Sunday, August 02, 2009

I Don't Remember It Being THIS Rough

After spending several days in a car driving through the wilds of Canada and Maine, I needed to do some paddling. TM was more than obliging to offer up a trip. He suggested paddling from Pier 5 in Narragansett to the Harbor of Refuge. It is roughly a seven mile paddle along the outer western shore of Narragansett Bay. It is exposed to open ocean swells that can get big and offers some places to play in rocks. It also offers a couple of easy outs if needed.
In my memory, the trip was a nice intermediate paddle with a taste of open ocean feel. There was not any really funky conditions or breaking water. Given my memory of the trip, I figured it would be a good chance for H to get out as well. She would be close to the edge of her comfort zone, but still inside it. She would get to see a new section of the RI coast, spend a nice day on the water, and gain some confidence. A threefur of sorts.
We met TM at Pier 5 in the morning and things looked perfect for the paddle. There was a small chance of thunder showers later in the day and it was humid, but the seas looked calm and the winds were low. The threat of showers and humidity seemed like a bonus to me because it made it less likely that there would a lot of boat traffic.
Once around the end of Pier 5 the water got lumpy and confused. This is normal for this section of the coast, but the water seemed more powerful than normal. H questioned TM about this, but seemed OK when he said it was normal. We chatted and enjoyed the challenge.
Around Scarborough Beach the water flattened out and I could see H relax. Then we spotted the white caps along Money Point....
The swells were breaking in waves off shore and then again closer to shore. I knew H could handle the conditions, but I also knew she wouldn't be happy about it. TM moved closer to shore to pick his way through the breakers. I knew H was not going in close to shore, but also didn't want to swing too far out from shore. Going far enough out to completely avoid the breaks would have made getting into the harbor that much more of an ordeal because it meant bigish following seas for a long time. So I tried to pick a course through the outer break and the inner break.
We easily slipped through the break zone. H was visibly nervous, but doing an excellent job of holding it together. At the entry to harbor TM took a line in close to the sea wall. There was a nice calm spot in close. I didn't think I was going to get H to move in close to the sea wall, so I told her to take a line to the right of the channel. It meant she would have to ride some big swells into the entrance, but would not need to worry about rocks. Her and her Capella are a great combination in following seas, so I was pretty certain she'd fly through the swells and into the harbor easily. If she did happen to go over, she'd get washed into the calm water of the harbor in deep water where TM or I could easily get her back in the kayak.
As expected, she rode the swells into the harbor like a champ. She really is pretty darn good despite her anxiety.
During lunch, H decided that she was not going to paddle back to Pier 5. She knew she could handle the conditions, but didn't want to needlessly suffer the anxiety of paddling another hour and a half in them. TM and I could paddle back, get the cars, and pick her up at the beach without any trouble. TM and I tried to talk her into to completing the trip, but did not push too hard. It was better that she was safe and happy.
Once we were out of the harbor, it was obvious that H had made a good call. Conditions were about the same as they were on the way down the coast: lumpy, strong swells.
TM and I took a much tighter path on the way back to Pier 5, so we could play a little bit more. It felt good to open up the stroke a little bit in rough conditions. The Q's tail was wandering a bit more than I'd have liked, but it was easy enough to control. For a long while I used the stern draw stroke I learned on the 3 star training to do course corrections. Then I switched to tossing in a little sweep stroke ever few strokes. Towards the end, I took the easy way out and dropped the skeg.
We made excellent time on the return trip. We covered the seven or so miles in an hour and a half. At the put in we did some rolling and bracing practice before reloading the cars. Once we were cleaned up and packed, we headed back to Pt. Judith to retrieve H.
It was an excellent day overall. H got some more exposure to big water. For the first time in a few months, I felt like my mojo was coming back.

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