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.

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