Saturday, December 27, 2014


Tim 3 posted a show and go from Wickford Harbor to Rome Point for the Saturday after Christmas. It was a mini present to go along with sun and mild temperatures. Who am I to pass up a gift?
I thought I planned for enough time to get to Wickford in plenty of time for a 10am launch. I forgot to plan for the slowest Starbucks on the planet. I also forgot to account for my dependence on electronic enhancements.
I decided to forgo my external brains handy mapping features and rely on pure memory. I was doing great until I got on Route 4 and realized I had no idea which exit to take. I knew there was a 2 involved and that I would eventually drive past an ice cream store. Luckily I guessed mostly right. The intersection of 1A was another challenge. I failed it a lot when I frequented Wickford and I failed it again. Then PB called wondering if I was almost at the put in….
Once at the put-in things went much smoother. Packing the Q-boat and donning the drysuit was fast and easy. I didn’t even let the unnatural heat sidetrack my cloting descisions. The water was cold and I dressed appropriately.
The paddle was pleasant and relaxing. The weather was mild and sunny. The wind was minimal. We paddled out of the harbor and hugged the shore over to Rome Point at a lesiurely pace. It was nice to just move and chat. We saw a few seals and a duck hunter.
For lunch we went to the southern beach of Rome Point where the trail from the parking lot emerges onto the beach. It was pleasent. One of the paddlers had yummy “hot chocolate” cookies left over from Christmas. They looked like little cups of cocoa with handles and everything.
For the return trip we paddled around Fox island. As we passed Rome Point we saw a lot of seals in the water and a few on the rocks. They checked us out while we floated around. Then we made our way home at a laid back pace.
It was a pleasent Christmas present from the paddle gods.

Monday, December 01, 2014

New Boat Ideas

The Q-boat is showing its age. All of the hatches seep water. The day hatch is so leaky that I need to mop it out at lunch. The other hatches don’t seem to be as bad, but their size could be making masking the amount of water in them. The floor of the cockpit has pretty deep grooves were my feet sit. The keel strip is worn through. Some of the gel coat patches have patches.

I’m sure there is nothing that cannot be fixed. The question is if it is worth fixing. At some point an old kayak, like an old car, should be retired. The Q-boat has seen eight years of hard service.

If it is time to retire the Q-boat, what do I replace it with?

The recommedations I’ve gotten so far are to get a Cetus. They are the kayak-du-jour in my local kayaking circle. I’ve tried a few of them and not been impressed. They felt plenty stable, had decent speed, and were manueverable for a long kayak. They were easy enough to roll. In all that competance hid a lack of character. It was like driving a Camery or a Celica. Maybe the Q-boat’s quircks have messed up my expectations, but I want more than bland competence.

One other suggestion was a Tiderace Xcite. They get excellent reviews, but are also positioned as a jack of all trades kayak. I will definitely try one out, but based on the description it doesn’t excite me.

While checking out the Xcite, I saw that Tiderace has a new series called the Xtra that does excite me. It is billed as a rough water play boat for the ocean. At under 17’ it is a little short to be a great expedition kayak, but I rarely do more than day trips. It also gets great reviews.

The other kayak I’ve considered is the Greenlander Pro. I paddled one when I was looking at the Q-boat and liked it. It is a fast kayak and handled pretty well for a long kayak. It also looks good.

Both the Xtra and the Greenlander Pro are hard to find in my area, so I may be out of luck. Are there any other kayaks that I should put on the list to consider? I basically want a kayak for day trips and rough water. It also needs to be OK for the occasional overnight trip.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Blow by Blow

There are two divergent truths about the weather forecast: you always need to check it before going on the water and you can never trust it.
I made sure to check the weather before leaving to paddle this morning to make sure it was not going to be a total slog fest. The weather forecast was for moderate winds and nice temperatures. When I arrived at Gooseberry Point, I was greeted with howling frigid winds....
I am not sure I would have left the house for the actual conditions. The actual conditions were not bad enough to head home without getting on the water. I could definitely make the best of the conditions. There was plenty of surf and bumpy water along the Horseneck Beach side of the point.
This was also the first real cold weather paddle. I packed the dry suit and a bunch of fleece layers. I check the box-o-gear to make sure I had gloves. I forgot to check for a hat.
Most of me was toasty warm in fleece lined gortex. My head was freezing. Fortunately, JS had a spare hat he was willing to lend out. It was a perfect fit and cozy warm to boot.
We launched in the shelter of Gooseberry Point. It was hard to match the conditions on the water with the conditions in the parking lot. The wind and seas were calm. It was almost boring.
On the other side of the point things were much more challenging. The Q-boat is a notorious weather cocker and the beam wind knocked the skinny little tail around. I usually try not to use my skeg because, in my twisted head, it is a crutch and there is a little shame in it. After struggling with a myriad of correcting strokes, I finally gave up and dropped the skeg. Then, we stopped to play in the surf.
At first, I just sat outside the surf zone. Then I got bored and tired to catch a few waves. I got few OK rides. The wave were OK, but not great. So, I decided to try surfing a Q-boat....
The first time I dumped, on the first wave I caught, was not bad. It's amazing how toasty fleece lined gortex is. I was a good way off shore, so I swam in, took the opportunity to relieve myself, and relaunch.
The second time was more adventurous. I was in shallow water close to sure. I actually managed to roll up once. Before I could settle, I was knocked over again. I went for a second roll and felt the mighty stick touch the bottom. I tried not to push off the bottom, but it was too late. I came up without my hat and losing my sunglasses. As I tried to secure my glasses, another wave knocked me over. I tossed the glasses toward shore to clutch the mighty stick in one hand and the grab loop with the other. I popped up between the kayak and the shore. Before the Q-boat knocked me silly, I ducked and got on its good side. I dragged everything to shore and started searching for my missing kit. JS kept telling me not to worry about the hat.... The glasses, thanks to the croaky, float and were easy to spot. My head was still naked and getting chilly.
TM, who is a boy scout leader, had a back up hat and my head was once again toasty.
The paddle home was a slog. Beam winds and chop made keep the Q-boat on a straight course nigh impossible. I started off using a paddle, paddle, stern rudder sequence with a few sweeps thrown in. Then I dropped the skeg and found that I still needed the occasional stern rudder to keep straight. Shame and corrective strokes were too much for me and I pulled the rudder again. TM told me to try a stern draw to keep the weather cocking in check. I'm not sure if it was lack of technique, the Q-boat, the mighty stick, or all three but I found myself slicing like a half dimpled golf ball.
Getting around the point made me feel like a novice. Getting the Q-boat to turn was a bitch. I was tired and out of practice. Getting the Q-boat onto a chine and make it turn was a physical and mental struggle. I finally got a enough of a turn to make it back into the lee of the point.
Conditions in the lee were clam again. The last bit of paddling back to the put in was easy peasy.
This was not an easy or relaxing paddle. It was energizing despite the frustration. A good challenge is always worth the time.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Outer West Passage of Terror

