Saturday, July 30, 2022

Classics at Sakonnet

The paddle today was a special event. Two old hats made appearances. Classic Tim was down from Maine taking a vacation from house construction woes. Bob H. was in town for the Newport Jazz festival.

This was the first time this year I had seen Classic Tim and I cannot remember when I last saw Bob.

The plan was to paddle out of Sakonnet Harbor, out the lighthouse, play along the rocks, and have lunch at a nice surf beach.

The conditions were pretty mild, so the chances of trouble were low as were the chances for good surfing.

The rocks were nice with the mellow conditions. Paddlers could get pretty close into the features without much danger of catastrophe.

Then we headed up the coast to find a nice surf beach.

The best surf we could find wasn’t much. There was some breaking swell, but it was infrequent and unpredictable.

Most people just headed in for lunch.

After lunch, the surf was slightly better and we all took tries getting runs.

I found it frustrating. I just couldn't seem to find any good waves.

Other paddlers had better luck than I.

Just because the surf wasn't great didn't mean there were not several people who went in the water. I was one of them...

I caught a decent wave that petered out in a shallow rocky spot and before I could get turned back out, a sneaky wave came in and knocked me right over. I started to set up for a roll but my hand scraped against a rock. I bailed and swam the kayak back into the beach.

The paddle back was very pleasant and relaxing. Things were pretty flat and we skipped most of the rock playing options.

Once we turned into the river, the group split into two. Classic Tim suggested sticking close to the shore to avoid fighting the current and the following seas and took his own advice. Most of the rest of the group decided to stay out in the middle of the river in the midst of the current for some reason.

I decided that Classic Tim knew what he was talking about and stayed inside the other paddlers, but the "good group" side of me made sure I split the distance just in case the main pod ran into trouble.

There was a small post paddle gathering at Coastal Roasters (the best coffee around). We sat chatting and looking out over the river.

Is there a better way to spend a day than paddling with old friends followed by sharing excellent coffee with an excellent view?

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Return of the Pumpkin

 On Friday Dr. Carl called to say the Pumpkin was ready for pick-up. After a little yip for joy, I drove down and retrieved her. I could hardly see the extensive repairs. The bow was completely new and there were several patches along the sides. The only visible signs were some missing decals and subtle differences in color were the fiberglass was replaced.

Carl's timing could not have been better because Tim G. was running one of his coach training sessions out to the reefs in Stonington on Sunday. Tide races are the Aries natural habitat.

Tim planned out a day where were going to hit just two of the races. The weather wasn’t looking good for playing at Wiccopisett. Instead we planned on heading straight out to race between Wiccopisett and Sugar Reef.

The first reef had erratic, tight wave sets. The conditions made trying to predict the rides difficult, but fun. Unlike the Capella, the Aries doesn’t take much of a wave to get its surf on, so catching waves was not an issue. Staying on the waves was a little more problematic. The Capella’s straight hull and defined keel minimized the breaching effects of the waves. The Ares is as straight as a banana and has a flat hull designed to skip across the top of the water; any force that pushes on it will initiate a turn. If I didn’t get on a wave in the sweet spot, and stay there, the stern would get pushed around. Waves popping up at the bow pushed the bow around. The Ares’ hull makes it very maneuverable, which is its best and worst feature. I could easily make corrections using some edging and well placed strokes, but I was constantly making them. More times than I’d like to admit, I was over correcting.

Don’t get me wrong, I was having a blast and learning a lot. I was also working pretty hard. Truth be told, I prefer the Ares’ behavior in the races over the Capella’s. The Capella is very balanced and well behaved, but it is also very boring. The Ares’s is unruly, but more capable and way more fun. The trick with the Ares was finding the right set of strokes to tame it.

Sugar Reef presented a very different look. It had predictable, well spaced wave sets. I could find a wave and pretty much ride the train the whole way out if I could keep the Ares straight… I got more consistent rides with much less work. In the more predictable wave sets, forward strokes that put force on the bow worked best. They provided just enough push to keep moving into the next wave, kept my body position forward, and pushed the bow around just enough to keep in line with the waves.

After play time, we lunched at Napatree and discussed what we had learned. For me, it was all about readjusting to the Ares’ more playful hull and refining the skills we have been working on each time we go out to the reefs. I worked on refining my stern draw and learning when it is most effective. I played with using body position to trim the Ares’ speed profile and edging for turns.

On the way home everyone tried their luck catching waves at the molars. I was very conservative to avoid any chance of damaging the hull, so I didn’t get much. However, because the Ares takes so little action to surf, I did manage to catch a small ride.

This was a great day to get back in the Ares. Carl did great work patching her up and getting her sea worthy. Tim provided a great venue to really enjoy paddling her and shaking out the cobwebs.