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....

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