Saturday, October 09, 2021

The Big Swell

 On Sunday I asked for clearance to paddle today. There were no paddles scheduled, but was confident that someone would post something. With a busy family, pre-clearance is always a good thing. Time that is not scheduled gets eaten.

When Thursday rolled around and no paddles had appeared on the message board I started to get worried. I was not ready to coordinate a paddle or convinced that anyone would drive north to played around in Boston Harbor.

Fortunately someone jumped in and proposed a crazy reef paddle out of Stonington. More experienced and level heads intervened and the venue was changed to the Bay Campus. We would still get a chance for big swells and wind without the tide race and exposure.

From the put in things seemed pretty tame. There was some wind and a little swell. It was the perfect weather for trying out my new Peak UK paddle jacket.

Our plan was to cross over to Jamestown paddle towards Beaver Tail, cross over to find a lunch spot, and paddle back along the bluffs. This plan meant paddling into the wind and swell on the way out, but getting a nice ride on the way home. It also offered some flexibility in terms of where we crossed back to the mainland.

The crossing over to Jamestown was bumpier than usual, but not too rough. We all could have used a little warming up before heading straight out, but we were impatient. This ultimately cost us a paddler. One of the group through their back out making the crossing and needed to be towed back to Bay Campus.

Two paddlers kindly volunteered to do the towing and catch back up with the rest of the group. The pairing was both needed to do the tow - one to stabilize the injured paddler and one to do the towing - and so that they could safely set out again after making sure the injured paddler was safely on shore, packed up, and capable of getting home.

The rest of us headed down Jamestown taking our time and playing in the rocks. We were in the lee of the island so the wind was not much of a factor and the swell was just enough to make things fun. Practicing boat control in tight spots is always a good time.

It is also a good time to do some rescue practice. I was waiting for my turn on a feature where you slipped between a couple of rocks and the shore when the paddler working their way through got stuck. They put up a good fight, but just couldn’t stay upright.

Before starting into do a rescue, you should have a plan… I just started moving around the outside of the feature hoping the paddler would push their kayak out of the hole for me to grab and then swim out. That didn’t happen... Next thing I know I’m in the entrance to the feature with one hand on my paddle and the other hand holding an upside down kayak with its pilot hanging on to it. 

I could not do a one handed scull and tow us out.. then I remembered that I had a cowtail attached to my PFD!!

Once I latched the clip onto the other kayak, we were out of the rocks and into a position where someone could safely put the paddler back into the boat. In short order everyone was back in their kayaks and we were off.

As we worked our way towards Beavertail the swells picked up significantly. Once we got to the point the wind was also making itself felt.

Crossing over to Whale Rock was going to be a fun ride!

Before we started the crossing, we were told to stay together as much as possible and not get carried away catching the swells.... It is like they were reading my mind.

Before I could stop myself, I was out in front of the pod flying surfing the following seas. The swell was nice and uniform, so the Aries just glided over the water.

It didn't take too long for me to realize that I was out of order, so I laid down some rudder and let the pod catch up. Once back with the pod, I was careful to watch my speed and my bearing.

Once we got to Whale Rock we turned back up the Bay to find a lunch spot that was out of the wind and with at least some sand.

After lunch, we head back into the wind and paddled across Bonnet Harbor before tucking in behind the big rock for a quick break.

Once we were along the bluffs, I took the opportunity to practice boat handling in the rocks. There were definitely a few times where I was working the paddle too far away from the hull for maximum efficiency. I was sticking the blade way out hoping to get a big pull and instead just got my body out of position without the strength needed to strong arm the kayak. What I really needed was finest and to keep the blade close to hull with good body position. Fortunately, the Aries will forgive a little bad technique and still turn it just takes more energy and a little bit of panic.

Before long we were safely back at Bay Campus where all seemed like a pleasant fall afternoon.

Today was a perfect paddle. It nice mixture of conditions to keep things interesting, but not scary.

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