Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pot Luck Rescues

Every year RIC/KA sea kayaking does a safety and rescue practice session early in the season. It is a good chance for regular members to polish up on their skills and for newer members to learn how rescues go in a group. TM usually takes the lead in running the group through its paces.
This year we had a good group show up and got some decent practice doing the basic assisted rescues. Most of the morning rescues were variations on the basic T-rescue. We practiced with the kayaks bow to stern, bow to bow, having the victim hang on the bow of the rescue kayak, and a couple of other variations. TM stressed a few things:

  • The rescuer needs to make and maintain eye contact with the victim.

  • The victim needs to be an active participant in the rescue if possible.

  • All participants in the rescue need to consider the welfare of the paddlers not participating in the rescue.

We even did a few eskimo rescues, but TM stressed his opinion that eskimo rescues are rarely useful outside of spotting during rolling practice. In fact, he pointed out that they can be dangerous if the victim is not expecting it. A kayak bow on the knoggin is a sure way to ruin someone's day.
On the way back to the parking lot for lunch, TM and I split from the group to sneak a peak at the infamous breechway. It was flatter than a pint of beer after a night on the porch. Still, we found a few waves to play in before the second wave showed up and castigated us for not inviting them. I received special chastening for making off with H's lunch.
After lunch we practiced towing. We did some contact towing which is good for short distances. While passing PB back his short tow, I dropped it in the water. Since it was shallow and the rope was easy to see, I decided I could just roll over and pick it up... So, I grabbed onto the bow of PB's kayak, flipped over, and grabbed the rope. Getting back up proved to be a real trick. I had PB's bow with the wrong hand and could not get my body all the way around. Just as I was about to drop under and switch hands, another bow showed up and provided me a handy platform.
While practicing long tows, I handed off my tow rope to H and proceeded to drop the carabiniere into the water. It was not easy to see, so I was saved from even thinking about trying to rescue it.
We ended the water portion of the day with my demonstrating the rat swim. The rat swim is where you stay in the cockpit of the kayak and claw yourself to the surface to get quick gasps of air. It is uncomfortable and tiring, but if the water is cold and there are other people nearby it saves you from a bit of exposure.
After paddling, we retired to Christie's house for a pot luck. Everyone brought excellent food and it was nice to sit around and catch up.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Freedom