It was a rough week at work. My boss resigned and my new master made it clear that I was no longer going to have as much freedom to address issues as I was used to having. So H pushed me to get out and paddle if possible.
TG posted a level 3-4 paddle out of Bay Campus for the weekend. Level 3-4 is around the top of my current range, but it is safely in the range-as long as things don't get too pear shaped. The forecast was for wind, but I was feeling pretty good about getting on the water. Then I read the message board on Saturday.....
There was a thread about how this was going to be an advanced level paddle, Only paddlers who had been paddling regularly should attend. There was a second post describing the conditions on Saturday as closer to level 4-5. I was feeling a little less confident that I was up for the trip. Was I really up for an edge of the envelope paddle? Would I slow the group down or become a safety issue?
Upon careful consideration of the facts, I decided to go. I had been paddling regularly. A lot of the paddling was not in rough conditions or on RIC/KA trips, but it was time on the water paddling. Pushing Big Red around exercises the same muscles and takes a good deal of skill. Maneuvering a double without help is not easy. The NOAA forecast for the area did not match up with the described conditions; they were night and day. It was a safe bet that reality was somewhere in the middle. I was comfortable with the middle. I also trusted that TG and TM would tell me if they felt I wasn't up to the conditions.
At the put in, it was a little windy. The seas looked bumpy, but not scary. The scariest decisions were where to park and what to wear. Autumn, like Spring, is always tricky from a wardrobe perspective. The weather was sunny, but a little windy. The water is a little cold, but not really cold. People were wearing drysuits and people were wearing shorts and paddle jackets. I wasn't ready to give up on the warm weather or admit that winter is bearing down, so I went with the shorts and paddle jacket.
We launched and crossed over to Dutch Island. From there we proceeded along the Jamestown coast. The wind and swells were a minor presence. You knew they were there, but just. It was nice to just paddle and catch up with people.
Once we passed Beaver Tail, the wind and swells picked up. Crossing the mouth of the Bay from Beaver Tail to Whale Rock is bumpy on a clam day. Today was no exception. It was bumpier than average, but far from uncomfortable.
From Whale Rock we paddled down to Narragansett Town Beach for lunch. Getting to the beach took some planning. The beach was busy, there was a little choppy surf, and the rip from Narrow River was in place. We stuck close to the rocks to avoid the rip and the surf. A few adventurous paddlers did take the opportunity to play.
Lunch was nice, but windy. It was the only point on the paddle that I regretted not wearing a drysuit. My legs got a little chilly. Several people pulled out storm cags for warmth. I took the opportunity to break out the emergency shelter for a little respite from the wind. The shelter, which is little more than a big nylon sheet, is a little unwieldy. Once inside the shell, you are toasty warm. From the inside, the shelter is easy to manage.
After lunch, we paddled back along the mainland coast and the rocks. The wind and the swell made it a fun ride. We also had the National Guard giving us a show of men being dangled from a helicopter. Gawking at the string of men being dragged through the air on a rope was a nice way to spend the breaks between surfing through rocks.
I've grown more cautious as I've gotten older. I am not more concerned about getting myself hurt; I'm more concerned about finding the time and money to get the kayak fixed. OK, I am also concerned about getting myself hurt. The worry is not really for myself though; it is for my family. How would my being injured effect them? Could I afford to get the kayak fixed without impacting them? That doesn't mean I don't want to play in the rocks. I just have to balance my desire to play with my responsibilities differently.
The rocks were fun. I didn't tackle all of the rocks, but I made anough runs to challenge and satiate the need. Ultimately, I think I enjoy the distance paddling more than the rock playing. The adrenaline rush is great. The quiet is better.
We ran into some paddler looking for surf in Bonnet Cove, so we checked the beach out. The surf was small. People played a little. I mostly just bobbed and recharged.
Back at the put-in, I did the mandatory roll on each side. I can still roll. They were not as pretty as in the past, but I get up.
The paddle was just what the doctor ordered. I drove home feeling much better and mentally relaxed. A good day on the water can wash away a lot of crap.

