Monday, December 29, 2008

Historical Sites & Retail Haven

H and I are in St. Augustine to enjoy the historical sites.
We started off at the light station which has been turned into a museum. The big attraction is the 164' lighthouse. Climbing to the top is an adventure in itself for those of us who have a fear of falling. There are 219 narow metal mesh stairs that spiral to the top that are crowded with comers and goers. The view from the top is worth it. You can see for 20 miles.
After the lighthouse we went to the Castillo. It is the oldest mortar fort in the continental US. The walls are made from conquina which is a type of limestone formed from millions of tiny shells. The US park service provides a self-guided tour of the fort. We also saw them fire one of the small cannons. It only has a range of a mile and a half. The big cannons have a range of three miles.
After the fort we headed over to historic St. George street. Despite knowing better, I hoped that it would be a living museum set up showing the town as it was in the days of the Spaniards. It is a living museum, but not one that is frozen in time. The buildings have all been preserved and there are plenty of ways to get the history of the place, but there are no actors. Instead St. George street is a thriving commercial area. There are a lot of shops and eateries. Some are tourist traps, but most are nice. While the insane purist on me wants to keep the history free of shallow comercialism, the realist in me knows that sometimes the best way to preserve history is to allow it to change with the times.

Mobile Blogging from here.

Group Dynamics

On the long drive to FL I started catching up on my backlog of "This American Life" podcasts.
One episode was about people who ruin it for the rest of us. The intro was about a study that proved that there are three personality types that can poison a group. They are so infectious that they erode any group they encounter. The types are: jerks, slackers, and depressives.
The intro also talked about studies that prove that a group is only as strong as its weakest link. An amazingly strong group member can not make up for an amazingly weak one.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Two Lanes?

Why is the major north/south highway on the east coast only two lanes through the Carolinas? Today seems to be the day that all the Northeasterners who are too cheap to fly to Disney (H and I included) decided to clog 95 south. We were joined by all the Floridians returning from Christmas visiting. The result was a six hour drive through SC.
SC may have some beautiful places, but the 95 corridor is not one of them. It is flat and homogenous. It is the kind of landscape you want to fly through at 80.
Today the drive was a lot like bad sex. You zoom, then slow to crawl, then zoom, then suddenly stop, then zoom... And so it goes without such as a glimmer of eventual release.
Then there was Santee, a foggy oasis of fast food and crap. The perfect way to break the fun.
Thank god for Georgia's three lane high way!

Mobile Blogging from here.

Two Guys Grill

Today's leg of the Journey started off well. The roads were clear and traffic moved swiftly. Then somewhere in NC we hit a massive traffic jam. In over an hour we moved about 3 miles.
Lunch brightened the day we stopped at Two Guys Grille in Lumberton, NC. I got the southwest chicken salad and it was sublime. The Cajun spiced chicken had just enough kick to clear the sinuses and the cheese was just enough to balance it all out. H got a salad 'freddie' style. It was topped with the innards of a hoogie. It was a little greasy, but not too cheesy.
It gives me hope that the next 400 miles will fly by.

Mobile Blogging from here.

Friday, December 26, 2008

"Flying" to Florida

H was feeling a little guilty about never visiting my Mom in FL, so we decided that Christmas would be a great time to go. It is also the most expensive time to visit. The cheapest flight and car rental combo H could find cost $1000 and had terrible flight times. Joking, I said we should drive...
So now we are in a Days Inn just outside of Petersburg, VA after a very long day of driving.
One bright spot on the trip (other than getting to spend time with H) was an Itallian resturant named Giuseppe's Pizza in Ruther Glen, VA. The food was simple, cheap, and good. The atmospher was casual. It really hit the spot after 10 hours of traffic.
One other thing that made the drive go by was a Christmas present. H's Dad gave me a Griffin AutoPilot so I can play my iPod through my stereo and keep the iPod charged. Egg 2.0 has an auxilary input, so the audio plays crytal clear. The AutoPilot pulls the audio signal from the dock connector which means there is no messing around with trying to align the volumes.
From the technology incompetence file: We tried to get the GPS to plot the route to my Mom's house while zooming down the Garden State Parkway at 70, but it would just lock up. This was very upsetting because it has been a trusty piece of gear until this point. Eventually we stopped at Dick Clark's American Bandstand for lunch. (It was as bad as the name implies.) While waiting for lunch we decide to give the GPS a chance to redeem itself. After an eternity of calculating it finally pops up with a route. H checked the route over, decided the thing is busted, and hands it to me to check out. The route takes us off of the highway and down a series of back roads.... The last time I had used the GPS was on the bicycle... The GPS was working just fine. I was impressed that it managed to figure out a bike route from NJ to FL. Once I set the GPS to route for a car it spit out excellent directions.

Mobile Blogging from here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Kayaking, Blogging, iPhoning

While I tend to cleave towards extreme simplicity (I ride a single speed bike and paddle with a piece of wood) I also love my high tech toys. I dig my digital camera, my GPS, and my shiny MacBook Pro. My favorite piece of digital wonder is my iPhone. It does more than a Swiss Army knife. It is my phone, my music source, my address book, my date book, my mobile e-mail, my link to the vast store of human knowledge, my guidance system, and my game boy.
What does any of this have to do with kayaking? Well in addition to all of the other things it does, my iPhone is also a global tide table. The app store has several tide apps. I decided on installing TideApp. The interface let's you select tide stations across the globe. The first page sorts the stations by US ports, non-US ports, and favorites. The tide reports seem to be pretty accurate. There are only two potential drawbacks: the times are always in EST and the app appears to access the Internet to get the tide data. For me, neither is a problem. I live on the East coast and the iPhone is usually connected to the Internet.
One other bit of iPhone and kayaking related business. To keep my precious safe while its in the day hatch, I wrap it in an Otter Armor series case. The case is water proof and protects the phone from shock. It adds some bulk to the phone but it is worth it. The phone is mostly usable while wrapped in it's cocoon. The only functionality that does not work in the case is the phone speaker. You can still use the phone with a headset or in speaker phone mode. Sadly, Otter decided not to make a version of this case for the iPhone 3G. It is one of the reasons I'm holding off on upgrading.
The iPhone has one other neat trick up it's sleeve for the kayaking blogger. It makes a good mobile blogging platform. I tried to use the Web version of the Blogger interface and it was passable but not a tool I'd use regularly. Then I found an application called iBlogger. It is made by the same people who make the ecto blogging client for OS X. The app usually cost $4.99 but I managed to get it on sale for $0.99. It works with all of the major blogging services, makes posting and editing old posts easy. The interface is uncluttered and makes working with a blog on the go easy. It does not, however, support posting pictures. The only pain with mobile blogging is the tiny keyboard.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Something New, Somethings Repaired, Some Wind

After a month without the Q-Boat, I was itching for some time on the water even if the forecast was less than stellar. Besides I wanted to try out the the repaired mighty stick, the Q-Boat's new keel strip, and the Egg 2.0.
The drive down was excellent. Egg 2.0 is a nice ride. The roof racks are a little noisy, but the stereo cranks good quality sound at plenty of decibels. It also has speed sensitive volume: it gets louder when the car goes faster. I took advantage of the aux jack to catch up on Mark Kermode's movie reviews - he blasted the new version of the "Day the Earth Stood Still."
At the put-in things started to go awry. I had forgotten to pack a spray skirt... I had seen H's in the wall in the garage and never thought to double check that mine was in my box... (The spray skirt hanging on the wall of the garage is not H's). The wind was stronger than I had expected. BH was running very late.
Fortunately, JS had an extra XL spray skirt. So once BH showed up and got his stuff together we set out.
There was 6 total in the group: JS, BH, KF, J, T, and myself.
We paddled out of Sakonnet Harbor and turned south - faces into a steady 15knt wind. I was glad to have the mighty stick for battling the wind. I am not in tip top shape and the paddle out the lighthouse was a slog. The wind waves made the slog even more challenging. The Q-Boat's bow would ride up one and crash into the middle of the next one. My face was covered in cold spray.
From the lighthouse we headed along the outside of the islands. It was a lively run. The wind was pushing the waves hard into the rocky shore.
When we turned back toward shore we got some very nice rides. JS told us to enjoy the rides, but to not get too close to each other. We didn't want any collisions....
J was looking for seals. We spotted a zodiac with six gentleman surrounded by swimming ducks. It wasn't until JS yelled that the ducks were decoys that I noticed the shotguns.... We made sure not to get too close.
We mucked around for another hour or so before stopping on West Island (Easter Island) for lunch. We managed to find some decent shelter for lunch. We also spotted a pod of seals who were staring mighty hard at my PB&J....
After lunch we decided to call it a day. The wind was picking up and it was cold.
The paddle back to the harbor was fun. The wind whipped up some sweet waves and pushed us right up the river.
Despite the cold, the wind, and the lack of a spray skirt, it was a good day. The mighty stick appears to be fully restored. The Q-Boat is in fine form. The repairs to the chines are hardly noticeable and the new kevlar keel strip looks like it was meant to be there. Egg 2.0 performed its job as kayak carrier with aplomb.

