Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Beauty of October

Fall paddling can be hit or miss. The weather is starting to get cool and more unpredictable. The water is cooling off. The size of the groups shrinks. The desire and ability to take risks diminishes. While even a bad day on the water beats any day on land, the possibility of a bad day on the water increases once the calender rolls into October.
Today was a home run. The sun was warm, the water lively, and the company delightful. Tim, Carole, Bob H., Tony, Paul, Rich, H, and myself launched from the Bay Campus a little after 10 to poke around down by Bonnet Shores. Since the beach was closed for the season we figured we could might be able to find a little surf action. If not we figured it would be a good place for lunch.
This was the first time all summer I had seen Bob H. in his kayak. The last time was when he wrenched his back out. That was on the first of July. He paddled a bit for Labor Day, and I had heard he was feeling well enough to use his kayak. I wasn't sure what to expect, but Bob was back in good form. He was a bit more cautious than before, but was still able to play.
We launched at mid-tide so there were plenty of rocks to play in as we paddled over to Bonnet Shores. There was also enough action in the water to make it fun without too much excitement. We all worked on our kayak handling skills as we tried to keep the gelcoat on our hulls.
Tony, in his Tsunami double, wasn't as worried as the rest of us. On two occasions he found himself perched atop a rocky spire like the ark when the flood cleared. The first time he just waited for the water to come back and shimmied his way off the perch. The second time he just hooped off his kayak and dragged it back into the water. That kayak must be pretty tough. I don't know too many kayaks that would take that kind of a casual beating.
At Bonnet Shores we were greeted by a nice line of small surf. This stuff was just big enough to break and perfect for some easy, early fall practice. Never a group to pass up a gift, we took the time to enjoy the surf. We all caught smooth rides into the shore. There was plenty of room to slip off the wave and paddle out for the next one. Tim even took the opportunity to practice his back surfing.
Seeing Tim back was a call to arms for me. I was going to back surf!! I had never done it on purpose, but Tim made it look so easy.... The first time I flipped immediately. The Q-boat breeched with blazing speed and grace. I, on the other hand, fumbled around trying to figure out where to brace. The second try was much like the first except that I planted my melon squarely on the sandy bottom. After the third try, Tim and Paul informed me that it may not be possible to back surf a Q-boat. Even in these minuscule waves the tail of the boat was completely submerged. Not willing to accept the futility of the effort, I asked Tim for his secret. Simply put, it is to lean forward and brace. The info did the trick. I managed to actually keep the Q-boat up right for a few nice rides. Bracing backwards still felt weird, but I had it all sorted out.
After two nice rides, I caught one of the bigger waves and started on a sweet run for the beach. Looking over my shoulder I spotted Bob H. sitting in my path. At the speed I was moving there was nothing I could do but wait for the crunch. Fortunately, Bob was fast on the paddles and moved just enough. Instead of getting speared by the Q-boat's tail he managed to catch it across his chest. I'm sure his back loved that...
After the surf we puttered our way over to the East Passage lunch spot. Along the way, Paul got caught in a rocky spot. Unlike Tony, he couldn't just hop out and move the kayak. Instead he waited for the water to come back to give enough lift to scrape the kayak off the rock.
Once we had fed ourselves, the group headed further down the Bay towards Whale Rock. Conditions this far down the Bay were more rugged. We spent a little time playing around in the rocks. Even H, who is typically the sane one, took some time to play around near the rocks. She did a wonderful job with the pretty green Capella in close to the gelcoat hungry rocks.
We headed back before getting all the way to Whale Rock. People were starting to get tired, nobody had a helmet, and there was no desire to risk spoiling such a wonderful day. The paddle home just continued the joy.
Once back at the Bay Campus it was time to do some rescue practice. The rescue to be practiced was paddling with a swimmer draped off the end of your kayak. Bob latched on to the front of the Q-boat and did his best to dump me. Carol even joined in the fun. Fortunately the Q-boat is pretty stable.
Meanwhile, Tim was giving Paul a serious demonstration of what it is like to paddle with a swimmer on the kayak. He got a ride on Paul's bow and then one on Paul's stern. Paul and his kayak handled the added weight very well. When Tim hopped on the back of the Q-boat, however, we nearly sank. The volume of the Q-boat's stern is too low to carry around a swimmer. The bow, on the other hand, did alright.
I guess that means the Q-boat is perfect for lovely days and not so good for unlovely ones. Here is hoping that all paddles are as nice as todays.

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