Sunday, September 21, 2014


I had given up hope for paddling this season. It looked like every weekend save for a very few were booked up. The fall season, while it can offer great paddling days, is also notorious for rainy weekends. Work was feeling like a long, bleak slog to nowhere. Is it any wonder that most representations of Autumn in literature are bleak and hopeless.Then TM e-mailed asking me to post a Jamestown circumcision paddle on a day that I had free!! I only had two days notice, but I was hopeful that I'd get clearance. I was a little uncertain about my stamina and skills for a long haul paddle, but felt that I could handle the distance and the price I'd pay the next day.
Saturday morning I woke up achy and stuffy... Initially, I thought it was just lingering effects from a long week. As the day wore on, I started thinking it may be a cold. Knowing there was a potentially excellent paddle the next day made me even more miserable.
The forecast for the following day was looking pretty grim as well. There was a better than 50% chance of thunder showers. In New England 50% is hardly a sure thing. I checked with TM and his feeling was that the showers were a red herring.
H kept asking if I was still thinking about going. I kept saying that I was holding off until morning to see if I felt any better. Secretly, I think both of us had come to the conclusion that I was going to be home.
I was not prepared to admit defeat. I packed the car and deployed the roof racks.
Sunday morning I woke up feeling much better. At least better enough to go paddling. The sky was grey and the forecast still called for showers, but the paddle was not being canceled. H was very kind and said nothing and helped me load the kayak on the car.
The paddle crew was an interesting mix of old faces and new faces. It was odd not knowing everyone. It was odd to be using the stick again. It was even odder to feel like I may be the weak link in the chain. I resolved to just pretend everything was normal and that I was still the same seasoned paddler I was years ago.
As it turned out, I am still a pretty good paddler. All the paddles in Big Red kept my paddle muscles in functional shape. The rest of the skills are like riding a bike. I little time on the water and I felt pretty good.
The paddling was an interesting mix of play boating and distance paddling. Our first leg was up to the dumplings to see if there was any current to play in. There was a little, but not enough to hold our interest for long. We then headed south along the Jamestown coast. There was enough energy in the water to make things fun and require helmets. We worked our way down the coast and around Beavertail. Then we headed north up the other coast. TM wanted to lunch at Ft. Getty, so we passed most of the little coves that dot the coast. After lunch we passed Dutch Island and into the harbor. We carried over the beach and headed back to Ft. Weatherill.
It was a long paddle at nearly 13 miles. I was tired, but I felt good. I was fully re-energized and ready for a week of work.... even if I was planning on being a little stiff on Monday.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Big Red Gets Ice Cream

We bring all of our toys with us on vacation. The car is not happy about lugging everything to the far reaches of Maine, but that is the car's raison-de-etre. So, we spent four days in Searsport camping.
On Friday, we biked around Belfast and found a Cool Spot that has great ice cream and coffee.
On Saturday, we wanted to use the kayaks. Bug mostly wanted to hang out and it took us until mid-afternoon to get our acts together. We used ice cream as the lure to get Bug's buy in for the adventure. The paddle to Belfast is along a pretty protected coast with no major crossings. I'd guessed that it was maybe four miles one way, and would take about an hour.
Once we got on the water Bug cheered up. She enjoyed playing with her paddle and looking for birds on the water.
We moved along the coast at a nice pace until Bug had to pee. I didn't think this was a big deal. I suggested that she just climb out of the boat, hang on the side, and do her business. There was no chance of Bug tipping Big Red and she was wearing a PFD. It would be a quick in and out stop. I was overruled and we headed into shore to find a decent place for Bug to get out and pee in shallow water. It took a little doing, but we did find a spot.
Back on the water, Bug and chatted about all sorts of things as we made our way to ice cream. Then we repeated the pee stop.
The last third of the paddle was free of stops and involved the only crossing of the trip. The Passagassawakeag River empties into Belfast Bay. The currents are barely noticeable, but it was enough to stir up some anxiety.
The paddle turned out to be more like six and a bit miles. It took closer to two hours. Our time for ice cream was going to be short. If the return trip took as long, we would just beat sunset.
Once on land, we rushed to the Cool Spot for yummy, and deserved, ice cream. We each got our own version of chocolate decadence. The flavors are lush. It was hard leaving.
After ice cream, the fun stopped. Bug didn't want to get back into the kayak. She refused. It was clear that the return trip was not in the cards, despite our best efforts. Fortunately, we were in a populated area and could call a cab. H returned to the campground and got the car.
The trip was good until it wasn't. H and I learned that you cannot always push a four year old. Bug is usually pretty flexible, but has her limits. Our plan was ambitious for adults.
I'll take a good oneway trip with the family any day. Even if we don't complete the whole mission.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Bug's Big Adventure

