Sunday, May 31, 2009

Back in the Bay

The Dutch Island paddle is always an easy way to get back onto some ocean water. It is a casual paddle that rarely offers any challenging conditions. Because of this it usually attracts a large crowd.
Life has been pretty stressful for H and I lately and I was hoping it would provide a good stress outlet for both of us. Unfortunately H couldn't paddle today. I, on the other hand, could.
There were 20+ kayaks on the trip. It was a nice mix of regulars and new comers.
The weather was great: light wind, sun, cold water. It was just cool enough to need a light paddle jacket. Once we started across to Dutch Island I thought "If I got wet, I'll want my drysuit." It was too nice to be wrapped in rubber.
The pre-lunch paddling was relaxing. The conditions were very tame and I took the opportunity to unwind. I focused on my strokes and the feel of the water. It was just what the doctor ordered.
After lunch, we headed back to the put-in. Around the Dutch Island lighthouse we got into some funky, refracting waves. I enjoyed the bouncy.
As we rounded the point, we spotted the fast ferry. It was sitting just off the island. The passengers were snapping pictures and waving. Then it zipped off across the Bay.
After the we got back to Bay Campus, H joined us for the post paddle coffee. We sat around on Java Maddness' deck and enjoyed coffee in the afternoon sun.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Safety Practice in the Rain

On Sunday RIC/KA had its annual safety practice. I was desperate for some kayak time, so I was willing to risk rain.
Fortunately it wasn't too rainy. It was cold though. So nobody really wanted to swim which made rescued hard.
Instead of a safety practice we did a strokes and boat control practice. It was a nice substitute.
I needed the practice. My turns were off and my hips were sore for days afterwards.

Monday, May 04, 2009

One Speed Wonder

Last year I finally got tired of the pounding my body was taking from my bicycle. I was commuting to work on an old Marin road bike. The aluminum frame sent every little bump straight through me. The Shimano Tiagra gearing needed constant fiddling to keep in tune. Too often I'd be peddling up a hill and the derailure would slip into a higher gear.
I wanted to get a steel cyclocross frame with Shimano 101 gearing an a carbon fork. I also wanted to keep the price around $1000.
It quickly became obvious that my desires and reality didn't mesh... The bikes I looked at were all closer to $1500. I saw a few that were closer to the right price, but they were just newer verions of what I already had. I was looking an upgrade.
When I thought all was lost I saw an '08 Redline cross bike for under a $1000. The only catch was that it was a strange thing called a single speed. After getting a brief explanation about single speeds from the sales guy, I decided to pass.
Shortly after passing on the Redline, I was talking to a coworker and said he commutes on a single speed. He was a total convert. A few days later the VP of engineering at my company, who is an avid biker, was raving about his new Masi Special single speed.
I decided I had to get more information and go on a few test rides. The Internet and Google delivered a cornucopia of information. The best site I found was Sheldon Brown's. It listed the pros and cons of single speed cycling realistically.
Finding single speeds to try out proved to be a little challenging. Despite the buzz growing around single speeds there are not a lot of suburban bike shops that carry them. Landry's on Rt. 9 in Natick had a few. One was a very inexpensive Swobo that was all steel. It was a nice ride, but the low quality of the steel scared me.
Belmont Wheelworks had several different models. I tested out the Redline 902, the Masi, the Specialized Langster, and the Specialized Tricross. The handle bars on the Redline were terrible; the Masi wasn't a good fit; the Langster was comfortable and well mannered; the Tricross comfortable but not so well mannered.
After waffling between the Langster and the Tricross for a few days I decided that the Tricross was a better match for what I wanted. I don't go off road a lot, but I do like to be able to hit a trail every now and then. The roads between my house and my office are also pretty crappy.
A year later I love my single speed! It took a few rides to adjust to the lack of gears. Now that I'm adjusted, I don't miss the gears. Peddling is more soothing without needing to think about shifting. The chain doesn't slip; the gears never skip. I never feel the need for speed. I also feel stronger in the saddle.
I don't mind the trade offs. In fact I sort of enjoy some of them.
The single speed will never sustain 19 mph. It cannot climb long steep hills. It cannot haul heavy loads. The gearing is just not right for any of these things.
I kept the multispeed bike, but I haven't ridden it once. I did a few 30 mile rides on the single speed and enjoyed it. I cannot see going back to the multispeed bike anytime soon.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

A Quick Fix

On the trip almost to Graves light I put a ding in the side of the Q-Boat that caused a leak. It was just a brush that knocked out a little gelcoat, but it was on a point in the chine where there was only a single layer of glassfibre and a thin layer of gelcoat. It is a spot of shoddy construction that reminds me that quality control is not one of the British virtues.
Needless to say I was not looking forward to paying for the repair, or for having the Q-Boat out of commission for a month or more. to fix it right would require pulling out all the gelcoat where the glassfibre was thin, laying in another layer of glass, and reapplying the gelcoat. I figured it would cost between $500 and a $1000.
Fortunately JS told me to just patch it with SolarRez. It doesn't need to be mixed and sets in the sunlight. According to JS, an idiot could use it seal a leak and that it should last for the rest of the season - at least.
I've never seen an easy repair I couldn't screw up. I have a hard time getting the squeeze tube gelcoat to cover up scratches. I'm still smarting from the Marine Tec debacle. Needless to say I was skittish about doing the repair work myself, but I figured if I screwed it up Carl could just fix it....
It turns out that the repair was as easy as JS said. It took two applications to seal the hole completely, but it was a piece of cake. Each layer dried in a few hours. The whole repair took a single day.
It isn't the prettiest repair. The SolarRez dries clear so it sticks out. It works though.
Now I just need to get the Q-Boat in the water to see if it is waterproof. As it turns out I could have waited a month or so to get the repair done.....

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Eastern Horizons

I'm not a big fan of long form kayaking movies. I find them to be little more than a bunch of shorts that show off exciting kayaking footage. I can only recall one film that had a real narrative thread.
I, however, have seen long kayaking movies that I've enjoyed. There was one about extreme white water kayakers that followed one group around the world for a season of BIG water. The "This is the Sea" series typically delivers as well. The segments are well done with either great action or a good story.
Friday evening we saw "Eastern Horizons". It is OK. The beginning and the end are good. Unfortunately, the middle doesn't deliver either action or story.
The movie opens in Newfoundland. The narrative and commentary is lackluster, but the scenery more than makes up for the lack of narrative. They kayak with icebergs and there are really nice shots of kayaking in fog.
The movie then jumps to Tybee island and the Outer Banks. The segments don't really offer a good flavor of the locations. There are too many scenes of flat water paddling and they often repeat the same footage. The commentary is bland. The few action scenes are too short and felt disconnected.
From North Carolina the movie jumps to New York City. This segment was better than the previous two, but it is still uneven. It is to choppy and the film doesn't spend enough time at any one thing. The scenes at the boathouse sparked my interest, but was cut short to launch into a story about circumnavigating Manhattan. That also promised to be interesting, but was also truncated.
From New York the movie jumped to the Bay of Fundy. (There was a brief interlude in Maine, but I honestly cannot remember a thing about it.) Once back in the northlands, the movie heats back up. The kayaking in the crazy tidal races is awesome to watch. The segment about kayaking in the tidal bore is also fantastic. The scenes with the whales makes for a nice ending.
Overall "Eastern Horizons" is middle of the road kayak movie fare.