Thursday, June 29, 2017

Vas de problem?

So, Wednesday evenings have been ongoing since 2008.  Its an opportunity to practice skills in  supportive environment.  The past average turnout has been 8 - 10.

Two weeks ago it was just Shane and myself.  Maybe it was too cold and windy?

Last week only four showed up.  Maybe it was too warm in calm winds?

Last evening it poured rain out of the heavens beforehand and it was just Shane and me again.  Maybe it was too wet?

While we waited till 6:00 for other people to show up we did a few assisted rescues.  At 6:00 we realized no one else would be there so we went for a short paddle along the coast.

As we did it seemed to clear up but outside the wind shadow provided by the protecting cliffs we noticed the catabatic effect of the SE winds dropping over Topsail Head formed whitecaps.  The choice was return along the coast or paddle out into to the whitecaps and catch surf rides back.

We chose to ride the wind and waves back.  As we paddled out the wind increased to the point where it blew the tops off of the whitecaps.  Into it we ...

... turned for home and caught some super surf rides.  The waves were at the right frequency that catching one wave it was easy to ride and paddle onto the wave in front making for long, fast rides with the bow purling sending water up the foredeck and around the cockpit.

That's what everyone missed.  But the bigger question is, whether these practice sessions have run their course and outlived their usefulness?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Fine tuning a rescue

This past winter some of us recognized that at Wednesday evening practices we were no longer doing much rescue practice.  Rather, we tended to just go on short paddles.  We resolved to get back to doing some rescue practices.

Last evening it was only Brian, Dean, Sue and myself.  It was warm and calm.  I wondered if I'd put on an extra layer for immersion.  Brian said he intended to get wet so that was incentive enough for me.

First we did a few self rescues - rolls and back deck scramble ons.

After that Brian and I did a few assisted rescues.

One of the challenges of doing a rescue in conditions is getting on the bow of the overturned kayak.  That is, getting  hold of it.  Brian proposed something to make that easier.  This is what he came up with:
  • the swimmer goes to the bow of the overturned kayak and holds on to the toggle.  That helps the incoming rescuer establish contact because the swimmer has two arm lengths of reach to grab on to the incoming kayak if necessary,
  • the swimmer can also help right the overturned boat so it can be pulled across the cockpit to empty,
  • from there the rescue can proceed as usual.
We both had a go rescuing each other with that refinement and it worked well.

 Over the years we've practiced rescues I haven't seen anyone doing a T-rescue so I proposed to Brian we do that one.

Two kayaks lined up side by side are very stable but two kayaks configured in a T shape offers more stability in my opinion.  The benefit of the T-rescue is that most kayakers already practice back deck scramble ons so they're familiar with getting on the back deck and plopping into the cockpit.

The other benefit is there's only one choice to make.  It saves time deciding whether to do a between the kayaks rescue or a heel hook etc, etc.

Then there's the fun of pumping the water out.

It was a productive evening and I'm glad to get back to basics and do some actual practice.  Its important so that it becomes instinctive between the people we paddle with.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A hoard of kayaks descends on Conception Harbour

The first club paddle of 2017 began today in Conception Harbour.  It was Cathy's first time planning and leading a club paddle.  I counted 27 kayaks.  I may be off one but either way it was a fine turnout.  With that many kayaks there was a bottle neck on the slipway so it took a while for everyone to get on the water.

Cathy met with the sweeps before we put in and called for everyone to raft up for the day's paddle plan at the shipwreck in Conception Harbour.

Leaving Conception Harbour we rounded Middle Point to paddle into Middle Arm.

We checked out some "shacks" in Middle Arm paddled up the east side of the Arm and reached the light at Ballyhack Point.

There was some talk of stopping at Broad Cove for lunch but Cathy decided Ezekiels Cove (Newfoundland pronounciation "S euh gulls").  Under bright sunshine we each got out our fare for the day.  It was so good to feel the heat of the sun on my back after the cold spring we've endured up to this point.

At Avondale Cathy wanted to feature the adit of an old mine so the curious got out to have a look.  It goes in some distance but not all accessible.  A sign just inside asks explorers not not go further because there is a colony of bats at the end.

Inside looking out at the less curious who stayed in their kayaks.

The club paddle is a Paddle Canada level I paddle.  The wind was starting to pick up so we paddled along the Goat Shore towards Salmon Cove where we crossed back across Gasters Bay to return to the take out at Conception Harbour.

