Sunday, June 26, 2022

The Reefs, The Reefs Are Calling

The paddle for the weekend was planned to be a rough water outing in the reefs off of Stonington, so I was really hoping that the Aries was ready to go. She is built for playing in the races. Sadly, Dr. Carl still has some work to do to get her sea worthy.

The Capella is no slouch in the fun stuff, but tidal play is not her raison. Also, I just miss paddling the Aries.

When Tim asked what we were hoping to learn out on the reefs, I knew one of the things was going to be adjusting to a different kayak. That was in addition to learning a better feel for catching waves, learning to control the kayak while surfing, and linking rides together.

The predicted conditions were perfect for learning. The current was just fast enough with the right amount of wind to kick up some waves. However, it was not strong enough to make things dangerous. We could get up to the edge without worrying about going too far. Removing some of the worry males space for reflection and observation in the moment.

We started out at Wiccopisett. The race there was a well formed field of waves. It provided a great warm up spot. I spent some time remembering how to time the waves to the motions of the kayak. When the bow starts going up, get ready to paddle hard; as the bow starts coming down, paddle hard; as the stern lifts, surf. Once on the waves, I started playing with maneuvering. Unlike the Aries, the Capella wants to go straight which is a blessing and a curse. The Capella is less likely to breach, but it is also harder to turn and correct. I found that if I kept my speed up, I could maneuver with little sweep turns and a little edging. If I lost speed, or needed to do serious turning, I needed to resort to rudders, stern draws, and serious edging. For the most part I edged into the turns and used my foot to push the bow where I wanted it to go. The only time I edged opposite the turn and used my knee to pull the bow around was when I was turning into the waves to get from the front of the race to back of the race.

After first lunch on Wiccopisett, we made our way north along the reef line heading towards Watch Hill.

The next play spot had more action. The waves were bigger and less orderly. Tim suggested playing with how I was edging, I had some success with varying how I edged the kayak. Sometimes I would edge away from the turn and try to yank the bow around other times I would edge into the turn. The edging away from the turn and yanking seemed to work best when the stern was really stuck. It felt a little dodgy, but I never went over. I gave up trying to string rides together because the field was too messy and I was more focused on my edging.

Our final play spot was Sugar Reef. The wave here were more organized, but closer together. This meant that even if I caught a wave perfectly, there was a good chance the one behind it would grab my stern. I mostly worked on using forward strokes to maneuver and keep up speed. This help me trim the kayak so the stern was up and less likely to get caught. It also made it easier to move from one wave to the next. Reading the field was much easier because the waves set up relatively parallel. You basically used the one you were on to ride into the one in front of you. It was a fun time.

We had second lunch at Napatree point and reviewed the day.

Some of the group tried to surf the molars on the way home. I opted out. The wave was too small and too unpredictable for the energy.

The rest of the rest of the of the return paddle was a nice wind down.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Returning to the Scene of the Crime

Father's Day, and the whole weekend thing, totally snuck up on me. H asked me what I wanted to do for Father's Day and if there were any paddles I wanted to do over the weekend and I was like "What you talking about Wilson?"

I was torn about what to do: I felt like I should do something with the family, but I really wanted to go kayaking. Since nobody in the family had anything they wanted to do as a family, I decided that I would do something I wanted to do - well mostly what I wanted to do. Since I am still relying on the kindness of H for a kayak I am bound by certain constraints concerning proximity to rocks and other possible dangers...

The original venue was URI Bay Campus. The opportunities for kayak destroying rock encounters were pretty low.

At the last minute the venue was changes to Fort Weatherill… Last time I paddled out of Weatherill, I came back with a hatch full of water and significantly less gel coat. The Aries bow was crushed and one side of it was devoid of gel coat.

H was a little less enthusiastic about me taking her kayak out of Weatherill, but I swore I would definitely not paddle near any rocks. I would avoid any situations where the chances of contact between her hull and a rock were greater than 10 percent. (I did try to offer zero percent, but neither of us believed that was a promise I could keep.)

Conditions were good for me keeping my promises. The wind was light, the swells were small, and the tide was high. It looked like one would have to go out of their way to be in any danger. I planned on going the other way and working extra hard to stay out of trouble.

Staying out of trouble was a fun challenge. The challenge was purely internal. I am highly susceptible to the siren’s song; I often just find myself in the rocks without knowing how….

The fun was in continuing to learn the ways of the Cappella. Paddling a new kayak once is sort of liking getting high for the first time. You know things are a little off, but you don't notice the details. Also, the first time I paddled the Capella was in moving water and open water swells is a very different paddling field.

The Capella, despite its diminutive size, is built to be a touring kayak. It has a long water line, a defined keel, and not a ton of rocker. It goes straight very nicely. It turns languidly unless pushed. A sweep stroke or a little edge will get it to turn, but not quickly. Big, fast turns it require fineness and a bit of aggression.

The Capella needs to be edged to release the hull and sometimes it needs to be edged a lot and given a nudge. I realize that I'm speaking as somebody who has spent years paddling the sea kayak equivalent of a whitewater kayak. I'm used to just turning my head in the direction I want to go and having the kayak spin underneath me. The Aries is all rocker and flat hull.

Playing near the rocks and zigging in and out of the bumps in the shore takes more thought and effort. This was even more true given the slack conditions. There was almost no swell to assist in getting the hull to release. The upside of the easy conditions, and a strength of the Capella in general, was that getting and staying on edge is easy and comfortable.

Where the Capella really shined was when we crossed Mackerel Cove. The wind was blowing into the cove enough that the Aries would have required some serious work to keep straight. The Capella, however, just moved along on a straight line. I didn't need to waste any effort on correcting strokes or using the skeg.

After lunch a Hull Cove, I decided to add a little more challenge to my day. I packed the stick onto the deck and assembled the trusty old Lendal. If I was going to paddle an old school British sea kayak, I might as well do so with an old school British kayak paddle.

I noticed two things right away. First, the Lendal puts a lot more force on my body. Second, the Lendal generates a lot more immediate force when put in the water. I didn't gain any super powers, but I could get the Capella to react faster.

We paddled south along the coast a little ways to visit "the cave." It was a very cool little cave that is just wide enough to back into if you are willing to use your hands against the edges. The passage gets too narrow for a paddle.

After the cave we made our way back along the coast towards the put in. Along the way I kept experimenting with the Lendal to see what it could do and how it behaved. Overall, I was pretty happy with it although not enough to switch full time. The power is all front loaded, which can be nice, but it does take a toll on old joints. Ultimately, I didn't find anything I couldn't have done with the stick. The stick requires a little more finesse and commitment for some things, but it gets the job done.

One fun fact about paddling the Capella with the Lendal is that both the kayak and the paddle are nearly old enough to have driver's licenses. I am definitely and old timer....

Back at the beach, I tried my roll with the Capella and the Lendal. It did not go well. The paddle dove and the hip snap didn't compensate enough. I tried to switch paddles, but just couldn't stay under long enough to get the stick assembled and into position. After a failed renter and roll attempt where I couldn't seem to get myself properly positioned in the cockpit, I was pulled out of the water feeling a little dejected.

Just so I could say I finished strong, I did manage one roll with the stick. It was not the prettiest thing in the world, but it worked. The Capella seems to require more commitment to roll; or paddling a few miles with the Lendal wore me out....

Life isn't as fun when your not learning new things...