Egg 2.0

The quest for a new car is over. Last Friday morning I picked up Egg 2.0.
I took my time (sort of) figuring out exactly what type of vehicle would be a worthy successor for Egg 1.5. I knew the following were deal breakers:
* it needed to be less than 21k
* if couldn't be a truck
* it needed to have a hatchback
* it needed to be able to have a roof rack attached
Based on that criteria I made a list of the possible replacements and came up with the following list:
* Mini Clubman
* Suzuki SX4
* Mazda 3
* VW Rabbit
* VW Jetta SportWagon
* Honda Fit
* Toyota Matrix
* Subaru Outback Sport
I ruled out the Scion xB because it was too much like a truck. The Scion xD and the Nissan Versa didn't make the list because the Fit got much better reviews. I ruled out the Saturn Astra because I was uncertain about GM future.
From the long list I ruled out the Clubman (despite the fact that I really, really wanted to make it work) because it was a) too expensive, b) too small, and c) it takes premium fuel. I also ruled out the Suzuki because I couldn't find a local dealer and I wasn't sure about the overall quality of Suzuki's cars.
The other six cars on the list got test drives at dealers along the Auto Mile in Norwood.
The Mazda 3 had the sportiest styling of all the cars. It also had the steepest price tag to get it decently equipped. The inside on the top of the model line was OK. The seats were comfortable, but the rest of the cockpit felt a little cheap. The stereo was the best of the bunch. The interior was a lot like the feel of the car on the road. It felt really sporty, but didn't really handle that well. The suspension was stiff, but not stiff enough to give it a sport car feel.
The Toyota Matrix drove like an old station wagon that was wrapped in flashy packaging. The interior was gaudy. The suspension was stiff, but the handling was sloppy. The seats were not comfortable. The shifter was in an awkward location. The engine lacked punch.
The Honda Fit was a nice little car. It has comfortable seats, a nice stereo, and a polished interior given its bargain basement price. The stereo comes with built-in iPod integration. While not exactly sporty, the Fit handles nicely. It has decent pep and it takes turns crisply. Its ride is pleasant and the rode noise is minor. The Fit also had the 2nd largest cargo space of the group. Of all the cars I test drove the Fit surprised me the most. The only downside I found to the Fit was that it did not impress me as something I'd want to take on long highway drives with a couple of sea kayaks strapped onto the roof. It would make a great city car or a great short trip car though.
The VWs were both excellent drives. They share the same engine and drove nearly the same. Both had comfortable and polished interiors although the door wells seemed a little too deep. The controls also seemed a little too complicated in their layout. The engines had plenty of power and they accessed it smoothly. The suspensions were stiff but not jarring. They both cornered nicely. The models I drove were 6 speed automatics with triptronic shifters. It was nice to be able to manually shift the cars if desired.
The Subaru was a familiar ride in a lot of ways. The new Outback Sport looks completely different from the Egg, but much of the platform is the same. The new version is quieter and the heated seats are a nice bonus as is the upgraded stereo. The new cup holder layout is also much better. It had plenty of power that transferred to the road smoothly. It handled very well. The new suspension is a little more plush, but still stiff enough to give a sporty feel. It felt like driving my car, but just a tad nicer.
After the day of driving, I narrowed the field down to two cars: the Jetta SportWagen and the Outback Sport.
I gave them both a second drive and this time I made sure to get a 5 speed Jetta. The 5 speed Jetta was marginally zippier than the automatic Jetta. The shifting was very smooth and the golfball shaped shift handle was comfortable. The only strange thing was the shift pattern. VW puts R to the left of 1st.
The decision came down to features because I liked how they both drove.
The Jetta has 30 more sq ft. of storage area. It also comes with 30k of free maintenance. It has 5 stage heated seats, turn signals on the mirrors, anti-pinch windows, and the ability to shut the windows using the keys. It also gets better gas mileage and costs about $600 less than the Subaru.
The Subaru has AWD, fog lights, more ground clearance, a windshield wiper deicer, and a heavy duty suspension. Inside it has a rubber cargo mat and a 10 speaker, 6 disc changer with controls on the steering wheel. The Subaru also comes equipped with a custom roof rack system that is super easy to remove.
Ultimately, I decided that the Subaru was the proper choice to be Egg 2.0. The AWD, the fog lights, and the heavy-duty suspension are more important to me than the extra cargo space. Besides, the Subaru is a sexier looking car.
After two trips to RI this weekend, I can say that I am happy with the car.
One super bonus is that the car has an auxiliary jack that I can use to play my iPod through!! No more radio dead-zones!! (All of the cars in the list have auxiliary jacks and the ability to have iPod integration installed.)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Egg ID

In a comment on my last post about looking for a car to replace the egg, Marlana wisely suggested that I look at Subarus. When H read the comment she chuckled because she was pretty sure I never mentioned what kind of car I actually drive (other than an egg with antlers).
Well the egg is a 2004 Subaru Outback Sport. It has been a terrific vehicle. So much so, that I am likely going to replace it with a shiny new egg. The only real struggle I'm having is that I feel like buying the same car three times in a row is a little boring. (The egg was a replacement for a 2002 Outback Sport that suffered a tragic drowning incident at a poorly marked boat ramp.)
I'll report later on my research into cars for kayaking.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Kayaking Cars

After six years and 93k hard miles being both a sports car and a gear hauler (some times simultaneously), the egg needs some major maintenance. The head gaskets are starting to leak, the exhaust is starting to succumb to the salt, and the pistons are making some noise. I can invest a few K in refurbishing it and it should last a few more years, or I can trade it in and get a new car. While I really like the egg and don't really want a car payment, the cost of the refurb is close to its value and I'm really hard on my car.
So if I'm going to replace the egg the question is: What to replace it with?
The car I think I want is a Mini Clubman. It is sporty, gets good gas mileage, and has more room than a regular Mini. Sadly, it is only a two door and more room than a regular Mini does not translate into much room for stuff. It also doesn't have All Wheel Drive.
I like to be ale to carry two kayaks, all the gear needed for two paddlers (Spring/Fall gear-levels), camping gear for at least a weekend, two bikes, the gear for the bikes, and potentially a child and their associated stuff.
As H pointed out what I really want is an economical, sports car that has the hauling capacity of a van. While there are many cars that come close to fitting bill, most fall short.
A new egg has a ton of room, AWD, 4 doors, and drives like a sporty car. Unfortunately it gets similar gas mileage to most small trucks.
I tried out a Honda Fit. It has tons of room, 4 doors, and gets great gas mileage. Unfortunately its powered by a gerbil.
I was thinking about trying out a Mazda 3, a Suzuki CX4, and a Rabbit. They all claim to be sporty wagons. The Mazda has the Zoom, Zoom image, the Suzuki offers up AWD at bargain basement prices, and the Rabbit has German engineering.
Are there any other cars that would fit the bill? They need to be sporty to drive, have 4 doors, and have largish luggage capacity. The other requirement is that it needs to be under 25k.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

You call that gale force?

After skipping a paddle the previous weekend, I wanted to paddle this one. When PB posted that the currents at Stone Bridge would be ripe for playing and that the winds were forecasted to oppose the current, I definitely wanted to paddle.
By mid-week, however, the forecast had gone from exciting to scary. Winds were forecasted to be in the 20-30 knt range on Saturday. CC sent e-mail around wondering if her friends were sane or crazy... I pondered the same thing myself.
Caution being the better part of valor, we should have decided to cancel the paddle. A 3+ knt tidal current is exciting, but potentially dangerous. 20-30 knt winds make paddling challenging and make it easier to get cold. Cold water is dangerous. Combine the three and it is a recipe for disaster. If a paddler came out of the cockpit, they could easily get washed downstream a good distance before a rescuer reached them. The potential for someone being in the water for 5 to 10 minutes is very real.
However, haste does make for wasted opportunities. There was still time for the forecast to change and haste does make waste. Stone Bridge also has a few features that makes it a perfect place to push things in otherwise foolish conditions: There is easy access to beaches on either side of the channel. The put-in is right next to the tidal race. It is easy to get out of the race and find an eddy in which to rest.
I decided the best course was temper my excitement, but still plan on playing in some monumental conditions.
By Friday, the forecast had actually deteriorated. It now called for 35knt gusts, 100% chance of rain, and thunder storms...
Paul posts that the paddle is a go. He makes it very clear that it will be a definite level 5. I decide to wait and see what things look like on Saturday morning...
When I dragged my carcass out of bed this morning, it wasn't raining and PB had not posted a cancellation. I checked the weather radar and saw that there was rain in the air, but not in our area yet.
So, I dragged myself into the bedroom to figure out the right combination of clothes to wear under the drysuit. I opted for a single layer of thermal underwear figuring the air temperature was in the 60s, the conditions called for pretty serious exertion, and I'd be near the car if I got cold. Then I tossed a hodgepodge of post paddle clothes into a dry bag.
I muddled my way through packing the proper gear into the egg. I decided not to bring the newly restored mighty stick. It is not the best tool for paddling in monumental conditions and I didn't really want to risk breaking it again.
I roused H for help loading the Q-Boat on the roof. After we secured the kayak on the roof, she reminded me to get the key for the Lendal paddles. It was secured to her PFD and her whistle in a tangle of thin yellow twine. If I had my knife handy... Instead I fumbled around unraveling the mess.
I finally got out of the driveway 20 minutes later than I planned. To make up some lost time, I decided to skip my usual coffee stop. I figured I could always get my fix at Coastal Roasters since it is a short walk from the put-in.
Immediately after I got on Rt. 24 I could feel myself fading. Focusing on the road was a struggle. I had to stop at the rest area for coffee even if it was Dunkin Donuts coffee.
After purchasing my caffeine fix, I checked my phone to see if the paddle was still a go. TM had left me a message saying that he was not paddling today, but he would meet us at the put-in. Apparently his morning had been a little to hectic....
When I finally arrived at the put-in the sky was grey, the wind was mild, and the race was flat. PB, BH, JS, and HDT were discussing what to do. CR stopped by to give us a little grief and invite over to OSA for post paddle cider. TM showed up to wish us all well and chat.
It was about then that PB decided we should at least take a warm up paddle around Gould Island. So we unloaded the kayaks onto the beach, donned our dry suits, encased our knoggins in helmets, assembled our paddles, and hit the water.
Once on the water, I knew something was not right. I felt a little too tippy. My back and shoulders were stiff. I figured it was just kinks from not paddling in a few weeks. After a little bit of warm up, I'd be right as rain.
HDT, BH, and JS decided to pass on the warm-up paddle. They headed straight for the tidal race.
The race current was fast and strong, but it was flat. We all did a little playing near the red can. I actually got a little too close and dinged it with my bow.
I was feeling a little better, but still not right. I decided that I wouldn't push it unless the conditions grew to epic levels. I just paddled around taking pictures and movies with my new Option W60.
At one point the fog slammed down on us. JS and BH were playing in the current and I went looking for PB who was hanging out towards the tail of the race. One minute it was grey and cloudy, the next minute I couldn't see beyond the tip of my bow. I got completely disoriented. When the fog suddenly lifted, I was shocked to see where I was.
A little while later I saw TM return from his trip to Osprey Sea Kayaking. He climbed out onto the end of the jetty to see what we were doing. It was then that I noticed that BH and JS were surfing some nice waves.
The wind and currents had finally synched up to create some nice wave action. PB and I headed into the race to catch some rides. The first time through the race, I nearly speared PB. A caught a nice wave and the nose of the Q-Boat veered to the left and straight at PB's torso. I didn't want to dump, so I decided to try emergency maneuvers. I dug a rudder in and leaned hard. Fortunately, I managed to force the bow to continue its left turn and miss a collision.
The second time through the race, PB and I actually did collide. He caught a nice wave in front of me. Then I caught a nice wave that I thought would push me to the left. Instead the Q-Boat's bow cut right and towards PB's back. I was able to control the turn enough to miss PB's body, but not enough to miss his hull. The Q-Boat's nose slid up onto PB's rear deck. I had visions of us getting stuck together and one of us going for a swim. Luckily, PB's kayaked squirted out from under my bow and back into the waves.
I caught a few more rides and decided to call it a day. I still wasn't feeling on top of my game, and didn't want to push things too much.
The epic conditions never materialized, but that was OK. I wasn't ready for epic conditions today. I would likely have tried to test my meddle against the conditions had they materialized, and quickly realized I should have stayed on dry land.
The conditions that did materialize were perfect. I got a chance to get in the kayak and play in some waves. It was perfect.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Hull Repair Follies

