Sunday, September 19, 2021

Falling Down the Water

 Early in the week the announcement went out that the scheduled paddles for the weekend were cancelled. My heart sank. I was really looking forward to playing on reefs in Stonington.

Then, like a paddling angel, Tim G. resurrected the Sunday reef play session!!

Tim is a great paddle coordinator. Not only is he an exceptionally good paddler, he is also always over prepared, chill, and keeps the whole group's needs in the forefront. You know it will be a fun and safe day on the water.

The plan was to paddle out to Sugar Reef and work our way down to Watch Hill for pit stop. Then we would head home. Tim made sure we all knew that this trip was different from going over to Wicopesset and playing. Sugar reef does not offer any places to get off the water and very few eddies for resting.

We were going to be on the water for a long time before we got to a beach for a proper rest and food break. Snacks is the perfect use for the deck hatch. I loaded it up with fruit chew packs and a nutritious bar.

We headed straight out to the spire and found a nice play area. There was plenty to surf and the wave field was well organized.

Early on I had some issues with directional control. My bow kept peeling out down the wave.

I tried using the standard stern rudder to keep on course, but that rarely worked out. Some times it just failed completely and I just kept speeding along until I was parallel to the wave. Other times it just ate enough speed to knock me off the wave and left me like a sitting duck waiting to be taken out by the next wave in the train.

I tried using sweep strokes to push the bow back on track and had more luck with them. Sometimes, it took an extended paddle to get enough force. That still wasn't a sure thing though.

I tried using a stern draw to pull the back of the kayak into line which also worked on occasion.

What really seemed to work was combining the stern draw with a sweep stroke and some edging.

The truth is that the Aries biggest strength is also its biggest weakness. It is easy to turn....

While at the Spire I had a near run-in with another kayak. As I was surfing down a wave, unable to straighten out I noticed another paddler setting up to ride straight down the same wave. I know the right thing to do is for the paddler at the bottom of the wave to flip over... but the other paddler was way more experienced than I am and me flipping over could easily have turned into a rescue situation... After a brief hesitation, I flipped over and prayed that the other kayak would not ram into me and that I would be able to roll up before getting washed into the Spire...

Once under, I waited a bit to let things sort themselves out, set up, and popped back up ready to surf! It was my first "emergency" roll in a very long time.

After a while at the Spire we moved further down the reefs towards Watch Hill.

I was initially under the impression that we were going to head in towards the beach. However, everyone else seemed to be staying out on the waves. I was not about to argue about playing in the surf....

Eventually we stopped just below the lighthouse for a late lunch. I was very happy that I had stuffed the mini-hatch with quick snacks, so I wasn't starving...

After lunch, we headed back to the put in but kept an eye open for possible play spots.

We found some surf off a spit of land on the way back. The waves were hard to predict, but everyone got a few nice runs. On my last run I managed to lose my support and end up in the drink. I set up for a roll and got smacked back down by an incoming wave. Apparently there is a wrong side to roll up on in surf.... I set up on the other side and popped back up. Two emergency rolls in one day!!!

It was definitely time to call it quits.... The rest of the paddle back was quiet and uneventful.

I am really grateful for Tim taking the time to set up these reef paddles with a bunch of less skilled paddlers. They make a world a difference for my quality of life.

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