I loaded my mouseboat on top of the car this past Saturday and headed down to Penasquitos Lagoon, a marshy, saltwater estuary on the coast of Del Mar, California. It was 75 degrees, sunny and slack tide as I pushed off the shore in my little boat. I paddled for about an hour and I learned a lot on my little journey.

Here are some of the things I learned:

click to enlarge- An inexpertly paddled mouseboat can average about 2.5 mph or so pretty much indefinitely.
- The top speed of a mouseboat is about 5.2 mph no matter how hard you paddle.
- That 5.2 mpg was probably wind-assisted.
- Big white egrets honk like a old "oogah" horn when you sneak up on them.
- Little black spiders can scuttle right along on the surface of smooth water. (But they can't outrun a mouseboat.)
- Sandpipers like to gather in little groups for lunch.
- Baby sandpipers are cute as the dickens.
- A mouseboat can float in practically no water at all. A fact that
comes in handy when you decide to push your way through a grassy patch to the next patch of open water.
- There is absolutely nothing wrong with paddling for hours and
getting nowhere further than where you started.

During my paddle, I thought of the space shuttle Columbia which had been lost that morning. I had seen many interviews with the shuttle astronauts over the past two weeks. Pilot Willie McCool was once a resident of San Diego. From the words and images, you could tell that the astronauts were having the time of their lives doing exactly what they most wanted to do. Those images haunted me during my little trip but unexpectedly I found
that I felt more gratitude for their accomplishments than I did sadness at their loss.

Every journey has value. There's always something new to learn. The costs and risks involved in my little journey were't very high and the rewards weren't terribly great... but they were worth it to me. I'm sure that the Columbia crew felt exactly the same way about their journey. Greater risks but greater rewards. Thank You Columbia. Journey onward.

Shawn Payment