Last night was a full moon. I got invited to go along on a moonlight paddle in Burlington. Lots of people have taken moonlight paddles, myself among them. Being on the water at night when the moon shines is a treat not to be missed. I’d say it’s a must do experience. Last night, however, I was a novice. I went stand up paddleboarding.
Stand up paddleboarding is basically taking a surf board out with a tall paddle. You stand up and move around by, well, paddling. I had done plenty of canoeing and felt comfortable with that. I can balance. I felt pretty much good to go. And I was. I got the hang of it quickly. I went with a group led by Rachael Miller of Stormboarding. Here is a photo of hers, to give you an idea what it looks like:
The problem was, although I had seen photos and had talked to Rachael about it, I had never done it. And since we would be heading out after dark, I wasn’t going to see it last night either, at least not all that well. There was a full moon and I did wear a headlamp, but still, it was dark. Anyway, it was a blast, and an experience, all told, that most people probably won’t have. Here is why: we combined stand up paddleboarding, a full moon, a still summer Vermont evening, and an exuberant and confident punk rock band.
I was the first to greet Rachael, and the punk band was already getting started, playing at a pavilion right on the waterfront. I signed the three page waiver and then tied glow sticks to the shoulders of my life vest. Since we were out at night we needed lights, being watercraft, to be legal and, more importantly, to be visible to anyone else on the water. Red glow stick on the left, green glow stick on the right. The headlamp served as the white light which should be visible from any direction, but was close enough. As the others arrived we all tied on lights, carried boards to the dock and, after some instruction and a couple of photos, started paddling.
The band was really hammering it out by the time we curved around past the Coast Guard station, yelling and, seemingly, having a fun time of it. The moon was climbing, with Mars along to keep it company. The water shone. We moved together stealthily. It wasn’t the peaceful paddle that some had expected but it was a good time nonetheless. We moved pretty quickly without any wind or waves and paddled right into a cloud of skunk spray. If we had had anything tasty to snack on it would have been a true five senses experience. We turned around at what Rachael identified as, showing off her knowledge of nautical terminology, the “can thingees,” drums of some kind, in the water for a purpose I could not discern (to tell the truth, I couldn’t really see them). We hugged the shore and cruised back to the dock.
We were out for about an hour and, as we drifted in and pulled the boards out of the water, the band packed it up for the evening. I had fun and would surely do that again, even if it were regular old daytime. I doubt I again will get to experience paddling standing up and a full moon and Mars and a warm September night and perfect calm on Lake Champlain and the inspired lyric of “Weapons Factory!” pelted out over the odor of skunk. If you find yourself experiencing such a mix, do let me know. We’ll compare notes.