Paddling on the Bay and in Life

Woman on a stand-up paddleboard off Rome Point
Kristin Kaczmarek reflects on paddleboarding in Narragansett Bay and its connections to life.

Paddling on the Bay and in Life

The morning started off like so many others. The Bay looked smooth and glassy from my little cabin by the sea, the sunrise just about to peak over Fox Island and Jamestown. I sat on the couch and stared at it, much like I always do, and eventually stepped outside, paddle in hand, and headed across the street. I needed some flat water time in before work. Badly. So I stepped out onto the water…

Exercise & Excitement

After I had made it past Rome Point I realized what I had now committed to. If there’s one thing I love about paddling, its that as far as you paddle, eventually you have to turn around and paddle back. That’s one of the reasons why it’s such a great workout. Sometimes, you really can’t stop. If the conditions aren’t ideal, you have to not only face it, but push harder to get through it. It’s not a matter of how you are going to get back, but when you are going to get back. They say the journey is more important than the destination, and I’m a firm believer in that.

The sky had suddenly become overcast, grey, cold, and the bay no longer glassy. The epic sunrise from moments before had brought with her a bitter wind from the east and fierce chop. It was not how I planned on starting my day. But I was already out; there was no turning back now. I had been yearning for a sunrise paddle for a few days already. I needed it. Just me and the cove, seals, swans, and sounds of the neighborhood pups on their daily walk welcoming the new day. That was just a memory now, of what the paddle “could” have been, and in my mind at the time, ideally, should have been. But, like many aspects of life, some things you have no control over. You just have deal with it.

At this point I was halfway back from the Plum Beach Lighthouse, the wind shifting again now to the south. Wonderful, I thought, as my morning paddle had now become an exercise of self preservation. I had no choice but to keep going. As I rounded the point, I began to re-evaluate my route back. I could go straight across, choppy, open ocean, the more direct route, or head back into the the cove, which would be longer but lingered with an element of mystery…would it be calmer in there, more protected? I opted to find out.

Respite & Reflection

As I rounded the point, something magical happened. The wind shifted, again, this time I was down wind. I was able to relax (finally!), paddle more recreationally. I took a deep breath. As I did, I looked around at the mature oak trees, still bare, some broken from the last storm. I thought about how I’ve watched them bud, bloom and change color. I’ve watched them go dormant, I’ve seen their naked branches dusted with snow. Winter, spring, summer, fall. They keep growing, the landscape keeps changing.

Then in the distance, I noticed a hint of yellow within the scrub brush on the island. I paddled to get closer. It’s a Cornus mas (Cornelian Cherry for those who aren’t versed in botanical nomenclature), one of the first signs of spring! It made me start to think about how lucky I have been to be able to witness nature’s “performance” from the water, for the last 5 years. I have called this paradise home now for so long. We’ve weathered many storms, seen mystical rainbows, and everything in between. This morning was a perfect example.

Suddenly my arduous paddle seemed like it was yesterday. I paddled on, guided by the wind, and made it back home. I went upstairs, made breakfast, got dressed and ventured off to start the new week.

This morning’s adventure in Narragansett Bay taught me a lot. About life, situations on, and off the water. Had I been gliding along the entire time, I might have missed the chance to stop and think and look around at where I am. Sometimes the wind is going to blow in your face. But we keep paddling, harder and harder because we know that eventually we WILL get there. We have to be patient. To be patient during a time of struggle is a difficult thing to do. But eventually, the wind will change direction and glide us on our way.

~ Kristin Kaczmarek

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*Please note:  Be sure to access the Johnson & Wales University Harborside Campus through the main entrance on Harborside Blvd. Your GPS may suggest taking Ernest Street to JWU’s Shipyard Street entrance, but that route requires a key card for entry.  

From Route I-95 North or South, take Exit 18 (Thurbers Avenue). Head downhill on Thurbers Avenue to US Route 1A (Allens Avenue). Turn right onto Allens Ave. Continue southbound on Allens Ave. into Cranston, where Allens Ave. becomes Narragansett Blvd. Turn left onto Harborside Blvd. at the traffic light by the Shell gas station. Follow Harborside Blvd. through the Johnson & Wales Harborside Campus. At the end of Harborside Blvd., turn right onto Save The Bay Drive. Save The Bay Drive becomes a circular, one-way roadway as you approach the Bay Center. Parking is available in four guest lots after you pass the main building. Enter the building through the main entrance.