Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Hot Day in Newport

Halfday Tony was scheduled to lead level 4 trip out of Ft. Wetherill today. This usually means lots of rocks and some surf. His last level 4 trip out of Wetherill was the stuff of legends: high winds, rough seas, rescues, paddlers needing cab rides back to their cars. Being a sound leader Tony manages to keep the group safe and sound despite the conditions.
Regardless of Tony's prowess as a leader, H was not keen on going on the planned trip for the day. Tony had advertised the itinerary early in the week to get people prepared. He intended to paddle along the coast to Beavertail, cross the West Passage to Whale rock, and lunch at the mouth of the Narrow River. The entire route offers plenty of opportunity for rock gardening and the Narrow River usually offers some nice surf. None of these things hold any allure for H. She likes to paddle, not risk life and limb.
I suggested that instead of doing the level 4 paddle, we could offer a more low key level 3 option. We would paddle over to Newport, explore the harbor, lunch on Gould Island, and then return along the Jamestown coast. We would still be able to visit with friends before and after the paddle without any undue stress. It would also expand the opportunities for other club members to get on the water.
When we showed up at Ft. Wetherill, H and I discovered that we were on our own. The conditions along the coast were calm and everyone else wanted to do the level 4 paddle. TM tried to convince H to go along with the crowd, but she held firm in her decision to do the Newport route. I was a little surprised and a little disappointed. TM is usually very persuasive and it would have been fun to paddle with a bigger group. I was, however, 100% behind H's decision. She'd gone on a few stressful paddles, and missed a few days on the water, for my benefit. The least I could do was spend a sunny summer day on the water doing a paddle she wanted to do.
Once out of the cove at Ft. Wetherill we were graced with a pleasant breeze. It knocked some of the edge off the heat without making paddling difficult. The crossing to Newport was easy.
Sadly, once in Newport Harbor we were sheltered from the breeze. The heat settled on us. Fortunately, paddling in the harbor is not a strenuous activity.
Newport Harbor was not full of cruise ships like it was last year. There were, however, loads of megayachts. Some of these ships are big enough to be cruise liners. We saw ships that had bays for auxiliary speed boats and jet skis. We even saw one that had a helicopter sitting on deck. (I'd still prefer my kayak.)
Gould Island greeted us with a stench and a view of two unloading ore ships. We managed to find a spot where the breeze masked the heat and the stench. It was relaxing to just sit in the sun and munch on left overs knowing the return trip was going to be easy.
While the return trip didn't pose any real challenges, it was the most exciting part of the day. As we crossed Potter's Cove two ruffians on a barely controlled personal water craft nearly skidded us into Davey Jones' locker. Once we crossed under the Newport Bridge, the wind picked up and the seas got lively. We bounced our way back to Ft. Wetherill.
We weren't really ready to call it a day, so we decided to paddle along the coast towards Beavertail for a short bit. We figured the other group would be at least another hour, so we figured that we'd still beat them off the water...
Within minutes of deciding to continue on, we spotted the other group. They had paddled in largely calm water all day. The only excitement they saw was PB leading a landing party onto Whale Rock.
Since it was early, and I was still smarting from not passing the 2 star assessment, we decided to do a little skill practice in the cove. It was a perfect spot since there was some swells running into the cove, so the water was not quite quiet. I felt good running through the paces of rolls, sculling for support, sweep turns, and low brace turns.
Although the day was largely perfect, it ended on a sad note. I was practicing a sweep turn when I felt the mighty stick give way. I found myself upside down with a compromised paddle. I tried to roll, but the mighty stick finished splitting before I could even get a breath. RB rescued me promptly and I limped my way back to shore.
We will contact the manufacturer, Wolfgang Brink, since the paddle split doing a turn in deep water and it split along the repair he made to the paddle when it failed last year (also in deep water). I know paddles break, but I baby the mighty stick. I never use it as a lever to stabilize the kayak when getting into the cockpit, I never use it to push of the bottom, and I'm always careful not to put too much stress on it when it is not in the water. I have a Cricket paddle that has held firm through six years of abuse including all the things I do not do with the mighty stick. I also ran the Cricket paddle over with my car once....

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