When I went out with Greg Paquin a few weeks ago, I put a few dings in the Q-boat's chines.
Many of them were small enough to fix with the one part gel coat scratch repair kit from West Marine. I squirted some in the ding and the goo magically hardened. I then did a little sanding to make them flush with the hull. The repairs look OK. The gel coat in the repair kit is white and the Q-boat is quill, so you can see the patch. The little blemish gives the boat character.
There were two dings, however, that were bigger than I felt comfortable using the scratch repair kit. Since there is a West Marine on H's drive home from work, I asked her to stop and pick me up some gel goat. The sales guy told her they did not have any and recommended a product called Marine Tec. It is a putty for repairing boat hulls. She called me to make sure it was OK and the sales guy told me it was perfect for patching gel coat....
I read the directions, donned some latex gloves - the stuff is apparently toxic through skin contact - mixed the putty with the hardener, and applied it to the dings. I did my best to smooth it out, but this is tough wearing latex dishwashing gloves. Then I waited. According to the directions, it takes like 18 hours for the stuff to fully cure. Since the Q-boat lives in the garage, I rigged up a lamp to keep the repairs above the recommended 55 degrees.
The next morning, as I was packing up the Q-boat for a paddle on the Charles, I realized the goo was still tacky. It had been 16 hours since the repair had been applied.
I asked JS about Marine Tec while getting ready to launch onto the Charles. He said it was crap and that I need to remove the stuff and replace it with actual gel coat. He also said I could use Solar Res.
I stored the knowledge away for the next repair. If the Marine Tec hardened up so I could sand it smooth, I was going to keep it...
When we got back from paddling on the Charles, six hours later, the goo was still tacky. A week later it was still tacky.....
It was going to have to come out.
Easier said than done. This toxic taffy requires a small sharp tool to dig out. I spent a good half hour working it out today and I'm likely going to have to spend another hour to clean out just one of the botched repairs....
Next time I'm just going to being it to Carl Ladd. He does excellent work and spares me the pain...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Traditional Paddling Courses

I've been tossing around the idea of getting my ACA instructor certification and trying to make traditional paddling easier to access for regular paddlers. What I've noticed in my area is that traditional paddling, while it is becoming more accepted, is still considered a niche. There are very few ways, other than knowing someone, to get basic instruction.
There are some great coaches around. I took a course with Cheri and Turner that was pretty basic. They, along with Greg Stammer, offered some instruction at the Rough Water Symposium. But these are few and far between.
The other problem is that they are not really geared toward beginning or recreational paddlers. The course I took with Cheri and Turner started off with rolling. While I understand the rational, I also think that most recreational paddlers would be scared away. Symposiums are also not venues for beginners or soft-core paddlers.
The course, or series of courses, I have in mind looks a lot like the existing progressions but uses traditional paddles. So the first class in the series would focus on getting paddlers comfortable in their kayaks, a basic forward stroke, and some basic turning strokes. From that foundation, more advanced courses could focus on better boat handling and paddling in more adverse conditions.
The rational is that I think there are people who would benefit from using traditional paddles, but will never reach the level of kayaking where they are likely to be exposed to it. I imagine that there are plenty of paddlers whose shoulders or wrists hurt when using a Euro paddle, but never leave the estuaries and protected coves. Perhaps they only go a few miles along the coast in perfect weather. These paddlers will never buy, or use, a "real" sea-kayak. They may be using a 14' rec boat.
In my head this sounds like a great plan. I wonder if this is an actual need. Am I just making this up? Is there any merit to this?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Barking Crab '08

The annual Barking Crab paddle was today.
This annual paddle is a big hit with people, so the early week weather forecasts saddened me more than usual. Then the weather gods decided to smile on me and flipped the weekend weather. Saturday went from sunny to windy and rainy. Sunday went from windy and wet to sunny!!!
As usual we had a good turn out. We had 12 paddlers in 11 kayaks.
While we were getting ready to paddle it was hard to decide what to wear. The overnight dampness and clouds were lingering making it a little chilly. The forecast called for the clouds to burn off and the temperatures to climb into the sixties. H decided to start off with her dry-top as did a few other people. I went the other way and decided to stuff the dry-top in the front hatch.
Within minutes of our hulls hitting the water, the sky cleared up. The temperatures started to climb. It didn't take long for people to start shedding layers.
The day was perfect for paddling. There was plenty of sun, the air was clear, and there was just a hint of a breeze. The trees blazed in reds, yellows, oranges, and greens. We had the river to ourselves.
We made decent time paddling up the river, through the locks, across the inner harbor, and to the Barking Crab. Nobody pushed themselves. It was nice doing a relaxing paddle where I could chat with people.
At the Barking Crab we did the awkward high-deck landing. There is nothing pretty about watching someone climb onto a deck that is two feet higher than the deck of their kayak. We had no swimmers.
Usually, we get put out in the back tent. Apparently the inside crowd doesn't appreciate a bunch of smelly, sharply dressed kayakers. This year, however, they put us inside. It was very civilized.
The paddle home was much more relaxed than the paddle to the Crab. There is nothing light about the food at the Crab, so we all felt a little slow. Besides there were distractions....
A group of people wanted to see just how close you could get to the Constitution without getting shot. You cannot get very close to the Constitution because they've closed off the entrance to its mooring. You can sneak in pretty close to the destroyer next to it before a park ranger shoos you away.
I suffered from an urgent bladder issue. I figured that there would be plenty of places I could stop and take care of it. Boy was I wrong. There are very few docks along the way. The places where one could stop and stabilize the kayak had audiences.
Finally, I found a deserted boat house that had a spot where you could hide and relieve yourself. I hopped out, ran around the back, did the business, and as I was finishing up spotted a boat rushing towards the boat house..., The college kids who disembarked didn't say anything as I slipped back into the Q-Boat.
Towards the end of the paddle people started getting tired. This trip is not difficult, but it is long. My guess is that it is between twelve and eighteen miles.
After the paddle, we invited people over the house for chilly and coffee. It is always nice to have good post paddle food and conversation.
This was a great way to start off the cold weather paddling season.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Howling Winds and Crashing Rocks

The weather this morning was looking dodgy for a paddle. The sky was overcast and the winds were forecast to be in the 20-25knt range with much stronger gusts.
I was, in what is a becoming scarily regular condition, feeling less than 100%.
My mind was teetering on the fence: go back to bed and spend part of the day catching up on house chores and work or go test my mettle by going on a rock gardening trip in high winds.....
I was willing to surrender to my inner lammo and packed the car. I also packed up my computer. The plan was that if conditions were really bad, or I just didn't feel up for it, I could find a coffee shop and join the ranks of the coffee-addled, Macbook Pro touting, headphone ensconced intelligentsia.
H was pretty sure that the computer would never be powered up. She knows me well enough to know that once I was at the put-in and TM showed up, I'd put aside any lurking doubts and paddle.
Crossing the Jamestown bridge and looking at the West Passage, I was convinced that there was no way the Q-boat was going in the water. However, I was still going to at least go to the put-in, so I could tell myself I gave it the old college try. Bailing out without showing up was just too lame.
I showed up early and then GP showed up. He started hauling his kayak off and getting ready. I was staunchly waiting to see if more people showed up. I wanted some safety in numbers and I wanted to know the plan before committing.
Eventually, TM, CC, BH, RB, Greg Paquin(, and PR arrived. Once everyone showed up, I took the Q-Boat off the car and donned the drysuit. H was right; I couldn't resist the energy of the group.
We started off heading into the wind. We paddled from Wetherill to Jamestown. By hugging the coastline we were able to avoid the brunt of the wind, but there were still spots where it was rip the paddle out of your hand strong.
Just past the DCR building, we were forced out of the protection of the coast and got slammed by the wind. Going forward was not a wise option. We decided to head back and play around the coast between Wetherill and Mackerel Cove.
On the way back the wind kept tripping the kayaks up. RB decided not to push his luck and stopped at Wetherill. The rest of the group continued down the coast looking for places to get in trouble.
The wind stirred up enough wave action to make the rocks challenging. We all pushed our boundaries on quite a few occasions. It was exhilarating. BH even got a chance to show off his combat roll in the rocks again.
Another nice thing was that despite the fact that we were all playing in the same formations, we rarely suffered from dangerous traffic jams.
Greg and PP, who both have a gift for paddling and coaching, gave us a lot of useful tips.
One of the best was to watch how the waves push your kayak around before deciding where to set up for a run through some rocks. You may want to set up out of position and let the waves push you into position as the wave runs through the formation. It makes perfect sense, but I'd never thought of it. I typically try to position myself perfectly for a run and then get frustrated when I cannot stay there at the crucial moment.
Another thing I learned was why a paddler would use cross-bow rudders instead of a regular bow rudder. The cross-bow rudder provides more leverage and a faster turn. I tried it several times, and it is a nice stroke. I'm still not comfortable enough with it to use in rough water. I feel a touch off balance.
After the paddle I was pooped, but very glad I had gone. It was the most challenging paddle of the season for me. The Q-boat has a few nice dings along the chines that need to be patched, which is good. I figure that if the kayak doesn't have a little damage at the end of the season I haven't really pushed myself.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

