Thursday, October 29, 2015

Where Did My Ride Go

Earlier this week I asked if we had any plans on Sunday. She just said “So, you are paddling.” TM had posted two touring paddles for the weekend. Saturday was packed with Bug fun, so it was Sunday for me.

On Saturday H asked me multiple times if the paddle was still a go. I looked at her like she was crazy until the third time she asked. A quick look at the forecast made her concern clear. The weather was not looking good. Wind and rain do not make for a fun paddle. There was nothing on the message board at 11pm Saturday.

The forecast was worse in the morning. A Small Craft Advisory was in effect for the bay. At 7am there was still no cancellation posted on the message board, so started to get ready to go.

Then Bug figured out that I was going kayaking for the day… She was not thrilled despite the fact that my going kayaking meant the she was going to get to spend the day relaxing at home. She proposed that we do a quick art project together. How could I say no? 30 minutes later we had drawn two things we were calling owls.

Fortunately, I had done most of the packing on Saturday night and all that was left to do was pop the pumpkin on the car. I was ready to hit the road by 8:10 which left me plenty of time to get to the put-in and not hold things up much… I did one more quick check for a cancellation. It was all clear.

At the put-in the weather was grey and foreboding. Bay Campus was shielded from the worst of the wind, but a quick look south was all it took to see the angry white caps marching up the west passage.

The original paddle route was to cross over to Jamestown, cut across the beach at Mackerel Cove, make our way south to Beavertail, cross to Whale Rock, and then come north along Bonnet to Bay Campus. The extended forecast was for the already significant winds to gain strength later in the day. This information lead TM to reverse the plan. We would paddle into the conditions along mainland, cross over, and get blown home along the eastern Jamestown coast where the island could shield us a bit.

The first leg of the paddle was not too much of a struggle. The bluffs between Bay Campus and Bonnet Shores kept the worst of the wind off of us. You could see the swells piling up farther south. It was a little intimidating and more than once I wondered what drove me to do these foolish things. A sane man would be somewhere nice and warm with his family on a day like this.

At the entrance to Bonnet Shores, TM noticed that the winds were causing the group to spread out despite being packed full of strong paddlers. To stop the drift, TM decided to assign lead paddlers and to occasionally rotate who was in the lead. It worked pretty well. We managed to stick together for the whole paddle.

Once past Bonnet Shores we started feeling the full force of the wind. The swells were a good three to four feet and fairly steep. The pumpkin did a fair amount of bow slapping. Where the Q-boat’s pointy bow sliced through swells, the pumpkin’s planing hull rides over them and then falls into the trough. It makes for a bumpy ride. Despite the slapping, the pumpkin handled beautifully. It stayed on the line without much correcting and kept up with the group with no issues.

At Whale rock we took a minute to get water and regroup. It was a good idea physically. It was not a great idea mentally. It provided a nice view of exactly what conditions we were paddling into and enough time to think about it. It was a moment of terrifyingly bemusing reflection. I find this fun; what is wrong with me?

Getting to Beavertail meant a long crossing in big, beamy seas. At first I tired to keep the pumpkin on a fairly straight line. Like the Q-boat, she gets knocked about quite a bit; unlike the Q-boat, she is easy to get back on the line. The pumpkins miniature stature, prodigious rocker, and wide, flat bottom makes quick adjustments both required and easy.

It didn’t take long, however, to figure out that it was faster, easier, and more fun, the ride the swells diagonally across the Bay. I found myself dashing across the face of a big swell and knew that this was the way the pumpkin wanted to make the crossing: I could fight her, or I could go with it. Going with it was the fun choice. The planning hull loves to skim along the face of a wave and all it takes is a little push. Zoom across the face of a swell for a bit, turn up the next swell to stay on the proper line, zoom again....

I was really looking forward to turning north and riding the following seas along the Jamestown coast. I got a few good rides early on, but once we were in the shadow of the island the swell diminished. Conditions were surprisingly reasonable.

I was surprised to see a paddler out of their kayak near the rocks. TM swooped in and did a quick rescue while the rest of us sat back thinking that we should probably use our toe ropes to keep the rescue off the rocks….

TM was so smooth that we all figured any help would just get in the way. They did get kind of close to the rocks though….

We had lunch in Hull Cove. The swells may have died down, but they still made landing a chore. Getting surfed into the rocky beach was not on my agenda.

After lunch, the swells made getting off the beach a soggy affair. I decided to go backwards off the beach and to not seal up my skirt before hitting the water. The backwards part meant that the pumpkins skinny stern punched through the swells and washed the water right into my exposed cockpit. I had to spend some time on the open water bailing out before rejoining the group.

While I was bailing out my cockpit, one of the other paddlers decided things had been too boring and decided to paddle though the rocks around short point. Before I managed to rejoin the group, he had managed to seal land on one of the rocks. He managed to self-rescue by ditching the kayak into the water and scrambling back onto it.

Things were quiet for the rest of the paddle up Mackerel Cove. There were a few waves to ride, but nothing too exciting.

We landed and I noticed that my day hatch was not quite sealed. I thought the back of the kayak felt heavy….

We carried the kayaks across the road, and into the mud. Tide was low, so there wasn’t a lot of water to paddle. TM said we would have to walk the kayaks to the sandbar before paddling out, so I hooked up my short tow and started pulling. The mud was smushy, sticky, and sucky.

About half way across the mud puddle I noticed that everyone else was in their kayaks and shallow paddling to what looked like an opening into deep water. I decided that was a better idea than muck walking. I unhooked the short tow. Then I made sure I was on firmish ground and lifted one leg up over the cockpit. As I started to lift the other foot, I encountered some resistance. I pulled a little harder and the foot popped loose. And I flopped off the far side of the kayak. The mud was soft, sticky, stinky, and sucky. I dragged myself back to my feet after getting sucked in a few more times.

Winded, I started pulling the pumpkin towards the solid looking mud bar standing between me and the open water. The mud turned into glue as I got closer to the mud bar. Then it hardened up and I was able to pop right into the cockpit.

Paddling to the outlet was slow going. The mighty stick could not find purchase in an inch of water. Then it all stopped. The mud had sucked the hull of the kayak into its maw. I considered using my hands to crab walk to deeper water. I didn’t want to get my hand stuck in sticky mud. It didn’t look like the mud that is good for the skin. I was loathe to get out of the kayak for fear of ending up waist deep, but I didn’t see any other good options.

It turned out that the ground under the kayak was pretty firm. It was a short and easy drag to water that was deep enough for the mighty stick to be mighty.

Looking across to Bay Campus from Dutch Island, the water looked calm. Whatever weather that had been forecast had blown itself out in the morning. The crossing back to the put-in was anticlimactic.

