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

Sunday, March 27, 2011

2011: Post 9 – Hard Days Paddle

Today we paddled.  Not far.  I am calling it a paddle, sort of.  My GPS trip computer read 8.44 kilometers and a moving time of 2 hours and 2 minutes.  The forecast was calling for 0 degrees C and 30 km southwest winds in the afternoon, so Neville, Clyde, Tony, and I put in at St. Philips after lunch for a couple hours on the water.  We decided we would paddle at least as far as St. Thomas Cove, about half-way to Topsail Beach.  With the southwest wind we paddled almost directly into it. 

I found myself quickly tiring in a very short period of time.  I mentally went through reasons why. Did I eat enough breakfast?  Was it the fact that I have not paddled much this year; only once in February and only two times prior in March?  Did I start off too fast?  Why did my PFD feel so tight?  Perhaps the wind was just stronger than me today.  I watched the other guys.  They just seemed to be paddling along without struggling… 

Normally I have a higher cadence but I just could not seem to increase it today.  I decided it was useless to try and switched into a lower gear, trying to concentrate on good torso rotation with each stroke, applying more power.  I found this difficult to do as well.  After a while I just tried to blank my mind and not think about trying to keep up, or increase my cadence, or even trying to paddle with proper form…. I decided that if I fell behind than so be it.  I was feeling somewhat off my paddling game.  Some days are just like that.  But I was happy to be able to stay with the herd.

After a little while I found that my breathing was less laboured.  We finally reached our destination, but I was tired and was glad to be stopped.  We contemplated continuing on toward Topsail Beach.  I said I would be okay with that, but needed a few minutes rest.  The little cove provided relief from the wind.  We decided against advancing (we would go back to the cove and paddle back and forth there) and we turned around and let the sea follow, paddling ahead of the squall we could see in the distance, across the bay.  It is amazing how little you feel the wind in your back as compared to the accumulated effect of the wind in your face when you are paddling into it [called apparent wind speed].

The snow squall finally caught us.  We continued paddling.  Then it blew past us.  It is interesting to experience a squall on the water like that.  The last one we got caught in we did not see it or expect it – it just hit us hard and we had to get off the water.  We seen this one coming from a distance - the forecast had called for snow squalls - and so it was not an unexpected event.  Luckily it was not fierce like the previous one... perhaps I should blog about that experience... but anyway...

We paddled into the cove at St. Philips and fooled around there for a while.  The other guys were busy paddling and playing in the wind and waves outside the shelter of the cove.  I felt unenergetic and so I stayed in close and fooled around with my GPS.  I went to a seminar/course last week and finally learned how to use waypoints and routes, and so spent a little time practicing my new found GPS knowledge.  I should have learned these things sooner; I’ve only had my GPS for about a year and a half now!  You should not solely rely on a GPS while on the water, but you have to admit that it is a great little piece of navigational technology in the palm of your hand.  I need to make it a point to practice using it on paddles and to learn the other features it has, like tracking…

After our paddle we went for coffee at By-the-Beach restaurant.  This has become fairly standard practice after our paddles/practices at St. Philips.  The ladies at the restaurant tend to keep watch over us from the windows and when they see us coming back in they’ll make sure there is coffee ready for us. One lady even said she turned the heat up a little when she seen us coming... next thing you know we will all be on a first name basis with them.  

We’ve been told before that we are the entertainment for the restaurants patrons, especially when we have our regular Thursday evening practices.  These weekly practices will start in about another couple weeks, when the evening daylight becomes just a little longer.  Perhaps we should alert the restaurant owners about this so they can advertise the return of our regular Thursday evening practice.  If it’s good for their business maybe we can get some free coffee out of it….

Sunday, March 20, 2011

2011: Post 8 – The Solo Paddler

Yesterday Tony and I decided we would go to St. Philips today and have a little paddle practice around the cove for a couple of hours.  The wind was forecasted to be North 30 km with temp about -2 C (-10 or so with the wind chill).   With a North wind there is little protection in the cove as wind from this direction pretty much comes straight in.  To make a short story shorter, we decided to cancel our plans for this afternoon….

So I was checking my log book from last year to see what I had been up to last year around this time.  On March 20 last year I did my very first ocean solo paddle at St. Philips.  The weekend before I had done my very first paddle using a borrowed Greenland paddle and I wanted to get on the water and give it another go.  I remember e-mailing people to see if anyone wanted to join me but did not receive any yes’s.  I went anyway thinking someone will show up; nobody did.  I remember it being sunny with some wind and as I was there already I decided I would get on the water and stay in the cove, close to shore. 

It was an uneasy feeling at first.  I was using the Greenland paddle for only the second time on the ocean and it was the first time I was by myself on the ocean, granted I was relatively safe in the cove.  After a while of paddling close to the shore of the cove I began to paddle from headland to headland across the mouth of the cove.  I was into more wind and waves there but the uneasy feeling of the new paddle and being alone continued to dissipate. 

