If you just go for a paddle than you can stop thinking about wanting to go for a paddle.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

2011: Post 5 – Have drysuit, will paddle

It was a windy weekend.  We did not paddle Saturday.  But Saturday night it was a go for the pool session so I went with my WW kayak.  After I got home, paddling buddy Tony had e-mailed a bunch of us about paddling after lunch – the winds were called to drop in the afternoon.  So we made a plan to meet at St. Phillips for a little paddle in the cove. 

The car’s temperature gauge was reading -5 when I got there; I guess twice that with the wind chill.  Not sure what the wind was; it was forecasted to be about 25 km in the afternoon.  I was early and got on the water in the marina while waiting for others to show up.  Only Tony came.  I waited for him to gear up and we headed out into the cove.

We had fun.  We would paddle out into the wind, and surf back in.  At times the wind would blow much harder for a sustained amount of time such that bigger waves would develop; we agreed there were some at least 2 meters from trough to crest, and some would become steeper to add a little thrill.   We paddled back and forth in beam and quartering seas as well. 

After a while Tony’s paddle shaft was icing over enough that it was a consideration (I use a wood GP and wasn’t having that problem so much).  Our deck lines, clothing, and gear was icing over as well.  We like to paddle and push limits at times, but we maintain an awareness of safety as well, especially in the colder months.  In wind and waves a slippery, iced up paddle shaft could make a swimmer out of you.  We had our fun.  We had been on the water an hour or more and decided to head back in.

Once we got into the marina and paddled to the river to rinse off I decided to try to put on my new storm cag with my neoprene mitts on.  It was not too difficult to push the mitts (bigger than the neoprene gloves I wear most of the year) through the cuffs and then stick my head through the neck and pull it over my PFD.  The hardest part was getting the cag around the cockpit coaming.  I have a little trouble with my skirt too when I wear the neoprene mitts.  I’ll have to make sure to practice it with the mitts each time I paddle.

After our fun we had coffee at the nearby restaurant.  The waitress made a remark about it being cold out there.  To me, with the little extra clothing on under the drysuit, today it did not feel much different from spring or fall paddling.  As long as you do not overdress and do not paddle too hard such that you start sweating, it is surprisingly warm and comfortable. 

Some people in the restaurant had fish and chips that looked and smelled good.  When I got home I mentioned to my wife about the fish and chips and we decided to go back for supper.  While we were eating, I heard a woman telling her friends about these couple of ‘crazy kayakers’ that she seen there earlier when she was out for a walk…. Can you believe that?  She was actually out walking around in -5 temp, even colder with the wind chill!!!  She must have been dressed properly for it.  Those crazy walkers….

[I know, I know, no pictures.  But if you go see Tony's blog he has one of himself that's kind of funny]

Sunday, February 20, 2011

2011: Post 4 - My first paddle for 2011

Yesterday I paddled on the ocean for the first time since Dec 28; I do not count the New Year’s Day frolic at Quidi Vidi as a paddle…  I met Stan, Tony, Tobias, Clyde, and Gerard at St. Philips.  Initially a plan was offered to possibly paddle across to Bell Island, but we decided that we would make a final decision at the put-in.  But at St. Philips it was decided to paddle toward Brock Falls (I think that is the name of it), a few kilometers past Portugal Cove.  It made no difference to me where we paddled, just as long as we paddled. 

We have done this paddle before.  I think I can paddle the same route 100 times in succession and not tire of it.  I always seem to see something different that I have not seen there before.  And the water is often different – maybe there is a little more wind, or it comes from a different direction, there is less or more swell than before, or there are different combinations of swell and wind waves.  Sometimes it snows (winter) and sometimes the sum blazes down on us (summer).

The company on the paddle is often different too.  Sometimes there are just two of our regular group that can make the paddle on a particular day.  Other days we have six of the regulars, like yesterday, sometimes more.   Sometimes some of the regulars can’t make it but others can.  And sometimes one or two paddlers join us that seldom do not – these are especially enjoyable paddles for me… I like to see non-regular people getting out with us, we have lots of room to add new faces to our little group, both those with a lot of experience and those with lesser experience.

Sometimes you can paddle inside a rock and other days the ocean decides it’s too risky so you stay outside of it.  Some days it is colder and some days it is warmer.  Sometimes you see a seal, otter, whale, an eagle, or just a few gulls; sometimes you only see water, rock, sky, and your paddling companions. 

Sometimes somebody decides to do a little rock-hopping and takes a swim, or ends up on the rocks with a hole in their boat, or side-surfs a wave and ends up high and dry on the shore.

All these things above, and more, have all happened in the same stretch of coast from St. Philips to Portugal Cove.  I know that some people, especially the picture-takers, like to paddle in different places for a change of scenery.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a change of scenery too, but still I do not seem to get tired of paddling the same places that we have paddled before.  I guess for me it is more about the company that comes along on the paddle more so than where the paddle takes place.  

