Sunday, May 22, 2022

The Day the Luck Ran Out

Somehow, I managed to convince my most excellent wife to let me escape two weekends in a row!! How lucky am I to have a great wife and the chance to paddle on a great day?

I was surprised that I got a paddle day considering that her dance recital soaked up one of the days - her class did a kick-ass dance to a classic boy band song that put the kids to shame:)

The plan was to paddle out of Ft. Wetherill and play on the coast heading down to Beavertail. Conditions were excellent: clear skies, gentle breeze, some swell, but not too much, and low tide to expose more features.

We headed south towards Mackerel Cove and took every opportunity to play in the rocks.

There were slots to navigate and just enough swell to make things interesting. It was perfect conditions for pushing the Aries and I just to edge of the zone. I had to pay attention and paddle with intention, but didn't have to worry too much about getting smashed or smashing someone else.

Once we crossed Mackerel Cove and were more exposed to the open ocean the swell got bigger and pushier, but still well within play limits. There were a few spots were the adrenaline got pumped up to 11, but nothing serious.

It was a fun morning.

We popped into Hull Cove for lunch and enjoyed the sun and good conversation.

The swells had picked up some power while we ate. They weren’t rolling up the against the rocks; they were crashing against the rocks.

The swell upgrade didn’t deter some of us from getting in close. If anything the bigger swells made paddling in close more fun until it stopped being fun.

I was following Tim G along the shore and there started to be more white water than green water. The swells were starting to get pushier and it was time to move out.

Tim turned out over a good size wave. As soon as he was clear I edged over and started a sweep turn out to sea.

As I initiated the turn a deep trough formed next to the rock and a gigantic swell picked up my bow. Then it picked up the rest of the kayak, carried over one rock, and slammed it into the rock shore. The bow was pinned in a crevice so any attempt to swing out before the next swell slammed into me was not going to work. I hoped that maybe it would be a nice gentle swell that would lift the bow up enough to free it. No luck. I was upside down in the rocks.

Fortunately, the water was deep and I remembered to stay close to the deck. I pulled the deck and popped out while making sure to keep the kayak between me and the bigger wall of rocks and to keep my hands ready to protect my head.

The cavalry was already in place by the time my head popped out of the water. They had me push the kayak out of the rocks and towed it clear of the break. Once the kayak was clear, I swam out to a waiting kayak that pulled me the rest of the way out of the danger zone. Because of the rocks and swell and such, the rescue took some time, but it was done as quick as possible. The rescue team did an excellent job staying calm and radiating that calm to me.

Once I was back in the kayak, it was time to assess the damage. 

Other than being a little rattled, I was fine. Luckily, I managed to avoid any contact with the rocks. I was properly dressed for the water and was back in the kayak within a few minutes.

The pumpkin was a different story. There were a few patches where the gel coat was missing and a few visible cracks.  It was hard to tell if it was taking on water, but it seemed to be floating normally. The cockpit was staying dry which was good.

In assessing the incident and what could have been done better, one thing was clear: I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Once the wave came in, there was not much I could do to escape. It picked up the bow and pushed it into the shore with more force than I could counteract. Once the poop hit the fan, things went about as smoothly as one could expect. Once on the wave I presented the hull to the shore to take most of the impact. I did my best to keep balanced so when I was dropped, I might have a shot at getting out. Once I knew I was going over, I tucked tight to avoid hitting my head and made sure to come up so that I was not between the kayak and the rocks. The rescuers set up quickly and did all the right things to get me and the pumpkin safe.

Someone suggested that we high tail it back to the put in just in case I had some shadow injury or the damage to the pumpkin was worse than it looked. I rejected that idea because I was fine and the pumpkin was floating just fine. If the situation changed, we could adjust as needed. There was no reason to ruin everyone else’s fun.

I continued to play in the rocks along the way back to the put in, but was more cautious. The swells also got smaller as we moved further up the bay. Despite the incident I was still feeling in the groove and the pumpkin was doing fine.

The last set of rocks humbled me. I set up to run a slot through them and just mistimed things. The swell came in behind me fast and hot. Before I knew what was what I was turned sideways in a hole that was too narrow for even the pumpkin to turn. I got jammed up in the rocks and had to come out of the kayak again…

It was another quick rescue, but once I got back in the pumpkin I could tell she had water in the bow.

We were just about back to the put so it was not a big deal. I just stayed away from any more rocks.

Back at the beach people were doing rolling practice and I could not resist participating. I needed a win after the incidents. My roll did not disappoint.

Once back on the beach, it was time to do a full kayak damage assessment. The front hatch was full of water and you could see daylight in more than one place. There was also a big spot on the side of the cockpit that was missing gel coat and was letting the daylight through. The spot on the cockpit wasn’t as worrying as the bow because the cockpit didn’t seem to be taking on water.

One of the paddlers who lives near to Dr. Carl offered to take my kayak to see about if the pumpkin could be repaired. (Dr. Carl assures me that it can be repaired despite looking like it got shot off the roof of a car at 60mph.)

Despite the incidents, this was one of my favorite paddles of the year. The weather was great and the rock play was exhilarating. I also felt like I was in the zone for most of the day. Even the incidents were more fun than scary. I felt like both were just bad timing and I did the best I could with hand I was dealt.

The only thing stood between the paddle and perfection was the knowledge that I’d be missing the pumpkin for some time.

It truly is better to be upside down in my kayak than almost anywhere else.

1 comment:

  1. If it is any consolation, Jonathan’s picture of you before the big wave hits you is now a Photo of the Week at