This was the first weekend day in a long while that we didn't have any obligations, so we decided to take advantage of the perfect weather and have a family adventure. Many options were discussed including kayaking at various locations and biking on the Providence to Bristol trail. I wanted to kayak and, fortunately, the rest of the family agreed.
To my pleasant surprise, H mentioned kayaking out of Hingham Harbor and checking out Grape Island. We had talked about camping on Grape several times, but the camp sites were booked full since early in the season. The weather was perfect for the paddle and the tides were favorable, so it seemed like a great idea.
We planned on launching around 10 or 10:30. That put us on the water when there was plenty of water and give us more than enough time to explore before low tide turned the harbor into miles of sticky mud. Plans are funny things....
We got a very late start. We all slept in a little. We tried a new way to tie Big Red to the roof. We had to revert back to the original way of mounting Big Red. We forgot the sunscreen and had to make an extra stop on the way to the beach....
We managed to get on the water before noon. We still had plenty time to play. We brought along a bunch of sand toys for Bug to use on the beach at lunch. She also had her new paddle along for the ride. It is a "daddy" built greenland paddle. It is not terrible effective as a paddle, but it put a smile on Bug's face and made her feel like she was part of the team.
Bug's new paddle also makes it easier for me to paddle. She used to bring along half of a real kayak paddle and drag it in the water... That could create a lot of drag. The new paddle doesn't create nearly as much drag and it is double sided, so she can actually paddle with it.
The paddle over to Grape is about 2.5 miles and is mostly along the shore. It was a nice relaxing paddle. Bug pointed out all of the boats and birds and planes. H paddled along nearby in her kayak. There were a few bumpy spots, but nothing major. Bug wasn't sure what to make of the bigger waves, but seemed to enjoy them once she realized we were safe in the kayak.
Lunch on Grape was nice. There were a number of people waiting for the ferry to bring them home. We spoke to one of the park rangers who told us that the island, despite what the reservation site says, is rarely full. Apparently, you can all over the day you want to camp and they can usually accommodate you. It is cheaper to pay for the unused site than cancel a reservation....
After lunch we were going to play on the beach. Bug was all set to play near the kayaks, but H wanted to go on an adventure to see what was just around the corner from the kayaks. After some protestation from Bug, we made our way around the corner. H sat down on a nearby bench and figured Bug would stop and play in the sand.
Bug didn't get the memo and wanted to continue the adventure to see what was around the corner... We walked around the corner. There was plenty of interesting things to see as we walked around the corner. We saw crabs, all sorts of shells, interesting trees, more kayaks, and even some other people. After a while, Bug started getting tired and wanted to be carried as we continued the adventure around the corner. By that time, it was shorter to keep going than to turn back. After a nice walk around Grape we returned to our kayaks.
Our trek ate up all our time on the island. The tide was receding and we didn't have a lot of time to get back before the mud flats took over the boat landing. On the paddle back we went around the back of Slate Island before crossing over the closer to shore. Bug curled up in the front cockpit for a little nap. It was a pleasant paddle back.
We got back just before the mud flats raised their sucking maws. A few people who came in after us were not as lucky.
We finished the day off with some nice cold brew coffee and excellent burgers. What a great day!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Rain, Rain, No Way

This weekend was our annual Boston Harbor Island paddle. I was jonesing for a big boy paddle. I love getting on the water with the family, but sometimes a boy needs to stretch his blades....
The weather forecast didn't look promising. On Friday it was a chance of thunderstorms. On Saturday it was a 50% chance of thunderstorms. Late Saturday it was a 60% chance of thunderstorms.
I checked on Saturday with PB to see what he wanted to do and he figured we would stay the course. The forecast looked a lot like the forecasters were essentially tossing their hands up because they couldn't tell what was going to happen. In addition, we could always stick to the inner harbor and be safe. It was the answer I wanted to hear. Without a second opinion, I may have whimped out and canceled the paddle.
Sunday morning was reasonably sunny, but a little windy. The wind was actually good. PB and I needed the reminder that paddling to the outer harbor was a bad idea. There is enough stuff to see on the inner harbor for an interesting day on the water.
The weather forecast was enough for a number of people to decide against paddling. The only ones rugged enough to join us were TM and CMO. Four boats is a very nice size pod for a day on the water.
We launched from windmill point and crossed the gut to the outside of Peddocks. We made our way along the outside of Peddocks under clear skies and almost no wind. The island shielded us from the blow. Peddocks is a deceptively big island. It is like two islands: the half with the fort and the half with the houses. There were people out on the beach enjoying the morning as we paddled along the shore.
When we rounded the end of Peddocks, we hit the blow. From the tip of Peddocks to Grape we paddled in wind. It was a strong beamy blow that churned up the water into a pleasant chop. It was my favorite section of the paddle. The Q is happiest in choppy water. The wind did cause some weathercocking, but that just added to the fun.
As we neared Grape ominous storm clouds filled the sky. We knew something was coming, but there was no thunder. We had lunch by the ferry dock on Grape Island with the camper waiting for the ferry. Just after breaking out the food, I got a text from H making sure we were off the water. Then the rain came down.
It rained, but didn't thunder for about 30 minutes. Once the sky dried up, we continued on our way back to the cars. The rain washed away a lot of the wind and chop. There was still a beam wind that pushed the back of the Q around, but it was far less than what we saw coming from Peddocks to Grape.
Our return trip took us around Slate and over to Bumpkin. We figured if the thunder did arrive we could hang out at the shelters on Bumpkin. There was no need to worry. We paddled under clear skies the whole way back to the put in.
I did try a couple of rolls before landing. I came up both times, but they were ugly. My blades dove both times. It is a clear sign that I need more practice....
The rain didn't really come until we were sitting having coffee and pastries. That was a perfect time for the storms. It meant less hosing down at home...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Big Red