In Search of the Weekday Rush

TM has been on a quest to find the ultimate tidal conditions for the last few months. About a two weeks ago he made it clear that the best day in October for the Westport River was today. About a week ago, he started pushing to get people to skip out of work to play. By Friday, the paddle was posted on the message board.
I'm usually one of the first people to jump at the chance to skip out of work midweek and take a chance at playing in the mouth of the Westport River. The Westport River is one of my favorite places to paddle and midweek paddles are always fun. This time, however, I was feeling uncertain. Work is crazy lately. I've got an gargantuan, and growing, pile of tasks with high-priority stickers and immediate deadlines sitting on my desk. Part of me felt like it would be irresponsible of me to skip out of work for the day. Part of me realized that one day, a day that I have to take before the end of the month or lose, was not going to make the pile appreciably smaller. Part of me realized that the only way out of the ridiculous, unrealistic, unassailable hole I'm in at work is to take a much needed breather. The pile on my desk has been in perpetual backfill for months. As soon as one task gets completed, three more high priority ones take its place.
So, I promised myself that I would take the day and not think about work.
Except for the dial-in meeting that was of "super-high" priority. It was a dial-in meeting, so I could listen in from the safety of my car as I drove to the put-in... The dial-in information for the meeting was wrong, so I spent 30 minutes in a rest area trying to find the correct information and get dialed-in. When it was apparent that I was not going to get dialed-in and that I was going to be late for the paddle, I called PB to tell him I'd be late and got back on 128. I was not happy about how the day was starting.
Fortunately, the roads were clear and I made excellent time. It was surprising since I was driving during the AM rush hour.
I got to the put-in only slightly late and made excellent time getting ready. TM and PB got the Q-boat off of the car. CR and RR (no relation) helped me unpack the egg. i was ready to go in five minutes - a record for me - and didn't forget a thing.
We paddled out the mouth expecting to find the current flooding out like mad. What we found was fast, but flat, water flooding out. So, we decided to poke around the rocks on the outside of the river.
The waves from Buzzard's Bay were smallish and didn't pose any real challenges for rock gardening. It was fun to poke around and try out some skills that would be suicide in rough water. Still I was hoping for more....
We went back into the mouth to see if things were any more interesting, but it was still flat. The current was moving quick, but without an opposing wind it didn't make any waves.
We decided to head off towards Horseneck Beach to find some waves to surf. About half way, we found some small waves to play in. PB and I stopped to play before the others did and caught a few nice waves.
The others were about 100-200 yards away from us when we heard a large a loud crash. I looked over and saw RR shooting down a wave as JS and CR separated from each other. It looked like a close call where three people tried to catch the same wave.
When PB and I joined up with the rest of the group, we discovered it was much worse than a close call. CR's kayak had a fist sized hole in its side and she was paddling straight for shore. Apparently, JS caught a wave and found himself surfing into CR. He couldn't maneuver his kayak in time to avoid her and didn't think of flipping over to stop his momentum. (If you find yourself careening down a wave into another kayaker, a surfer, or any other person in the water, you need to flip your kayak over to arrest your momentum. The drag of your body in the water will precipitously slow the forward progress of your kayak. It is the best way to avoid seriously injuring the other person.) So, he speared her pretty hard. The nose of his kayak shattered her hull and whacked her thigh.
Fortunately, the beach was less than a half mile walk to the cars. We were able to get CR ice for her thigh, which swelled up like a ballon. We were also able to get a car to carry her kayak back to the put-in. She was determined to field patch her kayak and paddle it back. We were all convinced she could have managed it. However, there was no need to push lady luck. We carried her kayak to JS's car and she drove back to the put-in.
We expected the return trip to be a low-key affair, but PB noticed that there was some action at the mouth of the river. He started peel off from the group to investigate and I immediately joined him. TM and RR followed. As the water level got lower, the tidal stream at the mouth of the river got more active. The lowered water level meant that the surface was more effected by the contours of the river floor.
We got 10-20 minutes of solid play time in the race. The waves at the top of the race were decent sized and pretty consistent. The way things were set up made playing and resting easy. You could jump into the race and surf for as long as you'd like and then glide out the top into a nice calm pool of water. When you were ready to play some more, you could edge into the current, ride it out a ways, and jump back on the wave train.
After the paddle we made the long drive to Coastal Roasters for the best coffee in RI. The sun was poised perfectly. The view of Stone Bridge from the patio was a vision. As the sun set and we prepared to leave, a paddler swept through the abutments and towards a safe landing in Bristol.
Days like this make me wonder why I toil away under life sucking fluorescent lights and the glare of an LED computer screen.... Oh yeah, it is so I can afford to have days like today.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Paddling with Cruise Ships

I've found that over the years I've sort of outgrown level two paddles. Or the adrenaline junkie that I pretend doesn't exist cannot fathom paddling without the extreme possibility of mahem... Either way, I don't do a lot of level two paddles these days which is too bad. They can be fun and relaxing.
Today RC led a level two paddle out of Jamestown and over to Newport. Since today was the only open slot in H and my packed weekend schedule, we jumped at the chance to get on the water.
The weather was perfect: sunny, cool, and calm. The group was a nice mix of people: some that I don't get to see often since they avoid the crazy paddles.
We headed up the Bay towards the Newport Bridge. Then we crossed over to Roes Island. Then we turned into Newport Harbor.
The outer harbor was dominated by two cruise ships. One was an old school ship the other was one of the new style ships. They were both gigantic. Looking at the massive, tall ships I always think they would just tip over in the slightest of waves.

The inner harbor was a buzz with the launches from the ships shuttling tourists into Newport. The launches, which look like life capsules formed a steady line between the docks and the ships. As soon as one left the dock, another landed and another stepped into the batter's box.
We had lunch on the beach just before Fort Adams. Then we paddled along the Newport Coast to Castle Hill.
Once back along the Jamestown coast we paddled back to the beach.
It was exactly what a level two paddle should be: fun and relaxing.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

A Jewel of an Island

For the last few weeks we have been talking about doing one last kayak camping trip this year. With the warm weather vanishing, our window was shrinking. At a dinner gathering last weekend, we decided that we would definitely go this weekend.

We decided to return to Winslow Park in Freeport, ME for a launching point. It has a nice ramp, plenty of over night parking, and access to a number of nice camping islands.
When the weekend finally arrived, I was on the fence about actually going. Work has been completely crazy for me lately and I was beginning to feel very overwhelmed with my merciless pile of to-dos. I needed to spend the weekend attempting to catch-up. I needed to spend the weekend decompressing. I didn't want to stop H from enjoying the weekend.....
I decided to go and told myself that I would ignore the shrill little voice keening in my head.
We arrived at the launch before lunch and took our time getting on the water. The weekend was about relaxing...

Once on the water we planned on paddling out to Jewel Island. It is the farthest northern island on the Maine Island Trail and an eight mile paddle from the launch. We planned our route out so that we could bail out and camp on Bangs Island if we wanted.

Fortunately, we committed to paddling out to Jewel Island. The camp sites were great. We found an excellent group site where we ad a fantastic fire. In the morning we took advantage of the pleasant hiking trails to explore the island. Jewel was the site of a WW2 camp and the remains can be seen all over the island. The two best attractions are the fire towers that jut out over the tree line and offer spectacular views of Casco Bay. We also found some neat tunnels to explore, but we couldn't go to far without the flashlights.

After exploring the island we leisurely broke camp and prepared to paddle back to the cars. The return voyage was pleasant.
We had dinner at a lobster shack along the river. The food was fantastic and the deserts were better.

I definitely made the right decision in going. The work pile will isn't going anywhere....

