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.