Sunday, August 26, 2007

Westport Warm-Up

After five days of paddling, I was ready for a rest. All I wanted to do this weekend was help out a friend with his charity bike ride and do some yard work. Paddling was not even on the radar. (No, I am not lying about this.)
So when H mentioned that she was surprised I wasn't paddling on Sunday, I was confused. There was no paddle scheduled for Sunday and I was not really up for paddling. Then she told me TM had posted a Westport River paddle and that helmets were recommended.... Still, I was doing a big bike ride on Saturday and I had just done a ton of paddling over the last week. But, it was the Westport river, the currents were looking promising, and TM recommended helmets....
Sunday morning I showed up at the Westport River boat launch a little stiff, but ready to play. If we timed things right we'd hit the mouth of the river at max current and still have time to head out of the river and find some surf.
We hit the water around 10:15 with a group of six stalwart sailors: TM, PB, RB (no relation), CC, RR, and myself. Unlike the previous weekend, the wind was calm and we made short work of paddling to the mouth.
At the river mouth we found a pleasant spot along the breakwater to play. In the middle of the channel, the current was running nicely. Along the edge of the breakwater, a nice eddy had formed. We could play in the current and use the eddy to rest and reposition. The eddy also made a nice spot for a safety person.
The sweet spot for me was the spot where the river passed the breakwater. The incoming swells added a little bounce to the equation and put me in position to watch the other paddlers. The spot's only drawback was that incoming boat traffic liked to pass through it.
We were careful to give the powerboat traffic plenty of room. The power boats also did their best to avoid us. Some of the bigger boats were kind enough to supply some wake waves to the mix.
During lunch RB, PB, and I did some kayak tryouts. RB is thinking about an upgrade from his Wilderness Systems kayak; PB wanted to give the Q-boat a whirl, and I wanted to take TM's new Explorer HV for ride. RB tried out both the explorer and the Q-boat and liked them both. PB didn't like the way the Q-boat rolled. I found the the Explorer HV to be pleasant enough, but way too big for me. It is very hard to get a good feel for any kayak on flat water and after only a few minutes.
After lunch, we headed out of the river. The current had died down and we wanted to see if we could find some surf or rocks in which to play. There is always something to play in along the coast.
Just outside the river we found a nice rock clump. It had a few different slots provided fun runs in the moderate swells. Everyone got a few good rides. I wasn't feeling 100%, so I spent a lot of time hanging back as a safety. It was hardly boring for me. It gave me time to practice some boat control skills and sometimes holding a position is more challenging than running a rock slot.
TM's back was bothering him, so we turned back towards home after about 20 minutes. The trip back into the river should have been uneventful. The swells were tiny, the current was minimal, and the boat traffic was non-existent. The only place where trouble could be found was close into the sea wall. Just off of its tip some waves were breaking and it looked like you could catch a nice ride into the river. Looks can be deceiving...
PB started to catch a wave, felt his nose get pulled towards the rocks, and backed off. I started to catch a wave, but was not really in position to catch a good ride. CC was just inside of me and was in a perfect position to catch the wave. She got a great ride, but was pushed in behind the sea wall. Realizing that she was between breaking waves and hard spot, she started to back paddle away from the sea wall. She made it over one breaking wave, but the second one flipped her. (Somebody needed to play the role of Bubbles in this paddle.)
PB was in a perfect spot to rush in and stabilize CC's kayak. I took a few seconds to spin the Q-boat around to get into position. Meanwhile CC realized she could stand-up and stabilize her own kayak. She just needed one of us to hold it while she hopped back into the cockpit.
Safely back inside the river, we all tried out our rolling skills. CC wanted to see the continuos storm roll I had learned in the Greenland course the weekend before. Although I was not confident I could even do a regular roll, I gave it a shot. I rolled right back up and CC gave it less successful try. She even tried it with a stick. RR and RB both showed off nice balance braces. PB's rolling luck had been jinxed by his earlier miss in the Q-boat. Rolls are delicate and fickle creatures. Like an Italian sports car or a great writer, a roll can be spooked by a spec of dust or a drinking the wrong water.
We retired for good chat and great coffee at Coastal Roasters. TM laid out his plans for tackling some bigger currents and rougher conditions over the next month or so. This was just a warm up. He wants to take on Stone Bridge at max current and maybe take run out to the Race....

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