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Crossing Stone Bridge

We finally got a day where the currents and the weather lined up enough to give us some opportunity to play at Stone Bridge. H, who was feeling the effects of paddle withdrawal, even joined us.
TM planned the day so that we would get some calm water paddling in before lunch and then play for a little while in the afternoon.
The morning paddle was pleasant. We meandered our way north for a few miles. At the point where the Sakonnet River splits off into Mt. Hope Bay, we turned back for lunch. It was a nice way to warm up. The paddling was leisurely and the weather was perfect.
After lunch, we headed out to the race for some play. The current was pretty tame. H spent a little time getting a feel for moving water. A number of us tried to find some standing waves to surf. Sadly, there wasn't much there.
JS showed people a few good drills for doing eddy turns. The best was trying to cross the eddy line backwards. Most people took a swim trying it. What caught me up was the lean. My natural instinct is to lean the wrong way. The result is the edge gets caught in the current and over I went. Even when I tried to fix the proper lean direction in my mind before backing into the line, my first move was wrong. I had a hard time learning to drive in reverse too.....
Before heading back in, JS got most of us to practice our rolls in the current. Just about everyone managed to come back up.
Despite the mild conditions in the race, it was a fun day on the water. (Is there ever a bad day on the water?)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Coordinator Training

First a warning: This post is going to end with a rant about internal club politics. I'll try to clearly indicate the switch, so the uninterested can skip it.
Today was the annual RIC/KA Sea Kayaking Coordinator Training/Reward course. This annual event is run by Carl Ladd and offered to people who have volunteered to help out the club by coordinating trips. A group of the more experienced RIC/KA paddlers (TM, OB, PH, CC, BH, JS, CMO, KB) and one newer paddler (RC), spent the day playing off of Sakonnet Point. Carl decided to run the class as a loose workshop. The conditions were pretty tame.
Before lunch we did a little playing in the rocks. In between play sessions, Carl gave us pointers on how to coordinate the group. The tip that sticks out in my mind was about rescuing paddlers in the rocks. Don't do it. Have the victim push their kayak out and swim away from the rocks. The chances of the rescue kayak injuring the victim is high. The chances of the rescuer becoming a victim is also high.
During lunch we talked about how to organize a group to avoid traffic jams in the rocks. We also discussed the proper etiquette in the surf zone.
After lunch we did a little surfing. We even got to practice rescues in the surf zone.
Overall it was a fun day on the water. We also got a few good tips on how to manage groups.
(Here comes the rant) While this yearly session is fun, I don't think it really maximizes the club resources:

  • It happens too late in the season. At this point in the season most of the group trips are over. We are not going to really practice things now that the water is cooling off. If the course happened early in the season we could use the skills and tips over the course of the season. We could even have a practice session or two.
  • The participants are hand picked. It doesn't really help bring paddlers through the ranks.
  • The open workshop format doesn't offer enough structure or situational challenges. Carl's tips are excellent, but it would be great to run through a number of situational challenges to experience first hand what can go wrong on a group trip.
I'd like to see a leadership/coordinator workshop at the beginning of the season. It would have a limited number of slots that any member of the club could take. Since, the number of openings would be limited, preference would have to be given to paddlers who agreed to lead at least one trip or have helped out on trips in the past. The course itself would consist of two parts: a classroom session where some navigation and basic leadership skills would be discussed and an on-water session where each member of the class gets to lead part of a trip and different scenarios are thrown at the class. I guess it would be a day and a half.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

After the Storm

Hurricanes can really screw up weekend kayaking trips. Hanah churned up the RI coast something fierce. The Saturday paddle out of Westport river was cancelled because of extreme conditions. The forecast for for the Sakonnett Pt. paddle called for nine to twelve foot swells. No sane person would consider paddling in those conditions.
Fortunately, TM had a back-up plan. Launch from Bay Campus and paddle the west passage of Narragansett Bay. The marine forecast for inside the bay only called for eight to ten foot swells at the entrance. The Bay Campus is pretty deep in the Bay. The swells would have lost their power before getting there. From the Bay Campus we could paddle towards the mouth and feel the big swells or we could retreat further into the Bay.
I thought TM's plan sounded excellent. How often does one get a chance to paddle in really big conditions in relative safety? Knowing TM, I knew we'd get a little crazy, but not that suicidal. To top it off the skies were going to be clear and partly sunny.
My only concern was that I'd drive the 90 minutes to Bay Campus to find that conditions were too big. The price of gas has reduced my willingness to drive without a guarantee of kayaking.
H, on the other hand, thought it sounded crazy. She started to doubt her assessment of TM as the cautious one of the group. It also had doubting my grip on sanity. Based on the forecast, she thought going on the water was a suicide mission.
Before letting me out the door, H made me promise to be the responsible one and to warn TM that if anything happened to me, he would incur the wrath of an H-bomb.
As I packed the car in the morning, I decided not to bring the substitute stick. I thought the conditions warranted a Euro paddle. I packed up my Kinetic Touring as a primary paddle and H's Kinetic Touring S as a back-up. The scoopy lollipop blades would give me more quick power. I figured quick power was a good thing in eight to ten foot waves.
I was shocked when I got to Bay Campus. The parking lot was packed with mad men looking to test their metal. As I expected, BH and NF were there. In addition, RR, JS and JS were waiting to test their metal.
From the beach the water looked calm. It wasn't until we reached the beginning of Bonnet Bluffs that the reality of the conditions became apparent. The swells, which were eight feet, had long periods so they didn't feel huge. When they crashed into the bluffs, however, the fury of the water was evident.
We stayed well off shore as we paddled towards Bonnet Shores. I didn't even seriously consider playing near the rocks. I kept checking on BH and NF to see if they were tempted to drift too close. One misstep and the surf would wreck a kayak, or a kayaker's skull, on the rocks.
We swung wide around the guardian rock at the entrance to Bonnet Cove and headed into Annawan for a quick rest.
While the others rested, NF and I stayed on the water and played in the rocks near the beach. I watched NF slip in behind a set of rocks with ease and then I looked behind me. I was sitting in the path of a wave with my name on it. Unfortunately, I was also sitting just in front of a set of sharp rocks.... I settled in, made a quick turn to point the Q-Boat towards a gap in the rocks and caught the wave. Once on the wave I dipped the paddle in for a strong ruddering stroke and dug in the Q-Boat's edge. Luckily, I managed to steer the Q-Boat through the narrow gap and fall off the wave between the rocks and the rocky shore.
I'd jumped out of the fire and into the frying pan. I was trapped between a large set of swells and the rocky shore. The rock ledge I had navigated through stood the waves up and sent them crashing down. My dash through the rocks left me breach to the waves, so I braced through the first wave. Then I edged the Q-Boat over, dug my ice cream scoop in, and yanked myself head on into the waves. One properly positioned I was able to work my way back into deeper water.
Before NF and I could get into any more trouble, the group decided to head over to Whale Rock to see what it was like at the mouth of the Bay.
Whale Rock is always an interesting place to paddle. There is usually some breaking waves. Today the waves were breaking big. Spray was going over the top of the tower.
Most of the group were content to stay a good distance off and just look. NF, however, thought it would be fun to get in close and see what fun could be had. I decided to get some pictures of him and drifted in close enough to get some decent shots.
Once I had my camera out and my paddle stowed, a set of extra-large swells rolled into the Bay. The swells split around Whale Rock and met where I was sitting. My world went from bobbing up and down to tilting wildly. I dropped the camera and grabbed the paddle. I heard someone yelling at me to "get out of there." That was my plan... The swells were breaking at random locations around me. One would break off my bow, the next would break to my starboard, the next off my bow, and then a set would break off my tail. I basically did a balancing act until the big swells moved past and things calmed down. It was probably only a few minutes, but it felt like twenty.
From Whale Rock we decided to cross the Bay and return home along the Jamestown coast. We could see Beavertail being pounded and decided to aim a good deal further inland than normal.
Crossing the Bay was easy. The swells were big, but long periods. The kayaks rode up and down, up and down.
Once we turned north along the Jamestown coast we figured we were clear. BH, NF, and I moved in closer to the rocks. Suddenly, some yelled for us to watch our backs. I turned to see a big swell racing towards us and the rest of the group moving to open water like a school of fish. I was behind NF and BH, so I made it to open water with ease. They also made it through the rouge swell, but it was much more exciting for them.
The rest of the paddle was pretty mellow. We had lunch on Jamestown and watched the swells battering Bonnet Bluffs. Despite the half-jokes about playing there, everyone knew that it was a bad idea.
We returned to the Bay Campus and found PB relaxing on the beach. He wanted to see who was crazy enough to go out in these conditions.
Once we were all off the water, we retired to Java Madness for a little post paddle coffee and conversation.
I knew TM's plan was a great idea!! The crazy ones always turn out best.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Rough Water Symposium

TM tried for weeks to get me to attend this year's New England Rough Water Symposium. I wanted to go, but was torn. There was a potential family obligation that weekend, so I had an iron clad excuse for not attending. The family obligation just provided a good cover for the more complex reasons for not attending. The money issue was another good cover reason. The real issues keeping me back were fear based. I was afraid of going and finding out that I was not nearly as good as I think I am. In fact I was very afraid that I wouldn't be able to cut it with real instructors around. On the other hand, I really wanted to get some instruction from top notch coaches and stretch my skills a little bit.
The family obligation vanished last weekend, so I no longer had my iron clad excuse.... I still wasn't ready to drop $600 and three days to kayaking and potential emotional torture. Remembering that there had been talk of single day slots being offered, I decided to contact Maine Island Kayak, who organizes the event, to see if I could do a single day of current work on Friday. Fortunately, there was space available and I jumped at the opportunity. It seemed like a great compromise: one day of training in tidal races was worth a limited amount of self-inflicted emotional torture.
The day started early with a group meeting to load the trailer at 8am.
Fortunately for me, TM was gracious enough to offer me lodging. The food and amenities were superb.
After loading the trailer, we repaired to the cafeteria for a briefing on the BCU star system. Nigel Denis - THE Nigel Denis - gave our group a 30 minute overview of the revised BCU star system and explained some of the thinking behind it. TM and I were skeptical about the value of the session until it got underway. The new system makes a lot of sense. I particularly like the fact that they made the four star about more than just boat handling. Boat handling skills are key to being a good paddler, but judgment, navigation skills, and group skills make a good paddler a great paddler.
The presentation also made it seem like most RIC/KA coordinators operate at a near-four star level. I'm not saying that anyone of us could just walk through the four star certification. Based on the quick presentation, however, I do think that most of the coordinators would be able to take the four star training and not embarrass themselves.
The on-the-water action took place off of Stonington, CT. We paddled out to the race off of the eastern end of Fisher's Island and played a little bit. The conditions were not particularly big, but it was a nice warm-up. We all caught a few good rides.
One of the coaches pointed out that sticks were not the greatest for playing in currents and catching waves. I agreed that a stick is not the best choice for catching waves, but that it was more than adequate. The truth is that a big lollipop Euro blade is better at getting the quick acceleration required to catch waves than a stick. They grab more water and provide instant power. A stick is a more subtle instrument that is geared towards gentle, even acceleration. That does not mean that a stick cannot be used to catch waves. I definitely caught a few before lunch - and my body wasn't beaten to a pulp doing it.
After lunch we moved eastward to follow the races along Sugar Reef. The conditions in the afternoon were a little more powerful than in the afternoon. Harry, the British coach, encouraged us to hold off on using rudder strokes when we caught waves. His advice was to keep using forward strokes and use your lower body to control the kayak. Moving to a rudder stroke kills the kayak's hull speed and shortens your ride.
It was tricky. First, I had to overcome a very ingrained behavior. Second, I had to trust my balance to edge the kayak while on the wave. Several times the Q-boat decided to turn right down the face of a wave and I could not get it to straighten out. Harry suggested that I should drop my left foot off the foot pegs while edging to increase the pressure on the turn. Scary and in many cases only marginally more effective. He also said that sometimes there is just nothing you could do short of ruddering once the kayak's nose got more than a few degrees off of straight.
At one point in the afternoon I was trying to make a sharp turn and caught the edge of the Q-boat in the current. I did a quick brace and heard a loud crack. I was afraid I had broken the mighty stick. I did a quick inspection and it seemed fine. So, I continued to play.
A few minutes later I caught the edge again and just let myself go over. Rolled up easily and was right back in the fray.
At one point Harry offered to let me use his Euro paddle. It made getting on the waves much easier. I could get the Q-Boat up to speed much faster. I had fun for five or ten minutes until I got cocky...
I tried to make a quick sweep turn and tripped. I tried to roll up, but blew it. I considered making a second attempt, but decided against it. I was beginning to get tired and I had a strange paddle. I popped out and Harry rescued me.
On the way back to the put-in my paddle felt like it had a little extra flex in it. Then I felt a sharp spot on my hand when back paddling... There was a stress fracture in the mighty stick.
I was really bummed. H gave me this paddle as a wedding present, so it had a lot of sentimental value. It was also a great paddle. It felt really good in my hands, had a lot of power, and looked great. I was also dreading telling H it was broken. I was afraid she'd be heart broken. I was.
When I called H from the parking lot, she was happy that I had enjoyed myself playing in the currents. She was also less upset about the paddle than I was. She told me "I got it for you to use."
The day of training was great. I gained some confidence in my skills and learned a few little tricks.
Perhaps next year I'll do two days....

