Wednesday, March 21, 2007

You know your a kayaker when...

the first thing you look for in a new house is where the kayaks will be stored.
So, H and I have been house shopping and I've noticed that one of the big things we've used to judge houses by is their ability to store kayaks and kayaking related gear. A secondary concern has been the convenience of gear cleaning. There has also been several mentions that the yard cannot be too big because we don't have a lot of time to mow it because we are spend summer weekends kayaking.
Our current pad, despite its many flaws, is a great spot for kayaks. The driveway is huge and reasonably level. The basement is a walk in with a fairly level entrance. The back yard is easily accessible and offers a place to hang wet gear in the summer. In the winter, the basement is warm and also sports a number of good places to hang wet gear.
So the first things I look at when evaluating any new house is:
a) does it have a garage? If so, is it big enough for two kayaks and associated gear?
b) what is the basement access like?
c) how much of the basement can be used for kayak storage?
d) where is the hose? will it reach to a spot that is good for kayak hosing?
e) how long will it take to mow the lawn?
Once we past the important things, I start wondering about where the 50" HD TV and the Wii will fit. Then I go look for a location for the man cave. Heather makes sure the kitchen, the bathrooms, and the bedrooms are OK. She also checks to make sure that her cats will be happy and have plenty of windows for lounging.
Is it wrong that kayaks have such an impact on where we'll live?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Tough Decisions

Some days you want to paddle, but you know it is not a great idea.
This was the dilemma I was facing all last week. I wanted to paddle on Saturday, but knew that it would be tight schedule wise. By Thursday I was pretty beat between work, house shopping, and just living. It was pretty clear that I was not going to get a chance to recoup much before the weekend. Still, I wanted to paddle. It is one of my primary means of re-energizing myself and maintaining my balance.
The weather was not particularly cooperative either. The forecast for Saturday kept getting worse. On Thursday it was forecasted to be windy, but not too bad. On Friday the wind forecasts had gone up and they were predicting gusts over 20kts. Friday evening NOAA had decided that a small craft advisory for Saturday was warranted due to possible gusts of 25kts.
Still not completely ready to give up the ghost, I sent out an e-mail to the rest of the group to see who was still up for a paddle. I knew that going would be foolish. I had gotten home from a family dinner at 11:30pm, was totally beat from a long week, and would have to get up early to make the put-in. The group was going to be small and the water is still very cold. However, there was still that part of me that wanted to go. It is a similar voice to the one that talks me into one more beer when I've already had too many or the one that used to talk me into buying just one more pack of cigarettes.
When I got up Saturday morning and checked e-mail and the forecast, the situation was still pretty much the same as when I went to bed. The forecast had gotten a little worse - wind gusts were predicted up to 30kts. CC had e-mailed and put the ball squarely in my court. I was the one with the longest drive and playing wait and see is not really a workable solution from Waltham.
What was I going to do? The voices in my head were both making their cases. Paddling is good. It will invigorate you and help clean out the cruft from the week. It is not worth the risk of running into trouble in cold water. There are plenty of places to stay out of the worst of the wind. You can get a decent paddle in and reap the benefits. Driving three hours is a lot of wasted time and gas if conditions are just a touch worse than predicted. I could bring a book and chill out at Java Madness. The extra sleep would be excellent and there is cleaning to be done. I might get to kayak and it might be extra fun. It might be dangerous and you might get hurt.
Thankfully, H chimed in and said "If you want to go that's OK, but I'd rather you didn't hurt yourself. Besides if you stay you can spend more time with me!" It is always nice to have a voice of reason around and it doesn't hurt that she is wicked cute either. She cut through the imps voice and pushed me over to the side of safe.
I sent the e-mail saying I was going to stay home this time. It wasn't easy to do because the imp wasn't silenced, but he was defeated for this round.
Ultimately, it was a good decision. I caught up on some sleep and got to spend quality time with H. I also didn't have to rush around to make evening plans with city friends.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Paddling the Leisurely Way

