Sunday, December 02, 2012

Dry Run

I like winter paddling. When the conditions are right, it is the best time to paddle. There is something about the light and the quiet. The added danger probably adds to the allure.
As the temperature started dropping and plenty of good paddles were being listed on the message board, I started getting the itch to paddle again.
Sadly, my trusty old Reed paddle suit had sprung a pretty major leak and needed to be replaced. I considered replacing it with a new Reed suit, but there were enough things about the suit I didn't like and the exchange rate doesn't make it much of a bargain. I also looked at the IR dry suit, but it got very mixed reviews and seems like it needs a little more work before it is as good as the IR paddle tops. In the end I decided to go with the defacto standard: Kokatat Meridian. They are expensive, but have an impeccable reputation. The new styling is top notch as well. The old style mango and orange was fugly.
When it finally came I needed to give it a proper trial run. Fortune smiled o,n me and provided a perfect weekend for paddling. The forecast was for cear and warm weather. I wanted an easy and nearby paddle and was thinking a lake or Walden Pond until PB suggested Cape Ann. That sounded lie a much better idea. It is still close, but got us on the ocean.
Before setting out we had to trim the neck of the dry suit... PB bravely volunteered to do the cutting since he had experience. My nerves would have made a suit wrecking nick inevitable. In the end we trimmed what looked like five inches off the neck.
Our plan was pretty loose. All we knew was that we were paddling in Gloucester. Once we got closer, we decided to checkout Wingersheek Beach as a launch site. Both of us had paddled out of the harbor, and PB was looking for something new.
Wingersheek is a decent off season launch if you don't mind the carry from the parking lot to the beach. At the dead of winter though the parking lot is closed. You can still use the beach to launch, but it is much longer carry. We decided to pass.
Up the road from Wingersheek is a state fishing area and boat launch that puts you out into the end of the Annasquam. It looks like a great place from which to launch a kayak. The parking lot is reasonably large the boat ramp is dirt and not too steep. I had used this put in once before and knew it hard a dark secret.... At high tide portions of the parking lot can flood and claim unsuspecting cars. This was the sight of Egg 1.0's drowning.
PB and I decided that we would use the launch anyway. It was not supposed to be a particularly high tide and there were plenty of high areas that wouldn't flood even in a big high tide.
The paddle was just what I needed. The sun never quite warmed things as predicted and the thin fog hung in the air throughout the trip. In an odd way that sort added to the paddle. It kept things quiet.
The dry suit was excellent as expected. The neck gasket was still a little too tight, but that is easily fixed. It was comfortable to wear and didn't look too goofy. After the Reed suit, I expected that all dry suits were damp suits that kept the sea water out and your sweat in. The Kokatat was actually pretty dry inside. We didn't push ourselves that hard, but hard enough to work up a sweat. Most of it evaporated through the gore tex as advertised. I stayed toasty and dry. It will be interesting to see how it works on a hard core paddle.....

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Fatherhood

It's been two years since Bug joined our family. It hardly seems like it could be that long ago and it feels like an eternity. Mostly, it feels great; terrifying, overwhelming, joyous, proud, thrilling....
I now understand what people mean when the say a child takes over your life. Bug takes a lot of time and energy. It feels like our job is to entertain, and feed, her and there are no mandated eight hour work days. She is on the go from 6am to 7pm, with a few hours of napping (most days). It is exhausting and frustrating, and yet the most fun I know how to have. It really isn't a job because it is amazing, and tiring and frustrating and head wracking.
The past two years have been and incredible ride. I look at Bug and cannot believe that she was the tiny baby in all the pictures. She is a little girl now. She is talking in sentences; often we have no idea what she is saying, ,but they are definitely sentences. She runs, climbs, feeds herself, and has definite opinions about what she wants and doesn't. Her favorite phrases are "Me do!" and "Why?".
Both phrases are the best and worst of dealing with a two year old. It is great that she is so curious and independent. It is crazy making when she insists on doing things like changing her own diaper or spending 20 minute trying to put a shirt on when we are trying to get out the door for work. Coming up with answers for the tenth why occasionally makes me want to bang my head against a hard surface repeatedly. There are times when I almost resort to the "because I said so" non-answer. When I am quick enough to remember that she can answer questions, I do pull out the "I don't know, do you know why?"
One of the most incredible parts of the journey has been how much it has changed my life. I have developed much better eating habits and started brushing my teeth twice a day. I have learned to be more present in each moment. I have discovered wells of patience I never knew I had. I have learned to be more cognizant of my own behavior and how it effects those around me. Everyday I feel like I've grown a little bit.
The growth springs from my fervent desire to give Bug the best life possible. That means being able to play with her and take her into the wilderness for explorations. I want to instill a love of being active and nature. It means that I need to be a good role model and a good coach. It means being aware of how what we do today effects the future.
Parenthood is, while daunting, frustrating, wearisome, etc, is also the most important, rewarding, and challenging thing I will ever do. It is my labor of love.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Rockport to Thatcher's Island

