena 1 – dane 0

Another week of work under my belt. I’ve got Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off, a weekend during which I have no idea what I’ll do. In assessing my current finances (or lack thereof) I realize things could get real bad real fast. Oh well. Unlike the Columbia River, debt can’t kill me.

Yesterday the whole gang went sailing out at Rowena after work. I rigged my silly quiver of gear, a Sailworks 4.4 meter Revolution from ’96, a 430 cm Fiberspar Tidalwave from the same era and my Mistral Classic 285. Windsurfing has a strange eliteness to it that I haven’t yet figured out. Maybe it’s because all my co-workers work at a retail shop and hence are complete boardheads, but it seems unacceptable to be seen in the Gorge on bad gear. Windsurfing is a very expensive sport, so it’s ironic that some choose to call themselves windsurfing bums, when gaining entry to the sport requires a situation far, far from bummage. Maybe the elitism stems simply from the fact that the Gorge is a hardcore place for high-wind sailing, and bad gear (or poorly tuned good gear) can lead to trouble in a hurry.

Before I headed out into the waters at Rowena I was warned a number of times about the swift current. Itching to get out and experience the Big River I mostly ignored these warnings, uphauled my board and soon found myself sailing into the middle of the Columbia. I flipped myself over the handlebars once, but got right back on the board, uphauled my sail and stormed onward. It was windy, fast and exciting.

I got caught in the swells and fell off my board, and soon realized I wouldn’t be able to uphaul my way back to shore. This, my friends, is why they recommend you have a firm grasp of waterstarting before venturing out into the Gorge. Gross incompetence doesn’t fly well, and is the quickest way to find yourself swept downriver. Which was right where I was headed. I started paddling back to shore, but saw already that I was quite a ways downriver from my launch site. To get back to land I had to swim a couple hundred yards across the wind with my rig, and I kept swallowing water whenever I was dunked by a large swell. It was one of the scariest experiences I’ve had in quite some time.

Luckily, Nelson swung by and gave me a crash course in body-dragging and waterstarting. I was pretty freaked out by then, convinced I was going to tire out or drown or cramp up or freeze to death or swallow so much river water I would mutate into some sort of horrible fish creature. My mind took a few minutes to creep back from the edge, but eventually I was able to use the wind and limp my way back to shore without so much beating. When I reached someone’s front yard Kyle picked me up in his van and gave me a ride back to the launch site. I unknotted my muscles, dismantled my rig and called it a day.

Today I spent a little bit of time on the water working on getting dialed into the harness, and getting comfortable with being strapped into the sail. With any sorta luck, this weekend I’ll find myself working on waterstarts on the River-side of the Hook. Rowena and I now have a score to settle, and damned if I’m gonna give her the upper hand in the next session.

Can that water turn you into a mutant fish? (Side note; while driving this weekend in Ohio I saw a really neat river. When I got home and looked in my river guide I found out it was a fire hazard. Only the Midwest…)
But if you had to become a mutant fish what kind of mutant fish would that be?