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Ocean activity keeps her spry

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    "With my grandsons, I see that thread (of adventure) has woven itself into the fifth generation."
    Cosette Harms, 67-year-old paddler/kayaker on Kailua Beach with her son, Jason Harms, and grandsons, Daniel, left, and Dylan
    At 67, Cosette Harms is an avid waterwoman. "Anything in the water, on the water, underwater," said Harms, who enjoys paddling kayaks, outrigger canoes and standup paddleboards.
    Cosette Harms, 67-year-old paddler/kayaker, on Kailua Beach.

When Cosette Harms picks up her paddle, she’s good to go.

Harms, 67, is an avid waterwoman at home with a kayak, outrigger canoe or stand-up paddleboard.

"Anything in the water, on the water, underwater," she said.

Last summer she paddled the Na Pali Coast in a kayak. Two years ago it was white-water rafting on the Colorado River.

Finding the fun in life has always been a big part of her family heritage.

"(My family) liked to play and play hard on the water, so it just became part of who I was," she said, recalling a childhood day trip sailing from Kailua to the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor with her uncle Peter Powlison.

Harms competed in the backstroke at Punahou School, then turned to synchronized swimming at Western Washington University, which didn’t have a women’s swim team in the early ’60s.

"Shame on them," she said with a tsk.

Harms taught elementary school in Seattle for 20 years, playing the ukulele to start off the day and during rainy-day recess periods. Eventually she led an extracurricular band of strumming second- through fifth-graders.

Family field trips often meant sailing to the San Juan Islands, Puget Sound and up into Canada aboard their 30-foot boat, Wanderlust.

"It wasn’t about the destination; it was the process of sailing," she said.

Harms joined a rowing crew when she was 46 years old. She relished the camaraderie of rowing with a group who dubbed themselves Martha’s Moms, a nod to their coach. The women competed all over the mainland, but her favorite event was the 3-mile Head of the Lake Regatta that finishes at the University of Washington’s crew house.

"It had the feeling of Seattle," Harms said. "It was such a (Pacific) Northwest experience."

Four years ago, Harms moved back to the Hilltop House, a landmark structure built atop a rock perch in 1931 by her grandfather and grandmother Arthur and Anne Powlison at Alala Point in Lanikai.

Arthur Powlison headed the Department of Parks and Recreation, but "my grandfather never grew up," said Harms. "(The house) was built by children for children."

Now Harms lives there with her mother, Peggy, who recently turned 89, while renovating the weathered single-wall playhouse, adorned with glass balls, nautical paraphernalia, even a trapdoor leading outside.

Earlier this month, Hilltop House was the gathering place for a four-generation family reunion, including Harms’ two sons: Jason, visiting with his wife and two boys from Australia, and Jerrett, who flew in from Seattle.

Harms smiled as her grandsons Dylan and Daniel showed her the shells they discovered near the Kailua boat ramp and then began planning a marble hunt.

"With my grandsons I see that thread (of adventure) has woven itself into the fifth generation," she said.

Even when her family isn’t visiting, Harms is hardly at rest. She goes on recreational jaunts with the Hui Wa’a Kaukahi kayak club, takes off on solo paddles or enjoys placid Kona conditions on her stand-up paddleboard.

"You have to keep moving, otherwise you get creaky," she said.


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