The post paddle coffee and baked goods was enjoyed on the deck at Fuel. The view wasn’t quite as good as the view from the deck of Java Madness, but the coffee and company was good. It was a nice place to unwind after the paddle and refuel for the long ride home through football traffic.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Fenix 3

Before the whole “smart watch” craze started, Garmin and Suunto were making GPS enabled ABC watches that could hook up to a bunch of Ant+ sensors and talk to a smart phone. I started using the original Garmin fenix in 2013. It was chunky, but was not too much to wear as a daily watch. It served as a bike computer by pairing up with speed and cadence sensors. It tracked my kayaking with the GPS. It tracked family hikes. A software update made it capable of receiving notifications from my phone.

The fenix did not count steps which was a limitation. That meant I was wearing the watch and a Fitbit. The combination worked OK. I occasionally forgot to take the Fitbit off in the pool or put it on in the morning.

The Apple Watch was announced at a fortuitous time. I had just lost my Fitbit for the second time and Garmin had released the vivosmart. It was a $100 wristband that tracked steps, told time, connected to my heart rate monitor and the speed sensor on my bike, and could forward notification to my phone. It became my daily watch.

The vivosmart was cool, but hardly life changing. The longer I wore it the more useful I found it to be. Leaving my phone on silent was a nice perk. The vivosmart had a find my phone function and it could keep track of all of my exercise data. The only thing it was lacking was GPS functionality. I had an old fenix for when I needed GPS on my wrist.I began to wonder what a truly smart watch could do. The possibilities of a bigger, color screen and a full API for developing apps felt huge. It would be nice to get a quick check of the weather or have loyalty cards without pulling out my phone.When the specs for the Apple Watch were released, I was disappointed. It was beautiful, but whimpy. It wouldn’t hold up to a kayaking trip, a weekend in the woods, or a trip in the pool. It was designed for the more urban, hip set.

Then I saw that Garmin was diving into the smartwatch pool. None of them had the fancy touch screen, taptic engine, or the slick apple design. They all, however, were waterproof, GPS enabled, and could last for days on a charge. One of the models, the vivosmart, even has a reasonable price.

The fenix 3 was a no brainer. Round watches look better. It also had the best specs for the price: waterproof to scuba depths, 5 day battery life, bluetooth, wifi, along with Ant+ and GPS. It didn’t have maps, but did have navigation features. All of the new Garmin watches also came with an SDK that allowed developers to create watch faces, widgets, data fields, and apps.

I had a big REI dividend check, so the $500 price was not an issue. The price tag is on the higher end of the fitness/smart watch category. When you look at only GPS enabled fitness/smart watches, it is still on the high end of the range, but not by much. For the premium price, you do get a premium watch. The watch body is metal and it doesn’t shout fitness watch. I wear the fenix 3 everyday and get compliments on how stylish it looks.

The fenix 3 is not as slick looking as the Apple Watch, but it does have a classic men’s watch look. The materials are nice and it comes in two finishes: grey and sliver. I opted for the grey. It is big watch with a two inch diameter, but it does not overwhelm my average sized wrist. The standard band is a rubbery plastic that is comfortable. The band uses standard pins, so it is easy to swap the standard band out for one of your choosing.

The watch face can be customized to your liking as well. The default watch faces are minimalist and classy. You can choose between an analog watch face with date or a digital watch face with a number of complications. If the built in watch faces are not to your liking, there are hundreds of watch faces you can install, for free, from the Connect IQ store. I have had a Homer Simpson watch face, a Smiley watch face, a wind gauge watch face, a watch face that was just two big circles that spun around. I am currently using a simple analog face that includes a step gauge and the date. Some of the watch faces are poor. A number of faces that are just attempts to emulate luxury watches. Regardless of your taste, there is likely a watch face that fits it. If you cannot find one, you can either make one for yourself or wait a little while. New faces appear everyday.

There are three other categories of applications that can be downloaded to the watch:

  • widgets are auxiliary screens that can be scrolled through from the watch face
  • data fields are views into the data collected by the sensors during an activity
  • applications are programs that completely takeover the watches functionality

For me, the widgets are the things I use the most. You scroll to them from the watch face and they show you easy to consume slices of information. The watch has several built in widgets for showing the data collected from the watch sensors like the temperature and the barometric pressure. I turned those off within hours of getting the watch. The ones I kept are the weather widget that pulls information from you phone to give you a quick look at the forecast, the steps widget, the calendar widget which shows the events from your phone calendar, and the notification widget that shows the notifications from the phone. The built in widgets also include one for controlling the music player on your phone and one for controlling a Virb action camera.

There are approximately a hundred custom widgets on the Connect IQ store. The widgets I use the most are the minute cast from weather channel and the sun and moon widget from Garmin.

There is only one application that I use and that is sky watch. It is a cool app that points out objects in the night sky. It uses the GPS and the other sensors to orient you. It is not super useful, but it is a fun way to show off when camping with friends.

There are two applications that I keep thinking about installing. One is a find your app that also keeps track of when your meter needs to be changed. The other lets you store bar code based cards on the watch. I don’t frequently park at meters or use a lot of cards with bar codes. If I did they would be useful.

The Connect IQ store has a ton of watch faces to choose from. I change mine frequently. They range in quality, but most look pretty good. I, personally, like the analog faces with step information on them. I do also have a sweet spot for one that is just a big yellow smily face with the time underneath it and the Homer watch face.

Like the Apple Watch, the Garmin watches can be great if the applications arrive. Sadly, the big names are not developing apps for the platform. It would be great if there was a Nest widget. I am surprised at the lack of applications for services that Garmin partners with. For example, they use My Fitness Pal to track calories, but there is no watch app or widget.

Unlike the Apple Watch, the Fenix 3 is a great watch even without cool apps. It does a great job of telling the time and tracking my activity levels. It is super durable. It has advanced fitness tracking features. It has built in navigation features. It has a battery that last for days. It has preinstalled smart features that get the job done.

Now Garmin just needs to figure out how to get the big name developers to come to their platform.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Great Pumpkin Rides Again

The great pumpkin has slept since it went into the shop for repairs at the end of July. Carl turned the repairs around quickly, but vacations, weather, and family obligations meant there were no opportunities to get her back on the water.

Truth be told my crazy conjured up images of there being more damage than Carl had noticed or that I hit another rock. These were not reality based concerns.

Carl always does solid work and this repair was no different. He reinforced the area with extra glass and from the outside you could not tell where the damage was done. Carl did leave some of the scratches in place so I could brag.

