Reflections from the Cockpit
"Paddling In The Rain"

Have you ever thought about the sound of a raindrop? On a recent rainy day paddle with my friend Don I had plenty of time to listen. Our put-in was on a slough that runs into Lake Washington from Bellevue. We paddled down to the lake for a short lake tour and then back up the slough as far as we could paddle. The headwaters were the run off from the surrounding area coming down a concrete chute with a small play wave at the bottom.

During our paddle through some wetlands I focused on the sounds of raindrops. Even before we got on the water, the sounds of the raindrops on the roof of my van slightly delayed my exit from my dry & warm environment. However, when properly dressed and in a sealed cockpit I am just as cozy. Paddling in the rain can be a feast for the senses. On this trip I thought I would create a mental catalog of the varied sounds made by the raindrops as they hit different surfaces. In some cases the drop would have multiple sounds as it cascaded along obstacles until it reached its final destination.

As I changed into my paddling gear I heard the rain hitting the gravel road surface, the small puddles around the van and my wide brimmed hat, which were the loudest of all. The hat sound softened as I changed to my Seattle Sombrero (OR Research Gortex hat). I decided to wear three head garments during the paddle to review the pros and cons of each. Of course each one had its own distinct sound when the raindrops fell. My Tilley was the loudest but the larger brim kept my face drier. When I put up my hood from my NRS paddling jacket the raindrops had an echo type of sound under the hood.

When the rain increased I moved my attention to the five-piece raindrop percussion combo playing a rather lively tune. My Snapdragon neoprene spray skirt was a kettle drum, my inflatable paddle float stored on my front deck sounded like a snare drum, my pump was close to bongos, the front deck and back hatch cover completed the band. When it began to pour the band was cranking its tune and the drops hitting the water of the slough, around the kayak, sounded like a stadium of concert goers showing their enjoyment with thunderous applause.

At one point I stopped next to the shore and listened to the rain bouncing off the leaves of trees and bushes before dripping into the slough. The sound of rain almost vanishes when it lands in high grass compared to the variety of surfaces mentioned above.

My favorite memory of a rainy day paddle was back in the late 1980’s. I was in the back of a double and we were paddling through some small islands off of the east side of Vancouver Island. There was no wind and the rain was pouring down. I was perfectly dressed for the conditions. I was even wearing my poggies. I felt toasty warm & dry as we paddled along. Even though the sound of rain was all around us everything else seemed dead quiet. I have to say it was a magical feeling.

When I look back at my enjoyable rainy day paddles there is always a consistent factor facilitating that enjoyment. The key is being properly prepared physically and mentally. If you dress properly and feel like you have the skills to handle the conditions a rainy day paddle is a wonderful and unique experience. If you want to add that little extra something to your rainy day paddle (on a cold day) I suggest you bring a thermos of your favorite hot liquid to sip along the way.

So the next time there is rain in the forecast, get your gear together, call your paddling partner and tell him or her that you want to take them to a concert. When they ask who is playing, tell them "The Raindrops."


Wayne Horodowich


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