Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Weird Day

A long level 4 paddle is never an endeavor to be taken lightly. Doing a level 4 paddle after three days of training is a recipe for trouble.
Despite the good reasons for not doing a paddle from the Bay Campus to the Narrow River, I decided I would do it anyway. I felt pretty good despite spending the three previous days paddling. I wanted to try out my new strokes with the mighty stick. The weather was perfect.
I showed up to find a much larger group than I expected. I knew it was going to be interesting. BH, RB, and PB showed up looking to play in some rocks. TM wanted to paddle. JS wanted to fish. The other TM wanted to try out his new stick. I just wanted to spend some time on the water and not get hurt.
Things started off great. The water was lively, but not not dangerous. It was enough to play in the rocks and feel like you were living on the edge. Occasionally, there was a stray big wave that carried the potential for mayhem. Early on, PB found himself perched on a rock.
About three quarters of the way down Bonnet Bluffs, a group of us slipped out of a rock slot and got bunched up along a row of low sitting rocks that was hit with a fairly regular four foot breaking wave. I was stuck on the inside and just as the group started breaking up, the wave made an appearance. I had no forward momentum to carry me down the wave and away from the rock wall. Instead, I braced on the wave and rode it into the rocks. Along the way my bow made a loud bang as it danced over the rocks. The wave left me trapped between the incoming swell and the rocky shore. I tried to back out, but got turned breach to the swells. Once I was breach, I was stuck. I tried to get the Q-Boat turned, but it was hopeless.
I got out of the kayak and pushed it out the the waiting pack of rescue kayaks. Then I swam out to them. BH hooked my kayak to a tow to keep it from washing back into the rocks. RC tried to tow me out to my kayak, but he couldn't make any headway. So, I tried to swim to my kayak. In the mean time, BH and my kayak had been blown pretty far down wind. Once it was obvious that I could not catch up to my kayak, BH paddled back with it. Once reunited with my kayak, I was able to get back in pretty quick.
Since I had been in the water for awhile and the Q-Boat was potentially damaged, we decided to stop in Bonnet Cove before continuing on to Narrow River. I rested while CM and BH inspect the Q-Boat's bow. The keel strip was broken in several places and several large patches of gel coat was missing. CM tried to patch it up with some putty to keep it from leaking. The general consensus was that the hull was fine and it wouldn't leak. It was just gel coat.
The paddle from Bonnet Cove to Narrow river was uneventful. PB, RB, and BH played in the rocks along the shore. I stayed clear hoping to avoid any more damage to the Q-Boat. I sensed that the crash was fates way of warning me not to push my luck.
At the Narrow River entrance we rested for a bit. The weather was perfect for some beach lounging. Sadly, I felt a colonic imperative. The nearest modern facility to fulfill the imperative was a 30 minute, or better, walk down the beach and the rest of the group didn't want to wait that long. TM suggested that I sneak into the private beach club just up the beach. I tired, but could not find a proper facility and was quickly identified as an outsider. Left with the options of using the river or my cockpit, I opted for the river. Nature would flush things down river properly....
I was hoping that the paddle back would be uneventful. The mornings activities and the three days of training were catching up to me. My mojo, which was already wobbly, neared instability.
The first sign of trouble was JS blowing a whistle, loudly, for no apparent reason. The group was a little spread out: TM was pretty far in front, PB was in along the shore, BH was rock hunting. However, compared to a normal RICKA paddle we were on top of each other.
Then we made a rest stop well before Bonnet Cove. I had no idea why we stopped. I was a little tired, but just tired enough to want to get home before my tank ran dry. Nobody else in the group seemed distressed or tired. I assumed TM knew something I didn't and just went with the flow.
After the break, I moved to the front of the group and opened the throttle. My tolerance for trouble was nearing its end. I needed to take some space and burn off some of the funk settling over me.
By the time we got past Bonnet Bluffs, JS was way behind the rest of the pack. When I asked what was going on several people mentioned that he was throwing up. When I inquired if he was under tow, people responded that he was not. Two paddlers were keeping an eye on him....
This was not acceptable to me. For one thing he was slowing the group way down and people were getting tired. More importantly, a vomiting paddler is an excellent candidate for drowning in the cockpit. I don't know many people whose balance is not thrown off by nausea.
I paddle out to JS, TM, and RC to get the tow set up and get someone stabilizing JS. By the time I got out them, TM and RC had taken the initiative to hook up a tow. I asked RC to go back and raft with JS and I hooked into to TM's bow to assist in the tow. Two kayaks tow faster than one. Just for fun BH joined the tow also.
Before long, we were at the Endeavor's dock and in sight of the Bay Campus beach. Someone decided it was a good idea to disconnect the tow before we passed the dock, so JS paddled in under his own power.
While any day on the water is better than a day at the office, some days on the water are not as good as days spent sipping coffee in a comfy chair with a good book. Today was one of those days. I was glad I paddled, but just as glad to stop.

PS I turns out that the Q-Boat did suffer some structural damage. I pulled the damaged part of the keep strip up and discovered that the gel coat was cracked for a solid two feet along the bow. Carl Ladd took a look at it and showed me where the glass was cracked. He fixed it up in about a week for a decent price. She looks almost as good as new. I like having a few scars on the hull. It looks "extreme"....

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