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Cuttyhunk Reduex

Today was the redo date for the yearly Cuttyhunk paddle. The attempt earlier in the year was completely fogged out. This time around there was no fog or wind. In fact, it was a near perfect day. The water was completely flat and the winds were calm.
The trip from Gooseberry Pt. to Cuttyhunk was uneventful. It was nice to just slip into the zone. The blades slip into the water effortlessly and then gradually bite. Almost as soon as I feel the bite the paddle gives a little snap and the blade comes around to begin the cycle again. Each time the stomach muscles tighten and release a little more of the weeks stress melts away...
On the return trip we decided to detour around Penikese Island. This added a few more miles to the trip and through some of pre-planned navigation off. TM had calculated bearings for both the trip out and the return trip. He did the recalculation on the fly to account for the detour, but some of the group were not convinced of the new bearing.
The navigation disagreement didn't immediately cause any real issues. Over time though, it became an issue. TM held steady to his bearing while others decided that he had corrected too much and followed a different bearing. The group started drifting apart. Paddlers didn't know which person to follow... I decided to stay in the middle of the group. I could easily see our destination, so I knew that ultimately it didn't matter who was right. Both bearings would get us to the landing with only a little extra paddling.
After the paddle, JS graciously invited us to his house for pizza and beer. His house is lovely and has an outdoor shower for washing the salt off a tired body. The pizza, beer, and lovely setting was just thing to unwind after a long day of paddling.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Pier 5 to Castle Hill

Pier 5 to Castle Hill is one of my favorite routes in Narragansett Bay. It is also the route TM uses to cap of his summer long sequence of paddles in the Bay. It is a six mile trek across the West and East Passage of the Bay. Unlike a lot of long crossings this one offers some great views and an open water feel. The trip is good for paddlers who are strong beginners to stretch themselves and for intermediate paddlers to paddle in their zone.
The forecast was for reasonable winds and small seas. I took that with a grain of salt since this paddle inevitably turns into a battle against the afternoon winds. Sitting on the pier things looked calm. Our group expected no problems.
The paddle to Castle Hill was interesting. The swells and wind were not strong enough to be worrisome. They were strong enough to be wearisome. Between Pier 5 and Beavertail (about half of the crossing), I continually needed to counteract the Q-Boat's weathercocking. My first inclination was just to throw in a sweep stroke once and a while. When once in a while turned into every other stroke, I decided to deploy the skeg. The skeg made the problem worse. It didn't stop the weathercocking and made correcting more difficult. I finally settled on a combination of cocking my hips into a permanent lean and throwing in a few sweep strokes as needed.
Once past Beavertail, the weathercocking stopped being a problem because the water got much lumpier and we needed to do double time across the channel. The channel between Jamestown and Newport is the preferred channel for large shipping traffic into and out of the Bay.
After a quick break at the Castle Hill Coast Guard station, we crossed back to Jamestown for lunch. TM wanted to get the crossing out of the way before the afternoon winds (and the boat traffic) reached its peak. On the crossing a Jamestown photographer snapped a bunch of pictures of us doing our thing. We could be famous!!
After lunch, we headed south down the Jamestown coast towards Beavertail. The swells weren't really big enough to make playing in the rocks fun. However, we did our best to find excitement. BH got caught by a wave and nearly flipped. He managed to catch himself on a rock. Then he braced up off the rock and paddled away. I was a little bummed to not get a chance to practice a rock rescue.
Once around Beavertail we lined up with Pier 5 and began the long slog home. The afternoon winds blew out of the west and pushed against us. The winds were not particularly strong, but they were constant. As often happens in windy conditions, the group drifted into a number of pods. One pod took off for the pier. Another fell behind a little bit. Another drifted around looking for surf waves. Another just tried to keep moving. It was typical, but still frustrating. In windy conditions in the middle of a shipping channel, we should be able to stay in a tight group...
We all made it back without a hitch and did some rolling practice.
Once off the water a group of us retired to Java Madness for post paddle coffee and snacks.
It was, despite the wind, a great paddle. It was a good workout and provided enough of a challenge. The weather couldn't have been much better.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Jet Lag versus the Perfect Day

Within days of returning from my Canadian adventure, I hopped a plane to Dublin, Ireland for three days of intensive meetings. It was a good thing I was well rested from my vacation, because I didn't get much sleep on the Dublin trip.
I returned home Saturday evening and immediately got ready to paddle Sunday morning. The weather forecast was just too perfect to waste. Plus the venue, Kings Beach, offers some of the best conditions in the Bay.
Needless to say, I was a little off when I woke up this morning. I was determined, however, to not let it effect me. I gathered a lunch, some dry clothes, and the miscellaneous other gear and set off. I was a little behind schedule, but not too worried about it. I had good directions and the egg was chomping at the bit.
So there was traffic on 128 and then I got a little lost.... I showed up just at 9am, but I was not the last one there!!!
Once on the water, I hit my stride. There was enough action on the water to make playing in the rocks fun. It also made just paddling in the clear fun.
Nothing particularly exciting happened on the trip, but we all enjoyed ourselves.
It was a perfect paddling day.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Oh, Canada

