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.

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