I woke up at 8am this morning feeling a bit better and decided it would be appropriate to partake of the time honored tradition of accumulating stuff the day after thanksgiving. The chainsaw shed was a mess but I managed to grab what I needed, a handful of Log Dogs, a framing hammer, a stout handsaw, and about 200 feet of scraps of rope. I pulled down the Disko 1931 kayak, not because it was ideal for the task but rather because it's the only sea kayak I have that currently floats. These sorts of missions might be some of the reason for that. I threw the boat on the truck, pulled on my drysuit, and scooped a bunch of leftovers into a tupperware before heading down to the bay.
I sat on the dock in Nehalem absorbing the blessings of thin rays of sunlight while I ate cold chicken and pumpkin pie, brown water churning past my feet. I tucked the hammer and saw and other tools under the leather deck lines and dropped my Greenland kayak into the water, stepping down carefully. The thin wooden paddle extended into the water as I slithered under the massik that pressed down on my thighs. I sealed my sprayskirt and then remembered that my drysuit pee-zipper was still open, so I gingerly opened the skirt again and carefully zipped up, avoiding what could be a very unpleasant surprise later on. This kayak wasn't exactly ideal for what I was up to today, but it was certainly capable, which is why I like the disko. It's a lot more user friendly than many traditional hunting kayaks I've paddled.
After three days of storms and pounding rain and the associated whitewater madness that overtakes me when such things occur, it was really nice to be gliding across flatwater in a traditional kayak again. I've always appreciated the intimacy of proximity that a low volume kayak affords. You, the boat, the water, and very little in between. I liked the way the greenland paddle felt as I stroked, gently toning my rotator cuff instead of the shoulder yanking of my creeking blade. The bay was full, a high tide after a flood creating perfect conditions to shop for the finest salvage wood the northwest still has to offer. Much of this wood has been picked clean, but every few years an amazing log still dislodges from an upper tributary and works it's way down to where those with a disturbed idea of fun can put in a ridiculous amount of effort in hopes that one day they might five years later stand in front of some gorgeous feat of woodworking and say, "yeah, I made this from a log I found on the bay". I'm one of those guys.
I passed under the bridge, tracing the shoreline. There were a few decent logs, but nothing amazing jumped out at me so I paddled on, spooking up great blue herons and canada geese as I paddled. I checked the top of the island to see if anything new logs had caught, and as usual there were fine specimens in the interior, but the effort to reward ratio just wasn't there. Time is precious at the peak of the tide so I decided to bank on a sure bet, a nice Douglas Fir saw-log I'd scouted this summer. 18 feet long, 24 inches in diameter, straight, with a few knots, it would fit perfectly on my buddys wood-mizer bandsaw mill. I finally found it buried in floating debris at the back of an alcove. Because we live in a dairy farming valley, the floodwaters essentially wash all the poop into the bay, and in this corner the water smelled really bad and was sort of, thick. I jumped into water up to my neck and spent a good hour clearing debris, pushing and pulling the log clear, trying not to let the water touch my face. I pounded in a log dog tied on a scrap of rope and began the long arduous task of towing something that weighs more than a car. Slowly I worked my way across the grassy tideflats, keeping an eye out for new wood. Having made the mistake of passing by very nice, albeit manky looking logs in the past, these days I've got a pretty good eye for what will and won't yield amazing lumber. I've made a lot of mistakes, like the 40 foot sitka spruce that I spent a year working on only to discover that it was actually white-fir when we finally cut into it.
Rounding a corner I spotted a blue kayak stern rising up above the debris. Holy shit, I thought, is that a.... Dagger Gradient? I had a terrible momentary vision of some guy trying to boat the upper mainstem at flood and being de-kayaked in some monster hole. As I got closer I could see it wasn't a whitewater boat at all but rather a Wilderness Systems Pamilco 160 recreational kayak, likely washed off of someones dock in the storm. I fished it from the poopy depths of the debris pile and when I was done I found myself the proud owner of a new sixteen foot rec boat. I won't lie to you, my first thought was: 'this is a hell of a lot better than a Greenland kayak, it's not all tippy, and I can put chainsaws, comealongs, and hi-lift jacks in here!' Stoked, I tossed all my heavy tools into the Pamilco and tied the Greenland kayak up alongside the log. I relaxed into the fat cushy seat, knees splayed up and out, enjoying the nine feet of leg room and ample storage. Yeah, this was living.
I tied the log to a grounded stump where I could recover it easily when I came back to float it onto a trailer, and continued my search in the new blue pimp-mobile. I came to a massive doug fir, four feet in diameter, twenty feet long, and partially floating. Picturing an ocean of golden CVG boards I pushed and pulled and strained, getting it so painfully close to free floating, but alas the clock ran out and I could tell the tide was dropping. Begrudingly I dogged and tied it up, marking it as taken. It could be weeks or years before it floats again.
I paddled back to the end of a nearby road and pulled both boats up the bank. I spotted a guy with peering out over the water, and said howdy. Turns out he's one of my salvage competitors and it while these aren't always friendly interactions, he was really nice and we struck up a conversation that ranged across the usual 'guy topics' of chainsaws, firearms, and fishing poles. He gave me some invaluable hunting information which was much appreciated because let's just say the way that things have been going I am not exactly a threat to the local wildlife.
I often self-shuttle, so I pulled on my shoes, plugged in my i-pod, and started running back to my truck, replacing the last weeks prescription endorphins with a fresh supply of real ones. I saw a bald eagle flying with a stick in it's claws, I waved at a friend parked at the post office. I drove back and loaded up the boats, feeling so grateful not to be trapped in a shopping mall. It's what half the country is doing today and I can't imagine it makes anyone very happy. A breakfast that I raised myself, a nice paddle, a great saw-log, a new kayak, and a hunting tip. Now that is something to be happy about.