Friday, May 15, 2015

Aries

Last Sunday, we went down to Osprey Sea Kayak to get some work done on H’s kayak and Big Red. H needed her backband fixed and her deck lines tightened. Bug Red needed to get the rudder lines attached so that they stop falling off. Carl and Sam are our go to kayak repair people.

They also sell P&H kayaks, but that wasn’t part of the plan. I think P&H and I think Cetus and I was not keen on a Cetus. I really had my brain set on the Tiderace kayaks. Getting to New York was a hurdle I was prepared to jump.

When we pulled up I saw that Osprey had a used Nigel Foster Legend for sale. The Legend is a classic sea kayak and has always intrigued me, so I wanted to give it a try.

The Legend was fine. It fit me well. It turned OK for a touring kayak. The hull was in good shape. There was nothing about the Legend that made me change my mind about trying out the Tiderace kayaks.

As I got out of the Legend Carl slid an Aries 155 onto the boat ramp and told me to try it out. As soon as I backed into the river and turned the kayak, I knew it was a play boat. It spun around like a white water kayak. I paddled it around the river by the shop for awhile and was increasingly impressed. It not only turned like a dream, it went pretty straight when needed. According to H I was smiling the whole time I was paddling it.

After I dragged myself out of the kayak, I asked the obvious question: "Do you have any in stock?" They did have one: orange over orange with yellow trim.

Before I plopped down the plastic and gave up on the Tideraces, I had questions. The Aries is under 16 feet long; can it keep up with a pod of Ceti? Can it be packed up for a weekend of camping? I had read a few reviews, and knew that the reviewers thought the answers were yes. However, I wanted to hear it first hand from an actual Aries paddler. Carl uses an Aries 150 as his primary kayak. Carl and Sam both assured me that the Aries could keep up with a Cetus for most paddles and could carry enough gear for a weekend with some creative packing.

Like all kayaks, the Aries is about trade offs. The Aries is optimized for playing on the ocean and not for expeditions. It is at its best on bouncy water, surf, and dodging rocks. As an ocean play kayak, it is designed to have decent speed to get to the play spots and carry some extra gear. On an expedition, it is not at its best, but still OK.

So I pulled the trigger. It needed a keep strip and a compass, which was good since our car couldn’t carry three kayaks home...

I picked it today and took it for a break-in paddle on the Charles River in Waltham; it is the section of the Charles known as the lake district. The river is not the optimal place to paddle an Aries-the water is flat and there is not much to dodge-but that was sort of the point. I wanted to know that I hadn’t boxed myself into a corner with a kayak that was only good for the extreme stuff.

It was a nice paddle along this route. I did take time to play with turning and finding the edges. The Aries is a very turny kayak; I had fun just spinning it around a few times…. The straight line performance was good. The Aries didn’t feel particularly slow, nor did it feel fast. I spent most of the time trying to find issues and I could not really come up with one. The paddle was a nice confirmation that I made a solid purchase. I cannot wait to get it out on some real water….

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Narrow River

Narrow River is always a great way to start the paddle season. It has some distance and always a little wind. We had a nice day for it as well. It was **almost** nice enough to skip the dry suit.

We started off with a little wind and a little current working against us, but that meant that it would be a help on the return trip. It was good for just loosening up and playing with different strokes.

It was nice to just chat with grown ups that are not co-workers. It is a rare treat. In fact, that is the thing I remember most about the paddle.

The current was with us on the return trip. The wind was in our face again and overwhelmed the current.

It didn’t really matter. We had good conversation. I realized that having a four year old girl shapes your world in strange ways. There was a conversation about good new movies. I knew about *Frozen*, *Boxtrolls*, *Paddington*, and *Cinderella*….

The post paddle coffee was a pleasure as well. The paddle was a perfect recharge.

When it was over, I was eager to retun home and hang with H and Bug.

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.