Saturday, September 01, 2007

Rocky Road in Sakonnet

The forecast was not promising if you wanted a calm paddle. 20-25 knt winds can whip the waters off of Sakonnet Pt. into a mad house of lumps.
I was a little bummed about not going to the rough water symposium, so the rough conditions did the trick for me. H, on the other hand, decided that she had work to get done. She was planning on doing the post paddle socializing, so it was great. I love paddling with her, but sometimes a boy needs to play in the rocks without worrying.
We ran into to TM and Cam getting coffee at Coastal Roasters. After a brief pow-wow, we drove down to Sakonnet Point. At one point in the drive, TM started weaving. H and I were worried that he may have OD'ed on Americanos, but he quickly straightened out. We arrived at the put in without further incident.
While waiting for CMc and JS, the coordinators, to arrive, we chatted with Cam about our ME trip, considered a reasonable strategy for a safe, fun paddle, and met a new paddler from MA. Bubbles made the group seven strong and added a level to the adventure we might encounter.
The plan was to head out of the harbor, head south, and tuck in behind the point. The land would provide some shelter from the gusting northish winds. It also put us in the heart of rock country!!

Paddling around the point was fun and the group did a good job keeping together. The winds were not that strong. The water was not that lumpy. It was just enough to warm up the balance and the hips.
Once we rounded the point the group splintered... TM and I headed off to one clump of rocks; Bubbles and CMc headed to another; JS headed off to fish... Fortunately, most of came to our sense quickly and regrouped. Six of us formed a lose, but firm, plan: we'd head east along the shore to see what trouble we could find and stick together.

As we pushed down the coast we found plenty of rocks. One particularly fun clump of rocks was right near a swimming beach and a few of us were reminded that kayaks are not welcome in swimming areas...
That was OK since we were looking for crevices that sane swimmers shun. The wind and generally clam seas kept things at a reasonable level for fun with moderate chances of doom.
For lunch we regrouped with our fishless seventh and found a nice patch of sand that required a surf landing. The six inch dumping waves required more skill than seemed possible to land with your dignity intact. Bubbles scored a 10 by catching the backside of a wavelet and letting it carry him past the dump zone.
After lunch we faced the daunting task of getting back through the breaklets. Six kayaks got off the beach with only moderate breaching. I, on the other hand, required several attempts to find the water. I could not get enough water under the stern to get the Q-Boat off the beach before the waves pushed the bow around and I was parked under the dumping waves parallel to the beach.
TM and Bubbles kept yelling for me to roll the Q-Boat over on its side to spin the bow back into the waves. On the water the Q-Boat rolls onto its side easily. On the sand the hard chines dig in and makes rolling it over nigh impossible. With an inordinate effort I rolled the Q-Boat on it side, spun the bow around, and set up for another attempt.
The first wave in lifted the bow off the sand and left the stern sitting... The second wave knocked the lifted bow around. I was breached again.
This time I got out, dragged the Q-Boat into the water, and flopped into the kayak. Fortunately I did not need to go far before I was beyond the miniature surf and I was able to stay up right as I slipped into the seat.

On the way home the group once again shrank back to six (at times five.) We found a excellent rock outcropping to test our mettle. I sat and studied one approach for a while before deciding I was not ready to risk sending the Q-Boat in for surgery. From the approach I was studying, a kayaker would have to paddle into an incoming surge, with an accompanying overfall from the right, to possible make it over the ledge on the far side. The rocks, which the overfall would certainly push a bow into, hid the swells from vision so it was a blind ride.
The other side of the approach was much nicer. TM kept eyeing it. He'd slip his bow in and then back out, study it some more, slip his bow in... Bubbles couldn't take it much longer and requested the right of first run. TM ceded and Bubbles made it look easy. TM then also slipped through.
The rest of the trip home was uneventful. Eventually the wanderers found their way back to the group. However, the new guy kept rushing ahead of the group. Maybe we smelled?
Back in the safety of the harbor we had a kayak and paddle swap. JS tried out the mighty stick and discovered that it really does make rolling easier. CMc took the Q-Boat for a spin and considered the possibility that I would not notice the difference between my white kayak and her white kayak.
I took Bubble's Pintail out for a spin to see how the ocean cockpit felt. Getting in was more difficult, but once in it was very comfortable. I liked the fact that my knees were not forced into any particular position. I was also very glad that my roll has been reliable lately because I did not relish the thought of trying to squeak out of the tiny hole in an emergency. I actually got the chance to test my roll in the Pintail. In a vain attempt to look cool, I tried to do a cross bow rudder using a Euro paddle. The blade slipped into the water at the perfectly wrong angle. The kayak spun like it a pinwheel. When I rolled up and landed everybody was impressed with the new way I found to initiate a practice roll.

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