Saturday, July 30, 2016

Paddle Bug

I talked Bug into kayaking on Lake Cohituate this afternoon. The bribes included swimming off the kayaks, ice cream, and letting her have her own kayak. Letting her have her own kayak wasn't so much a bribe as part of the plan. I got her a paddle of her own and want her to start learning to use it when we paddle in the double. The best way I could think of was to put her in her own kayak.
I was half expecting the rental place to say no, but they seemed perfectly OK with letting a six year old on the lake in her own kayak. They even had special kid kayaks. They were some sort of Ocean Play sit on top with an integrated tow system. I also got a sit on top because I figure it would make things easier if Bug needed help.
When they asked how long we would be out I said maybe an hour. I wasn't sure how long Bug would last. I shouldn't have been.
The first challenge was getting out of the loading area. There are some moored sail boats and a fair amount of kayak traffic. Maneuvering is pretty important and this was Bug's first time. It took a surprisingly short amount of time for her to figure out how to make the kayak go mostly where she wanted it to.



We paddled over to one of the small coves and hopped in the water for some swimming. Sit-on-tops are much better swimming platforms than the typical sea kayak. They are so wide and stable you can just haul yourself right up on the deck. It was nice. Bug even did a few practice capsizes just for fun.
After some swimming, we went back to the mouth of the cove. I asked Bug where she wanted to go next. We could go back or we could paddle around some more. She decided to paddle to the far side of the lake and took off.
She got up some good speed at times. She also did a fair share of experimenting with how the paddle felt in the water and different ways of making the kayak move. It was great fun to watch. I didn't really do much in the way of teaching or coaching. I simply reminded her a few times that the smiley faces on the paddle should always be smiling back at her and encouraged her when she did something really good. It was more about having fun than about being taught anything.
About three quarters of the way across the lake I looked at my watch and realized that we'd been out on the water for 45 minutes. Doing some quick math in my head, I realize that it will take at least 20 minutes to get back. The money warnings started going off in my head. Stupid grown-up concerns....
I decided it was time to hurry back to the rental place.
Bug decided it was time to swim again. "Just five minutes, please." Ten minutes later, after a few panics about fish brushing up against her legs, we were on our way back.
It was not fast going, since Bug wanted to paddle over near shore to check out a party and practice backwards turning. There were also a few short sprints.
I eventually gave up worrying about the money. How often, will I get the chance to have a relaxing paddle with my daughter on a perfect summer day? Hopefully, a lot, but it is still priceless.
When it looked like she was getting tired, I offered to tow her. The wind had picked up a little and it was making it hard to paddle straight. Bug refused. At one point, Bug was making goofy screams and a paddle boarder asked if she was OK. Of course, she was OK.
Bug did ask me to tow her one time. She couldn't get away from the shore and wanted me too pull her out to the middle of the lake. She was very clear that this was a temporary tow. I'm not sure what happened, but once we were well away from shore I felt the tow get taught and then very slack.... I look back and Bug is in the water, with her paddle, and a little freaked out. Using my calm voice I got her over to my kayak, took her paddle, and helped her back up.
I asked if she was OK and we were off again. After some more meandering and checking out why the swim area was on lock down, we made it back to the rental place. Total time on the water was over two hours of fun.
I cannot wait to do it again.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Core Principles

Carl Ladd gave a RICKA special class today on his version of the core principles of kayaking. His core principles approach is an interesting way into the basics of kayaking that stresses connection with kayak and form over the more head first traditional approach.
It is a lot of what Carl typically stresses: Be one with the kayak; your legs are essential in making the kayak steer. He also stressed that locking your thighs into your thigh grips is almost never a good idea. It creates a situation where you are fighting yourself for control over the kayak.
We also reviewed good stroke form. This part of class is something I'm not sure how much benefit I get. It is geared towards paddlers with big scoop paddles, not sticks. Still, the basic mechanics were good to work through.
One thing that was striking, was that in a class about boat control full of people paddling Cetus and similar touring kayaks, paddling the Great Pumpkin is a lot like cheating. The Aries is a dream to maneuver if you get the strokes and body positions even close to right. On the other hand, if you get things wrong it is equally obvious.
My two takeaways from the class: 1. I chicken wing too much. 2. I have a habit of locking my thighs in place.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Split Up

