Friday, May 28, 2010

Waterproof IPad Cases?

I've been wondering the same thing.... Waterproof IPad Cases?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

3-Star Redux

Greg Paquin, owner of Kayak Waveology, ran a BCU 3-star training this weekend in Stonington, CT. I've known Greg for a number of years and think he is a great coach, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to take the training with him. My only concern was that I'm in piss poor physical condition.
I knew PB was taking the course, so I decided I'd be able to tough it out. I need the time on the water to get ready for the symposium in a few weeks. Getting some coaching was an added bonus.
3-star training takes the basics learned in the 2-star training and begins focusing them on sea kayaking. Paddlers learn to use strokes in typical sea conditions and moderate wind. They also begin learning navigation, how to monitor sea and weather conditions, and basic group management. There is also a focus on more advanced rescue skills like towing and rough water rescues. There is less focus on technical perfection and more focus on managing yourself on the sea.
Greg started us off with a land based review of basic trip planning and navigation. We mapped out our course for the morning, reviewed the prevailing conditions, and learned a good deal about how the currents in and around Stonington work. The navigation work was a welcome refresher. I know the basics, but since I don't use them regularly, it can take me a bit before I dig the skills out of the basement. The current information was fascinating.
Once on the water we headed from Stonington to Napatree Point. On the way we did some basic skill drills, but mostly we just paddled.
At Napatree we spent sometime doing boat control work in the pylons of an old dock. We used all of the strokes to maneuver through the maze. I managed to ram a pylon by mistiming a bow rudder.
Greg also had us try maneuvering through pylons by paddling on one side of the kayak. This is one of those areas were a stick doesn't shine. Everyone had some trouble, but found that if they paddled on the leeward side of their kayak it would work. I just couldn't get enough purchase to make anything work. It could also just be that I simply didn't get the skill.
After the pylons, we headed around the point to find a lunch spot. Greg used the conditions at the point to talk about "silent leadership". The idea is that newer, or weaker, paddlers will always follow a stronger paddler. So in a situation where the group needs to avoid a danger spot, the leader will paddle at the front of the group on a path that will keep the group out of trouble. If it is a long route, the leader would do this in hops-paddle part way and wait, then paddle to another spot on the route and wait.
Before landing for lunch we played beach tag. You catch a wave to surf into the beach, but you do not land on the beach. Instead, just before beaching, you back off of the wave and reverse paddle back to the edge of the surf zone. It is hard work for a number of reasons. Timing the wave properly is tricky and backing through a wave is physically hard. The hardest part is resisting the urge to keep the ride going.
After lunch we worked on rescues. Initially we talked about different towing situations: contact tows, anchor tows, assisted tows, etc. It was a good review of stuff TM makes us practice all the time.
While we were reviewing the towing, we spotted a kayaker out of his kayak in some nearby rocks. I raced in to do the rescue figuring it would be pretty simple. What I discovered was that Greg had arranged this to be a scenario where the swimmer had a head injury. I had RC anchoring the rescue. Once I realized the swimmer was not going to be much help getting himself back into the kayak, I decided to go for the scoop rescue. All was going well until I couldn't get his kayak righted. I was out of position and didn't have the leverage. There was a paddler off to my side and I asked him to assist by having the swimmer rest on his bow to relieve some of the weight and help me right the kayak. I didn't know that the other kayak couldn't help because he was busy pulling off my back hatch. Eventually, I dumped the swimmer back in the water and talked him through climbing over the deck of his and my kayak so I could guide him into his cockpit. With the swimmer in his kayak I got RC to switch the tow so he could get us to shore.
As RC towed us to shore, I kept talking to the swimmer to monitor his condition. Then the swimmer flopped backwards and into the water. At this point I asked Greg, who was the nearest kayaker, to assist getting the swimmer out of the water. I was stuck in a tow trying to handle my waterlogged kayak and the swimmer's kayak. We got the swimmer out of the water and draped across the stern of the three kayaks before Greg called an end to the scenario.
Once freed from the tow, I started making my way, shakily, back to shore. I needed to empty out my hatch. Greg had a different plan. He had me use the stern of his kayak as leverage to essentially flip my kayak over while he lifted the stern out of the water. Once the hatch was mostly empty, we resealed it and started back to Stonington.
Along the way we practiced self-rescues and Eskimo rescues. It was fun and my roll held up well. The only problem was that my dry suit leaks and I got cold quickly.
At the end of the day, I had Greg show me how to do a scoop rescue. It turns out that you need to put most of your weight in front of the swimmer's cockpit and keep the swimmer against their back deck. He also showed me that if you use the deck lines in front of the cockpit as handholds in a regular rescue, you get a lot more leverage.
By the time we landed, the students were exhausted. It was a great day of learning on the water.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mondays are Made for Paddling

