Sunday, April 03, 2022

Spring Warm Up

 After about a month without kayaking and I start to go a little more looney than my baseline, so after three months without kayaking I was living in toon town. Working at home where my main source of social interaction is a dog and a few other neighborhood dog owners that are occasionally out at the same time as the dog walks me, was not helping.

The smart bike trainer makes riding in the basement more interesting, but it does not make it like riding on trails or even the road….

When Tim G. posted an easy warm up paddle out of Bay Campus on a day that was potentially free of family commitments, I put in for a day pass. K’s school musical was the Friday night and Saturday before the paddle (the show was excellent), so H was a little worried that K would be super cranky due to physical and emotional exhaustion. She also had things she wanted to do… But being an angel, she granted me the day pass because paddling would degrumpify me for at least a few weeks.

The day did not start off auspiciously. I got a late start and needed to gas the truck. The gas station was jammed. They were getting a delivery and the tanker had half the pumps blocked off. That put me even further behind schedule. My ETA was still before the launch time, but I am not exactly known for being a speedy unpacker - particularly when I haven’t done it in months…

We were only 20 minutes late getting on the water….

The conditions were perfect for getting the cobwebs out. It was sunny with almost no wind. The sea had just a little bounce to it and it was high tide. The plan was to head towards Narragansett. In addition to getting a little push from the current, we were treated with increasing swells which would make playing in the rocks more fun.

I had made the decision to leave my helmet in the truck so that I couldn’t go play in the rocks and simply enjoy some nice open ocean paddling…. 

On the way south, the action was tame. I didn’t feel too bad getting a little close to the rocks and maybe trying to slip through intriguing slot now and again.

After lunch the water was a little lower and the swells a little bigger. I told myself that I would not do anything crazy. I definitely not follow Tim or Gary into anything. I was sticking to things without points or big waves rushing through them. I definitely was not going to anywhere near breaking waves….

I mostly stuck to my plan… I at least did my best to avoid anything that looked potentially dangerous. I may have surfed through a couple of tight spots or needed to wait for a swell to put enough water in a hole to make it passable. However, nothing too hard and noting with really big swells.

I was having a lot of fun and who paddles an Aries without getting into the rocks?

About a third of the way back to Bay Campus, before crossing the Bonnet Shores inlet, there was a nice group of rocks for play. They offered several different slots to run all with slightly different feels and some required making pretty quick turns to squeak through.

As we were preparing to move on, I decide to try one last run. It involved getting through one slot then making a quick left turn into deeper water to avoid the rock ledge on shore and then spinning around and running the gap past the rock I started behind. I waited and watched how the water was behaving. Nothing alarming, some small swells that would make the left turn a little hard, but I was planning on going through between swells.

I was perfectly lined up as the last paddler ran the gap between the shore and the slot I was waiting to run. She rode a nice little swell through and I made my move. The timing should have been perfect, by the time I needed to make my turn the next swell would be on its way out….

I got through the first slot, edged over and initiated a sharp left turn just as a big swell broke and pushed my bow straight into the ledge. Before I could do anything I was upside down with my bow pinned on a rocky shore.

I would love to be able to say that I actually thought through my options and devised a good plan to get me out of trouble. Instead I acted on pure instinct - I held onto my paddle, picked the side that seemed to be the side the swells were coming from and tried a roll. Surprisingly, the roll worked. I was right side up and had enough water to get out of the rocks. I took advantage of the water and got my butt out of dodge.

The photographers and videographers were sad that they didn’t get any shots of what happened… Stupid is best left undocumented as far as I am concerned. Also, pictorial proof would have made it look cool when really it was dumb luck.

After the incident, I should have been smart enough to realize that I had just used up a considerable amount of my luck for the day and just kept away from the rocks….

Not long after the incident, I decided to follow another kayaker through an area that was pretty deep but had a bit of a ledge on the shoreward side. The incoming swells were trivial; nothing that would push me into or over the ledge... When I got into the middle of the area a huge swell came through and bounced me right over the ledge and into the rocky shore. I could feel the gelcoat chipping off and knew that if I didn't get off the swell and turned back out to open water I was toast.  Luck was still on my side and I managed to spin the Aries around and back out to open water.

I knew it was time to stay away from the rocks for the rest of the day. Luck was on my side once more because we were just about at the end of the Bonnet Shores cliffs and rocks are scarce between there and Bay Campus.

Before we could get clear of the cliffs I heard some one yelling that a paddler was in the water. A few of rushed over to help, but Cat was right there and did the rescue. She did a nice job getting the paddler back in his boat. Getting the kayak pumped out was a different story...

It seems unfair that I took a lot of stupid risks and ended up looking like a rock star and a paddler who did all the right things ended up in the drink.

I think next paddle I'll be safer and at least wear my helmet....