Cape Ann has some great paddling. There are a bunch of neat islands that dot the coast and the coast itself is interesting to explore. It poses a few issues: access, parking, and company. The Cape Ann shoreline is pretty rocky and the cape does not have a lot of major roads, so finding a place to put a boat in the water with car access is tricky. Most of the easily accessible launching areas have very limited parking. Most of the people I paddle with live in RI and can get onto the ocean with ease, so the idea of driving two hours is a hard sell.
Fortunately, one of the guys I paddle with was visiting Gloucester and was willing to do the leg work of finding a place to launch and work out the parking. He was also recruited a few other paddlers to drive up for a paddle.
I got clearance from H as soon as I knew the paddle was going to happen. She knew that a day on the water would do wonders for me and was more than happy to give me some time. One of the funny things about having a family is that while you know you need, and will enjoy, time away from them, you also know you'll miss them the whole time.
As the weekend got closer, the weather forecast got bleaker. By Friday it looked like the weekend was going to be bust. Then Saturday turned out to be a decent day and Sunday's forecast got worse.... Before setting out for the paddle, I checked the weather and the radar showed a block of showers sitting over the coast. NOAA was predicting an 80% chance of showers with Thunderstorms and fog likely. That was no reason to cancel the paddle.....
We met at Back Beach in Rockport. It is a popular place for divers and provides good access to the water for kayakers. It also offers some metered parking and restrooms within an easy walk of the beach. The longest meter is five hours, so the parking is not great for all day kayaking trips. There is a limited amount of on street parking to be found with in walking distance which is what we used. Of course, that meant we had to leave the kayaks sitting on the beach for a while we took care of the cars.
Fortunately, the kayaks were fine when we returned. We headed out of the harbor towards the breakwater. Our plan was to checkout the breakwater on the way to the Dry Salvages. Then we planned on checking out Thatcher's Island for lunch. In the afternoon, we would head back to the beach along the shore.
The paddle out to the breakwater was uneventful. One could even say it was boring, but it was also a good chance to warm up. The water was flat and there was no wind.
Once getting out to the breakwater and seeing the relative position of the Dry Salvages, we decided to skip them. It would be a lot of extra paddling to see a bunch of rocks. So we made a bee line for Thatcher's. Once we wete beyond the breakwater the conditions picked up a little. There was now some wave action to make life interesting.
Thatcher's has a nice ramp that is perfect for landing. It is designed so that it is easy to drag a kayak up onto shore. The island is also set up for camping and tourists. There is always personnel on the island to help out and make sure you sign the guest book. There are trials that can be explored, a museum, abundant bird life, and the towers.
The north tower, which is not now only a landmark and not an official coast guard lighthouse, was open when we were there. Getting to the top is a slog. The stairs wind up in the dark tower for seven or eight flights. Once at the top, we checked out the disappointing views from inside the light housing. It was hazy and the plexiglass made it worse. As we started down, BH discovered the door to the outer landing. The view from the landing made the climb worth it. Even with the haze and the fog you could see for miles.
After lunch I decided to swap boats with TM so I could try out his old school Cetus. I have always been intrigued by the Cetus since it appeared on the scene and gained immediate rock star status. TM's was equipped with plastic foot pegs that supposedly can be adjusted without climbing into the cockpit. The one side the worked was great. The other side came off the track and was a floppy mess.
I cannot say I was impressed by the Cetus. Admittedly I was paddling with only one foot peg, so it wasn't able to give a fully fair shake down. The kayak was stable and maneuverable for a big kayak - and it did feel big compared to the Q-boat. Like the Q-boat's back end the Cetus' back end releases pretty easily. Unlike the Q-boat, the Cetus felt more predictable. The best comparison I can make between the Q-boat and the Cetus is that the Q-boat is a Porsche and the Cetus is an Audi A6. The Cetus drives nice, but isn't quite as much fun.
Before TM and I switched back to our own kayaks, we explored the backside of Thatcher's and Milk Islands. The conditions were excellent for playing in the rocks. I hung back because I wasn't quite settled into the Cetus, but the others played. This area could get real in fun if the sea state picked up a notch...
After a quick repair break on Milk Island, we made our way back to Rockport along the shore. The conditions were calmer along the shore, but still lively enough to play. The shore line is rocky and dotted with houses which makes it fun and interesting.
Before heading back into Back Beach, we made the obligatory trip into Rockport Harbor to see Motif 1. Then it was a short trip back to the beach.
It was a great day for a paddle. The threatened rain never materialized. The haze was just enough to keep us from baking in our kayaks. The fog threatened to roll in, but never did. I don't know that I could have asked for a better day to explore the north shore.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Outer Boston Harbor