The few glimmers of summer have got everyone antsy and looking for excuses to paddle. On Saturday, TM began lobbying for a Monday outing and before we left the Java Madness we were all on board. The plan was to paddle out the Westport River from the town boat launch and explore the coast - a favorite plan of ours.
The plan counted on the currents flowing out of the river in the morning and turning around noon to carry us back up the river. We checked the NOAA site from the deck of Java Madness using my iPhone and everything seemed to line up. BH checked the currents on Sunday evening and found them to be basically the opposite of what I found on Saturday. He thought I had just gotten them reversed (which I do regularly). It was actually much more stupid: I had read the currents for January 17th.
Fortunately, Westport offers a number of good put ins. After some discussion on Monday morning we decided to simply drive down the road to Gooseberry Neck and paddle east towards the Slocum River and a pond entrance that can offer some interesting conditions on the right tides. I didn't really care about the possible conditions; I just wanted to get some time in the kayak.
The weather cooperated with my needs. The wind was light and the seas calm. On the way to the pond we found some rocks to play in, but mostly we just paddled. It was nice to stretch out and work the forward stroke.
The pond entrance had a little current and a little surf, but nothing to get excited about. We spent ten minutes attempting to entertain ourselves before setting out in search of a lunch spot.
After lunch the weather stopped cooperating. The winds picked up and we had to paddle home in a headwind.
I've paddled into heavier winds before, but today this wind wore me down. I am in the worst condition I've been in for a very long time and my forty one year old body does not take kindly to being thrown into the fire. It is a reminder that I need to work at keeping my body fit if I want to continue participating in sports.
When we got back to the beach I did a few rolls to build my confidence. They were smooth and relatively painless. I still have the mojo, I just need to recondition my body to use it.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Time to Get a Little Crazy

There are weekends where the club has a nice, but easy, paddle planned when the more adventurous (crazy) paddlers are looking for some action. This weekend happened to be one of those weekends. The club paddle was a level two paddle in the upper Bay. It is a pleasant area and it offered a chance to just zone out. That just was not what I needed in a weekend paddle.
I wanted something with a little more distance and a lot more challenge, so I contacted TM to try and organize a trip to fit my needs. He was more than accommodating. We settled on doing some rough water practice along the rocks between Narragansett and Whale Rock. It would be a good warm up for the symposium in June. We also roped in BH, PB,and RB. Five is a better number than two when planning to bounce around near rocks.
We launched under the Rt. 1a bridge and paddled out to the Bay. The put-in provides easy access to the surf off of the beach and the rocks. Since the plan was to practice in rough water, we didn't need a lot of additional distance.
The day started off inauspiciously. The air temp was in the 70s and I was encased in "breathable" nylon and a hard plastic melon case. The sweat was pouring off me before we even started moving. By the time we got to the beach my eyes were full of sweat and sunblock. I tried to just ride it out and let my eyes flush themselves. That is never a good idea. I was bobbing in surf, small surf, essentially blind. It didn't take long before I gave up the ghost and landed so I could flush my eyes with fresh water.
Once I could see again, we started doing rescue practice. TM wanted to practice doing rescues near the rocks. His scenario was one swimmer, one rescuer, and one tower. The rescuer gets the swimmer back into their kayak while the tower keeps them from washing into the rocks. It is effective when the rescuer and tower can perform their roles without endangering themselves or the swimmer.
We ran through the drill nine or ten times. We each did a rescue and a tow. I don't think we did it perfectly once. Most of the time we ran through the drill everything went smoothly, but not text book. For example, the rescuer is supposed to manage the swimmer's kayak by its bow. I managed it by the stern because maneuvering to get the bow would have wasted time. There were a few times where the tower hooked into the rescuer's bow instead of their stern. None of these things stop the rescue from working, they just make it a little less efficient. In the moment, the most efficient rescue is the one that gets the swimmer in their kayak and away from the hazard.
After the rescues, we played in the rocks. The conditions were tame. The swells were small with a long period. It was fine for me. I'm not in good enough shape to battle big swells with any fine grained control. The little swells gave me a chance to break in the old muscles.
Before heading into the river for the slog back to bridge, we played in the wee surf at the beach. While doing low braces outside the surf zone, I missed one and then missed my roll. Mortified, I decided to do some more rolls to get my mojo back. It wasn't the best idea.
I did manage one ugly roll. Then I blew another roll. I gave it the old college try and reset before bailing. The second attempt didn't go much better. TM was close by and saved me from having to wet exit. I grabbed his bow and did an Eskimo rescue.
The paddle up river was a world class slog. There was a steady head wind and the current was pouring out of the river. I'm not a fan of paddling into head winds or currents. My aching, out of shape muscles were finished after the short slog.
I was thrilled to get out on the water and do some challenging paddling. I was not thrilled at how much my conditioning slid this winter. I'm going to need to do a lot more paddling to get in shape for the symposium next month. Four weeks is a lot of paddling.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Spring Warm-up