Level I paddles are by their nature held in benign conditions and rather short.  It topped out at almost 13 kms, short but sweet and met the bill. A great job by Cathy rewarded by a huge turnout.  Thanks to everyone for a most enjoyable day.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Surf's up!

Wednesday evening and it was windy and cold.  Warm if it was January but for June 14th at 4C with a windchill of 0C it wasn't very seasonal.  Then with a NW wind of 20 knots gusting to 30 it was, shall we say, raw.

I arrived to see only Shane there concerned no one else would show.  I was already in my drysuit and here's Shane walking around in just jeans and a T-shirt.  I must have been exaggerating the conditions *lol*.

We got ready and headed out of the channel to face the wind and waves.

The idea was to paddle into the wind and waves for some distance before turning to catch surf rides back.  The first run was right into the teeth of the wind and uphill on the larger waves.  There's not much protection to hide from the NW wind but I knew it would be a short evening if I continued with that tactic.  So, from previous experience I paddled into the wind closer to shore and rest ...

... briefly between runs in this smallest of sheltered spots before heading back into the waves.

After an hour it seemed the wind was dropping slightly so Shane suggested a paddle up the shore some distance.  While the wind did drop some the sea state did not as we paddled close to the shoe in the waves and clapotis.

It was just the two of us.  I knew several other regulars had commitments but where was everyone else?  One of the objectives of Wednesday evening practices is to develop conditioning to paddle in challenging wind and waves when necessary.  The question then arises in my mind, do I have an obligation to tow anyone who doesn't see the need to put in the effort and suddenly find themselves in over their heads and unprepared to deal with the conditions?

Obviously, there is a need to tow in case of an injury.  But, I'd have to think long and hard otherwise.  Fair or not?

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Two months done and dusted

Two months ago we started meeting at St. Philips for practice or a paddle or a social.  Its been slow to catch on this year as the weather has been so poor.  This week nine people showed up which was good to see.

The good thing about Wednesday evenings is that regardless of the weather the diehards get a chance to paddle.  Even if its too windy to paddle we beat into the wind some, turn and surf back.

There wasn't much happening as far as conditions but there was a bit of action along the rocks.  The nine of us set off towards Portugal Cove with Brian and Shane taking time to ride the surge over the rocks at the G-Spot while ...

... the rest of the gang stayed off shore even though it was safe to duck in behind remnant rocks.

At Beachy Cove we held up, waited for the two in play boats and as the sun began to set we ...

... turned to return to the cove but not before catching some more rides ...

at the G-spot.  I cut through and sat waiting to get some shots of Brian and Shane.  Trust me Brian is in there somewhere and if you click o the shot to enlarge you will see just a small patch of blue.

Timing they say is everything.  This is the best Shane could catch an after waiting a long time for something bigger, we gave up and called it a day.

The weather is improving every week.  I hope we'll see more people out as the summer kicks in.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

More than an icecube

Last Friday five of us paddled out to three icebergs off of Topsail Beach.  Looking north we saw a gigantic iceberg some unknown distance away.  Kind tides, current and wind over two days brought it within reach.  To get there on Sunday we did an open crossing of approximately 6 kms.  The berg is just in front of the blue kayak but difficult to see without enlarging.

Bobbie, Cathy, Dean, Gary, Ron, Terry and I homed in on the berg steadily and as we paddled it got bigger until we were ...

... right on it filling the field of view.

There's not much of a story at this stage as we paddled back and forth and around the berg commenting how big it was.  I got a shot of each of the group with the iceberg.  Here is Terry.

Hazen, arriving late, invited Bobbie for what I think was her first encounter with an iceberg.  At least in her new blue kayak.

Gary in the red boat and Cathy add perspective to the size of the thing.

Ron on the south side of the iceberg.


Here's Hazen at the north side in front of what was a small cove in the berg.  Hazen organized the paddle to meet at 1:00 to get ready to put in.  Twenty minutes later and still no Hazen we set off not knowing if he would show.  He was late and paddled down by himself to join the rest of us.

As most people will know 90% of an iceberg is below the water line.  Its not hard to imagine the true size of the thing and even at that size it was not grounded.  Using the distant Bell Island I could see it was rifting north on the ebb tide.

So, that's four bergs for me so far this year, in two days in fact.  Often times the prevailing southwesterly winds keep the icebergs offshore.  When they do come close we try to take advantage and get out to see them thankful we live in iceberg alley.