When TM e-mailed me to see if I was interested in taking a Friday off to paddle I knew immediately that I was going. I did, however, feel a little pang of stress about the mountain of work that I needed to finish for a looming deadline and the days I really needed to take off in the next few weeks... Once that passed I filled in the time-off request and started hoping for nice weather. I needed some stress relief before I collapsed under the weight of house repair, moving, weddings, work, lawn work... (I find the lawn relaxing when I have the time to get it done.)
Friday turned out to be a gloriously sunny, warm day. PB, TM, and myself started the day off with a relaxed discussion of the merits of going through the BCU star levels. (I don't really see the point unless you need the credentials or to prove something to yourself.) Then we had the standard debate about dressing for the water or the air. The water was still in the 50's the air was was in the 90's. TM took a turn at being a rebel and decided to go with just a rash guard. PB went with a wetsuit. I decided that shorts and a dry-top would work; I decided I would just stay in the cockpit no matter what....
We packed up our helmets - in the hatches - just in case we decided to play in the rocks along the Jamestown shore. I also tossed my tow belt in the day hatch just in case... The three of us would never get into trouble.
We set out of Bay Campus heading towards Bonnet Shores and the bluffs on calm seas. The water was flat and showed no intention of picking up. That was fine with us as we set a relaxed pace and occasionally darted around the rocky outcroppings along the bluffs. TM was feeling out CC's regular sized Explorer and not shying away from taking chances with it. The calm water and lazy sun made it a perfect day to play in the rocks with little fear.
The big rock that guards the entrance to Bonnet from the bluffs had a little wave action boiling around it. It also offered a nice break from the heat. The rock radiated the cold of the water into the balmy air. I lingered in the cool air to abate the heat build up inside of my dry-top.
We then headed into the cove to see if we could find any surf. I found a tiny breaking wave that was enough to splash some cold water on me. There wasn't a hint of foam, so we rafted up and had a long talk about Buddy Cianci, coastal development, the criminality of politicians. (I'm not convinced all politicians are criminals, but I'm convinced all politicians posses a moral flexibility that would impress most criminals.)
After a leisurely float, we headed over to Whale Rock. As we approached the familiar landmark we noticed something was askew. We thought it might have been the haze playing tricks. The bluffs looked flat as we paddled away. A fishing boat out in the distance looked like a massive skimmer bug. When we got up close we saw that, in fact, Whale Rock was different. The last Nor' Easter had ripped away more of the walls and left a part of the staircase exposed.
We pondered the wisdom of doing seal landings on the rock as a five star practice, but decided that without helmets it would be foolish. Instead, we played in the breaking waves near the far point for a bit before turning towards Beavertail and the Jamestown coast.
The crossing between Whale Rock and Beavertail always surprises me. Intellectually, I know it is the mouth of the Bay, but I've got a weird mental lapse that keeps the crossing permanently inside the Bay. The first few ocean swells sway me back to my senses and I settle into a pleasant and familiar rhythm. The open water feel was a nice break from the adrenaline of playing close to the rocks - even if the conditions were benign.
Once close to the Jamestown shore it was time to look for a lunch spot. We had been in the kayaks for 2+ hours and I didn't pack a snack in my PFD. Fortunately, PB was prepared and had packed several snacks. He shared one of them - a "healthy" snack bar that tasted as good as any candy bar - with me before my blood sugar dropped and I started doing silly things....
While looking for a good lunch spot we again played in the rocks. I decided to scope out a possible gap to run at exactly the wrong time. A rouge wave pushed me into a spot between a sharp rock, a big rock, and a steep ledge. The wave then sucked most of the water out from underneath me. I'm not sure how I managed to keep the Q-boat (or my unadorned head) off the rocks, but I managed to survive a sloshy wave set and back my way out. It was definitely a sign.
Shortly after that I was watching TM play in an area where he could easily have needed a towing and realized that my tow belt was stowed in my day hatch. Fortunately PB was wearing his. I slipped into a small cove and put mine on.
All of the prime lunch spots taken. There was a chatty girl at one, a naked guy at another... So we pulled up on a beach most of the way to Fort Getty for a relaxed lunch. We lounged, ate, and soaked up the warm sun.
TM reminisced about H's first real ocean trip in her Capella - a grey windy paddle along the very same shore. She rode the following seas like a rocket ship on the solar winds. TM and I were hard pressed to keep pace.
After a long break, we packed up and paddled back to Bay Campus. The winds had picked up just a bit so the crossing back to Bay Campus was a small challenge. The breach swells pushed the Q-boat around just a bit. I'm sure putting the skeg down would have solved the problem, but why do anything the easy way?
We followed up a relaxing paddle with the mandatory - albeit laid back - rolling practice and coffee.
A perfect way to blow off some stress and recharge the batteries.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Non-Kayaking Friends

Things in my life have gotten crazy and missing a weekend of paddling had only added to the stress level. H and I are in the middle of trying to get the hardwood floors in our new house installed, remove some nasty wallpaper from our kitchen walls so we can paint, finish planning a wedding, and meet looming deadlines at work.
Our non-kayaking friends also like to make plans on the weekends and when you can only afford to slack on one weekend day you have to make the choice. This past weekend it was an easy choice. Two of our close friends were renewing their wedding vows. Despite my paddling addiction, I know that some things are more precious than a day on the water--their are plenty of those--and this was one of them.
Our friends live in Hull and being so close to the water on a passable day (there were intermittent showers) was not entirely painless... The ocean will still be there next week.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Poking Around Pt. Judith

