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.

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