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...

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