Friday, November 02, 2018

Autumn Gales

Greg Paquin has run the Autumn Gales for 10 years now and this is the second time I’ve gone. The main event is three days with plenty of opportunities to get top notch instruction in conditions. Greg gets world class coaches from both the local area and England.
Both of the times I’ve gotten to attend, I have only done a single day out of the three. I have also always managed to attend on days where the conditions are borderline crazy. Today the forecast called for 15-20knt winds with gusts to 30knts, rain, and big swells. There was also a chance of thundershowers. The wife thought I was a wee nuts. I was thinking it was perfect for some adventure.
After a quick briefing we headed out to the breakwater. It provided a nice place wher we duck out of the wind for chatting with the coaches and then head back out into the wind and swells to practice boat skills. I was with Greg and Pete Jones from the UK for coaches. They had us practicing turns into the wind. We practiced different strategies like using short quick strokes at the bow to pin it down and allow the wind to blow the stern around; using forward and reverse sweeps to pivot. We experimented with what paddle positions worked best to turn up wind and turn down wind. There was plenty of wind to practice with and three to four foot swells to make things more fun.
We also practiced surfing swells and paddling in following seas. Greg helped me figure out why I have so much trouble keeping the Aries from breaching in surf. One problem is that I always go straight for a stern rudder, which is not effective and because of how I turn in the boat to place the rudder, causes the Aries to turn even more. He suggested using sweep strokes instead.
He also noticed that I tended to lean forward when I catch a wave and that when I lean forward I arm paddle. Basically, instinct takes over and ruins my form. I have probably been doing it forever and never noticed; the Q-boat was far less maneuverable than the Aries. Greg’s expert coaching was a big bonus.
It was a hard day on the water. I was exhausted at the end of the day - in a great way. If I can only get out once in a while, it has to be worth it. This definitely was.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Third Beach

Paddles from third beach are always fun. No matter which way you go there is challenges. Today we choose to go south so to avoid the wind. That meant more swells, but less rocks.
The group had a lot of new faces. However, Carleen was on the paddle which was great since I think it was the first time I had paddled with her in two years.
I knew it was a level three paddle, but I didn't expect quite as much action. Going out we had plenty of wind and some good swells. We paddled over towards Salve and did our best to avoid the reef waves. They were pretty crazy. Water was coming from all directions.
On the way back we got some chances to play in the rocks. The swells were calmer, but there was plenty of action to have fun.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Rocks and Surf

Who doesn’t like a chance to bang around some rocks and do a bit of surfing? It had been a long, long time since I had the chance to use push the Aries and my abilities, so I grabbed the chance when a rockapalooza paddle was posted.
It was mostly geared as an intermediate introduction to rock and surf play, but that is where I am at these days....
The weather was perfect: sunny, but not too warm. The sea state was good for a low key day, but less than what I was hoping for....
The group made its way out of the harbor and towards our first formation: the lighthouse. Mostly, we worked on feeling comfortable getting in close to the rocks and holding our positions. It was pretty basic stuff, but it was fun and a nice reminder of the good old days when I could get out and do that stuff every weekend.
As the morning progressed, we moved from rock formation to rock formation. Each time things got progressively more interesting. The sea state was calm enough that chances of mayhem were low. We all got to makes some fun and challenging passes over ledges and spend time hanging out in washing machines.
Cam managed to find the one rouge swell while trying to pass over a rock ledge. He did an admirable job trying to stay in the kayak, but it proved impossible. Fortunately, Gary was on station to execute a near perfect rescue. The situation, and the execution, would have made a good instructional video.
After lunch we played in what little surf we could find. Tim made sure to point out the rocky area we should avoid while surfing. Of course, it was also the area with the most predictable and fun waves....
Catching waves was a little frustrating, but most people caught some nice rides.
I was a having a hard time, because I forget how sensitive the Aries is to body position. I would catch a wave and out of shear muscle memory immediately turn my body to put in a stern rudder. In the Q-boat, that was just what you needed to do to have any hope of riding the wave straight. In the Aries, as soon as I turned my body to put the rudder in, the boat turned on the wave. I’d go from riding the wave face, to getting pushed sideways, to eventually spinning off the wave.
I did catch one good ride, over in the rocks that we were told to avoid.... When I went to turn off the wave, however, I mistimed releasing the brace and flipped. I considered rolling up, but I could feel the bottom - too shallow. I popped out and planned to push the kayak out of the rocks and surf, then assess the best way to get back in the boat. When I came up another paddler asked me if I wanted to do the rescue right there. I should have waved them off and followed my plan. The waves were pretty consistent and the rocks were close... Instead, I waffled. The other paddler tried to line up to do the rescue but ended up point bow first at my head as a wave started to crest. I duck dived to avoid a mashed mellon. When I came back up for air, things got more confusing....
Another paddler showed up and thought I was going to just swim the kayak into the nearby beach. They even offered me a ride. Another wave came in and I lost my grip on their kayak. Next thing I know, my kayak is getting towed out to sea, so I grab onto the bow toggle.
Eventually, all the communication issues got squared away, and I got back into my kayak. Fortunately for all involved it was a pretty mellow day, so the danger was minimal. It was a good lesson in why communication in rescues is important, how different paddlers can assess conditions very differently, and why it is important for a swimmer to be an active participant in their rescue.
Back in the harbor, I practiced a few rolls just to keep them from going away. At coffee, we all debriefed on the rescue. Debriefing is important and also another window into how different paddlers can assess things differently.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Two Star Redux

