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.....