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.