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...