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.