Sunday, October 15, 2017

Way More Than Expected

I was excited to get a late season paddle in before dry suit season. (A desk job in a small office has helped me out grow my dry suit....) I knew there was going to be a little wind, but a little wind is just a part of paddling.
As we left the shelter of Ft. Wetheril’s cove, it became obvious that Mother Nature delivered more than a little wind. We started out paddling headlong into big wind and big swells. With little warm up and less conditioning, I found the slog challenging. I was not worried about going over or losing control, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up or make it to the lee for a break. I was an out of shape paddler in a short kayak surrounded by paddlers that paddled multiple times a week in long kayaks. Fortunately, I am stubborn and the Aries has a napoleon complex.
We made it into the lee of Jamestown and worked our way towards Beavertail in relative calm. It was a nice break before hitting the open water again and fighting our way around Beavertail.
On a quiet day Beavertail can be challenging. On a day with heavy winds blowing swells from the north into the shoals and cliffs, it was going to be a fight. At least it was a fight I was familiar with, I was warmed up from the slog into the lee, and I was a little rested from our too brief paddle close to the coast. I girded myself for battle and pushed out from the safety of the island.
Once out in front of Beavertail, conditions were not as bad as they could have been. The swells were big and the wind was pushy. To be safe, we stayed pretty far out from the coast so we wouldn’t get pushed into the rocks.
It was the kind of conditions where the Aries really shines. The planing hull means you get a little boost down the front of the swells. Its rocker and skimpy water line makes it easy to turn out before you get too close to any rocks. The maneuverability also means that you can almost always find away to overcome the weather cocking caused by the heavy wind. (The unfortunate thing is that you are always fighting to counter the weather cocking.)
Once we got around Beavertail, we found the paddling much easier. With the mostly at our backs we were getting nice pushes from the wind and the swells. This was another stretch of paddling the showcased the Aries’ strength, and its weakness. The push from the swells meant I had plenty of speed to keep up with the longer boats and even keep ahead of them. I got a number of nice long rides. However, I was always working to keep the Aries on a reasonably straight course. The wind pushed it around every which way. The skeg helped a little, stern rudders helped a little, sweeps helped a little, draw strokes helped a little. Tim M. suspected that a Euro paddle would have made it easier. I doubt it. I think it was partially the nature of the Aries and a lack of time on the water.
After we carried across into Mackerel Cove, we played in the tiny surf for a bit. It was perfect practice surf. Just big enough for a ride, but not big enough to cause trouble. It was a nice bit of play before heading back into the fray to make the hop back to Ft. Whetheril.
The stretch from Mackerel Cove to Whetheril turned out to be more fun than fight. The conditions were big enough to make being near the rocks dangerous, but comfortably dangerous. If I had my helmet, I would have been tempted to get into the rocks more. Since I had left my helmet in the car, I steered clear of anything too dangerous. I was torn: I wanted to be in the rocks; I wasn’t sure I was up to the challenge; I did not want to get hurt or endanger the group. In the end, I think not having the helmet was the best choice. I could take some small calculated risks without the false bravado the helmet would have given me.
Next year, when I have more time on the water, I can bring the helmet along and play hard.....
Although the day was harder than I expected, it was perfect. I got to spend a day doing what I love. I was challenged and learned that I could still hold my own. It also motivated me to work hard to drop a few pounds and get into the dry suit for some winter paddling.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Level 2 Goodness

Sometimes you need a good adult paddle to feed the need. Fortunately, RIC/KA was having a level 2 paddle on a day where I could get paddle clearance. Level 2 was about all I was feeling I could handle anyway given how rusty and out of shape I am.
It turned out to be a huge paddle with more than 10 paddlers. Tim 1 did a lot of coaching and making sure we stayed out of trouble. It wasn’t always easy for me since I kept looking for ways to get into just a little bit of trouble. Memory of past deeds is a strong lure. Fortunately, the conditions were mostly benign and the group provided the peer pressure to crumb my worst instincts.
It was a very nice paddle south from Bay Campus. We worked our way along the bluffs into Bonnet cove. The paddling was relaxed and provided a nice opportunity to pay attention to stroke mechanics and getting in tune with how the Pumpkin handles.
After lunch, the swells picked up a little and there was more opportunity for playing. We had some excitement by the rocks near the bluffs as a big set of swells set up some perfect surf conditions.
Once past the rock and in the open bay, the following seas was perfect for the Pumpkin. The ride back was basically one long surf run. I basically just kept leaning forward and paddling just enough to maintain speed. The hull cause each swell and just glided along.
Back at the beach people did some rescue practice. I mostly just floated around wanting to extend my time on the water as much as possible. I was tempted to try a few rolls, but didn’t want to tarnish an otherwise glorious day with a blown roll.
There is plenty of time this winter to get my roll back...