It has been awhile since I helped coordinate a trip or been out in Boston Harbor, so this was a bit scary. Fortunately for me PB is always prepared and always has a plan. This trip was no different. He had the tides all figure out days in advance and had a float plan ready to go. All I had to do was show up and help herd the cats.
As it turned out, I didn't even really need to herd any cats. The cats did all the work themselves. The group was amazing. We stayed tight on all of the crossings. Nobody got too far ahead or too far behind. Nobody darted into the rocks without checking to make sure the rest of the group was nearby. We even managed to regroup on Georges at the right time.
The conditions were almost as perfect as the group. The putter harbor was calm. The wind was minimal. The temperature was reasonable. The only downer was the haze, but we hardly cared. It was just a great day to enjoy the islands.
This was one of those paddles that reminds me why I love to paddle so much. It left me tired and rejuvenated.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Water Bug

A few months back P&K invited us to go along to a kayak show out of the blue. We took H's car figuring we would never buy anything.... Naturally, we wound up buying a double kayak with a jump seat for Bug. We planned on buying one anyway and this was a great deal.
Sadly it had been sitting in the garage begging to put in the water. We just hadn't had the time for H and I to try it without Bug. The water hasn't been warm enough for us to brave taking Bug out. We were afraid that she would dance around or try to climb out while we were in the middle of the pond. Bug isn't one to be sitting still for more than a minute.
Thanks to the magic that is the New England weather, we were able to give it a shot this Memorial Day. The water temps were in the mid-60s, the air temp was in the high 70s, and the sun was blazing. We loaded the beast onto the egg (It is not an exaggeration to call this kayak which Bug refers to as the 'me boat', a beast. The thing weighs decidedly more than my Q-boat and that is an industrial strength product of Valley.), packed up the paddles and PFDs, and dressed Bug in her rash guard.
The first of our challenges, and as it turned out the worst of them, was how to get the kayak off of the car and manage a Bug.... She has a knack for getting in the way when trying to be helpful and also for roaming around just below the sight line of cars. We ended up settling on strapping her back in the car seat while we hauled the beast to the edge of the water. Once we had the kayak at the ramp, one of us kept an eye on the Bug while the other packed the boat.
Our biggest concern was that Bug wouldn't sit still in the kayak and end up tumbling into the water. We weren't too worried that she would drown because she knows to close her mouth when her head goes under the water and she has a good PFD. We just didn't want her to freak out and not have fun.
We needn't have worried. Bug sat in her seat for most of the trip. It was pretty clear that she instinctively knew better. That doesn't mean she was a statue either. She did plenty of looking around. She also did a good bit of leaning over the edge to splash her hands in the water. For most of the trip she had a big smile on her face. She even pretended like she was paddling. "I rowing in me boat!"