[[If you go to Tony's blog (My Newfoundland Kayak Experience) and Stan's blog (Kayaking Dreamin') you can see pics of yesterdays paddle]] 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

2011: Post 3 - Poor numbers for pool sessions

At last night’s pool session we only had 11 people.  On Saturday past there were only half a dozen of people.  I cannot figure out why more people do not come to the pool sessions.

When I first started my kayak life I spent a lot of time during that summer on Long Pond (by MUN) trying to learn some basic kayaking skills; forward stroke, edging, bracing, rolling, etc…  Obviously, due to the space, the pond and the ocean are far more conducive to learning certain skills, like the forward stroke.  But I found trying to learn others skills, like edging and bracing, did not work so well for me on the pond and ocean.  I admit I was reluctant to really commit to bracing and edging for fear of capsizing in the deeper water and then having to get someone to help me back in my kayak.  I did get my first roll on Long Pond; it was September and the water was chilly.

Then the pool sessions started up in the fall.  Foolishly, I felt some intimidation when I started going to the pool sessions.  I remember thinking about how limited and non-existent my skills were and there were all these skilled, experienced paddlers rolling and bracing their way up and down the pool.  They all seemed to know each other and talked and laughed and were having a good time.  But there were newbie’s there too, like me.  These same skilled and experienced people would often give me their time to help me learn and practice skills.  For instance, Brian Duffet (others too) would get out of his boat, put it up on the pool deck, and spend time teaching me to roll; basically, he was paying his 10.00 to teach me kayak skills!  How great is that?

I have been going to the pool for three winters now.  The warm pool and the lack of having to wear all the kayak clothing and gear make it much easier to learn and work on skills.  I spent a lot of time in the shallow end so if I missed a brace or roll I could wet-exit and just stand up – no big deal.   It is where I’ve initially learned and developed a lot of kayaking skills like rolling, bracing, and edging.  Then, by attending the St. Phillips Thursday evening practices I have transferred skills from the pool to the ocean.  An example is that I’ve capsized for real several times during paddles on the ocean (a lot more times on Terra Nova River) and unexcitingly rolled back up.   It is because I have practiced this particular skill a lot in the pool, then later on the ocean,  that capsizing in the real world has never been a big deal; no panic involved, just set up and roll.  I’ve also seen my buddies Sean and Tobias capsize on paddles and simply roll themselves up.  Both these guys have spent a lot of time at the pool, and at the St. Phillips practice’s, learning and developing their skills as well.  The three of us, like others, have figured out the value in dragging our boats out to the pool and paying our ten bucks. 

Often the last thing I want to do is load up my kayak and go to the pool on a Tuesday or Saturday night.  Most of us have better things to do with our time.  But I believe in the importance of skills development and maintenance, and the necessity of socializing with others who share the kayaking passion.   When the poop hits the fan on a real paddle, and it will at some time for everyone who paddles, I hope to be able to deal with things.  In order to do that it has to start somewhere.  For me that place starts at the pool and then progresses to the ocean.

I suppose everybody has to find their own reason for coming to the pool sessions.  And until they do the numbers will remain low…

Saturday, February 12, 2011

2011: Post 2 - Back on the water at last

A few days after New Years I came down with a bad cold.  It held on and turned into a bad flu - cough, chest congestion… then a lingering sinus infection.  It took over a month before I started to really feel better.  During this time I did not (could not) get back on the water.  I had intended to go to the pool last week on Tuesday but inclement weather cancelled the pool session. 

This morning one of my paddling buddies had planned a paddle but my shoulder and neck muscles were acting up so I did not go; I simply refuse to leave the beach knowing I am starting as a potential liability to those I paddle with.  I’ve been on muscle relaxants all day and tonight I was feeling much better and so I went to the pool session.  Tonight marks only 2 times on water so far in 2011.  Last year by this date I had been on the water 12 times (7 pool sessions and 5 times on the salt water).  I do hope that this poor start to the year is not an indication of things to come for this kayaking season; some of us count the season from Jan 1st to Dec 31st). 

It was good to get to a pool session after my kayak hiatus.  I did some socializing of course - it's good to talk to kayak-minded people, we understand each others obsession.  I did some rolls and braces on both sides with extended and non-extended paddle positions.  These I did with the skirt on and off.   I also did re-enter and roll on both sides.  I was happy to not have missed any of my weak-side rolls since it has been six weeks away from the kayak and it has not been very long before then that I started to feel comfortable with my weak-side rolling.  While doing these drills I was thinking how thankful I was for being able to come to a warm pool on this coldish February night to be able to practice.

Imagine if there were no pool sessions anymore!  We have done cold water practices in the past and it is more condusive to be able to go to the pool during the winter to learn and practice skills.  I think it is still important to do some cold water practice so you will know what to expect if you end up bottom up or out of your boat if you paddle in the winter months.  But I tend to not do many practice rolls or braces in the cold water – a couple or so and I am good... Paddling in the winter I do not mind too much, but that water in winter feels cold, and then when you come up and the cold air hits you….  I’d much prefer to practice in the pool and just paddle in the cold….  but just imagine if there weren't pool sessions any more to practice and learn in comfort.