Today marked H's return to the water after the long, cold winter. BR's wife, MR, also joined us for her second outing. BH returned to the group after a too long hiatus. JS used the paddle to begin his recovery from knee surgery.
The weather was nice for mid-May. The sun was out and it was not too windy. We still needed thermal protection and H did groan a bit about putting on the wetsuit. (Wetsuit are miserable and I stick to my drysuit whenever I need thermal protection.)
Right out of the dock BH had a major equipment malfunction and was forced to return to the put-in. The rest of the group, however, enjoyed a leisurely paddle around the western edge of the pond.
I was a little nervous because last time I paddled in Pt. Judith Pond I took a huge divot out of the Q-boat's bow. Fortunately though we passed along without incident.
At lunch we enjoyed plenty of chocolate. CC brought along the remainders of RS's birthday cake-a homemade mass of chocolate torte. It was soft and had just the right amount of sweetness. H supplied a healthy chocolate alternative - brownies made with flax seed instead of oil. They were good in a very dense way, but the torte... oh the torte...
The return to the dock was the normal paddle home in the wind. It was pretty mild though.
Back at the dock the rolling ensued. RR showed us that you can do a balance brace with a Euro paddle. He is preparing to take the BCU 3-star and, according to RR, BCU does not allow a paddler to use a stick for the evaluation. So, he has put his stick away for the time being.
After getting all wet, we adjourned to Java Madness for some warm caffeine. It was close to perfect.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Season Opener

Despite having paddled through the winter, TM's Narrow River paddle feels like the first paddle of the season. It is the gate to more frequent, and more adventurous, paddles. The Narrow River paddle itself is pretty tame as paddles go. The standard route is to launch from Pollock Street boat ramp and paddle up the river to the girl scout camp.
It is a protected and reasonably short route, but it offers plenty to see. The houses along the river are well-kept and reasonable. The birds are numerous and varied. Occasionally you can spot sunning turtles. According to BH the largest living snapping turtle lives in the stream that feeds the river.
Todays paddle was going to be an easy start to the season, but not level 2 easy. The sun was shining, but the wind was gusting. During the paddle briefing, TM made it clear that despite the protected nature of the route and the short distance, he was ramping the level up to a 3 because of the wind.
The wind was blowing down the river, so the first half of the paddle would be a fight. If conditions held, which as PB pointed out they never do, the trip back would be a cake walk. Regardless I was glad to have my stick. Windy conditions are much better when you don't have to push a sail into the wind on every stroke. Also, the wind cannot get a good hold on the stick to pull it out of my hands during a powerful gust.
We took our time meandering up the river and stopped a few times to practice strokes. TM handed out a number of good pointers on turning and maintaining a good forward pace in the wind. He also spent a lot of time ogling BR's new kayak.
At lunch we did some rescue/rolling practice. The water was still chilly, but it was a comfortable chill. You could roll without suffering from an ice headache. TM, PB, and I did more than a few rolls. I was happy to discover that I rediscovered my ability to roll on both sides of the kayak. BR did a roll thanks to a strong recovery. BH also rolled.
BH's first roll attempt offered a lesson in how not to spot a roll. After BH missed his first attempt, TM moved in and put the Aqilla's bow up on BH's pintail. Unfortunately, BH was making a second attempt at a roll.... So after missing the 2nd attempt, BH put his hands up and banged on the hull of his kayak. TM at this point was out of position and could not get the bow of his kayak to BH's hands. BR was sitting too far off BH's other side and not moving fast enough to close the distance before BH pulled the plug. When BH did pull the plug both TM and BR were on top of him.
The ride home was, despite PB's pessimism, a breeze. The wind died down and the current was running in our favor. I got a chance to talk to the new owner of the Devil Boat. It seems the new owner has exorcised the devil and is really enjoying paddling it. He is much more appropriately sized for it. Hopefully, we will see more of it as the season progresses into full swing.
For a season opener it was a great paddle. There was enough wind to make it a good work out without the danger. The weather was nice enough so that we could enjoy sitting out chatting after the paddle. If this is a harbinger of things to come I think the season will be splendid.