This weekend the stars finally aligned. I had time and the weather was good. Two paddles were scheduled: surfing at Narragansett Beach and a tour along the outer coast of the Bay from Pier 5 to Harbor of Refuge. I decided to go with Pier 5 because Sunday is better for me and while the pumpkin is made for surfing I enjoy some variety in a paddle.

On Saturday, one of my chores was to clear cut a tangle of vines and prickly thorns out from behind the garage. How hard can pulling out a bunch of weeds when you are equipped with a pair of mucho grande shears? When you are an office drone in his mid-40s, it can be a crippling experience. I yanked on a particularly truculent weed and felt by back tweak. In a fit of not wanting to admit I’m middle aged, I didn’t stop the clear cutting to give my back a rest….

By dinner time I was barely able to walk, but I was not willing to admit I couldn’t paddle. I packed my gear in the car and parked my butt on the couch with a heating pad. I even swallowed my crazy dislike of Tylenol and took two before bed.

H made me promise that I wouldn’t make any stupid decisions in the morning…. She didn’t want to rescue me once I was in Narragansett.

Things didn’t get much better. By bed time, I could barely move. I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to sleep….

When I woke up, I gingerly rolled onto my feet not sure if I’d crumble to the floor. I felt a little twinge. As I went about my business, the twinge went away. I still popped a dose of Tylenol for good measure. Then I finished kayak prep by putting the pumpkin on the roof.

I was excited to see CC and RB on the paddle. It felt like years since the last time I saw either of them. I looked forward to catching up with them as we made our way to the Harbor of Refuge.

Once on the water, it became clear that the forecast didn’t match the reality. The winds was steady and out of the south.

Eight miles is a long way to fight a steady wind.

The group succumbed to the fate of all kayak groups in a steady wind. We started spreading out. Fast paddlers ran away from slower paddlers. Then the fast paddlers have to stop and wait and the slow paddlers have to struggle to catch up. Over time, this makes for trouble. The fast paddlers get cold with all the waiting. The slow paddlers work really hard and don’t get enough rest.

TM made the smart call and had us stop before we reached the light house. We lunched on a sheltered rocky beach.

The conditions on the return trip were in the pumpkin’s sweet spot: following seas. I pretty much surfed the whole way back. The most difficult part of the return trip for me was not getting too far ahead of the group of longer kayaks.

A few people took the opportunity to play in the rocks. I, however, decided to stay clear of anything that might hurt the pumpkin. It was tough to resist the siren song, but it is still too soon to test my mettle.

After paddle coffee was at Java Madness. We lingered over our coffee. Visiting with old friends cannot be rushed.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Camping with a Bug

For our first kayak camping trip with Bug we decided on Grape Island. It is a short hop from Hingham and does not involve any major crossings. The ferry provides the ultimate emergency escape. We also enlisted two of Bug’s favorite camping friends: the Benders.

When we planned the trip, we thought it would be a piece of cake. Sure H was just starting school, but all of our camping gear was ready to go from our previous camping trip. Also, we were going for one night and launching from a major metropolitan area. Easy as pie….

The meltdowns started before anyone was in clothes. Bug didn’t want to go anywhere. We hadn’t really done any packing before hand. H was stressed out. We got out the door an hour after we planned. Then as we were getting on the highway we realized that we had forgotten the bulk of the food.

Fortunately, we knew that there was a store across from the put-in and that once we were on the water, relaxation and joy would was over us all.

By the time we were done restocking on the food, everyone was in a better place. Getting the kayaks packed up was a breeze. It was the first time packing up Big Red and the first time in a **long** time packing up H’s kayak. Big Red’s hugmungoness made packing up easy as pie. We could have packed all of the Bender’s gear into our kayaks without much trouble.

The paddle over to Grape Island was pleasant. We took our time and got into the spirit of things. There wasn’t much breeze or boat traffic to shake things up.

Once we were on the water H relaxed. Bug started splashing around and pointing out all the birds. She took out her paddle and helped paddle. It was exciting to see her get it right.

The only tension on the trip to the island was not keeping the Benders waiting any longer than necessary. We left the beach more than an hour after they did. We needn’t have worried. The Benders took an extra tour over to Bumpkin Island.

They had been on Grape long enough to scope out the camp sites and set up their tent. They decided that the best spot was in the overflow area. The main sites are all in the woods, but the overflow site is fairly close to the dock and close to the outhouse. The site, despite the closeness to things, offered a lot of privacy.

It was a great choice.

The rest of the day was spent chilling on the beach by the dock. We played some frisbee, dug in the sand, collected snails, and watched a gymnastic show (or two).

Just before bed time, I went on a little adventure. I took a wrong turn coming back from the outhouse. I wandered down a dark path deeper and deeper into the woods. Every turn looked like the one that would lead me back to camp. Next thing I know, I am on the beach facing Boston. I followed the beach for a while looking for a path back into the woods and back to the docks. I stumbled upon a couple that pointed me in the direction of a path. Eventually, I entered a clearing full of Outward Bounds kids. They pointed me back to the docks. I was lost for so long I had to pee again. H was just about ready to send out a search party….

We had big plans of getting up early and taking a ferry over to Georges Island to see the fort. Instead we lolly gagged around. It was too nice to rush.

We took a leisurely and meandering route back to Hingham. We went around Grape and its sister island. We then weaved our way back through the little islands that spot Hingham Harbor. Bug helped paddle for a little bit. She sang us a few tunes.

I for one wanted to enjoy the water for as long as possible. The beach meant the real world and all of its associated stresses. No need to rush back to that….

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Banged up in Boston

It was time for the annual Boston Harbor paddle. PB and I always get an interesting crew for the paddle and it is always a nice time. I expected today to be no different. The weather was predicted to be nice. The tides were ideal: the gut would be a non-issue, the current would carry us out to the islands in the morning and push back to the launch in the afternoon.

PB’s plan was to be at my house at 7:30, load boats, and be on the road before 8am. That gave us plenty of time to get to the launch by a little after 9am and prepare for a 10am launch.

At 7:40 I woke up and sort of panicked. PB was in the driveway getting ready to call and wake me up…. I had relied on Bug being my alarm clock since she never sleeps past 7. Oops.

We managed to stay on schedule. We were at the put in just after 9am and mostly ready to go by 10am. More impressive was that we did it without rushing or forgetting anything.

Our launch was a little delayed by the friendliness of the local rowing and lifeboat historical society. Several members came over to check out our kayaks and give us updates on the conditions in the outer islands. We were not in any rush and they told us about a really cool art exhibit at the fort on Georges Island.

When we got to Boston Harbor Light, the keeper, in full period garb, came down to inform us that the island was full. We were welcome to come back for a tour between ferry groups. She must have known that a RIC/KA group with only one Tim was trouble.

