Sunday, December 18, 2011

Groovin' on the Groover

Having returned from my first experience sea kayaking, one might ask what I found to be the most challenging event.  I could say it was rolling upside down in the water and escaping from the overturned kayak during a wet escape, or paddling through winds and rough waves without previous experience, or even being very ill for a couple of days.  None of those, however,  compares to what stretched me to the point of thinking...."I can't do this!"......

I took this sea kayaking trip to the Exuma Islands as an alumni of an educational organization called NOLS, (National Outdoor Leadership School.)  This school teaches all sorts of outdoor skills, using the wilderness as the classroom.  They teach and adhere to the leave no trace (LNT) principles; what you bring into an area, you take out, leaving minimal impact on the environment.....that means everything.  Yes....EVERYTHING!!   So, as we paddled from one deserted island to the next, we camped in accordance to the LNT directives, which included the bathroom....and what we 'packed' in, we packed out.

When backpacking in the Wyoming, we dug individual 'cat holes' in which to relieve our bodies of their 'waste', (but any non-natural, man-made TP... had to be packed out).  In the Exumas, we could not use cat holes; the mineral make up of the islands did not allow for the breakdown of the waste....if it got planted, there it would remain in its original state.  As a result, we had to use a container called a 'groover' as a toilet, but only for solid waste. It resembled a large tupperware container with a screw off lid and is so named because it leaves grooves on your rear-end when used.

The groover, measuring approximately 6x10 in.  Cubic volume unknown...but it wasn't much!
For the sake of modesty, the groover was housed under a tent fly.
Only used for solid waste, we carried ziplock bags in which to deposit our soiled paper products
The groovers, (we had four), were transported on the back of the double kayaks, as seen on the back of this one. The used groovers were well bundled in garbage bags.

When the groover tent was occupied, a kayak paddle was put upright in the sand to warn anyone else away. It's not a sight one would want to witness,and the embarrassment of such an accidental intrusion would have surely created some performance issues for the user and interloper, alike!

The first time I went to use it, I thought "How bad can this be?"  Let me put it this was all I could do to keep from vomiting. I am sure my gagging could be heard all the way down the beach.  I knew after that first experience that I just wouldn't be able to do this.... but what was the alternative?  There was none--at least, none that supported the 'Leave No Trace' principles.  How I wished for another way....

Well, be careful what you wish for; I spent the next two days sicker than a dog, with a raging headache and unable to keep down any food. Grateful that the high winds and rough ocean kept us grounded and unable to paddle to our next destination, I laid in my tent for those days, only drinking water, nibbling an occasional cracker and watching the others hone their kayaking skills and frolic in the water.  I was truly miserable, but without food entering my system, I did not have to use the groover!
Sick, I found a patch of shade in the tent. It was very hot; the islands offered very little shade.

I have little doubt that not everyone used the groover.  Like the character from Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, as I laid immobilized in my tent,  I watched people come and 'go'.  Most trudged to the groover like good soldiers, emerging in the appropriate amount of time.  One gentleman, however, entered and vacated within seconds, only to make a second attempt after contemplating the matter for a few minutes.  Failing at this in an equally short amount of time, he walked hurriedly to the ocean, and began swimming long, easy strokes to a point far beyond my range of vision.  Returning 10 minutes later, I had no problem in assuming he had 'dropped the kids' off somewhere else.  I know with certainty of one person who preferred to build a 'shrine'.....  So much for leaving no trace.  In fairness to those who just could not bring themselves to use the tupperware toilet, I just have to ask this....'Did our food really have to have so much spice, onions and fiber?'

Despite my lack of sustenance, the groover beckoned.....    I observed the LNT mandate and made friends with the contraption, but this was, without a doubt, the most challenging part of the trip!

The Exuma Islands were absolutely beautiful and it was a wonderful trip.  If you ever get the chance to experience them like this, jump at the opportunity.  The beauty and serenity is phenomenal!

Concierge service by Steve....his makeshift raft, serving almonds and sun warmed chocolate to the water worshipers.
2011 NOLS Alumni trip; Sea Kayaking in the Bahamas
The end of another day in paradise. All the islands on which we camped were deserted.
A double rainbow greets another perfect morning
Beaching the boats for lunch
The tranquility of sunset
Dinner on the beach--camp-made pizza
Reminiscent of Gilligan's Island.  One did not venture into the jungle; it was full of poisonwood trees, which causes a rash worse than poison ivy.
Cutting vegetables for dinner
Our kitchen was under the green and white tarp.  We traveled self-contained, carrying all our food, water and gear in our kayaks.
Doug, one of the instructors, teaching me to roll.
Practicing the different maneuvering strokes.
Waiting for dinner.
Thank you, NOLS, for another wonderful adventure!


  1. It was a great time, would love to be back there temp is 8 degrees here in VT now and going down. Looking for my next big adventure. What is yours going to be?

  2. thanks for posting again...the photos are lovely......I didn't know
    the Groovers were called that because of the grooves....on my river
    trips we used ammo cans...just as gross though
    and that was long ago

    I always enjoy reading about your adventures.... you do live the good life!