Sunday, March 30, 2008

On the Sea Again

After nearly two months off the water, I finally got a chance to paddle!!
PB, who has also been off the water for a while, was looking to paddle and planned a Sunday outing. The Sunday forecast was for sun and minimum wind with air temps in the low 40's. Water temp was also in the low 40's. The plan was to launch out of King's Beach in Newport. It would provide us with some protection from the wind, an open water feel, plenty of rock gardening opportunities, and the possibility of some surf play.
Despite the predicted mild sea state, the paddle was posted as a level 4 because of the exposure and the water temperature. The idea is to discourage marginal paddlers from showing up, while advertising the possibility of a day out for paddlers who have the kit and the skills. While giving winter trips a high level rating can be seen as "elitist," I think it is a good balance between inclusiveness and group safety/harmony. Winter paddling is more risky than summer paddling. Having a paddler along who is not properly equipped or who is borderline in terms of skills puts that much more stress on the rest of the group. It makes what should be a fun day on the water more like work. The only other option to avoid having inappropriate paddlers showing up is to not post paddles at all.
I had spent Saturday moving a friend (It was one of the smoothest moves I've ever done.) and my muscles expressed their disdain as I dragged myself out of bed this morning. It was nothing like the previous weekend, when, after lugging my brother's gigantic furniture around, I was nearly immobilized. As I packed up to leave, my muscles loosened up and by the time I hit the road I was feeling fit and fabulous.
In the parking lot of King's Beach, the wind was bitter and the temperature felt well below the promised low 40's. Fortunately, down by the water the situation was substantially better. The banks provided some shelter from the wind and the sun was warm.
Getting into the drysuits was chilly. It was also a little depressing to find it snugger than I remembered. I even had to readjust my PFD. (No more winter hibernating!!!) Once encased in layers of fleece and goretex, I was even warm in the parking lot.
The group of eight that set out onto the water was extremely strong. It consisted of PB, JS, BH, TM, GP, and myself. Two of JS's instructor friends joined us to fill out the group.
The conditions around this section of Newport are usually bumpy, but today the water was like glass. There was no swell and hardly any chance for excitement. We found what excitement we could by hugging the rocky coastline. There are plenty of outcrops to cozy up against. There was even the occasional rouge swell to keep us on our toes.
Overall, we lallygagged along the coast towards First Beach. It was fine with me. I was excited to simply be on the water. I appreciated the chance to rediscover my kayak-sense without needing it. It was nice to discover that I had not lost too much in terms of "skills." I could still handle the Q-boat pretty well. My forward stroke felt natural and relaxed. Where I noticed the time off the water was in my endurance. After a 9 mile paddle I was beat.
I also noticed it in my roll. At the end of the paddle I did a few rolls. They still worked, but they felt terrible. The first one felt rushed. The second one was a complete disaster. I blew it and barely recovered enough to make the 2nd attempt. The last one just felt creaky and like I was way out of position. It was probably a combination of fatigue, cold water, and the extra padding. I'll take comfort in the fact that even an ugly roll is a successful roll.
With the little taste of salt water, I'm ready for the season to start in full. I sense there will be some excellent paddling in the near future!!

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