Moving the beast around was a different challenge. H and I are both used to paddling skinny, solo kayaks. The beast is wide and has two paddlers. We stayed pretty much in synch. The paddles only clacked a few times and it was always because I had stopped paying attention to H's rhythm.
The width, and Bug, posed a different challenge for me. As the guy in the back, I was responsible for watching Bug and steering. Initially, I kept trying to steer with sweep strokes. This sort of worked, but there were a few issues. First it was hard for me to do a good sweep because my paddle isn't really long enough for the beast's girth. The second, and more important issues, was that because I'm so used to low angle paddling I bopped Bug in the head a few times. Fortunately, they were just minor bops. Still, I didn't want to be doing that all day. So, I resigned myself to using rudders and draws to do the steering. That worked much better (despite feeling unnatural).
It was a fun hour or so on the pond. We managed to get three quarters of the way around before Bug started getting restless. She wanted to use her water bottle as a sea anchor and after third time of asking her to keep the water bottle in the kayak, we took it away from her. That pretty much ended the fun for Bug. She tried to stand up and grab it back. Then she fell into a fit of two year-old weeping. She recovered, as is typical, quickly, but we made a bee line for the ramp anyway. It was getting late and she was nearing the point where nothing would be fun.
All in all it was a great trip. I think next time we will bring along some different things for Bug to play with. We will also plan on making stops along the way. I am looking forward to having many more fun trips with Bug and H.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Back in the yak

After nearly a year, I finally got a chance to get out on the water. I was a little nervous that I had lost my mojo. I was also suffering from a bad case of kayak withdrawal, so all of my anxieties have been on overdrive. I was mentally twitchy on the drive down, while getting myself ready, and for the first few minutes of the paddle.
My anxiety melted away after I made my first tight turn. The boat leaned just enough for me to feel the edge and the stern slipped right around. I was a little jerky when I righted the kayak, but I knew most of the skills were intact if a little rusty.
The rest of the day served to build my confidence. We were doing a coordinator practice chat involved a lot of rescues. That gave me plenty of time to shake the rust off my skills.
TM did a great job of explaining the basics of rescues and keeping the smarty pants in check. He had us working on the new version of the basic T rescue. The swimmer rights their kayak, to make it easier for the rescuer to grab and drain. While the rescuer is manipulating the swimmer's kayak, the swimmer hangs out on the rescue kayak where the rescuer can keep an eye on them. Once the swimmer's kayak is empty, the swimmer makes their way to the back deck of their kayak. Then they flop up on the deck and slide into their cockpit.
One thing that TM stressed was that in a rescue situation everyone has a job. That includes the swimmer. They need to be able to assist in their one rescue. That is one reason why everyone practiced being a swimmer as well as a rescuer.
After lunch we practiced in rougher conditions. The wind had picked up and the seas were choppier. Conditions do make things harder. It is harder to reach the swimmer. It is harder to manipulate the swimmer's kayak. It is harder to get back into the kayak. It is also more nerve wracking knowing that you are being blown into potential hazards.
Once we were safely back at Bay Campus, I felt like I needed to see if the most finicky of all kayaking skills was still intact: my roll. I flopped over, set up, rotated around and popped out of the water just like old times. Now that I was feeling cocky, I decided to give the other side a try.... I flopped over, set up, jerked the paddle under the water, and went nowhere.... Still retaining a smudge of cockiness, I switched sides and executed a relaxed roll up. So, my roll is half OK. I suspect the fault was more mental than actual...
It appears that kayaking is like riding a bike. I'm glad because I'm hoping to spend more time on the water this summer.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Summer in April

The weather in New England this weekend has been scary good. Clear, sunny sky and temps in the 70s is just about perfect for June. For April, it is a little unusual. It makes me wonder about how far along global warming is, but I'll take a few days of nice weather.
We definitely took advantage of it this weekend. Yesterday Bug and I spent the morning running around at the playground by our house. While Bug napped, H and I started tackling the yard. The weeds seem too far along for this time of year....
Today was another outdoor adventure day. We loaded Egg 2.0 up with the bikes and the Bug trailer and drove to the bike trail. Our planned adventure was pretty tame, but it is early in the year. We rode about three miles into the center of Lexington for a picnic lunch. It was a nice little ride for our fist time out in 2012. Bug seemed pretty comfortable in the trailer. I didn't struggle pulling it. H didn't have any trouble keeping up. The only trouble we did have was remembering how to hook the trailer up and to release the brake before starting out....
I am looking forward to many more family bike trips this year-short or long.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Keeping Track of Everything