After two years, we upgraded Bug's kayak. The barge was an OK first kayak for introducing a two-year old to paddling, but it was far from a great kayak.
Now that Bug is a little older and more independent, she wants her own seat and we want to get a little more adventurous.
Looking around for an upgraded was frustrating. Most of the double kayaks we saw were firmly in the recreational category. We wanted a touring double. These turned out to be a rare and expensive breed. Seaward makes a few models. NDK makes one model. VCP makes one model. They are all expensive and hard to find. We weren't sure if we could afford the leap, but kept looking.
We visited our local REI to buy a tent on what turned out to be a garage sale day. Sitting on the lawn next to the front door was a big red double sea kayak!! It was a cast off from the previous years training fleet and marked down to $1000!!! A quick inspection showed no obvious damage. A quick online search for information about the make and model, a Wilderness System Northstar, gave us generally positive reviews. It was an offer we could not refuse.
The kayak is deceptively heavy. H insists that it feels lighter than the barge, but at 90lbs it is heavier. The weight is distributed over a longer area. The barge was a pudgy 15 feet long; Big Red is a sleek 19 feet long. Big Red's size and weight make transporting a challenge, but it seems more manageable than the barge was.
Big Red came with a rudder that needed to be reattached. This has been the biggest issue to date with the kayak. It is likely a stupid installer problem, but I cannot seem to find clips for attaching the wires to the rudder that are worth a damn. We have had the kayak on the water twice and both times the clips pulled apart within minutes. The latest set have held well enough so that I could use the rudder for most of the trip, but only just.
Aside from the issues with the rudder, I have found Big Red to be a pleasure to paddle. Bug has her own cockpit up in front that we could put a spray skirt on if we wanted. Both cockpits have comfortable seats with plenty of adjustments. The foot pegs in the rear cockpit are a little squishy, but that is typical with ruddered kayaks.
The hull is slightly swede form and that makes it relatively easy to manage with, or without, the rudder. Both times I have paddled Big Red, I have done so without the rudder for large parts of the trips. It isn't as easy to manage as the Q-boat, but it isn't impossible either. I found that a good sweep turn will suffice for most maneuvering. A stern rudder will keep Big Red straight in most conditions. I even used a "bow" rudder to effect a turn in ideal conditions.
The rudder works well and does make it easier to manage Big Red in cross winds.
Big Red feels stable in leaned turns, but I haven't been too aggressive yet. Bug doesn't have a skirt and we have not spent a lot of time practicing what to do in the case of a capsize. We have been in some minor chop and it felt stable throughout. Bug loved the way the nose felt as it dropped off the waves.
Big Red has three bulkheads, but only two truly dry compartments. The front and rear hatches are walled off from the cockpits by foam bulkheads. The third bulkhead is between the front and rear cockpit. There is a third hatch that opens into a space between the middle bulkhead and the rear cockpit. The space is not fully sealed off, but it does have a nice storage bag in side for holding gear. The hatches have hard plastic covers with neoprene covers underneath. The combination keeps the hatches dry, but the neoprene covers are a PITA.
For a $1000, Big Red is a great kayak. Even at full price it is a good kayak. I'm looking forward to many more years of family adventures in Big Red.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Big Red Rides the Slocom River

There are very few group paddles that we feel are OK to take along Bug. The Slocom River paddle felt like it would be an OK trip, so we e-mailed the coordinator to double check. She said it would be fine, so we packed up Bug's new kayak, a big red Wilderness System's Northstar double, and H's kayak for a fun adventure.
The night before we did a camp out night at the Y, so we our schedule to get to the put in was tight. We had to take down the tent, feed the cat, and ourselves before getting on the road. We actually figured we would be late and aimed to be just late enough that the group would leave without us and we could catch-up. My thinking was that it wouldn't hold anyone up. If we showed up before they left, say five minutes late, everyone would wait around for 10 minutes while we got our act together.
It turned out our plan didn't matter. Carleen and Cat, very nicely, decided to wait for us. As a result, the whole paddle kicked off 30 minutes late. The paddle was split into two groups, level 2 and level 3, by design. As it turned out, we were the only level 2 paddlers. Carleen graciously gave us a guided tour of the river.
It was a great day on the water. The weather was perfect: warm, sunny, and dry. There was a slight breeze, but nothing troublesome. Bug had fun on the way down the river. She looked for ducks and sang us a few songs. She also dragged her paddle in the water which made steering interesting. Fortunately, Big Red handles fairly well for a double and it was easy to keep on track without deploying the rudder.
At lunch we chatted and Bug made mud pies on the beach. We spotted little fish, crabs, and snails.
The wind was a little troublesome on the way back. It was just enough of an angle that Big Red weather cocked. I deployed the rudder and once I adjusted to using a rudder, the weather cocking stopped being a problem. I focused my paddling energy on forward motion and my feet on directional stability.
About half-way up the river, Bug put her paddle down, snuggled into her seat, and fell asleep. It didn't look like the most comfortable nap spot, but I'm sure her four year old body can be comfortable in places my forty year old body cannot.
There were a couple of places on the way back that the river gets pretty shallow. Carleen did a good job of keeping in the channel. I don't want to have to discover how hard it would be to drag Big Red out of a mud bank....
We all had a great day on the water. Carleen was very generous to take such good care of our little pod. The trip was a great length for all of us. Bug didn't get bored; H and I both went far enough to feel like it was a good paddle without going far enough to feel pooped. It is days like this that make me happy.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Best Ride Ever

