Sunday, September 17, 2006

Back to the Bay Campus

How many times do you have to paddle in the same location before it gets boring? I only ask because I've paddled out of the Bay Campus more times than I care to remember, but I still find new reasons to enjoy it. The route is usually one of two:

  1. Bay Campus to Ft. Getty, follow the Jamestown coast to Beaver Tail, across the mouth of the Bay to Whale Rock, back to Bay Campus

  2. Follow the Narragansett coast from Bay Campus to Whale Rock, cross the mouth of the Bay to Beaver Tail, follow the Jamestown coast to Ft. Getty, and cross back to Bay Campus

You'd think given our culture's drive for the next new thing and short attention spans, that I'd have grown tired of the route. It is also reasonable to think that as my skills got better, I'd seek out a more challenging scene. Yet, I still get a thrill out of it. The route, although the same on the map, is as changeable as the water itself. It can be calm, rolly, or scary. Sometimes it is a bit of each. Sometimes it doesn't matter because you just need to get out. Sometimes the people in the group make the difference.
Today I just needed to get out. The previous two weeks had been full of change and general life stress with little opportunity for release. This was also the only chance I was going to have to get on the water for several more weeks. It was paddle or...
H and I met up with Tim M. at the Bay Campus around 9:30am. Tim, free of the devil boat, was also ready for some serious paddling. The Aquilla looked mighty atop his truck.
In short order, we were joined by George and Debbie from CT who was celebrating a birthday. We inspected the fine quality of the work Carl Ladd did fixing up George's Q-Boat. Carl had patched up the gel coat damage George had done on our demolition outing, lowered his seat, and added a keel strip. Other than the grey keel strip, you couldn't see where any of the work was done.
We also compared H's Capella 161 to the Debbie from CT's Capella 161. H's Capella was prettier, but Debbie from CT's Capella was, although just a standard fiberglass layup, much lighter. I guess she had it sent back when her original turned out to be heavier than advertised.
We set out around 10:30 and planned on being back by 2pm. People had some time constraints. That meant that we were going to do the loop without a lunch stop. It was fine with me. I wanted to blow some of the crud out of the carburetors anyway.
Early in the paddle I got to talking with Debbie. She was very interesting. Up until Friday she had been working as a carpenter for Yale. She did furniture and installation pieces for the University. On the side, she also did some custom cabinet work. However, she was looking to make a change in careers. After years of doing carpentry, she was looking into working as a career counselor. We talked about finding your way in your professional life which was quite interesting.
Eventually, the need to really paddle started eating away at my consciousness. Despite the fact that we were having an interesting conversation, I was having a hard time keeping my natural pace scaled back to her natural pace. Sometimes going slow can be a lot of work. So, I politely pulled ahead. Once I started moving, I just opened it up and pushed the Q-Boat to see just how fast it would move.
Conditions were a happy medium at the mouth of the Bay. There was some action, but not enough to make it particularly nerve wracking. The only cause for concern was an uncertainty about the high-speed ferry schedule. It supposedly has some excellent radar, but it is not the kind of thing to test out in a kayak crossing its path.
There was a minor brush with danger on the return trip to Bay Campus.
The open water paddling hadn't quite quenched my thirst for paddling fun. To address this I tried to sneak my Q-Boat through a dodgy slit in some rocks along the Bonnet Bluffs. I had paddled into a spot where the only options were back paddling a fair distance into a rock field or squeaking through a slot in an overfall that was just about wide enough for the Q-Boat and then make a sharp turn before spearing a rock. I decided to go forward and got lucky. Just as I made my move some water filled in and gave me a little more room to play with. It also provided a tiny push on the stern which made the turn a breeze.
George was not quite as lucky. He had followed me into the slot and decided to follow me out. He didn't get the fortuitous wave to help him slide out. Instead, the bow of his kayak got pinned on a rock and he exited the cockpit.
If we had been properly outfitted, this wouldn't have been a big deal. The water near George was shallow enough for him to stand up and the waves were not enough to knock him around. With a tow belt we could have just tossed him a line and pulled him out to deeper water to do a rescue. George was the only one wearing a tow belt. Mine was in the egg and Tim's was in his day hatch.
So, I went in to help George. Meanwhile, Tim dug out his tow belt, put it on, and worked his way into position to tow us off the rocks. Then we needed to find a pump to get the water out of George's cockpit. His had floated away. Mine was with my tow belt. Fortunately, Tim had recovered George's pump and had his tied to his deck.
If conditions had been worse, this easy rescue could have turned ugly. It was a not so subtle hint that I need to bring my safety gear along with me regardless of the paddle. Complacency breeds its own form of danger.
After a quick lunch at the Bay Campus, Tim and I hit the water for some serious practice. The rolling around, stroke practice, and rescue practice felt good. It was a pleasant way to exhaust myself. My confidence and my sanity was restored. I was ready to face a few more weeks off the water.

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