It is no secret that I suffer from gadgetophilia. What is a little surprising to me is my love of data. I always thought that tracking a paddle on GPS was useful while on the water, and it was fun to see your speed at the end of the trip. I never really thought I'd be interested in that data later.
A few years ago I got a Garmin Forerunner as a cycling computer. It track cadence, speed, heart rate, and your course. It also let's you down load the data to a computer for tracking your workouts. I figured what the heck, it would be cool to see where I've been riding. Now, I have three years of ride data and I constantly compare new rides with past rides to track my progress. It is a little bit of an obsession.
I've also been keeping track of my weight because my doctor told me it was the best way to diet. Seeing the trend line would keep me motivated. It never really worked, but I did it anyway. The graph was sort of neat. When our scale died a few weeks ago, I wanted one that would automatically track my weight. I ended up with the Withings scale. It records weight, BMI, and body composition data and automatically uploads it to the Web. I find this super cool and love looking at the graph.
This obsession with data extends to photos as well. I love the way iPhoto can show where a picture was taken and I love the fact that my iPhone automatically ads that information. It save me from compulsively adding the data manually. If I have to I do while I'm adding face data, because that is super cool too.
Initially I worried that maybe keeping track of all this stuff was unhealthy; it was just another time killing obsession. As I thought about it more I realized that it was just another form of journalling in a sense and that some of the data was actually helpful. In fact, human beings have been obsessed with keeping track of things forever. Technology just makes it easier.
I have always been a journal keeper. Writing things down started out as a crazy teenage dream about having source material for an autobiography for when I was famous. Then it became a creative outlet and a way to work out the stresses of life. The journal is also a good way to keep things in perspective. It provides a window to the past, both good and bad, that can help refocus what is happening in the present. It can also provide clues as to what is happening in the present-sort of like medical records.
The face and places data with the photos serves a similar role. It provides context for the pictures. It adds to the memory. It also makes the photos easier to find.
The workout data and the weight data doesn't serve a real memory purpose, but they do help in keeping track of your health. I can easily see that last summer I was in better shape than I am now. That is no surprise since the stationary bike is easier than a real bike. I can also easily see that I am in better shape at this year than I was at the same time last year. So, when I drag the real bike out of the garage, I will be able to gage what is a good starting point for training. When my health anxiety gets going good I can see proof that I'm in good physical shape.
I think that the data craze is here to stay and not just for me. Anyone can keep and track reams of data about themselves cheaply and easily. For a hundred dollars you can buy a wrist band that monitors your activity throughout the day and monitor the quality of your sleep. With a smartphone you do even more.
Applications like Facebook, Pintrest, and Intagram are more ways we keep records of our lives. They are taking the place of journals, folders, and photo albums. Just easier to update, store, and share.
Of course the downside of all this is that companies now have access to all of this information too. When it was written on paper in your drawer or in your bookcase, you controlled access to the information. Now Facebook, Google, Apple, Garmin, Fitbit, and other companies can use the data for their own ends. You just have to trust them to be good shepherds and not sell your data to the wolves.
That is probably easier with companies that view you as their customer instead of their product.... So it pays to know the business model of the companies who have your data.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

2012

So this is the last year of the Mayan calendar, so the world might end in December. If that is the case, which I doubt, there is a lot of living left to squeeze into the year....
For me, less is usually more so I'm not going to clutter the year up with lots of big plans and lofty must accomplish goals. Instead, I'm going to set myself a few things to guide how I live this year:
1. I'm going to value time with my family over time at work.
2. I will do my best in all things that I do.
3. I will read indiscriminately.
4. I will prefer outdoor time to screen time.
5. I will stay active.
6. I will eat healthy with the occasional chocolate and ice cream.
7. I will try to relax.
These are just guiding principles. They are not mandates. They are not goals to be reached.
Mandates, goals, resolutions are just another way to beat yourself up. They are carrots to chase and hoops to jump through on the way to the next goal. They are not a way to live a life.
If they Mayans were right, I don't want to be looking back from the end of the world wishing I had accomplished some goal. I want to be happy knowing that I had lived life.