This weekend was an embarrassment of riches. The weather was lovely both days and there were two opportunities to paddle. Saturday offered a potentially challenging paddle along the Newport beaches. Sunday offered an easy paddle on the Narrow River.
I needed to finish the Spring yard work (1st Mow, fertilizing, mulching, etc.) on one of the days, so I had to choose. Since I have not been on the water much this year, I choose the calmer of the two trips.
I figured that there was no need to push things this early in the year. I'll have plenty of opportunities for that latter. I wanted something easy to loosen the joints and give me some space to practice.
The Narrow River trip is TM's spring warm up paddle (although he has broken with tradition this year and started paddling early). It is always a nice way to work back into the boat. The trip offers a little distance and, typically, a chance to fight current and wind. The river is never rough, so one can practice all sorts of crazy boat control tricks with little fear. One can also work the forward stroke.
It was a small group of five since most of the RICKA regulars paddled on Saturday. Nobody was in much of a hurry or wanted to push the limits, so it looked like it would be a leisurely trip.
The journey up river was with the current and the wind. We made good time and expended minimal energy. I took the time getting the feel of my new paddle and practicing boat control strokes. Every so often, I'd do a hanging draw or a bow rudder. I played with stern rudders and cross-deck strokes as well. I enjoyed the practice.
Just before lunch TM wanted to switch paddles. He took the mighty stick and left me with his crank shaft Lendal Kinetic Touring. I have a similar paddle as a back up and think it is the best Euro blade I've used (sadly, it is no longer in production). TM's paddle is longer than mine, but it felt good. I immediately slipped into the circle of power and dashed across the water. The mighty stick is mighty, but the Kinetic Touring is powerful. The Kinetic Touring is not as graceful though.
We lunched on a shaded beach at the end of the river. Lounging on the beach eating left over pizza started melting away the winter crust. It was relaxing enough to mask the building wind.
After a stirring defense of government's role in society, we headed back down the river. I expected the trip down river to be as relaxing as the trip up river. I forgot that we hadn't been out long enough for the current to turn and that the afternoon invariably has an onshore wind. It didn't take long to realize that we'd have to work to get home.
TM eased some of the work by using me as a towing dummy. He wanted to practice different towing scenarios. He hooked me into two different contact tow positions (me facing him and me facing forward). Then he did the long tow.
I wanted to give the contact tows a tries as well, so TM loaned me his short tow rope.
I first hooked TM up in a tow so that he was in front of me and facing me. The short tow rope kept his bow tight to my boat and he draped over my bow. This position works really well. The kayaks stay tight together and are reasonably maneuverable. The rescuer can also see and talk to the other paddler.
The second position I tried was hooking the bow of TM's boat to a a point just in front of my cockpit and TM draped over the stern of my boat. TM was facing forward, but was positioned behind me. The two kayaks were slightly easier to paddle, but I didn't like not being able to see the person I was assisting. If the person being assisted was in distress the rescuer wouldn't have an easy way to monitor their condition.
We slowly made our way back to the cars. It is easy to forget that in wind fast paddlers can quickly out pace slower paddlers. The natural inclination is paddle harder, so fast paddlers go faster while slower paddlers don't. A group spreads out fast. It takes practice and a conscious effort to slow down, but it must be done. Not only does not slowing down spread the group out, it also wears out the slower paddlers. They struggle to keep up, wear down, and the chances of trouble go up.
Our group never had to worry about the potential for trouble. It was a short, calm paddle. The group was strong, but there was speed differences. Practicing when a skill isn't needed is the best way to make sure it is there when it is needed.
Today's paddled was a nice warm-up. Now I'm ready to get into some trouble...