Saturday, February 07, 2015

2014

2014 felt like a long year. There were a lot of great things, but they were punctuated by long stretchs of drudgery.
Life comes with a certian amount of drudgery. It is unreasonable to expect constant excitment from visiting to the grocery store, folding laundry, washing dishes, supervising a child in the shower, brushing your teeth, helping your child brush her teeth, watching the same episode of Dragon Tales for a week, watching Elsa build her ice castle everyday for three weeks, or being a taxi service to play dates, gymastics, swim lessons, birthday parties, and dance lessons.
The taxi service does, more than occasionally, lead to excitement or at least a moment of joy and/or wonder. I get to see Bug having fun, learn new skills, surprise herself, listen to her stories, and teach me new things. Taxi service is the drudgery that makes me appreciate the wonder of being a dad.
The additional drudgery this year comes from my job. It pays well, but there have been few oppertunities for me to really sink my teeth into anything. The pace of development is slow and most of the features in development are simple from a user perspective. It is hard for me to get excited about documenting a point-and-click UI or the same APIs in a different language. The amount of process and over management exascerbate the boredom. I pretty much have to clear everything I do through a manager and one other person. This is in addition to technical and editorial reviews…. I’m not sure if the solution is a different job or a different attitude; the devil you know or the devil you don’t….
There were also parenting challenges. Bug went through a bit of tantrum storm through the spring and summer. Two of her great strenghts are her independance and her determination (some may call it stuborness). They help her in all sorts of ways, until they mix together in a cauldron of frustration and explode. We had some rough rides, but, hopefully, we all learned how to modulate ourselves and use our natures positively. The darkest moments made me glad that I wasn’t in this alone. Being able to tag out for some relief and having a different perspective on hand made weathering the storms much easier. It makes me respect the work my Mom must have done as a single parent even more than I already did. One thing is certain: Parenting is the most challenging thing I have, and will likely ever, do.
Fortunately, life has a lot of wonder to offset the drudgery:

  • There were a bunch a great paddles this year.
  • Bug and I got to go on a bunch of great bike rides together.
  • Bug learned to ride a two wheeler.
  • We all went on our first real hiking adventure in the White Mountains.
  • We did our first real kayaking trip on Boston harbor.
  • We had a number of relaxing camping vacations.
When I look back on the year, it loses a lot of its drabness. The moments of joy and wonder bubble up and remind me what is important: smiles, laughter, hugs, learning new things, sharing nature.

Best Paddle of 2014

This year I feel like I need two categories for best paddle of the year: family and solo. This is the first year the Bug has been able to join us for real adventures. She has gotten to an age where she can tolerate a bit more time in the cockpit and the upgrade to Big Red made venturing a more pleasent experience.


Family

My favorite family paddle of the year was the one to Grape Island. The weather was perfect, everyone had a great time, and it felt like a real ocean adventure. It gives me confidence that we can do some kayak camping next summer.


Solo

The Outter West Passage of Terror was my favorite solo paddle of the year. It wasn’t the most interesting paddle or the most challenging paddle. It was the paddle that most reminded me why I love to paddle. It centered me after a very hard week. It reminded me of be awake to the beatuy of the world, to be humble in the face of natures powers, to be your own judge of a situation, and to remember that a bad week is just a blip in a long glorious journey.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Seals

Tim 3 posted a show and go from Wickford Harbor to Rome Point for the Saturday after Christmas. It was a mini present to go along with sun and mild temperatures. Who am I to pass up a gift?
I thought I planned for enough time to get to Wickford in plenty of time for a 10am launch. I forgot to plan for the slowest Starbucks on the planet. I also forgot to account for my dependence on electronic enhancements.
I decided to forgo my external brains handy mapping features and rely on pure memory. I was doing great until I got on Route 4 and realized I had no idea which exit to take. I knew there was a 2 involved and that I would eventually drive past an ice cream store. Luckily I guessed mostly right. The intersection of 1A was another challenge. I failed it a lot when I frequented Wickford and I failed it again. Then PB called wondering if I was almost at the put in….
Once at the put-in things went much smoother. Packing the Q-boat and donning the drysuit was fast and easy. I didn’t even let the unnatural heat sidetrack my cloting descisions. The water was cold and I dressed appropriately.
The paddle was pleasant and relaxing. The weather was mild and sunny. The wind was minimal. We paddled out of the harbor and hugged the shore over to Rome Point at a lesiurely pace. It was nice to just move and chat. We saw a few seals and a duck hunter.
For lunch we went to the southern beach of Rome Point where the trail from the parking lot emerges onto the beach. It was pleasent. One of the paddlers had yummy “hot chocolate” cookies left over from Christmas. They looked like little cups of cocoa with handles and everything.
For the return trip we paddled around Fox island. As we passed Rome Point we saw a lot of seals in the water and a few on the rocks. They checked us out while we floated around. Then we made our way home at a laid back pace.
It was a pleasent Christmas present from the paddle gods.