Since January, H & I, along with PB, LB, RB, BH, MA, CC, have been planning a trip to Northern Quebec to paddle in the St. Lawrence water way and see whales. We'd planned out meals, driving arrangements, and a number of other details. The anticipation built up to a point where all other events paled in comparison. I was a little worried that the vacation could never live up to the hype.
On Thursday night, H & I loaded most of our stuff into the egg. We packed it to the gills: Two tents, a screen house, kayaking gear (including drysuits), biking gear, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, a gigantic cooler... We left the food and our clothes for Friday. H figured that she'd have plenty of time to finish off the packing while I was at work....
Friday morning I got a call from a man interested in purchasing my old kayak and was en-route to our house. We figured it would be a quick transaction. Most people don't fit into the cockpit and leave. The good news was that the guy fit and shelled over cash. The bad news was that it took more than an hour out of H's day.... So instead of leaving at 4pm we got on the road closer to 6pm.
Friday night we drove to Franconia, NH and stayed at the Stoneybrook Motel. Sat. we got up early and planned to hit the road early. We stopped in Littleton for a quick breakfast at Talk of the Town. We ate a good meal and then decided to walk it off a bit by exploring the strip. H wanted to look for a headlamp and see if we could get a French reference.
At 11:30 we headed north towards Canada. The drive to Quebec City was easy. The only excitement was the Canadian road signs. Their deer crossing signs had a stylish flying deer. The beware of deer sign showed the deer crossing sign colliding with a car sign with some blood spatter.
Quebec City seemed small as we zipped through on the highway. However, when we exited onto Rt. 138 the sprawl surrounding Quebec City seemed endless. It was a little like driving on Rt. 1 coming out of Boston. Miles and miles of sprawl.
We did see one interesting thing - the Cyclorama. I thought it might be a cycling track (a velodrome). I was excited, but a quick check of the guide book proved I was wrong. It is a circular mural depicting the Jerusalem when Christ was killed. We skipped it.
Once beyond the sprawl of Quebec City the mountains start. We started seeing signs indicating 8% inclines at regular intervals. The poor egg, loaded to the gills and covered in gear, performed admirably, but was clearly suffering. Not having a lot of practice with crazy hill driving, I was not shifting efficiently which didn't help the egg. We even saw some 10% grades.
The final leg of the drive on Sat. was crazy. A worker at the rest area in Baie-Saint-Paul gave us directions to our hotel that took us down a little side road and was very direct. The road was a 20% downhill grade with a number of switchbacks. To take some of the heat off the breaks, I put the egg in third . Even with that, the breaks stank when we reached the bottom of the hill.
On Saturday night we were staying in a little town called St. Joseph-de-lla Rive at L'auberge Beauséjour. We knew that PB and LB were also staying at the same hotel, so we figured we could plan our mission to secure camp sites the next day. The camp ground was another 3 hours and camp sites were first come first serve. We decided that the best balance between getting up too early and getting to the camp ground too late was to shoot for getting to the camp ground around noon.
We got a happy surprise at dinner. Through the windows we say a skulking figure looming on the porch that looked suspiciously like BH... The RI cars (BH, CC, MA, and RB) were also staying at L'auberge Beauséjour. They had been driving longer than H & I or PB & LB. MA was suffering from sever jet lag. She arrived home from China the day before. So, the H, PB, LB, and I told them to sleep in and that we would secure the campsites.
We rose early and embarked on the 3+ hour drive to Paradis Marin. The road was a scenic winding affair with more killer hills. The egg was definitely earning its keep. The drive was bisected by a short ferry ride across the Sangueny River. The ferries cross the river like clock work as it is one of the few points it is possible to get a car across the river. The first bridge is an hour plus inland.
The camp site we secured was perfect. It was large enough to hold all of our collective stuff-6 tents, a screen house, eight kayaks, eight camp chairs, and seven bikes-with ease. It was spitting distance from the kayak launch. It had a clear, omnipresent view of the water. It was next to the showers, bathrooms, and the laundry room. It was also next to the Cafe Blue - which served fantastic coffee.
Once camp was set up, most of the group went for a bike rides. PB is a speed demon on his bike, so he went off to get his ya-yas out while the rest of us went for a relaxing bike ride. According to our rough translation of the list of nearby recreational facilities, there was supposed to be a paved bike path that ran past the entrance to Paradis Marin. We found a bike path, but it was not paved. Fortunately, we all had suitable bikes for off road riding.
The bike trail heading west was lovely. It was was well packed and went through some nice woods. There was one treacherous, steep, and long hill that was fun to go down. Coming back up nearly killed all of us.
For evening fun the boys did a short kayak trip to see whales. While dinner was being prepped, whales were spotted just off the shore of the campground. We were in our drysuits and on the water in a flash. (We didn't bring a lot of safety gear with us, but we weren't going very far.) Once on the water, we discovered that the water is freezing. The temperature just a few yards off shore was noticeably cooler. We also discovered that it was harder to spot whales from a kayak than it is from land.
Fortunately, there was a Minke whale that was willing to oblige us. It surfaced a number of times where we could see it. RB was the only one who got within 50 yards or so of the whale, but it was nice for the first day. It convinced us that over the course of the week we'd be paddling in a sea of whales.
Day two of camping started off cool, windy, and foggy. We were not going to get the kayaks in the water early. So, after breakfast, we walked to a nearby whale observatory.
The observatory juts out into the river and is made up of large rocks. Once we found spots that were out of the wind and provided an excellent view, we settled in and started searching the water. Whale watching involves a lot of watching and very few whales... I spotted what looked like a Minke with a giant blow. It turned out that I spotted a Fin whale.
After lunch, several of us went back into Tadoussac to explore. After taking a breif stroll through the town, we found a walking path that took us out along the mouth of the fjord. The path was nice and offered us a spectacular view of a Minke whale and a Minke calf feeding. We even got to see the calf show us its pink belly.
Before dinner, the four boys took another quick spin in the kayaks hoping to spot whales. We were skunked this time out.
Day three was windy, but not foggy. The river looked a little choppy, but nothing worse than we encounter in the Bay. We decided to paddle and see what we could find. After about an hour on the water we'd seen some birds, a seal, and a few porpoise. Given that it was windy and choppy and we weren't seeing any whales, we called it a day and headed home.
After lunch the rest of the group decided to head back to Tadoussac and hike along the fjord. I decided that I would stay behind and catch some alone time. I enjoyed a great cafe mocha from the cafe next to our camp site and read a little. After the caffeine infusion, I set out for a bike ride to Les Escoumins.
Les Escoumins is a town at the eastern end of the bike path running through Paradis Marin. The ride was great. The bike path mostly winds through the woods running along Rt. 138 and is pretty well maintained. The last 1/4 of the trail, however, is terrible. It is so sandy that it is largely impassable. Riding along Rt. 138 is terrifying. The cars, and large trucks, whiz by at high speed and the gutter is mostly dirt.
The town of Les Escoumins is nondescript. Along 138 is a small downtown area. The town also has a first nation reservation that looked pretty run down. I didn't hang out for long.
I arrived back at the camp site in time to catch the beginning of the nightly Beluga march. For an hour each night you could watch the Belugas head south towards the Fjord. They are easy to spot in the evening light. Their white body's seem to glow.
That evening the Cafe had some live music. Every year a couple comes to Paradis Marin for vacation and play music at the cafe. They had met the singer that day, but managed to play excellent music.
The forecast for day four was ominous. The winds were supposed to be moderate in the morning and ferocious in the afternoon. Given the forecast, we decided to do a short paddle in the morning. It was a nice paddle, but paddling for whales involves a lot of drifting. You paddle and watch; paddle and watch; paddle and watch. It is also very hard to spot whales from a kayak. You're POV is narrow and low to the water.
After lunch we waited for the weather to turn and planned to tackle the bike path once again. The weather held and the terrible winds never materialized. That was OK though. Our bike ride was the better for the pleasant weather.
Day five it rained. We had a great breakfast at a restaurant in Les Escoumins. They struggled to find us a waitress whose English was up to dealing with our French. The menu was extensive and we spent a lot of time eying other people's food.
After breakfast, PB, LB, RB, BH, and I went to the geologic museum in Les Bergeron. It was the worst museum I have ever seen. It was so bad, they should pay people to go. We spent an hour there only because PB, RB, and I got sucked into a C-list movie about the evolution of man. The movie was so bad it was hypnotic....
Once we escaped from the movie, we went to Tadoussac to meet the rest of the group. We grabbed some lunch at a little internet cafe and then people headed off to do some more hiking. I decided to relax at the cafe, drink coffee, and read. It was a very good time. I even caught up on my e-mail.
Day six we decided to paddle in the fjord. It was a spectacular place to paddle. The high, tree covered shores reminded me of Alaska. We did spot some Belugas from shore. By the time we scrambled to our kayaks, they were gone. People were so mesmerized though that the group drifted apart. Half wound up paddling along one shore of the fjord and the other half paddled along the other. Paddling back to the put in offered the most exciting paddling of the whole trip. The currents and the winds conspired to give us some nice following seas. Even H got into the action.
Day six was our last day at Paradis Marin. We needed to check out by noon. It was also a beautiful paddling day.... So, we packed up camp first thing in the morning and then went kayaking. We were still hoping to paddle with whales, but were prepared to be skunked once again. We could not spot any whales, but made up for it by enjoying the nice weather and the paddling.
PB and LB had fortuitously, headed back to camp before the rest of the group. After dropping LB off on shore, PB headed out to catch some waves. Meanwhile on shore, H spotted a Minke whale heading right towards PB. H yelled her head off to get PB's attention. When he finally spotted her, he reacted immediately. The whale surfaced right in front of him. It was perfect. PB had put a lot of effort into making the trip happen and he definitely deserved to see a whale close up.
After we got off the water, the group, minus LB and PB, headed to Quebec City for the night. We stayed at one of the universities. The accommodations were "dorm room" sheik, but the price was right. The university was also directly on the bus route to the old city. We wandered around the old city for the evening and saw they Silo exhibit. It was a nice way to end the vacation.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Pushing It

Due to obligations, H and I could not join PB's Saturday paddle on the Westport River. I took the opportunity to zip the Q-Boat down to Carl Ladd's shop to get my leaky skeg patched up. Saturday in Westport was beautiful paddling weather.
Sunday was a little less ideal... It was colder, windier, grayer, and wavier. H and I arrived at Pier 5 to find people surfing just off the tip of the rocks. It was big and breaking. Beyond the break it looked much better. The swells were large, but smooth.
H immediately balked at the original float plan. TM, H, and myself were going to paddle from Pier 5 and head south towards Pt. Judith. This is a fun stretch of coast because of its exposure and because it offers places to get off the water in a pinch. Given the swell and the wind today, the route would be challenging.
After some discussion, the three of us decided that the wise plan was to head into the Bay and paddle out of Bay Campus. This plan would allow us to experience some of the swells and the challenging conditions, but would keep us a little more protected. It also had the advantage of being familiar to all three of us.
From Bay Campus we headed south along Bonnet Bluffs. The swells were 3-5 feet along the bluffs. It was a thrill to punch through them. There was also some opportunities to play in a few rocks...
TM and I were enjoying ourselves, but H was on the outside of her comfort zone. She was trooping through and pushing herself. About 3/4 of the way to Bonnet Cove, H wanted to change course. She'd had enough of battling the swells.
TM persuaded her that we should cross to Jamestown. Along the way he kept having H change course. First we'd paddle beam to the swells, then we'd turn and push into the swells, then we'd paddle beam to the swells, then we'd run up the Bay with following seas. It was not a crossing that could be done on a busy summer day with lots of boat traffic. Fortunately, the high gas prices and the weather kept that to a minimum.
We lunched on the Jamestown shore. H and I played with our new binoculars. We also contemplated our post-lunch paddle plan. I kept joking that we should head towards Beavertail. I knew, however, that we'd be heading back to Bay Campus. The big question was how direct the route was going to be.
TM, wisely, decided to follow our outbound route home. On the crossing, he played the same game of getting a feel for how the kayaks felt in the swells. Once back near the Bonnet shore, we turned up the Bay. The following seas pushed us home with some fun rides. I caught one that seemed to go for miles. It was one of those magical waves that just passes you on to its friend to keep the ride going. Even H caught a few good rides. Her Capella is excellent in following seas.
Once back at Bay Campus, we decided to a little rescue practice. H said she would do one rescue... So we took her out beyond the moorings, where the swells could be felt. As we were paddling out she looked over and hissed "Why do you make me suffer like this..."
Once we were settled squarely in swellville, I flipped over and became the rescue subject. H moved into position quickly, but couldn't quite get the kayaks to form a T. So, she backed off and kept trying to make the T. After a few tries, she got a hold of my kayak and did a great rescue. Despite the difficulty of holding on to a kayak in the swells she did an awesome job. She drained the water out of the cockpit and held the kayak steady while I climbed in the cockpit.
After H's rescue, it was my turn to do a rescue. TM dumped out of his kayak, and I moved in to position. Not being a stickler for form, I slipped in parallel to his kayak and then worried about getting the kayaks into a T. Then I did the rescue. I have a huge advantage in this over H - 100lbs and a lot of upper body strength.
TM and I then did a few rough water rolls and called it a day.
It was nice to get out and paddle in some rougher conditions. It was also nice to see H push herself. She is a much better paddler than she gives herself credit for being.
Rough water paddling is not for every paddler, nor is it for every paddle. However, it is good to experience occasionally. The ocean is a fickle mistress....