Before moving on to explore the more interesting parts of the Brewster Islands and the Shag Rocks, we donned our brain boxes. The water was just on the fun side of bumpy and we all wanted to play. The Aries was itching for some fun.

We made our way around to the backside of Little Brewster and out to Shag Rocks. Then over to Great Brewster for lunch. It was fun paddling. The bounce was just enough to make things exciting. We played in and around the rocks a lot. It made me appreciate the Aries even more. It is built for play.

After lunch we headed around the backside of Great Brewster. With the added exposure, the conditions were just a little more bouncy. We were having a good time looking for play spots.

About halfway around Great Brewster, there was an interesting little inlet with a big rock formation in the middle. Two paddlers went in for a look. TG and I planned on skipping it since it didn’t look that interesting. I, however, drifted near the center rock formation keeping an eye on the paddlers in the cove. The waves were small and manageable, so I was not concerned….

Then a bigger than average set of swells drove me sideways into the rocks. I was pinned with my side on the rock ledge and the hull against the portion of the rock sticking out of the water. Rolling was not an option since I was basically on dry land, with the occasional wave slapping the hull back into the rock.

I decided the only plan of action was to get out of the kayak, push it into the clear water, jump after it, and let the others do an open water rescue. It all went according to plan. TG was right there to scoop me up on the bow of his kayak while the Aries was retrieved. They popped me back into he cockpit with ease and made sure I was all set before releasing me to my own care.

Everyone kept asking if I was OK. I was fine aside from a few scrapes. Once out of the kayak I was on a nice stable ledge and once I jumped into the water I was clear of any rocks. I was far more worried about the Aries. A quick look showed only minor scrapes and there didn’t appear to be any leaks.

We continued our trip out around Cliff Island and crossed over to Georges Island by way of Lovels Island. I’d like to say that my brush with doom made me play it safer. The chances for play were just too good to ignore. Besides, the chances of me wrecking twice in one paddle were low.

On Georges I got the chance to inspect my injuries and the Aries. The minor scrapes were bigger than initially thought. There was nothing that required stitches, but there was a lot of scrapage. My left calf was hamburgery. It gave Dr. Paul another chance to break out the industrial first aid kit. He applied some sexy purple self-adhesive tape to my leg to keep it clean. Reportedly, I was only a slightly less fidgety patient than Bug getting her splinter pulled.

The Aries had a decent crack on the deck. It didn’t puncture the glass, but it did do some damage. It was going to need to visit Dr. Carl.

The art exhibit turned out to be a bit of a bust. There was one big display by the beach and a few things that may have been displays. The one big display was inside the fort. It was made up of some pulleys and other stuff. I think it was supposed to be a wind powered instrument of some sort. The group, made up mostly of scientist and engineers, spent a lot of time trying to figure out how it worked and reverse engineering it. It was less of an art installation than an engineering problem. In either view, it was a bust. It didn’t work.

The paddle back to the beach was uneventfully pleasant. It was a great way to come down from an exciting paddle.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Rushing to the Reefs

On Friday, I called PB to see if he was up for a Saturday adventure. He was undecided, but leaning towards a bike ride. He would decide in the morning.

I went to sleep planning on driving myself to Stonington and hoping that PB would decide to paddle and pick me up on the way.

I got half my wish. I woke up in the morning and checked my e-mail. PB was going to paddle, but he wanted me to drive.

My sense of time is skewed towards optimistic, so I figured there was plenty of time: ten minutes to pack lunch and get dressed; ten minutes to put the kayak on the roof; thirty minutes to drive to PB’s house….

An hour and a half later, I managed to get to PB’s house. According to the Waze, we would arrive at the put-in just in time. Launch time 10am; ETA 9:58am.

We pulled in just as TG was about to give the pre-launch talk. Needless to say we rushed to get the kayaks unloaded and our kit together. The other paddlers graciously helped us out. Miraculously, we got all of our stuff together without forgetting anything critical. I had forgotten my croakies at home, but I knew that before getting to the launch.

The tides were not going to turn until after lunch. So the plan was to paddle east over to Napatree. From there we would cross over to Fishers Island by way of Wicapisett rock. After a leisurely lunch, we would see what the reef gods would offer up for fun. Finally we would drag ourselves home.

As we rounded the tip of Stonington and turning east towards Napatree, I decided to check my watch to see what our pace was. I discovered that getting my kit together didn’t go quite as smoothly as I initially thought. The watch was gone. I still had hopes that it might be in the day hatch or had fallen into the cockpit or I had put it in the clothing bag by accident.

We stopped for a check in and break on the backside of Napatree. I checked the hatches for the watch, it was nowhere to be found. I also decided to change the lenses in my sun glasses. It was overcast and the polarized lenses I was wearing were too dark. The orange tint lenses brightened things up a lot. They also prompted a number of comments about how I was dressing to match the Aries and turning into a big pumpkin.

The crossing from Napatree to Fishers was uneventful, but fun. There was some texture to the water. All in all the morning paddling was a nice warm up. People got the chance to chat and get some sea legs before tackling the tide race.

After lunch we drifted out to the race. The play area was well defined. Wicapisett rock created a calm pocket for resting at the head of the race. The outer edges were also easy to spot. We set up so that resting and the return path were along the outside of the race.

TG reminded us to make sure we kept our eyes out for each other while we were playing. While the conditions were not extreme, a swimmer would still get separated from their kayak quickly. The current would also make it difficult for us to get to a swimmer.

The race was not at full mayhem, but there was a wind opposing the current. There were standing waves to ride and I had a kayak built for wave riding.

I don’t know exactly how long we spent in the race. Time flies when you are having fun, and I was having a blast. The Aries is way more fun in a tide race than the Q-boat. It catches waves effortlessly and can be easily controlled on the ride. I paddled out into the race waited for a wave to pass under the kayak and then geared up. The kayak shoots forward, gliding down the wave face and into the next one. A few well times paddles, and the kayak keeps gliding along.

The best part of the race was the front. The waves were better formed, taller, and easier to predict. It was a perfect way to end each run through the race. Just when I thought the kayak was done running, I’d wait for one more more wave to pass under and hit it again. Whoosh!!

PB commented that this was the happiest he had seen me in a kayak. The Q-boat in a tide race could be fun, but it was a chore. The Aries was fun.

TG demonstrated excellent navigation and leadership skills on the return to the put-in. He assigned a lead kayak and set him on a bearing. At first glance, the bearing seemed way off. As we paddled along, the current dropped us into perfect position to hit the harbor. It was like magic.