Monday, December 01, 2014

New Boat Ideas

The Q-boat is showing its age. All of the hatches seep water. The day hatch is so leaky that I need to mop it out at lunch. The other hatches don’t seem to be as bad, but their size could be making masking the amount of water in them. The floor of the cockpit has pretty deep grooves were my feet sit. The keel strip is worn through. Some of the gel coat patches have patches.

I’m sure there is nothing that cannot be fixed. The question is if it is worth fixing. At some point an old kayak, like an old car, should be retired. The Q-boat has seen eight years of hard service.

If it is time to retire the Q-boat, what do I replace it with?

The recommedations I’ve gotten so far are to get a Cetus. They are the kayak-du-jour in my local kayaking circle. I’ve tried a few of them and not been impressed. They felt plenty stable, had decent speed, and were manueverable for a long kayak. They were easy enough to roll. In all that competance hid a lack of character. It was like driving a Camery or a Celica. Maybe the Q-boat’s quircks have messed up my expectations, but I want more than bland competence.

One other suggestion was a Tiderace Xcite. They get excellent reviews, but are also positioned as a jack of all trades kayak. I will definitely try one out, but based on the description it doesn’t excite me.

While checking out the Xcite, I saw that Tiderace has a new series called the Xtra that does excite me. It is billed as a rough water play boat for the ocean. At under 17’ it is a little short to be a great expedition kayak, but I rarely do more than day trips. It also gets great reviews.

The other kayak I’ve considered is the Greenlander Pro. I paddled one when I was looking at the Q-boat and liked it. It is a fast kayak and handled pretty well for a long kayak. It also looks good.

Both the Xtra and the Greenlander Pro are hard to find in my area, so I may be out of luck. Are there any other kayaks that I should put on the list to consider? I basically want a kayak for day trips and rough water. It also needs to be OK for the occasional overnight trip.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Blow by Blow

There are two divergent truths about the weather forecast: you always need to check it before going on the water and you can never trust it.
I made sure to check the weather before leaving to paddle this morning to make sure it was not going to be a total slog fest. The weather forecast was for moderate winds and nice temperatures. When I arrived at Gooseberry Point, I was greeted with howling frigid winds....
I am not sure I would have left the house for the actual conditions. The actual conditions were not bad enough to head home without getting on the water. I could definitely make the best of the conditions. There was plenty of surf and bumpy water along the Horseneck Beach side of the point.
This was also the first real cold weather paddle. I packed the dry suit and a bunch of fleece layers. I check the box-o-gear to make sure I had gloves. I forgot to check for a hat.
Most of me was toasty warm in fleece lined gortex. My head was freezing. Fortunately, JS had a spare hat he was willing to lend out. It was a perfect fit and cozy warm to boot.
We launched in the shelter of Gooseberry Point. It was hard to match the conditions on the water with the conditions in the parking lot. The wind and seas were calm. It was almost boring.
On the other side of the point things were much more challenging. The Q-boat is a notorious weather cocker and the beam wind knocked the skinny little tail around. I usually try not to use my skeg because, in my twisted head, it is a crutch and there is a little shame in it. After struggling with a myriad of correcting strokes, I finally gave up and dropped the skeg. Then, we stopped to play in the surf.
At first, I just sat outside the surf zone. Then I got bored and tired to catch a few waves. I got few OK rides. The wave were OK, but not great. So, I decided to try surfing backwards...in a Q-boat....
The first time I dumped, on the first wave I caught, was not bad. It's amazing how toasty fleece lined gortex is. I was a good way off shore, so I swam in, took the opportunity to relieve myself, and relaunch.
The second time was more adventurous. I was in shallow water close to sure. I actually managed to roll up once. Before I could settle, I was knocked over again. I went for a second roll and felt the mighty stick touch the bottom. I tried not to push off the bottom, but it was too late. I came up without my hat and losing my sunglasses. As I tried to secure my glasses, another wave knocked me over. I tossed the glasses toward shore to clutch the mighty stick in one hand and the grab loop with the other. I popped up between the kayak and the shore. Before the Q-boat knocked me silly, I ducked and got on its good side. I dragged everything to shore and started searching for my missing kit. JS kept telling me not to worry about the hat.... The glasses, thanks to the croaky, float and were easy to spot. My head was still naked and getting chilly.
TM, who is a boy scout leader, had a back up hat and my head was once again toasty.
The paddle home was a slog. Beam winds and chop made keep the Q-boat on a straight course nigh impossible. I started off using a paddle, paddle, stern rudder sequence with a few sweeps thrown in. Then I dropped the skeg and found that I still needed the occasional stern rudder to keep straight. Shame and corrective strokes were too much for me and I pulled the rudder again. TM told me to try a stern draw to keep the weather cocking in check. I'm not sure if it was lack of technique, the Q-boat, the mighty stick, or all three but I found myself slicing like a half dimpled golf ball.
Getting around the point made me feel like a novice. Getting the Q-boat to turn was a bitch. I was tired and out of practice. Getting the Q-boat onto a chine and make it turn was a physical and mental struggle. I finally got a enough of a turn to make it back into the lee of the point.
Conditions in the lee were clam again. The last bit of paddling back to the put in was easy peasy.
This was not an easy or relaxing paddle. It was energizing despite the frustration. A good challenge is always worth the time.