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Outer West Passage

We paddle the Outer West Passage all of the time. However, only once a year is it TM's official Outer West Passage paddle. It is his third paddle in the annual progression that starts with the Narrow River paddle in early June and ends with the Pier 5 to Castle Hill paddle in early August. The outer west passage is a great way to work into paddling in open ocean conditions because it offers a wide range of conditions in a reasonable day paddle distance. You get the rocky coasts along Jamestown and Bonnet Bluffs. You get the open ocean swells crossing from Beavertail to Whale Rock. You get some protected paddling closer to the Bay Campus.
Seeing as this paddle was the first 9am launch of the season, H and I made sure to set the alarm early. We also hustled to make sure were on the road for 7am. That would give us plenty of time to stop for my coffee and H's constitutional break. Surprisingly, everything went according to plan and we arrived at Bay Campus 30 minutes before launch.
TM and RR were there with three new paddlers. There were also a few other familiar faces. However, we were surprised to find a number of the regulars missing.
It turns out that they had forgotten about the time switch until this morning. Sure enough, cars started rolling in minutes before 9am. CC, RB, BH, and CMc scrambled to get on the water while the rest of us waited. It was an odd feeling to be a waiter. I'm usually the cause of the waiting.
We got on the water shortly after 9am and found it to be eerily calm. There was hardly any wind. The swells were little bumps on the water. There was not even enough swell to make playing in the rocks fun.
Even on a calm day the Outer West Passage is not to be taken lightly. The crossing from Beavertail to Whale Rock is long and is at the very mouth of the Bay. If there are going to be swells, that's where they will be. The swells were taking a holiday, but there was still a little action at Whale Rock.
The paddle back to Bay Campus was equally uneventful.
It was a nice day to be on the water and relax. Sometimes it is nice to have an easy day!!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Anniversary Paddle

H and I have been married a year now. It is hard to believe it has been a whole year. Time does fly when you are having fun. We have had our trials, but so far so good.
One of the minor trials was figuring out how to celebrate our anniversary. We didn't really have the money or the time to go away for the weekend. We also wanted to do something that would involve our friends.
H came up with the great idea of doing an anniversary paddle. For the first one we figured it would be symbolic to paddle out of Bristol since that is where we got married. The plan was to paddle from the OSA launch, cross the channel to Prudence, carry across into the marsh, slip down the river, round the northern point of Prudence, and head back to Bristol.
The day before the paddle the weather looked bad for making the crossing. There was forecasted fog and H was, quite rightly, concerned about crossing a shipping lane with limited visibility. TM, on the other hand, was looking forward to some "limited visibility" practice....
Fortunately, there was no fog for the actual paddle. There was a little more wind than we had hoped....
BH, RB, CC, PB, TM, MB, H, and myself all set out ready for a sunny day on the water. I was psyched to see MB. He has been recovering from some medical stuff over the last season and has not paddled. He was looking good and reportedly feeling excellent.
Paddling out to Prudence was a breeze. There was very little wind and the water was clam. It was hot though.
We landed on Prudence at the marsh. Upon inspection, there was barely enough water to make the marsh passable. We decided not to risk slogging through the muck, or carrying the kayaks. Instead we decided to head to the southern tip on the island and then cross back over.
After checking out several rocky lunch spots along Prudence's coast we finally settled on a spot near the Southern tip. The beach was sheltered from the light breeze and we suspected that we may roast in the sun. However, it turned out to be a great spot. Just enough breeze blew to keep us from over heating.
As we shared goodies, we spotted three kayaks approaching from the Warwick side of the Bay and making a bee line for our lunch spot. Apparently a few other RIC/KA paddlers decided that today was a good day to paddle to Prudence also. When they spotted H's hat, from two miles away, they headed straight for us hoping to find baked goodies.
After sharing some of our goodies with the invaders, our group set off for home.
The crossing back to the mainland was pretty easy. There was a good crosswind that caused some weather cocking. We also encounter some swells.
It was when we closed in on the shore, and turned north towards Bristol, that things got hard. The cross wind turned into a steady head wind. Paddling back to the point at the mouth of Bristol Harbor was a slog. Naturally the group got spread out as each paddler dealt with the wind at their own pace. I kept hearing Carl Ladd's comments from last years leadership training stressing the importance of keeping the group together in the wind. Fast paddlers deal with the wind OK. Slow paddlers tend to over compensate to keep up, tire out faster, and are prone to making mistakes.
Once we turned into the harbor, paddling got easier. We rode the following seas all the way back to the OSA landing.
Along the way we met up with RS who had been enjoying some light practice.
After the paddle TM took us into Bristol for some coffee at a secret little shop. At first, the mission to find coffee looked like a disaster of monumental proportion. We had to find parking in Bristol center which is brutal the weekend before the 4th. Then we wandered around - with the group getting very spread out - for a while. We were lead down some side street....
Finally, we arrived at the Beehive Bakery Cafe. It was worth the wandering. Their pastries, all freshly made in the store, looked delicious and from all reports tasted as good as they looked. The coffee was also excellent. To make things even better they have plenty of cozy seating: a ground-level patio, a rustic upstairs room with couches, tables, comfy chairs, etc., and a 2nd floor deck.
It was a great way to launch the second year of our marriage. If today's paddle was a sign of things to come, it will be a great year.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The First Flip

After missing a weekend of prime paddling weather, H and I were ready for a serious paddle. TM's paddle out of Ft. Wetherill looked primed to offer conditions that would meet both H and my ideas of serious. Launching from Ft. Wetherill gives you plenty of options for a trip, but they all involve the potential for playing in the rocks, open water, big swells... Today there was also the possibility of fog and thunder showers.
The crew also offered opportunities to meet a wide range of paddle needs. We had surf/rock heads like RS and TM to the more conservative H and S. In between the extremes we had CC, TM, RR, RB, BH, T, and myself. It was a group ready to face any possible conditions.
TM's original plan was to paddle down to Beavertail, cross the West Passage, and lunch at Narragansett Beach. This plan was ruled out due the morning fog and the predicted thunder showers. Instead, we decided to cross over to Newport and play along the Newport Coast and lunch near Kings Beach. This path gave us more cover in the event we needed to get off the water in a hurry and a better shot at finding interesting conditions.
Going out we found the water to be relatively flat. There was barely enough action along to coast to make playing the rocks risky.
At Brenton Point, there was a little more action. People managed to catch a few good rides. For Brenton Point, it was dead.
The paddling was fun if not exciting. There was enough action to keep you on your toes. The sun was shining. The company was good.

We lunched next to Kings Beach fishing landing. While part of the group was settling in for lunch, BH, TM, RS, and I explored the rocky point just beyond the fishing area. We paddled through a narrow channel and saw some very cute baby seagulls. When we reached the point, we found the excitement.
TM timed his run perfectly and used the waves to avoid being stranded on the rocks. RS's timing was a little off and she was confronted with an unfriendly wave. It was no match for her skill and she scooted through. BH decided discretion was the better part of valor and took the point wide. I lucked out and slipped through between waves.

After lunch, we decided to just head back to the put-in. We figured it would be a relaxing, uneventful paddle back to the cars...
Minutes after I was off the beach, I spotted H in an area with breaking waves. I was hoping she'd luck out and slip by without issue, but a wave popped up right next to her and crashed down on her. From where I was sitting, it looked like she tried to brace, but the wave was too big. She took her first combat spill.
I was a little worried that she would panic, but confident that she would be fine.
Sure enough, she popped right out and never lost her paddle.
RR moved in for a rescue, but got flipped by a wave. RS then swooped in and took control of the situation. She clipped into H's kayak and started towing her out of the breaking waves. She also made sure someone was looking out for RR.
As it turned out RR was fine. He rolled back up without a hitch.
As RS was towing H to flatter water, I paddle up and made sure H was OK. H had stuck her paddle in her cockpit and it was flopping around. To make sure it was secure I stowed it under my deck lines. Unsure what RS's plan was, I backed off since the situation seemed under control.
TM then swooped in to put H back into her kayak. He unclipped H's kayak from the tow and clipped his kayak into the tow. Then he started performing a T rescue. Since the water was still pretty bouncy, I rafted up to lend some extra support.

H climbed into her kayak and was ready to go. Aside from a few bruises, she was none the worse for the wear. She was quite pleased with how well the rescue had gone. She was a little shaken, but also felt more confident in her ability to survive a mishap.
The rest of the paddle was pretty tame. We found a little surf at Brenton Point. The crossing from Castle Hill to Fort Wetherill offered up some following seas.
We had one more moment of excitement in the cove at Fort Wetherill. RB tried to run a slot on one of the rock outcroppings at the mouth of the cove and got stuck. After some comical flailing, he washed right off.
As part of the post paddle play session, I squeezed myself into H's Capella 161. It is a sweet little kayak. It is fast and turns much easier than the Q-Boat. I may need to take it rock gardening some time....