Sadly my watch was not to be found at the put in. It was a costly day of fun, but it was definitely a day of fun.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Not My Cup of Tea

H wanted to do a family paddle today. Her original plan was to do Wickford Harbor. It provides a nice protected area, ice cream, and proximity to friends. What could be better?

Bug had different plans. She didn’t want to ride in the car. She doesn’t like salt water. She didn’t want to go to the beach. She didn’t want to spend time in the sun. She didn’t want to go anywhere. She doesn’t like ponds….

I was not feeling overly accommodating, but H wanted to find some compromise that Bug would at least not melt down over. We discussed going to Walden Pond or Lake Cochituate. I was not thrilled with either option and kept making the argument that we should just go with the original plan. Neither Bug nor I were making H’s morning easy.

On a lark I threw out Essex as a possible place to paddle. In my head it was closer to home. It also offered some level of ocean paddling, and provided access to a real beach. After thinking about it for a little while, H decided it was a good compromise. It also meant we could squeeze a visit with grandparents in as well.

We packed up the paddling gear, the kayaks, and some lunch. In my head, this was a short process. It took more than an hour. The cradles needed to be attached, things needed to be found, water bottles needed to be filled one at a time, hair needed to be done, kayaks needed to be prepped and carried. Bug needed to be cajoled.

We woke up around 8am and hit the road before noon. With an estimated travel time of 45 minutes, we figured we would be on the water before 1pm. Then we hit traffic. 45 minutes later we still hadn’t passed the Rt. 93 split and Bug was complaining about the long car ride…. By the time we reached the 128 split we had been in the care for more than an hour and I was starting to complain….

Things turned around when we got to the launch. It was nicely appointed with easy access, free parking, a nice grassy area to eat lunch, nearby bathroom facilities, and a decent ramp. The weather was perfect: sunny, but not too hot. Breezy, but not windy. Everyones mood had turned sunny as well. We were all looking forward to getting on the water.

The paddle out along the river was great. Bug took out her paddle, which is getting a little small for her, and starting sticking it in the water. “Look I’m making plastic bags!” she shouted gleefully as the water arched over the partially submerged blade.

Then she started splashing the paddle side-to-side. “I’m helping paddle!” Then she looked back to see how I was doing it and started paddling backwards….

I explained to her how to paddle forward and she did a good job for a little while. The big smile was all the help I really needed.

Meanwhile H was enjoying paddling along in her own kayak. This was her first time out this season. She looked very comfortable.

When the narrow river channel opened up we were faced with a decision. Go left and follow the boat traffic around an island to get to the beach. Go right and wind through the sand flats to get to the beach. It looked like there was a clear path through the sand flats and it looked way shorter than paddling around the island….

The path clogged up a quarter of the way through the sand flats. We decided to hang out on the sand for a while. It was like a beach. Bug was nervous about hermit crabs pinching her feet, so we had to ensure her that was not a problem.

The sand banks were a great place to hang out. There were a bunch of clam shells to discover. There was also these funny looking holes along the edge of the water. H decided to do some exploratory digging and discovered a giant clam! It was cool. It was more cool to watch it rebury itself once we put it back in the water. The clam sat for a while and then flipped itself up on its side. Once it was vertical, the clam made speedy work of covering itself back up.

The green head flies munching on my legs kept the scene for being idyllic. There were not eating H or Bug quite as much, but the wind on the sand was starting to die down. No wind usually means more flies. Also, the real beach was within sight. I wanted to at least see the ocean.

There was enough of a water way to keep the kayaks afloat as we dragged them along and across the sand banks. We eventually found another channel that was deep enough for paddling. That channel took up into the open water between the sand flats and the beach.

When we hit the open section, we had to deal with current dragging us out to the ocean. It was not a strong current, but with an open double one cannot be too careful. We made a hasty crossing and found a spot on the crowded beach.

Everyone hopped out and Bug raced off to explore. Then she raced back to splash in the salt water. I wanted to walk around the point and see the Atlantic, so we made our way down the beach. Since we couldn’t cross the dunes due to plover nesting, we stuck to the shore line. This made Bug super happy since that meant more water time for her.

We didn’t linger too long on the beach. It was getting late and the green heads were still biting. We had to drag Bug out of the water and back into the kayak. After we promised ice cream she was more than happy to go back.

We were again faced with the option of following the channel or going across the sand flats. H reasoned that since the tide was coming in, the sand flats would have plenty of water over them…. We only had to drag the kayaks a little way while providing a feast for the green heads.

Before we hit the sand Bug turned around and looked at me with a big smile on her face. “Daddy, paddling isn’t my cup of tea,” she said. “But I know you like it, so it is OK."

Once back in the main channel, Bug got sick of the green heads and started splashing water everywhere to keep them away.

“Say got it when the water hits you. That way I know the flies are not getting you.”

We figured this would last for a few minutes and then she would settle into a new game. We were wrong. It lasted for the rest of the trip home. The good thing was that it kept the flies away.

The downside of the splashing was that it made it hard to keep Big Red on course. I was getting tired, so I dropped the rudder to lend a hand. The rudder made it easier to steer, but harder to go fast. I have a hard time paddling and steering with a rudder at the same time. (I can chew gum and walk.)

We got back and met the grandparents for dinner. Bug still insisted that she didn’t like salt water or paddling. The mind of a five year old is mysterious and fickle thing.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Affluent Coast

This weekend presented a dilemma: go for the sure thing or risk it all for an epic paddle? Saturday’s paddle was Fort Wetheril to Newport. Sunday’s paddle was a circumnavigation of Fisher’s Island. My preference was for the Fisher’s Island paddle. It was out of the ordinary and offered plenty of chances for fun. The weather, however, preferred Saturday’s paddle. The forecast for Saturday was OK. The forecast for Sunday was bad with a slight chance of less bad.

On Friday, I had to choose. H, who is very good about making sure I get time on the water, was offering one day of paddling. I either went on Saturday, or I took a chance on Sunday. I wasn’t going to get both…. Play it safe or risk it all?

I like to think I am a risk taker, but I am pretty safe when it comes right down to it. I choose the sure thing. Fort Wetheril to Newport may not be exotic, but it is pretty darn good. There are big channels to cross, rocks to play near, and reefs with crazy waves to surf. In addition, the coast line has some of the biggest, most expensive houses in the country.

We crossed from Whetheril directly over to Newport, just north of Castle Hill. From there we worked our way along the coast to just past Kings Beach. Getting there was relaxing. The conditions were mild. There were some chances to play along the rocks and I took full advantage of them.

At lunch trouble started to develop. One of the paddlers in the group had clearly underestimated the difficulty of the paddle (or overestimated their abilities). This meant we needed to make our way back to the launch without stopping for playtime.