February was not a good month for ocean paddling. That is not to say I didn't paddle. I did several pool sessions. The RIC/KA pool sessions were great learning experiences for H and a lot of fun for me. The pool session run by Carl and Sam Ladd featuring Omar from Israel was also excellent. Omar showed us a few exercises to help work on bracing and boat stability.
So when CC sent around an e-mail looking for people to paddle on the opening weekend of March I jumped at the chance. The forecasted conditions were not ideal, but still well within bounds. To further mitigate the chances of trouble from the winds, we decided to launch from Wilson Park in Wickford. If it was too windy or too rough we could always stay inside the Wickford Harbor. We could also stick close to the shore and work our way down to Rome Pt. and still be pretty protected.
H and I rolled into the boat ramp lot to find BH, RR, , BR, and B from CT in varying states of readiness. CC was going to be a little late, so I wasn't too worried about rushing. Of course CC showed up ready to hit the water and I was still trying to get my act in gear. One of these days I'll be ready on time.
The weather was fine. The air temp was in the upper 40's with a bit of a breeze to keep the edge off. With the water in the 30's we were probably over dressed for the air temp, but breathable fabrics make that OK. We also weren't planning on pushing ourselves too hard.
We headed out of the harbor and turned south towards Rome Pt. The wind was present, but not bothersome. The water was bumpy enough to keep it from being boring. It was a great way to get back into the kayak after a month or more. We chatted about wedding plans, life, and the joys of being alive.
At Rome Pt. we took an leisurely lunch stop. We rested and chatted for about an hour. It was warm enough that we didn't have to worry about cooling off. CC talked to a man who insisted that on the full moon high tide is always at noon. We looked for seals, but found none. We oggled BR's new kayak.
BR moved into the composite kayak club by purchasing a Riot sea kayak. It is a sexy, and skinny, kayak with hard chines. He looked very comfortable in it and I bet once the weather warms up and he has had time to really push it, the kayak will be a rocket ship.
After lunch we headed around Fox island and over to Quonsett. It was another pleasant and leisurely stretch of paddling. Nothing was too challenging, but neither was it too flat. It was just nice to feel the kayak roll underneath you, the wind caress your face, and the paddle blades slicing through the water.
For me it was fantastic to slip into that Zen-like flow of strokes where you are just doing and absorbing. It is not that I stop thinking, far from that. Instead, the cacophony of thoughts coalesce into a melody for a time. The swirling chaos of work, commitments, bills, and the cruft of living fade into the background and the joy rises to the foreground.
Once near Quonsett we decided to head over to the beach for another leisurely break. I mopped out the back hatch of the Q while the others watched the planes take off and otherwise rested.
After a nice 40 minute break, we headed back to Wilson Park. RR seemed to be in quite a hurry as he rushed ahead of the rest of the group. When we finally reached him, he said he didn't realize how slow we were paddling until he was at the harbor entrance. It is fortunate that he didn't inadvertently run into trouble because it would have taken one of us a few minutes, at least, to reach him. In 35 degree water, even 3 or 4 minutes is a long time.
At the put in, BR, B from CT, and myself decided to give our rolls a try. It was bad all around.
BR had not tried out his roll since the pool sessions. He gave it a valiant try . He missed his first attempt, made a second, and then let us practice a rescue. Later, he gave it another go with similar results. The important thing is that he gave it a try. The more important, and more impressive, thing is that when his first attempt didn't work, he had the presence to set up and try a second roll.
B from CT also tried and failed at a roll.
I tried and failed the first time. Fortunately, Carole was quick with a bow and I didn't have to wet exit. Not happy and unwilling to head ashore without giving it another go, I flipped set up on the other side and rolled up. It wasn't pretty, but it was a roll. I tried the first side one more time, and it just wasn't happening. This time I did manage to switch sides and get myself up.
I guess it goes to show that while time in the pool is a good way to keep the skills fresh, nothing makes up for practicing in the real world. White water kayaks are not sea kayaks. Clear, warm pool water is not 35 degree, muddy salt water. Nothing says rushed like the sensation of your head being crushed in the vice of freezing water....
We cheered ourselves up with some yummy treats at the Wickford Gourmet.