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.

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