The conditions on the way back were pretty benign. The only trouble spot was off of Brenton Point. The water gets shallow and the wave get steep. Most of the pack took it pretty tight through the slop. A few took it wide with the struggling paddler.

As we made our way back up the coast, we slowed down. The crossing was a little bumpy, but tense. There was a constant worry that we would have to do a rescue in the middle of the channel. Fortunately, we all made it across without incident.

Everything turned out fine in the end. Still it was a situation that was avoidable. The paddle was clearly advertised as a certain level and the conditions were well within the posted level. A paddler needs to be cognizant of their limitations and make smart judgements about their ability to safely participate in a paddle.

I know it isn’t always easy. I struggle with it often. I remember the glory days when I paddled every weekend and was more than able to tackle just about any paddle on the schedule. Now that I am older and don’t paddle nearly as often, I cannot, with confidence, do the same. Sometimes I do let the memory of the glory days cloud my judgment and show up on days that are on the edge of my abilities. To date, I’ve gotten lucky and things have gone my way. Still, I do think about it before showing up. If there is a question, I always consult H and often TM. Being that guy is not fun for for anyone. It is also not safe.

I hope that I will not pull a Brett Farve when the time comes for me to dial down the paddling.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Blow Hard

I finally escaped the drudgery that was working at MathWorks and took a week off before starting my new gig. Being a dedicated family man, I filled most of the week with chores and other family stuff. I did, however, carve out one day for some kayaking. TM and I planned for a leisurely mid week paddle out of Bay Campus. I was thinking that the outer west passage sounded fun.

Naturally, I got to the beach late. TM was out in the water practicing with his Cetus HV. Since the idea was for a relaxing day, he was gracious. It had also given him time to work out a paddle plan.

The weather was not ideal for doing outer west passage. The wind was blowing up the Bay at a steady clip. Crossing the Bay didn’t seem like the wisest decision. Instead, we planned on paddling south along Bonnet Shores and looking for some surf in the cove.

As we paddled along the bluffs I could feel the wind, but it didn’t impress me as anything troublesome. It made for some nice waves. The more troublesome issue, I thought, was keeping pace with TM in his speedy Cetus. I wasn’t struggling, but I felt like TM was holding back. He denied this.

In the cove we headed straight for the beach to look for surfing opportunities. We were disappointed. There were waves but they were small and not worth the effort.

That left as at a crossroads. We could stay in the cove, have a spot of lunch, and head back to Bay Campus for some practice. Or we could head further south and lunch at the mouth of Narrow River.

TM, foolishly, left the decision up to me. I hadn’t checked the forecast to see how strong the winds were. I also didn’t consider that up until this point in the paddle we had been shielded from the worst of the winds. I wasn’t ready to head back and always enjoyed the paddle down to Narrow River. It always offers up interesting conditions.

As soon as we rounded the point and started heading south along the coast, I knew I had made a terrible decision. We were paddling head first into a steady 18 to 20 knot wind. The waves were big and steep. It wasn’t the worst conditions, but they were not good.

Oddly turning around never crossed my mind. I knew we could both handle it and I figured it was a good test for the Aries. Could I keep up with a strong, skilled paddler in a long boat paddling into a big wind? I also knew that TM would not let me fall too far behind if the answer was not yes.

It was definitely a struggle. But it was no worse than I remember paddling the Q-boat in similar conditions. There were differences. The Q’s clipper bow sliced through the waves. The Aries planing bow rides up and over the waves. The biggest difference I noticed was in how much effort went into keeping on course. The Q, generally, maintained a straight course in the wind. The Aries required constant attention. However, when the Q did get knocked around, it was a bitch to straighten out. The Aries was easily coaxed back into line. As for speed, we managed to average around 3 knots along the stretch.

TM made it look easy while I felt like I was struggling the whole time. I swear that on occasion it looked like he was just out for a leisurely Sunday afternoon jaunt. Again he denies this is true. I am not convinced I could have paddled much faster. I am also convinced that TM had a little speed left in the tank. Regardless, I was pleased with how the Aries performed.

Coming into the beach was an interesting experience. I caught a nice wave in the rip that forms at the mouth of the river. I think I believed that the Aries would magically ride the wave into the beach without me doing anything. Instead, it spun beach into the wave before I could react. I didn’t go over, but it was enough to jolt me back to reality. Getting back in line to land on the beach was one simple sweep stroke. Maneuverability cuts both ways.

After lunch we headed north back to the Bay Campus. It felt like the wind had died down. It was hard to tell though because it was at our backs. You never know how hard the wind is blowing when you are moving with it.

The Aries was in its element with the following seas. It caught even the smallest of waves and was pure joy to paddle. Keeping up with TM was not a concern. Keeping the paddle from being over was a concern. We were back at Bay Campus in no time flat.

We did some boat handling practice before heading to the cars. TM wanted me to try some stern rudder tricks at speed. I nearly flipped over a few times. The stick gained purchase, the stern jumped to the side, and the stick was under the stern.

He also had me try some stern draws. A stern draw is not as natural with a stick as it is with an ice cream scoop. I gave it a go. They turned the Aries without issue and I didn’t catch the paddle under the stern.

We retired to Java Madness for post paddle coffee. The back deck was the perfect place to finish the day. It was a classic end to a classic paddle.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Chasing the Cetus

The family lucked into an open camp site at Winslow Park in Freeport, ME. The Benders had an extra site and offered it up and we couldn't say no. The park is a hidden gem. Our sites were right on the water, spacious, clean, and level. The park is only a few miles, an easy bike ride, from the outlet Mecca. There is also a huge playground for kids.

In the morning, the women took a ride into town to do some shopping. Bug and I explored the park on our bikes for a little and then hung out at the playground.

The afternoon was set aside for PB and I to do some paddling. PB decided to take out KB’s Cetus MV. It would be a perfect chance to see if the Aries could hang with a real sea kayak.

The wind was picking up, but the bay offered plenty of places to hide. We headed NE past Pumpkin Knob and along the east side of Wolfes Neck Woods State Park. The shore line kept the wind to a manageable level. The water was mostly flat and the paddling was relaxing. It didn’t feel like I was working extra hard to keep up with PB, but we were taking it easy.

We crossed over to Bustins Island. Once we left the shelter of the cove the full strength of the wind made itself know. It was blowing hard and the wrong way to help us crossing back to camp. Once behind Bustins it was mice paddling again, but it wouldn’t last long.

It was a two mile crossing from Bustins back to Winslow Park. The one warning Carl had about the Aries was that it didn’t do well with strong beam winds. This wind was quartering, so not completely beamy. All in all the Aries handled well. I would’t say it tracked well, but with proper attention it didn’t weather cock either. The truth is that the Aries is so easy to turn that it was easy to zag when the wind forced a zig. I did drop the skeg for part of the crossing to take the edge off.

