Saturday, June 05, 2021

Scary, but not really

 The first group paddle in two years was bound to be a little nerve wracking. So much of this transition out of COVID is socially nerve wracking without adding in paddling conditions. Do you wear masks on the beach and keep distance at lunch? Is everyone vaccinated?

Adding condition into the mix added an extra layer of anxiety. The sea was a carpet of white caps and the wind was forecast to increase. The conditions were nothing I haven't paddle in before, but I also haven't paddled in them in more than a year. Nor have I paddled in a group in more than a year.

Familiarity and trust go a long way in bolstering confidence.

When we rounded the point things were bouncy. The horizon was a line of breakers and we were heading straight into them.

I was feeling a bit on edge and questioning the wisdom of leaving the beach. However, I stayed the course. We had a core of strong, experienced paddlers in the group. I trusted that they would pick a reasonable route. Also, we each stroke of the paddle I began to get back into the groove.

About 30 minutes in I most of the edge I had burned off and I was feeling good. If there isn't any bounce, is it really ocean paddling?

We lunched just south of the nubble at the mouth of the Westport River. It was nice to just sit around and chat on the beach. We may have been a little more spread out than in previous years or not. It was just nice to hang on the beach and chat.

Since we were in a little bit of a time crunch, we decided to paddle straight from lunch to the tip of Gooseberry. The threatened winds were mild, the fog had burned off, and the white caps had mostly subsided.

It was a perfect route for experimenting with my skeg. The wind was just enough to cause some weather cocking. A little skeg could lighten the burden of using correcting strokes.  Too much skeg could be counter productive. Any amount of skeg blunts the Aries best feature.

In the end, I came back to my default position. Skegs are too complicated unless absolutely needed.... The Aries is maneuverable enough that keeping her on course with a little edging and slipping a little bow rudder into my forward stroke does wonders.

Rounding the point to get back to the beach looked a little intimidating. The tide had gone out enough to make the rocks visible and the swells breaky. We had two choices: paddle around or paddle through.

I was torn, but choose to go with the paddle around crew. We got to play a little on the far side where the swell was a little less pushy.

It turned out that the paddle through group wound up having to paddle around as well. Things got a little too shallow for comfort at the exit point.

Once I shook the cobwebs out, it was a nice day on the water. I am looking forward to a long paddling season with many group trips.

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