Sunday, November 29, 2009

Nothing special happened today

Today on a casual hike we were discussing kayaking. In the course of the conversation I realized how lopsided my blog can be towards the adventure side of kayaking. 27 days on the water so far this year and only 9 made the blog. What’s that all about? Were some of those non-blogged days just plain old relaxing days where all I did was recharge my batteries?

There are really two paths to the answer. The first is a simple yes, some of these were just relaxing paddles. Paddles where just being outside or conversations with friends carried the day. But the second answer is that we seek the adventure. We push our experiences just a little each time we go out. Pushing a little is relaxing.

It’s been nine years and 5 kayaks from the day I started. Some of the rewards of kayaking, like just being on the water, still excite me. But others, like seeing new places, keep getting bigger. I still enjoy Narragansett Bay and seeing an occasional seal. But now I dream of British Columbia and Orcas rubbing their bellies on the beach! When I got my first boat a windy day on a pond was adventure. Now I dream of standing waves in Deception Pass. (There is a theme building here.)

See, I can’t help myself. I wanted to just talk about the relaxing days and out came the focus on future adventures. Really, the 90 minutes on a pond with E&H just practicing some strokes was great. I can talk about that without talking about the rolling can’t I? I guess not…

It’s funny how we grow with our hobbies. Remember when we didn’t need dry suits? Remember when an $89 paddle could be your primary paddle? Remember the days before my spare paddle became a $450 feather weight miracle of carbon science? Paddling can still be simple and relaxing. Can’t it?

Now a small confession. I wanted to include a picture from this year of a relaxing paddle where no big waves or surfing or rock gardening or camping or ice bergs occurred. I don’t have one. I guess I forgot to take a picture on that completely low key day. But really, has the six o’clock news ever open with “Nothing special happened today, it was just pleasant, calm, and relaxing”? I don’t think so.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kings Beach Surprise

It was a great day for kayaking and the perfect launch spot. The water and air were both in the low fifties. Partly cloudy with a steady wind out of the north, 15 with gusts to 20. The swell was a meager 1 foot rolling against the wind. But it had plenty of energy to make it exciting around the rocks and reefs.

Rick T, Jon, Bob, Rick B, Cam and I were loading up the boats when a surprise seventh showed up. It was Tim. He thought he was a few minutes late. I thought he was 6 months too early!

The paddling was easy and very comfortable. We poked in and about plenty of rocks. The swell was powerful enough that there were places we chose not to go. (Although I’ll admit, water temperature was probably the only thing that kept us off some of the rocks.)

On the reefs the waves were large enough that we all stayed away. On the way out at least. As we rounded the corner along the cliff walk we were exposed to the wind. It didn’t have much fetch coming over first beach but it added a little chop to loosen up the boat a little in the water. There were plenty of spectators on the cliff walk but we really didn’t give them much of a show. Except maybe for Rick T doing his usual beautiful gentle rolls.

We stopped for lunch on one of the pocket beaches. We were protected from the wind and could sit in the sun. In fact, it was partly cloudy and we didn’t warm up as much as we would have liked. Lunch ended with a golf ball hunt. Cam found a couple of dozen balls on the beach. Rick managed to juggle three at a time.

After lunch there was some discussion about heading towards first beach for some surfing. This was Jon’s preference but he was out voted. The rock gardeners were hoping the waning tide would expose some more excitement.
We all left the beach with helmets on. This is usually a symptom of trouble not safety. Today would be no exception.

The waves around the rocks off Ruggles Beach were larger than anyone wanted to play in. Bob took his usual route in close. Cam stayed on the outside. I, true to form, took the middle. From inside Bob and I could see Tim and Jon going nearly vertical as they headed back out through the standing swell from their scouting point outside the rocks. How a one foot swell can turn into a four foot wall always amazes me.

By sheep point I had warmed up enough that I wanted to take my neoprene skull cap off from under my helmet. This took a minute or so and Tim stayed inside of Gull Rock to keep an eye on me as I bounced in the swell. When I got settled in I accelerated towards him and intended to thank him. Before I got to him he was emphatically pointing to my right. I looked over and saw Bob out of his boat. He had watched Bob get caught up in a huge wave.

I slipped out my tow rope and headed over to him. I could see where waves just like the one that had caught Bob were forming. I could also see that he was fine and hanging on to the bow of his boat. I circled around the breaking area and approached him to do the rescue.

I considered towing him but we had a comfortable amount of clear water between the first break and the shore break on the rocks. I started the rescue. Because Bob was holding on to his bow it took a little time to get things going. Meanwhile Tim had approached. I was lifting Bob’s boat to drain the water when I realized I had let go of the paddles. I said this to Tim and he proceeded to help get Bob in the boat and told me to get the paddle. What I don’t think he realized was I had lost both paddles. Bob’s and mine. I maintained contact with Bob’s boat trying to decide what to do. Meanwhile we were drifting closer to the rocks along shore where the waves were beginning to stand up for the second (and final) chance.

The paddles were less than a boat length behind me so I gave myself a good push and a couple of hand strokes to get to them. Mine slipped directly under the boat and took a little time to come within reach. Then I had to pull it out from under me which is always a little destabilizing. Fortunately, I had learned from white water kayaking to paddle with both paddles spooned together in my hands. I got the paddle back to Bob just as he was ready for it.

This is the second time I’ve lost the paddles during a rescue. It is clearly something I need to be more conscious about. I find it difficult to get a paddle under my deck lines. Maybe I need to loosen them up a little?

We all took this in stride and no-one seemed to loose their mojo. The rock gardening continued. By Gooseberry Island Bob and I sat waiting for the ideal time to slip between these rocks with waves curling all around them. As we sat transfixed on watching the building waves the wind pushed us right into the area we were trying to stay out of. We both passed through with ease.

Rick, Bob, and I were not ready to be done yet. We insisted on playing around the last rock in front of the put in before calling it a day. After Bob put himself on top of the rock we all decided it was time.

It was quite a nice day to be out on the water. Let’s hope there are a few more of these before the winter settles in.