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Solo Bug

After our big Acadia trip, H needed some solo time to prep for school and see her Mom. That meant that Bug and I had to entertain ourselves.... What better way to do that than go kayaking!!!!
It is not Bug's favorite thing to do, but when I promised her that she could paddle her own kayak and go swimming off of it, she was game.
She was even more excited when she got a purple kayak. The rental place has a number of Ocean Kayak Banzis that are designed specifically for young paddlers. They are under 10’ long and narrower than standard rec kayaks so that short arms can get the paddles in the water.
Bug did really well. She was very proud of herself for remembering how to do sweep turns and being able to paddle fast.
We split time between paddling around and swimming off the kayaks. Bug did most of the swimming since one of us had to stay with the kayaks...
Is there a better way to spend a late summer afternoon than playing around on kayaks with your daughter?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Acadia Adventure

Our big summer vacation this year was to Acadia National Park.
It is where H and I got engaged and where H and her family had some of their best vacations. It is also one of the prettiest places on the east coast with a ton of things to do.
It was a trailer trip; we were bringing all three kayaks, all three bikes, every bit of associated gear, all of our camping kit, and a weeks worth of food. It was one of the easiest packing jobs I have ever done. Packing things in the trailer has one simple rule, put the heavy stuff in front of the axel. To accommodate the pumpkin we did have to move the bikes to the roof of the car. We just have not found J-hooks that fit Aries hull, so it takes up more space than it should.

We stayed at Mt. Desert Campground at the top of Somme’s Sound. It is a great spot if you get a good site. We got a giant site right across from the boat docks. It didn’t have and ocean view, but that was fine. It looked like a lot of the ocean view sites were smaller and saw a lot of traffic.
The docks are one best features of the campground. We kept the barge and the pumpkin tied up for quick access to paddling. They are also a great place for the kids to hang out and catch crabs.
For activities we did a lot of things in the National Park. We picked blue berries, hung out a Thunder Hole, hiked Flying Mountain, climbed some rocks, and did a ranger led activity to discover how Sand Beach formed. Bug earned her Junior Ranger badge.
The best program, in my opinion, was the star watching program on Sand Beach. We had a nice clear night and the rangers used laser pointers to show us the different features of the night sky. They also had great stories to go along with each feature.
We spent time on the water as well.I got a few chances to paddle and we did a family paddle. On our last day we took a schooner cruise. Being on a giant schooner was pretty cool. The only wild life we spotted was a big dog that Bug spent the entire trip befriending.
We came back tired, but ready for the work and the start of school.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Seal Sightings

H and I got engaged on Flying Mountain on Somme’s Sound. We paddled up the sound to the beach at the foot of the mountain and hiked to the summit where I proposed.
We planned to recreate the experience with Bug while on vacation. We planned to paddle from the top of the sound to the beach and show her the spot.
Unfortunately H had a Herculean task getting Bug and I to stop crabbing and generally laying about before lunch. By the time we got in the kayaks, it was after 3pm and sunset was around 6pm. That gave us just enough time to make the trip, if we hurried....
As we were leaving, a couple landed and said they had spotted dolphins. We figured if we didn’t accomplish the goal we would get to see some cool wild life....
Once out of the protected harbor at the campground we were in a constant head wind. It was not bad, but it was definitely slowing us down. H decided then and there that we were not going to make the journey all the way down to Flying Mountain. I had a more optimism about our chances, but was just happy to be on the water.
It was not long before we spotted some seals out in the sound. They just kept popping up. Bug was fascinated by them. It was pretty cool.
As we made our way down the sound, the seals stopped following us and Bug started admiring the lobster buoys.
We didn’t make it to Flying Mountain, but we had a relaxing time.
For a while, I stopped paddling and let Bug be the motor. She did a good job. We weren’t speedy, but we did make forward progress. I enjoyed the break and look forward to taking more of them in the future.
Later in the week, we drove over to Flying Mountain and hiked to the summit so Bug could see where we got engaged. Bug also had a great time playing on the beach.