Sunday, June 23, 2013

Outer West Passage

This paddle was a rare and unexpected treat. The outer west passage is one of my favorite places to kayak because it offers a gamut of conditions within easy reach. However, I wasn't expecting to be able to go on the paddle because I was seeing Jimmy Buffet the night before. In my 20's and most of my 30's I'd thought nothing of paddling on littler or no sleep, however in my 40's I consider the wisdom of paddle on a few hours of sleep.
H was insistent that I paddle and made sure I packed the UberEgg before we left for the concert. We got home from the concert earlier than I expected, so I made sure to get right to bed. With a good 6+ hours of sleep, I felt good in the morning. The weather was looking good as well. Not too warm with a slight breeze and clear skies. I left the house confident that I was going to have a good day on the water.
Little did I know just how good a day I was going to have. The conditions were perfectly tuned to my desires. The spring tides had the current running out of the Bay as fast as I have ever seen. The wind was just enough to keep us cool and create some good chop. The conditions were just inside the comfort zone. Since I don't get out on my own much, I prefer conditions that are more challenging. I can always find a little time with the family to paddle on flat water.
TM, our newly minted BCU 5-star paddler, coordinated the group with his usual skill. Since most of the members of the group were familiar with the area, the coordination was more about keeping the group together and managing the comfort levels of the paddlers. To me, this is the hardest part of coordinating a group and I am glad TM seems to enjoy it. He did an excellent job of allowing the group to spread just enough so that some paddlers could experience the bigger chop along the shore while others could paddle in the relative calm on the channel.
The most impressive bit was managing the group on the crossing from Beavertail to Whale Rock. The conditions on this part of the paddle are always the biggest. It is the entrance to the Bay and the ocean swells tend to be larger here than further inside the Bay. TM timed our paddle up the Jamestown coast to allow the conditions to settle before making the big crossing. Earlier in the morning the combination of the current and the wind was making big swells. When we got there, the swells were more reasonable for everyone in the group. They were big enough to provide some excitement, but not so big as to make trouble. TM also did a great job of ensuring that comfortable paddlers were evenly spread amongst the group to support the less comfortable paddlers.
For me this was the best part of the paddle. The combination of the big swells, the fast current, the wind, and the need to keep an eye on the group presented the perfect amount of challenge. There was no zoning out or getting frustrated. It was just focus. There were a few unpredictably large swells that gave me a pleasant surprise.
The relatively mild conditions along the bluffs were nice for practicing boat handling skills in the rocks. They also made for a nice cool down before hitting the beach.
Before finally relinquishing the ocean, I did a few rolls. They were a little creaky, but that was to be expected. I was happy that I rolled up without too much trouble. It was a great way to end a great day.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Fun in the Sun

Having a child forces you to do things differently. A few years ago, I made decision about when to paddle on the fly. Now, I make arrangements weeks in advance. Planning in advance is nice because you know you will get to paddle at least a few times a season. It also makes bad weather a big deal.
Fortunately bad weather was not an issue today. I'd been waiting for this paddle for many weeks.
We descended on the parking lot early to make sure we got parking. Manchester, like all towns on Cape Ann, has limited public parking. It has even less parking that is suitable for launching kayaks.
The weather was nearly ideal for a day on the water. Sunny, but not too warm. A light breeze and calm seas. The afternoon threatened some thunder showers, but we were not worried.
The plan was to paddle out to the Misery Islands, check out the area from Little Misery, and likely head out past Bakers to play on the rocky islands.
The morning was pleasantly uneventful. We meandered our way out to the Miseries. Along the way out JS and I reminisced about the last time we paddled this stretch of water. It was a very different paddle...
That day was cold and gray with mean seas. The swells were steep and unpredictable. We spent a lot our time trying not to surf into the other paddlers in the group and hoping for landfall. It was one of those days where you ask yourself, repeatedly, if you are crazy....
After a brief stop on Little Misery to see what was happening and pick our lunch spot, the group headed out towards Bakers. The seas were just bouncy enough to remind you that this was a sea kayak trip. I love this kind of paddling, particularly when I have been away from the water for a long time. The rhythm of the paddles and bounce of the swells become a mantra. It is an alert relaxation; it is revitalizing.
After lunch the paddling was more active. The winds and swells picked up a little. It was a nice change. The conditions required an active presence but wasn't enough to knock me out of the zone. Paddle, correct, paddle, correct, deploy skeg, paddle.... Just right to remind me that I was at the mercy of forces beyond my control. All I could do was be present and adjust as needed.
Back at the cars, I felt the rejuvenating effects of the paddle. I was more relaxed and more balanced. A great day on the water.