In terms of speed, I did OK. PB and the Cetus definitely had an easier time getting across in the wind, but I’m not sure how much easier. I kept up and didn’t feel like I worked extra hard. When asked, PB said he wasn’t taking it particularly easy on me. We weren’t paddling hard, but I was happy with the Aries performance.

Despite the windy return trip, it was a good day on the water. Casco Bay is a pretty place to paddle and a nice place for a relaxing early season paddle.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Rocks of Doom

Getting to paddle two weekends in a row is rare and beautiful. I was definitely looking forward to this paddle. It was scheduled as a rock paddle out of Fort Whetheril; perfect for breaking in the new Aries. A lot of other people were thinking similar thoughts. The flotilla included at least three Delphins which are the plastic older brother of the Aries.
I was hoping for some good wave action to make things exciting, but the water wasn't cooperating. Things were pretty benign. In some ways that was better for my nerves since I am still in the "please don't scratch it" stage of ownership. There was little chance of doing any damage to the Aries while playing.
We shadowed a group of Kayakwavology students along the coast. They moved much faster and further than we did. We spent a lot of time noodling around and taking turns trying to squeeze through tight spots.
I had a great time getting the feel for just how turns the Aries is in tight spots. It really is a white water boat made for sea kayaking.
After lunch we turned around and replayed the same rocks. Amazingly, they got more dangerous in reverse. TM managed to get some serious dings in his hull.
It turned out to be a shortish day on the water, but is was another good chance to adjust to the new kayak.

Sunday, May 17, 2015


Sometimes you see the details on the chart, but do not put all the pieces together. Sometimes you get lucky and put the pieces together in time to avoid disaster….This weekend was scheduled for a visit to my brother’s family in CT. His daughter was having a birthday party and it made for a good excuse for the families to get together. It conflicted with the perfect paddle for breaking in the new Aries, but family always comes first.What we missed on the party invite was that it was at a kiddie spa. The name of the venue suggested ice cream, not pedicures…. Fortunately, H realized this the day before the event. Later in the day my brother e-mailed saying he was working all day. So, the three of us were going to drive two hours to attend an all girl birthday party for an eight year-old at a spa….
H, who is a saint, made the command decision that I was no longer included in the birthday party plan. She and Bug would go to the birthday party, and I would go paddling. I tried to argue that I had to go to the party because it was my family…. She stood firm and insisted that I go paddling.
I got up in the morning, packed up the last of the paddling supplies, strapped the Aries onto the roof, and headed out with plenty of time to get to the put in. As I was driving down the hill from my house to the Starbucks, I noticed that the kayak’s bow was drifting to the left. My initial thought was that I just needed to tighten the straps down what I stopped to get coffee. When I checked the straps I saw that one of my cradles had suffered a catastrophic failure. The hinge attaching the lower portion of the jaw had snapped off. I wasn’t sure I could even limp the 3/4 of mile back up the hill to my house.
Saint H pulled through one more time. She dug out a spare cradle, packed up a very unhappy Bug into her car, and drove down to rescue me. She even helped me get the new cradle attached to the car so that I could continue on my way to the paddle.
The drive was not relaxing. I was caught between watching my speed for fear of a second rack failure and wanting to speed to make up for the lost time. I was sure I could make it to Westport before everyone left the put in, but I didn’t want to be that guy. I am particularly sensitive since I am incapable of getting on the water quickly. Time just slows down when between the opening of my car door and the time my kayak glides away from the beach.
I did make it the paddle in plenty of time. A lot of the time was taken up with people complimenting me on the new kayak. It was a little embarrassing, but fun as well. The yellow over bright orange is eye catching. Since this is only the second time the Aries has been in the water, I still wasn’t sure it was more than eye catching. Could it keep up with a pod of traditional length sea kayaks? Would it be fun to paddle in conditions without being too easy? Could the hull shape possibly live up to the hype?
This paddle was a good opportunity to answer some of those questions. There were a lot of traditional sea kayaks in the group. TM was the only other person in a play kayak--He was testing out his newly acquired Romany XL. The paddle to and from the mouth of the river is pretty traditional touring style paddling. The current and rock play provides plenty of opportunity for the areas where the Aries is designed to shine.
The paddle to and from the mouth of the river were pleasant. The wind was light and the current not too much of an issue. The Aries paddled nicely and I didn’t feel like I was working too hard to keep up with the other kayaks. It paddled like most other sea kayaks I have paddled. That was a big positive. For relaxed paddling in mild conditions, I want a kayak to feel neutral.
When we got to the mouth of the river the current was running pretty strong, but the wind was not cooperating. It was blowing with the current and flattening the waves.
Despite the lack of standing waves, it was a good chance to practice paddling in current. The first time I tried an eddy turn, I did a 280 before I knew what happened. After that, I had a much better sense of how to handle the turns with some edging. Out in the main flow the Aries skipped across the moving water. It was fun to just play around and see how the kayak handled. The few waves that popped up proved that the Aries loves to catch waves. It just hops on the wave and takes off.
It didn't take long for us to get bored and start thinking of new ways to spice up the paddle. It was supposed to be a play day. We decided to head out of the river and play on the rocks on the outside of the nubble.
After lunch we found a choice outcropping for playing. It offered multiple play spots. The most popular was in the middle of the out cropping. The waves crashed around and made a nice soupy mess. I quickly got over my oh it is too new to scratch and put the Aries in the thick of it. This was what the boat was made for…. It was stable and maneuverable through out. When I was done all it took was a little edge. The bow slid out and I was on the other side of the soup.

The other fun spot to play on the rocks was on the far edge. There was a nice little slot where the waves pushed through with a little less force. From the beach side it made a nice spot to practice keeping the bow in position. From the ocean side it provided a nice safe surf run.

While playing on this safe run, I managed to time a wave very poorly. I found myself getting pushed straight into the rock. The wave steepened and I felt the bow getting pinned. Once that happened, I knew there was no way to turn past the rocks. Just as I resigned to kissing the rock, the bow popped. I edged, the bow turned, and I slid past the rock with a huge smile on my face.

The trip back to the put in was uneventful. It was a nice relaxing way to cool down. It was also a nice reminder that the Aries was a capable regular kayak.

Friday, May 15, 2015


Last Sunday, we went down to Osprey Sea Kayak to get some work done on H’s kayak and Big Red. H needed her backband fixed and her deck lines tightened. Bug Red needed to get the rudder lines attached so that they stop falling off. Carl and Sam are our go to kayak repair people.