Then I decided to paddle towards Topsail beach.  I paddled maybe 2 kilometers and decided to paddle back to the cove.  After some more paddling around the cove I paddled a kilometer or so in the other direction toward Portugal Cove and then came back.  It was a nice day, not too much wind, the Greenland paddle was feeling good in my hands, and my uneasy feelings had completely left me by this point.  I decided to paddle further toward Portugal Cove with the bit of following wind and sea for the practice.

I was enjoying the paddle.  I passed familiar points along the way and before I knew it I was at Beachy Cove, about 4 km from St. Philips.  I had been in my kayak for a while and decided to land to stretch my legs and have a granola bar and some water.  There was some surf dumping on the little beach but landing was not a problem.  I got out and pulled my kayak onto the beach. When I turned around I realized the wind and waves had picked up since I left St. Philips.  I had been paddling in the following sea with the wind in my back and had not realized the wind had picked up a little. 

I watched the waves as I ate my snack.  With the direction of the waves coming into the little cove they would rebound off the rocks on the right, and then sort of come straight across the beach while mixing with the water from the little stream dumping into the cove.  Sometimes some higher waves would rebound making the water more turbulent.  As I stood there finishing my snack, watching this turbulence coming across the beach, and seeing the higher waves and wind blowing past the little cove the uneasy feeling came back upon me.  It seemed the wind was picking up a little more.

I remember beginning to contemplate the situation and what best to do.  The conditions were not highly intense or anything, but I was concerned about being by myself in the event of a capsize, a missed roll, and a swim.  Yes, the wind and waves had picked up.  I had been in far, far worse conditions during our practice sessions at St. Philips.  My strong side roll was very good, but I did not have a good weak side roll at this time (I had only just gotten my weak-side roll in January past and had been working on it in the pool...).  I supposed I could play it safe and paddle the additional kilometer to Portugal Cove in the following sea and then walk back to St. Philips for my car.  But I decided that it was only the fact of my being alone, depending solely upon myself, that things just looked worse than they actually were.

I took a couple more minutes to let the anxiety subside.  I turned my kayak around, bow pointing out and partly in the water, secured the spray skirt, and knuckled myself toward the water until I found myself afloat.  The rebounding waves were coming at me almost sideways and after I took one stoke I had to brace on my right as I was pushed sideways for a few feet.  A few good strokes and I was away from the beach.  I paddled out of the cove and turned my bow into the wind, toward St. Philips, and paddled.  The waves were about two feet high but not steep.  There was some white on the tops of them and I had to paddle a bit hard.  I concentrated on my strokes and used my torso against the wind.  I just paddled, passing the familiar points, and started to enjoy the moment again. It did not seem to be too long and I was back at the cove.  I paddled back to the slipway, packed up my kayak and gear and drove home. 

This experience was one of those kayak turning points for me.  I had been paddling less than two years at that point and that was my first experience on the ocean by myself.  I know I did not paddle far into the wilds of the world and that the conditions were not greatly intense and highly life threatening.  But for me at the time, having limited experience on the water, it was an experience that somehow seemed bigger than my skills at the time.  I have paddled by myself since and in much more wind and waves, but not far from safety.  And I do not advocate anybody paddling alone - I will always tell other people not to do it - but I admit it was a good experience for me.

I have since come to the conclusion that when we paddle we ultimately paddle alone, even when someone paddles with us.  The other people with us merely ease our mind and provide us entertainment and a social aspect to the experience.  They, no doubt, will pull us out of the water and help us into our kayak if we should swim, or look after us if we should become hypothermic, or even feed us if we did not bring a snack or enough lunch.  But they do not keep us upright on the water, or paddle our kayaks for us, or decide for us how to handle the conditions we are paddling in as we paddle along.  They do not decide for us what safety gear we take.  They do not decide if we will go into a rock garden or a cave, or if we will get in close into the clapitas.  They do not decide that we will practice our braces, rescues and rolls on the ocean or at the pool.  These things, and more, we decide and do for ourselves.  Thus, I believe that we are all, ultimately, solo paddlers.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

2011: Post 7 – Double Days

Yesterday was my third double day since I got back on the water in February.  By this I mean we did a paddle in the day and then I went to the Saturday night pool session.  These days I enjoy.  For me they are a full day of thinking about, and living kayak.  As soon as I get up in the morning I am gearing up for the days paddle, then paddling and socializing with kayak minded people, then I am putting gear away and then getting ready for the pool, and then putting gear away again before going to bed.  In between there is a lull in the activities, but I am thinking about the days paddle, or thinking about the coming pool session, or thinking about my kayak and gear in some way.   It is a full day’s kayaking experience for me.

First part of my Double Day…

We paddled out of Witless Bay yesterday.  This is the first time I have paddled there, which is funny because it is so close.  Bay Bulls is even a little closer and I have only paddled there twice.  It’s funny how we seem to want to go further down the shore to the more popular spots, like Cape Broyle or Aquaforte.  Granted these places are very scenic and sheltered when the wind is in the right direction.

