by Tsunami Ranger Commander “Tortuga” Deb Volturno
Editor’s note: ‘Tis the Season, and once again we address the engrossing subject of What to Drink When Kayaking!
A celebratory toasting tradition is rooted in river kayaking for me, and has richly endured over the years. While toasting and celebrating the safe completion of a river run, I also employed “snakebite medicine” for what became the “bad water cure” following raucous river runs in suspect waters. Myth or not, with the “medicine”, I never again suffered the intestinal scourge after running a river!
In good time, imbibing “snakebite medicine” evolved to the lofty metaphysical level of a celebratory ritual toast to the Sea Gods and Goddesses punctuating any day on the water, the flask of fine elixir raised in gratitude for the generosity of the Sea Deities. We survived yet another sea adventure, being given the gift to indulge and dance in the wild sea on a new day.
The term “snakebite medicine” has withstood the test of time, because it continues to cure what ails you. These days it is most often the stiff and sore muscles after a long day kayaking at sea that benefit from a dose! Plus tippling the tonic seems to magically put a grin of satisfaction on your face – even, I can say, in the throes of the Weather Gods’ wrath!
Sometimes in my travels I would discover a local Sea Deity enshrined at a launch site, as in Mexico where a shrine of Guadalupe is commonly found on random beaches. In that case the ritual of a resolute toast is extended to venerate the enshrined deity. A gift of a fine libation is left in a vessel (usually a bi-valve shell) at the shrine, along with a special complement treat, like cookies or dark chocolate. This ritual is also a humble request for safe passage in their home seas.
By the way, snakebite medicine is not any random generic alcohol. Of course it must be a fine elixir worthy of honoring life and adventure! Most preferred by me is a fine sipping tequila! Choices are unlimited though, and have included fine sipping whiskey, scotch, rum, brandy, calvados, grappa, and port. Weather can be helpful in determining the best choice of spirits. Cold arctic circle temperatures in Norway beg for something very different from a steamy Mediterranean day at sea.
One of the most memorable of celebratory elixirs on our Tsunami retreats was “Chōrni Doktor”, a fine chewable port that escaped from Russia with Jim and Misha. True to form, Tsunami Rangers reveled in that potion, and saluted the Sea Deities deep into the clear starlit night, on a secret beach somewhere along the shores of the Great Sea.
What’s your favorite snakebite? Do share! For more on our Tsunami libations, click on the link and check it out.