Last fall Bug decided that going on a bike ride meant "me on me bike, daddy on daddy bike." The trailer was no longer a first class citizen. Family bike rides became a little more difficult. Bug insisted on using her coaster bike. We still brought the trailer along in case she got tired, but getting her in it was a struggle.
I started looking at trailer bikes for those longer family rides. After a bunch of research, I decided that the Burley trailer bikes were the best. They were a little more expensive, but the hook up seemed a lot more secure. I liked the way it hooked up the bike like a fifth wheel. The seat hitches seemed flimsy in comparison.
All of this was purely theoretical. When I tried to buy one, the sales guys (they were all guys) told me that Bug wasn't tall enough. Trailer bikes are 20" bikes. There are not alot of good solutions for kids between four and five. They out grow the trailer, but don't quite grow into a trailer bike. They also don't have the stamina to do long rides on their own.
A few weekends back we met a family that had one of the Burley trailer bikes and loved it. Their boy was the same height as Bug, so we figured she had to be tall enough for it. Still it was a big money commitment, so we didn't rush out to buy it. It could wait until later in the summer when the opportunities for long bike rides was greater. Waiting also gave Bug more time to get used to riding her two wheel peddle bike. She has the balance part down and the peddle part down, but she hasn't quite put it all together yet.
The following week, I was sitting around and H said I should go to the bike store.... I bought the Piccolo which has gears. I know that at this stage the gears are superfluous, but over time they may prove to be useful. Bug and I were thrilled.
The bike shop put the required rack on my bike and showed me how to hook it to the rack. The attachment is like a 5th wheel on a pick-up truck. It vertically mounts to a heavy-duty rack and has a single pivot joint. The attachment has a level of redundancy. First is a quick release latch that provides a basic connection between the trailer and the rack. To fully attach the trailer, you screw the trailer into the rack. It is a sturdy connection.
I got it home and adjusted it to fit Bug. There are two adjustment points: the seat goes up and down and the handle bars slide up and down the tube. The seat adjustment has a quick release and the handle bars are hex bolts. It was pretty easy to do. It took a few minutes to get it adjusted and for us to get on the road.
Before heading out we had the safety talk. Bug must keep her hands on the handle bars, her bum on the seat, and her feet on the peddles. If she wants to stop, she needs to tell me and wait until I tell her it is OK to put her feet down. We are a team. Daddy is the pilot; Bug is the co-pilot.
We started out slow by doing a few short rides up and down our street. Then we branched out to a trip around the block. Bug did a great job and was utterly thrilled. She squealed with glee almost the entire time.
For a true test, the family went down to the Minuteman Trail for a Sunday afternoon ice cream run. From the parking lot we use to Lexington Center is about three miles. It was a good distance for a road test. Pulling the trailer bike is different than pulling the Chariot trailer. The trailer bike is more active. I can feel when Bug moves around and when she peddles. If she leans, it can be a little destabilizing. When she peddles it is a nice boost. The boost is particularly nice on hills.
Since getting the trailer, Bug and I have expanded our horizons. We have taken two trips from our house to the library. It is about five miles each way and involves some back roads. Taking the trailer bike on the road is a little nerve wracking because you never know what the cars are going to do, but I feel more comfortable with the trailer bike than I would have with the Chariot trailer. Bug is positioned where a car would expect a bike rider and she can see around better. Still I would not take it on a anything other than a quiet back road.
Bug loves the rides. She sings and laughs most of the way there and back. I love the rides too. I get a little bit of exercise and get to spend time with my daughter. I also get a chance to teach her some road safety first hand without worrying about her doing something too impulsive.
It is an expensive toy. The Burley version is about $100 more expensive than other models. I think it is worth it. The interface is substantially more solid. The addition of the gears also helps adjust the amount of assistance the child provides and gives them a chance to learn about shifting. Longer term, the Burley also has a conversion kit that turns the trailer into a regular bike.
Regardless of the money, it has been worth it for the sheer joy it has brought Bug. It gives us a fun, healthy way to spend time together outdoors. You cannot put a price on hearing your child happily singing "I love biking with Daddy. Playing with Daddy is great."

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Thatcher's Island

Could I have asked for a better day for my once a month paddle? The weather was perfect: sunny, warm, and a lite breeze. It was so nice that H and Bug tagged along to spend the day at the beach.
We launched from the scuba beach and headed north for a bit. Then we paddled out to the sea wall. It was so calm, we decided to head out to the dry salvages to look around. As we approached the salvages, TG spotted seals flopping into the water. We stopped approaching to give the seals some space. We were surrounded by a large pod of seals. They were fairly bold and quite large.
From the salvages we made a beeline to Thatcher's. The island is populated by a number of aggressive and large gulls. The caretakers suggested that we take big sticks with us as we walked around. There was one big gull guarding the loo. It was a squacker, but it stayed just on its rock. While we were eating a monster gull kept swooping down near the picnic benches. The best thing was watching the swallows dance in the air. There was one playing with a feather that was impressive. It dropped the feather and swooped around to catch it before it hit the ground.
Before heading back to the beach we paddled around Thatcher's. It was rocky and had some nice action. It was a nice spot to have some safe excitement. TG, channelling Bubbles, did manage to get pushed up into some rocks. He got caught by a big swell that pushed him into a rock. He managed to roll up and get himself out of trouble without assistance.
Paddling back by Bearneck I spotted a curly haired Bug waving. I paddled over and said "hi". It was great to see the family enjoying the day. It was a perfect way to end a perfect paddle.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Outer West Passage