We paddled along the south side of Witless Bay.  The wind and waves were pretty much in our face going out.  We paddled all the way out to the Top of the Point where we got the full effects of the days wind and swell.  We hung around there for a while and then retraced our way back, stopping for lunch along the way, of course.

There were lots of places along the way to play in the waves; the guys with the helmets took full advantage of some of those play areas.  It was fun to sit and watch them in the waves.  There were a couple of capsizes (another aspect to the ‘double day’); one successful roll, one successful rescue.  When you play like that you have to expect those things to happen.  That’s why you have to periodically practice your rolls and rescues… That’s why our little group (we have begun calling ourselves the Great Big Sea Rovers) practices at St. Philips in whatever conditions we find there (I remember only twice in the last couple of years of our practices being cancelled because the conditions were to intense…).

Second part of my Double Day…

The pool session last night was not the regular affair.  It was a sort of introduction to the Greenland Paddle, sponsored by KNL (Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador).  Some of us have been using a GP for a while, but I believe for some people there it was their first time.  I have been using one exclusively since March last year after I did a 21 km paddle with a borrowed one.  I highly recommend that everyone sincerely tries one before dismissing this ‘stick’.  I am not highly proficient in its proper techniques and don’t profess to be, but I know I can paddle faster and longer with it then I can with a Euro bladed paddle. 

At the Greenland paddle pool session we were shown the forward stroke, the turning stroke (forward and backward), the balance brace, and then the proper technique to roll.   I found out that my rolling form is not correct… and I was doing so well too... so I guess if I want to learn to do it ‘the right way’ I’ll have to practice some more in the coming pool sessions.  I am going to the 2011 Atlantic Paddling Symposium in May and have registered to take the Greenland Paddle sessions.  These are being taught by Maligiaq Padilla (from Greenland) and will be a full day (morning and afternoon sessions) of instruction on using a greenland paddle.  So this will further add to my greenland paddle paddling education.  I expect I will learn some new skills, refine some that I have already learned.  And maybe I'll even unlearn those that I am doing incorrectly…. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

2011: Post 6 – Let's do it again

I was going to call this post "Hit me baby one more time" but after a little chuckle to myself, I just couldn't do it; there is only so much of Ms. Spears a fellow can take...  However, I must admit that I do like the rendition of this song that was done by Marty Casey on that show Rock Star a couple years back.... If you google it you can probably find it.... Anyway......................................

Yesterday was a nice day.  Temp was -7 C when we put in at Cape Broyle.  We decided to do a paddle we did last year about this time.  I checked my log and last year we had myself, Tony, Stan, Gerard, Neville, Sean, and Clyde.  Stan and Sean weren’t with us but Tobias was.  I do not believe Tobias had his drysuit at that time last year….

We had to do a little ice-breaking through thin ice pans off the launch for a couple hundred feet to get to open water.  We paddled up the north side, picking our way up, exploring nooks and crannies.   Some of these nooks we have explored before, but with little wind and swell in the bay some were accessible that you cannot get into every day.  Same paddle route + different conditions = a new experience….

We made our way up to, and around, Brigus Head.  As expected we encountered swell and clapitos around the Head.  I paddled a little closer than I sometimes normally would.  I am becoming more comfortable in the ‘bouncy’ stuff .  We pulled up on a beach and sat in the sun to eat our lunch while a seal kept watch over us.  I wonder what the wildlife think of us kayakers when they watch us like that… probably the same thing non-kayaking people think of us…

After lunch we retraced out path around Brigus Head.  My mind wondered someplace other than on the clapitos and I found myself quickly snapping back into the moment with a little brace on the left and a pulling up with my left knee to bring my kayak back.  It was all sort of subtle, nothing big at all, and I doubt it was observed by anyone, but I remember thinking “not this day...”  Things like that let you know the practice in the pool and at St. Philips pays off. 

We then paddled across the bay to Church Cove.  It was me who suggested to our group that we try to cross as a group and stay together.  We did that well for about half the way over and then, as always it seems to be the case with groups on crossings, we split away into three smaller groups.  On a gnarly weather day that would be more of a concern, but then on a gnarly day we likely would not have crossed the 2.5 km, but would have came back the way we went.  Like in all outdoor pursuits there are levels of risk in our sport.  On a nice calm day like we had a few hundred feet separation was acceptable. 

We made our way down the shore, exploring the nooks and crannies we had all explored before; it just never gets exhausting going into the same cave again and again…  When we reached the take-out the ice pans were now gone so landing was uneventful.  We consulted the GPS’s that took the trip with us.  Mine read 23.81 kilometers, moving time of 4 hours 43 minutes, stopped time of 1 hour 11 minutes.  A six hour trip in Cape Broyle with a sunny, minus temperature, on the 5th day of March, with little wind and a great bunch of paddling partners...  I suppose I could have stayed home instead, maybe cleaned up my rather messy storage/laundry room in the basement.  Yeah, right!

You will see pics on the blogs of the other guys...  I think I will go check them out myself.]