Spring came hard to Toronto this weekend. With temps of 23C yesterday and a toasty 25 today, My wife Amy and I just couldn't resist heading down to Cherry Beach to take my kayak out. (Aim's own boat remains in drydock, awaiting some critical deck and bulkhead work, so today we shared.)
The place was literally bursting with humanity. Living in a big city like Toronto is interesting because it's so pedestrian-centred. As a result, barely anyone wanders the streets on blustery winter days unless they have a very specific destination in mind, or are somewhat insane. But come the first nice spring weekend, all that pent up energy explodes outward, resulting an a surge of humanity on the streets, in the parks -- and at the beaches.
So it was this weekend. Cherry Beach sits on what is called the outer harbour, on the eastern edge of downtown smack in the middle of the mostly derelict portlands. Today, it was awash in dogs, kids, even the odd sunbather. Out on the harbour, sailboats and kayaks, fresh from their winter hiding places, cruised along aimlessly.
The outer harbour runs east-west, with Cherry Beach on the north side and Tommy Thompson Park, a peninsula, to the south. As a result, when the wind blows out of the west, as it did today, it creates a wind-tunnel effect, resulting in what can be some really fun chop. It's a boon to the kitesurfing crowd, some of whom were braving the 4C water today, as they can attain some pretty mind-blowing speeds as they swing through the narrow channel.
As for the paddling, other than the odd freezing wave breaking over the deck, it was positively June-like. When we paddle this early in the season, we tend to stick reasonably close to shore and wear Farmer John wetsuits and neoprene gloves and shoes. They are literally lifesavers; capsizing unprotected in water this cold would be unpleasant, indeed, and if you couldn't get to shore pretty darn quick, you wouldn't last too long.
But not even that grim prospect could ruin my good mood today. Slipping back into the cockpit after six months away felt like coming home, and my body instantly remembered what to do. When I slipped the blade into the clear, sparkling water, I could feel the boat respond instantly, easing forward, past the submerged paddle shaft and out toward the open water. With each subsequent stroke, she picked up a bit of speed, but remained true, heading toward a very busy Outer Harbour Marina. We did a couple hours of meandering, pausing only to watch the kitesurfers race by and a mini-regatta that was happening just down the beach, before turning back for home.
When Aim took over, I passed the time on the beach, reading and watching in amusement as people behaved as though it was midsummer. Dogs swam after sticks (what is it that allows them to swim comfortably in such cold water?), and the nearby bicycle path was literally bumper to bumper.
I know it's still early, and summer remains a long way off. But such days give one reason to feel optimistic, as though you're reconnecting with humanity after being away on a long trip.
Or maybe it's just the cabin fever.