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.

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