This Sunday couldn't be more different than last Sunday. The day started off cold and overcast. I was awoken by a cute and very awake Bug. I was dressed in full-body goretex. I was staring up at Beavertail from sea-level.
The day started off oddly. Bug typically gets up at the crack of dawn on the weekends. I didn't need to leave until 8am, so I figured I have plenty of time. Bug slept until 7:30. I hadn't packed my drysuit until H mentioned it. Saturday was warm and in normal springs this would be paddle top and short weather.
When I got to Bay Campus, I was psyched that H had told me to pack the drysuit. It was chilly and overcast. The water was in the low 50s and everyone was a vision in goretex.
The water was earily still. We sat off the tip of Beavertail like we were on a salt pond. It was almost too calm. Any day on the water is a good day, but a few bumps is better. The Q-boat is easier to manage in conditions. When the water is flat, the tail fishes around and it feels sluggish.
After lunch things picked up. We hung close to shore and took advantage of the waves bouncing off the rocks. It was perfectly safe fun. I could get a rush without worrying about wrecking my kayak or my body.
Part of what kept me safe was my lack of helmet. It sounds counter intuitive, but it is true. I notice that when I wear my helmet in mostly safe conditions, I tend to take more risks. I trick myself into thinking I am safer than I am. Without the hemet, I make better and more conservative decisions.
I did witness the move of the year. TG got caught up on some rocks. The waves washed into him and, instead of washing him off, flipped him off. He washed through a shallow, rocky channel, tried to roll up, then noticed that TM's bow was next to him. TG grabbed it and pulled himself up without a scratch. It would make a great video shot for one of those TITS montages.
Back at the beach TM noticed me sitting in my boat looking undecided. "We don't cut ourselves enough slack," he told me. "It's OK to not do it." I chose to not listen. I only get to practice once a month and a roll is a delicate thing. Both side were smooth as butter.
Our timing was perfect. As we pulled the kayaks out of the water, we heard thunder off in the distance. It was dry right up until we were in the cars and on our way to coffee.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Beavertail from Land

H and I took a furlough from Bug for the night. It is nice to spend an evening not worrying about entertaining a three year-old. In the morning, H wanted to visit car. In all the years I've been driving down to RI and kayaking all over the Jamestown coast, I've never been above the cliffs at Beavertail. I've spent time in the rocks and on the pocket beaches.
It was a little odd to look out over the familiar waters from a new vantage point. It looked a lot less imposing and tranquil from land. The strangest part was that we didn't see a single kayaker on the water. I expected to see a pod of kayaks playing in the surf just off shore.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Narrow River

Today was a happy accident. TM posted an extra paddle for the week; I noticed it at the last minute; H agreed to let me paddle. She is great and knows how much paddling does to keep me on a semi-even keel.
The forecast promised sunny and warm. Despite the fact that sunny and warm can mean boiling in a dry suit, I was ready for some sunny paddling.
Instead, the weather was cold, grey, and windy. In a dry suit, cold is not a big deal. Spring grey is still Spring. I was just happy to be out on the water.
The Q-boat was a little dusty and still had dried out leaves in it. Her hatches were filled with dank fall sea water. The mighty stick could use a new coat of oil. They were perfect.
The wind was at our back on the way up river, so it was hardly noticeable. I just enjoyed moving in the boat and catching up with old friends.
The return trip was a little more difficult. Paddling into the wind is a good workout. I am not in great paddling shape, but the stick is strong! I will probably be a little sore in the morning.
The post paddle coffee was excellent as well. I cannot remember the last time I sat on the deck of Java Madness shooting the shit.
Once a month from now until October is my goal for the paddling season.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


What can one do to cap off a great kayaking trip? Eat a great lunch....
After kayaking in La Jolla bay, we headed off to meet people for lunch at George's. It came highly recommended and since it was restaurant week, we hoped to be in for something special.
We were not disappointed. The view alone was worth the price of admission. The restaurant sits on a cliff overlooking the ocean. We had clear views of the coast for miles around. As a bonus we got to watch the the life guards use jet skis to drag swimmers out of the giant surf while sea lions danced in the water and laughed.
The food complimented the views. I had a chipotle dusted grilled chicken strips and fries. It sounds like a meal one could get at any joint, but it was at the next level. The chicken was moist and tasty in a way that I didn't know chicken could be. For desert, I had a maple cheesecake that rich, smooth, and just maply enough. The other deserts I tasted included a moist, almost too rich, chocolate cake and a toffee caramel sticky pudding.
Great food, great views, great day!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

With or With Out Whales

Business trips are grueling affairs. Lots of time in airplanes, airports, busses, hotel rooms, and conference rooms. The settings are not designed to promote well being; they are just functional spaces. The time in them are marathon sessions of power point and mediocre movies. The alcohol consumed is a required anesthetic.
The one free day you get has to count. Weeks before leaving I booked reservations for a kayak tour that promised whale watching. I needed something to mask the anticipatory dread of the trip. It sounded perfect. Sun, ocean, sea life and two hours of kayaking.
Yesterday morning, on what turned out to be the best weather day of the trip, I showed up a La Jolla Kayaking. They provided everything for the trip: sit on top kayak, paddle, pfd, guide, and a wetsuit. The equipment was in good shape. It was about what one expects from a tour company in a sunny climate.
There was a surf advisory for the area, but the beach where the tour launched was flat. Apparently, La Jolla cove has a deep water trench that flattens out big swells. To the south we could see big breakers along the shore.
We paddled off the beach and out to the deep water following the kelp beds to the south. The sky and water were clear and we had great views of the coast and the open ocean. We hoped to spot some grey whales. Our guide said that we had a good chance of seeing some. People have been seeing them regularly.
Early on we spotted two pods of dolphins chasing fish. They were small white striped dolphins and looked very cool. We tried to get close to them, but they sped along faster than we could.
After the dolphins, we spent a long time just enjoying being on the water. We kept our eyes open, but saw little save for the scenery. The ocean was providing some nice color as well. You could see the big swells rolling in and sliding past. The periods were long, so it felt like a gentle rocking.
On the return trip, we saw several seals playing in the water. A few times we thought they might be whales, but it was just seals. The seals looked like they were having as much fun as we were.
The trip ended without any whale sightings, but that didn't matter. Spending a few glorious hours on the water under the California sun was more than enough. And that was before lunch..

