Sunday, November 08, 2020

It was so bad it was good?

 I have missed paddling.

The last few months something has always gotten in the way. Some times the thing in the way was just inertia to be honest. COVID travel restrictions and anxiety keep me close to home and the only real paddling options are flat, not so clean water. It is hard to get up the energy to pack up the kayak when you know that a good portion of your time will be tied up in getting the gear packed and unpacked and repacked and unpacked and when the most exciting thing you'll see is duck and the most challenging obstacle is going to be a frustrating wind that is blowing at just the wrong angle.

Taking one of the bikes out is an easier option.

This morning I decided I was going to get in the kayak. I packed up the truck, dug out some paddling clothes, and drove over to the local boat launch figuring that this late in the season it would pretty quiet. It was packed. I found one spot that could accommodate the truck and I almost lost it while getting the kayak off the roof. The parking space barely had enough room for me to open the doors; the kayak had to come off before I parked.

While sitting on the back of the truck putting on my water shoes, I felt a nice pain shoot from hip across my lower back. I could walk mostly straight, and bend over if I took my time. I decided that if I could pack up the kayak and get into it, I was OK to paddle on some flat water...

As I settled the kayak into the water, I spotted a sign mentioning dangerous algae blooms. The water didn't smell, there were no visible signs of algae, and a lot of other people on the water. I wasn't going in the water. I cautiously ignored the sign and set off.

My plan was to do a little warm up paddle and then practice boat control for a while. I wanted to work on figure eights, bow and stern rudders, and some lateral movement.

Once I was in the kayak, my back felt good. I could get decent rotation without pain while doing a quick forward stroke. As I loosened up and started working on the control strokes it continued to feel good.

All in all I was feeling pretty good and having a good time. The reverse figure eights took a little time to get sorted out. I needed to play around with the edges to figure out which ones worked best, but once I got it even those felt good. I know the Aires is a cheat when it comes to making maneuvering look impressive, but it does take some skill to get it to do the right things at the right time.

After playing around with the turns, I started working on latter movements with draw strokes. Things started off great. Then I started upping the ante and putting more edge on the boat during skulling draws and experimenting with which edge worked best.

Next thing I know I'm upside down in murky water and don't have my paddle in rolling position. Instead of talking the time to settle myself, get into position, and just do the roll, I panicked and pulled the loop. I'm now floating in cold water about a 50-75 yds from shore with nobody to do an assisted rescue. Without taking the time to think about what gear I have on hand (a paddle float and a pump sitting in my cockpit), I just start swimming and dragging the kayak towards land... Then I realize how cold I am and remember the toxic algae warning...

I finally got close enough to shore so I could stand, empty the cockpit, and get back in the kayak.

Fortunately, the air was warmer than the water. Once back in the kayak I started to warm back up as I made a bee line for the boat ramp.

Unfortunately, the waiting line for the ramp was three power boats and a couple of SUPs long.

I couldn't just float around waiting for the line to clear, so I went back to practicing. It was the only way to stay warm. My back had started to tighten back up, but things still went pretty well. Overall, I was pretty happy with how I did.

I only took about 20 minutes for the ramp to clear enough to allow me to get off the water. Dusk was closing in and the temperature was dropping.

I am glad that I had invested in Hullivators because it made getting the kayak loaded much faster. OK the Hullivators were the only reason I could even get the kayak on the truck. There was no way my back was going to put up with lifting a kayak much further than waist height.

I am also glad that I spent the extra money on a tree row truck. It made changing into dry, warm clothes much easier. The parking lot was way to open and busy to change outside and my back was not going to do the contortions required for changing in a normal sized car.

It was possibly one of the worst days paddling I have ever had. Nearly freezing in toxic water because I couldn't keep my wits about me was not a proud moment.

Yet, it was a day that I got to paddle. That has a magical way of making me feel better....