Back in May, the mighty stick succumbed to years of hard use. It had been a long time coming. I had noticed the little stress cracks last season. Magic thinking can only work for so long. A poorly executed roll attempt put too much stress on the weakest point of the paddle and left me wet.
My first thought was to just order a new mighty paddle from Wolfgang Brink. Then I thought maybe I should research carbon fiber Aleutian paddles. There are a few manufacturers who make CF Greenland paddles and a two piece would be nice. As it turns out there is one company that manufactures CF Aleutian paddles. They get decent reviews, but they are very expensive. Also they were not taking orders because they needed to catch up on back orders.
So I went back to my first thought. It turns out in the eight years since I bought my last paddle, Wolfgang has added split paddles to his offerings. They are a little more expensive than the one piece, but the up charge is reasonable. I was pretty sure that the damage to the mighty stick was a result of transport stress since I don't tend to smash my sticks into rocks. The extra money was worth it.
It took a few weeks for my paddle to be finished, but that is pretty reasonable for a custom handmade paddle. It actually arrived on a day when I was paddling. When I got home, I was greeted with a sturdy wooden box.
The paddle, as I expected, was lovely. The blades are laminated wood with a nice groove down the ridge. The loom is carbon fiber with a standard button ferrule. Wolfgang said that he makes the ferrules a little tight and getting the paddle together was a little hard. That actually add some confidence. Once together, the paddle is rock solid. It slides apart with a nice pop.
Today was my first chance to try the paddle out.
I had thought about going down to RI for paddle out of Fort Wetherill, but that didn't happen. The forecast was sketchy and my shoulder was not feeling great. Then last night I couldn't fall asleep and when I finally woke up it was too late to make to the put in on time.
All was not lost. I live ten minutes from Walden Pond. An hour piddling around the pond wouldn't be as nice as a paddling on the Bay, but it was better than nothing.... Truth be told, piddling around the pond was perfect. I forgot how relaxing it can be just practicing strokes and getting a better sense of how the kayak feels in the water. It feels good being able to try subtle adjustments and dial things in. It is not something you can really do on the Bay in a big group.
The paddle performed as expected. It's finish is a little smoother than the original mighty stick, but is more grippy than my back up stick. I never once noticed any wiggle in the loom. I was very happy with it. The best part of the paddle is that it fits in the back of the car just like my Euro paddles.
So good new split Aleutian paddles and good day piddling around a pond.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Pier 5 to Harbor of Refugre

It has been a long month since I last got a chance to paddle. June is always a tough month. The end of the school year is hectic and then we have our anniversary and Bug's birthday. I needed some time on the water.
Pier 5 to Harbor of Refuge is a long and exciting paddle. The west edge of the Bay can get a lot of fun swells to bounce the group along. I was looking forward to the trip with a bit of trepidation as there was supposed to be a fair bit of wind.
As it turned out, the wind and swells didn't materialize. The paddle was almost boring. There were some small swells that the pumpkin caught and a few little rocks to dodge.
The real fun was not in the challenge of paddling. It was in the relaxation of paddling. It was nice to just hang out on the water with good friends and stretch out the muscles.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Outer West Passage

My schedule, the RICKA schedule and the weather were finally in alignment. I could go on a paddle. Better yet, it was one of my favorite paddles - the Outer West Passage!!
All was not perfect; my shoulder had been acting up and my anxiety about the mystery heart condition that only my brain can detect was running amuck.
But it was Outer West Passage and I was not about to let my craziness get the best of me. Besides, paddling is the best cure for my bouts of crazy.
The paddle turned out to be a real old school trip and just what I needed. BH, now of the Great Lakes, made a surprise appearance and he brought along CC who has been busy building her business. TG was also freshly back from his BCU Five Star certification on the shores of Great Britain. We floated a fleet of over ten kayaks.
Anyone looking for exciting conditions was going to be disappointed. The water was calm. The wind was low. The temperature was moderate. It was perfect for a relaxing recharge paddle. The excitement could wait for another day.
I appreciated the fact that paddling is like bicycling. A few strokes and the gap between paddles melted away. My turns were not quite as smooth, I had to think a little about linking strokes together, and I got a tired a little faster. By the time we had crossed to Dutch Island I felt comfortable, by the time we reached Beavertail I was linking strokes and daring to get close to the rocks, on the ride along the Narragansett coast I was back to playing in the rocks.
My shoulder pains melted away after the first two strokes. My mystery heart disease resolved itself around the same time. The rapid recharging power of a kayaking trip boggles my mind. I am not sure how it works or why it works. I just know that it works. A few hours on the water wiped away weeks of stress and left my tank full for returning to the real world.