When the BCU 2 star class was offered so late in the season, after what looked like a paddle scheduled for paddlers that needed 3 stars or better to participate, I scoffed.
Then I realized that for me, and probably at least a few other paddlers in RICKA, a day on the water getting some coaching from two excellent coaches, was a great opportunity.
I had been on the water more times this years than I had last year, but I knew I was rusty and could use a good tune up. I also remembered the first time I took the 2 star class and was a little too cocky to get anything out of it....
Greg and Paula had Tim II and Brenda assisting them. They were great as coaches in training. I spent the morning with Paula and Brenda. We worked on basic strokes.
I felt a little guilty having an Aries. It makes all of the turning strokes look easy. Most of the other paddlers in the group were in longer, straighter traditional sea touring kayaks. I still needed to control the kayak, so that was something.
In the afternoon we switched lead trainers. I was with Greg. He worked on fine tuning. We talked about things like using seating position to adjust trim. We also worked on using all four quadrants to maneuver the kayak for the proper conditions. We also worked on edging and reverse paddling.
It was an excellent tune up session. I would totally do it again next season just for the pointers.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

First Paddle of the Year

This is our traditional kick off the summer camping trip in Freeport. We always get nice water sites and mostly just relax.
I had only one real goal for the trip - getting out for a paddle. We brought all of the kayaks, so as many people as wanted to go with me could join in the fun. However, I really just wanted a little time alone on the water....
The weather was not great. It was a little windy, but otherwise clear. Since I was going solo (which is never advisable), H made me promise to stick close to shore. I mostly followed her wishes.
I paddled up the coast into Freeport Harbor and just got my sea legs back underneath me. I spent a lot of time playing with different strokes, different edges, different trim positions. It was nice.
After hugging the coast for a bit, I decided to make a short crossing out to some nearby islands. There was a little chop, but nothing that bothered me. I was mostly just looking to feel like I was ocean paddling. It was nice and recharging.
When I got back, the kids were playing in the mud and getting ready to head over to the beach. I managed to talk Bug and her friend into paddling around the point to the beach with me. It was her friends first time doing a solo paddle. Both girls did great until we landed on the beach. It was low tide, so there was a long slog through the mud to get to the beach proper.
There was no way the girls were getting back in the kayaks. Fortunately one of Bug's other friends, who also had never paddled solo, was willing to trudge through the mud and give paddling a go. He did a great job once we got him to stop slouching and flip the paddled the right way.
It wasn't exciting, but it was a nice way to get back on the water.