They also sell P&H kayaks, but that wasn’t part of the plan. I think P&H and I think Cetus and I was not keen on a Cetus. I really had my brain set on the Tiderace kayaks. Getting to New York was a hurdle I was prepared to jump.

When we pulled up I saw that Osprey had a used Nigel Foster Legend for sale. The Legend is a classic sea kayak and has always intrigued me, so I wanted to give it a try.

The Legend was fine. It fit me well. It turned OK for a touring kayak. The hull was in good shape. There was nothing about the Legend that made me change my mind about trying out the Tiderace kayaks.

As I got out of the Legend Carl slid an Aries 155 onto the boat ramp and told me to try it out. As soon as I backed into the river and turned the kayak, I knew it was a play boat. It spun around like a white water kayak. I paddled it around the river by the shop for awhile and was increasingly impressed. It not only turned like a dream, it went pretty straight when needed. According to H I was smiling the whole time I was paddling it.

After I dragged myself out of the kayak, I asked the obvious question: "Do you have any in stock?" They did have one: orange over orange with yellow trim.

Before I plopped down the plastic and gave up on the Tideraces, I had questions. The Aries is under 16 feet long; can it keep up with a pod of Ceti? Can it be packed up for a weekend of camping? I had read a few reviews, and knew that the reviewers thought the answers were yes. However, I wanted to hear it first hand from an actual Aries paddler. Carl uses an Aries 150 as his primary kayak. Carl and Sam both assured me that the Aries could keep up with a Cetus for most paddles and could carry enough gear for a weekend with some creative packing.

Like all kayaks, the Aries is about trade offs. The Aries is optimized for playing on the ocean and not for expeditions. It is at its best on bouncy water, surf, and dodging rocks. As an ocean play kayak, it is designed to have decent speed to get to the play spots and carry some extra gear. On an expedition, it is not at its best, but still OK.

So I pulled the trigger. It needed a keep strip and a compass, which was good since our car couldn’t carry three kayaks home...

I picked it today and took it for a break-in paddle on the Charles River in Waltham; it is the section of the Charles known as the lake district. The river is not the optimal place to paddle an Aries-the water is flat and there is not much to dodge-but that was sort of the point. I wanted to know that I hadn’t boxed myself into a corner with a kayak that was only good for the extreme stuff.

It was a nice paddle along this route. I did take time to play with turning and finding the edges. The Aries is a very turny kayak; I had fun just spinning it around a few times…. The straight line performance was good. The Aries didn’t feel particularly slow, nor did it feel fast. I spent most of the time trying to find issues and I could not really come up with one. The paddle was a nice confirmation that I made a solid purchase. I cannot wait to get it out on some real water….

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Narrow River

Narrow River is always a great way to start the paddle season. It has some distance and always a little wind. We had a nice day for it as well. It was **almost** nice enough to skip the dry suit.

We started off with a little wind and a little current working against us, but that meant that it would be a help on the return trip. It was good for just loosening up and playing with different strokes.

It was nice to just chat with grown ups that are not co-workers. It is a rare treat. In fact, that is the thing I remember most about the paddle.

The current was with us on the return trip. The wind was in our face again and overwhelmed the current.

It didn’t really matter. We had good conversation. I realized that having a four year old girl shapes your world in strange ways. There was a conversation about good new movies. I knew about *Frozen*, *Boxtrolls*, *Paddington*, and *Cinderella*….

The post paddle coffee was a pleasure as well. The paddle was a perfect recharge.

When it was over, I was eager to retun home and hang with H and Bug.

Saturday, February 07, 2015


2014 felt like a long year. There were a lot of great things, but they were punctuated by long stretchs of drudgery.
Life comes with a certian amount of drudgery. It is unreasonable to expect constant excitment from visiting to the grocery store, folding laundry, washing dishes, supervising a child in the shower, brushing your teeth, helping your child brush her teeth, watching the same episode of Dragon Tales for a week, watching Elsa build her ice castle everyday for three weeks, or being a taxi service to play dates, gymastics, swim lessons, birthday parties, and dance lessons.
The taxi service does, more than occasionally, lead to excitement or at least a moment of joy and/or wonder. I get to see Bug having fun, learn new skills, surprise herself, listen to her stories, and teach me new things. Taxi service is the drudgery that makes me appreciate the wonder of being a dad.
The additional drudgery this year comes from my job. It pays well, but there have been few oppertunities for me to really sink my teeth into anything. The pace of development is slow and most of the features in development are simple from a user perspective. It is hard for me to get excited about documenting a point-and-click UI or the same APIs in a different language. The amount of process and over management exascerbate the boredom. I pretty much have to clear everything I do through a manager and one other person. This is in addition to technical and editorial reviews…. I’m not sure if the solution is a different job or a different attitude; the devil you know or the devil you don’t….
There were also parenting challenges. Bug went through a bit of tantrum storm through the spring and summer. Two of her great strenghts are her independance and her determination (some may call it stuborness). They help her in all sorts of ways, until they mix together in a cauldron of frustration and explode. We had some rough rides, but, hopefully, we all learned how to modulate ourselves and use our natures positively. The darkest moments made me glad that I wasn’t in this alone. Being able to tag out for some relief and having a different perspective on hand made weathering the storms much easier. It makes me respect the work my Mom must have done as a single parent even more than I already did. One thing is certain: Parenting is the most challenging thing I have, and will likely ever, do.
Fortunately, life has a lot of wonder to offset the drudgery:

  • There were a bunch a great paddles this year.
  • Bug and I got to go on a bunch of great bike rides together.
  • Bug learned to ride a two wheeler.
  • We all went on our first real hiking adventure in the White Mountains.
  • We did our first real kayaking trip on Boston harbor.
  • We had a number of relaxing camping vacations.
When I look back on the year, it loses a lot of its drabness. The moments of joy and wonder bubble up and remind me what is important: smiles, laughter, hugs, learning new things, sharing nature.

Best Paddle of 2014

This year I feel like I need two categories for best paddle of the year: family and solo. This is the first year the Bug has been able to join us for real adventures. She has gotten to an age where she can tolerate a bit more time in the cockpit and the upgrade to Big Red made venturing a more pleasent experience.


My favorite family paddle of the year was the one to Grape Island. The weather was perfect, everyone had a great time, and it felt like a real ocean adventure. It gives me confidence that we can do some kayak camping next summer.


The Outter West Passage of Terror was my favorite solo paddle of the year. It wasn’t the most interesting paddle or the most challenging paddle. It was the paddle that most reminded me why I love to paddle. It centered me after a very hard week. It reminded me of be awake to the beatuy of the world, to be humble in the face of natures powers, to be your own judge of a situation, and to remember that a bad week is just a blip in a long glorious journey.