Thursday, January 23, 2014


2013 felt like a long year that flew past. I guess that is how time goes as you get older. It was a year with some big changes, but no big struggles.
Part of the reason, the year felt long was the constant balancing act between me time and family time. This year I probably weighted things to heavily on the family time side. It is not a complaint. I love family time. H and Bug are my two favorite people and being with them brings me joy. It is just that I also require time alone to kayak, bike, read, or just decompress. Often I feel like I need more alone time than most people and feel guilty about taking it. Then I fear that the guilt will ruin the alone time, so I don't take the alone time. Then I feel a little mad at myself for not taking the alone time and I don't get the regenerative effects. in 2014, I hope to find a better balance.
I had two big changes in 2013: a new job and Bug going to preschool.
The new job has been a generally positive change. I was miserable and bored at Red Hat. It was tough going from being senior and knowing where all the bodies are buried to being a new kid on the block. I had to learn how the new company functions, the politics, and the culture. That on top of doing the job I was hired to do. It is a good change overall. I did learn a few things about myself though. I like flexible work schedules more than I thought I did, I loathe commuting, and I do better working at home than I thought. I know these things because they are the only things I miss about Red Hat.
Bug heading off to preschool was more of a change than I anticipated. She was totally ready to go. I think she was a little bored with day care. For me the change was a reminder that with a child, things are always in flux. It seems like everyday she is a little more independent or has a new skill or is into some new thing. It is great and sad at the same time. She is doing great and that is what is most important.
Our summer was jam packed with travel. We went to Maine, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Florida. Bug is a great traveler and that is a boon for us. She really seems to enjoy camping and kayaking. We got her out a few more times this past summer. The downside of all the traveling is the lack of downtime.
As get older, I am coming to appreciate the value of downtime more and more. Sometimes it is important to have nothing planned and nowhere to go. H jokes that I cannot just sit around for a day and do nothing which is true. I do, however, appreciate the lack of a schedule. I also find that at work, I find it more important to be able to have short days and see my family than be in the thick of things. Relax, be happy.

Friday, January 03, 2014

The Airs

I recently entered the Air realm. In the fall I got a MacBook Air and then for my birthday I got an iPad Air. They are both light, fast, and pretty to look at.
The MacBook Air was, ostensibly, a work purchase. My previous job had spoiled me with a MacBook Pro as my primary computer and my current job insists that writers need an 8 core desktop PC to do their work. I disagreed and took matters into my owns hand. I got the entry level Air with beefed up storage. It is more than powerful enough for basic needs. I haven't tried any hardcore games or video editing, but everything else runs quickly and smoothly. I have played with iMovie and that is as smooth on the Air as it is on my wife's Pro.
The two most impressive things about the Air are the battery life and the speed at which it starts up. The weight is great, but with a name like Air it is expected.
I have run the thing for a full day without charging it and not gone bellow ten percent battery life. These runs didn't involve a lot of video watching or even too much use of iTunes, but the wireless was always on and e-mail, calendar, reminders, and Safari were constantly running.
The start up time is impossibly fast. It is easily less than a minute from shutdown to fully functional. At start up, my Air loads calendar, reminders, and e-mail. From asleep to ready is instantaneous. It wakes up as fast as my iPad or iPhone. That is impressive.
The only drawback to the Air is the limited storage. I am not sure I could use it as a primary computer without running out of space. I have a large iPhoto library and a mid-sized iTunes library. I could currently move everything from iMac to the air, but the air's disk would be over 90% full. I could get away without moving up the music since I have iTunes Match, but I would be uncomfortable.
The iPad Air was actually H's idea. She wanted an iPad, but didn't want to buy a new one. She encouraged me to upgrade so she could inherit my iPad 3. It has been a successful swap. She enjoys the iPad 3 and I got a new lighter and faster iPad. The iPad Air is a lot like my old iPad except that it is much faster. The speed is noticeable between the 3 and the Air. Things on the Air are just smoother. The Air is also much thinner and lighter. The cut in weight has been great. I never got tired holding the 3 for long periods of time, but it was definitely a two hand job. With the Air I can comfortably sit on the couch and read with one hand. It is not a easy to one hand as a mini, but, for me, the extra screen real estate is a good trade off. I'm not so convinced that the extra thinness is a great thing. At first the edges didn't feel great while I was holding it and typing in bed, but I've gotten used to it.
One thing that I have noticed that isn't great about the iPad Air is that the screen occasionally feels plasticy. The two older iPad, and Bug's mini, have more solid feeling screens. It is not that the Air's screen is bad, it just sometimes doesn't feel as lush to the touch.