Monday, July 15, 2013

The Lessons Keep Coming

Seems every paddle at the coast brings some lessons learned and some skills advanced.

This weekend, Lee, Frank, and I all met up at Lee’s Swansboro house Saturday about noon.  We were quick to get on the water, and paddle out towards the inlet.  We stayed in the Sound, as shore surf was 5-7 ft.   We planned to use the Sound chop to work on rolling, rescues, and basic skills in wind and current.   The conditions were perfect, strong winds, and a contrary tide.   

Working in, with, and against the wind has provided me with some great practice rolling, both onside and offside, and using layback and sculling rolls.  I’ve been rolling kayaks for many years now, but, as I work more and more in the surf and rougher water, it is this practice that keeps my combat roll ready and working.  In fact, this skill work Lee and I've been doing in the Sound has likely done more for my skill building than some of the time surfing.

While we were out there a quick moving rain storm passed over which gave us some great gusts.

My biggest rescue nemesis right now is my cowgirl (or cowboy rescue as it’s usually called).  I’d always thought of this as more a pool trick.  My go to self rescue if out of the boat is a quick reentry and roll.  However, it seems the cowboy is being discussed and used more and more in rescue classes, so I’ve been working on it.  With a lot of energy and hard work I can get up on deck, but right now it’s just to slow getting up and back into the cockpit to use this as a viable rescue, something I’ll just keep working on.

Paddling back after our day on the water, we continued having fun, then Lee and then Frank played Stand-Up-Kayaks.   I can’t do that (standing up) either.

Sunday morning, we drove over to Emerald Isle to launch the kayaks, planning to paddle down the coast and return through the Inlet and back to Lee’s house which is nicely situated on a small creek right off the ICW.   We had lighter winds 10-15 mph with a shore surf break at 2-4 ft, this after a night of  continued 5-7 ft surf and still with a big swell out there.

When we arrived about 9 am, we were looking at 3-4 ft.  It looked quite doable for paddling, though bigger than what I’d want to stay around and surf play in.  We had an incoming tide, and a forecast for lighter 2-3 ft in the afternoon.   What I hadn’t thought about was the wave period.  It was the tightest I’ve launched in.   Up until now I’d not really paid much attention to the reported ‘dominant period’ reported.   I now understand it.  

Timing my launch within the sets had me getting through the first 3 waves without incident, only to be faced with the larger waves of the next set right on top of me.  The waves were stacked so tightly, you barely recovered your balancing before the next one.  I hesitated on one of the larger waves hoping it would break up a bit, but then found I’d lost power to get through it.  It started surfing me back and then flipping me over.  Upside down it took me a second to realize my positioning and then to get my paddle moved to set up.  I got up on first try, and was beyond excited.  This was truly my first “real” complicated combat roll, all my practice was paying off. 

I had to paddle quite a ways out to get beyond the wave train of breakers to join Lee.  He was as exhilarated as I, as he had also completed a great combat roll after paddling up a steep wave that had him doing a stern pirouette before slamming him down, upside down.

Looking onto shore for Frank we realized some mistakes and started learning some new lessons.  We both suspected Frank might have a harder time getting out on his long 18 ft  sit on top, and we could see Frank back on shore after a failed attempt.   We thought we saw him dragging his boat to shore for another attempt, only to see him back on shore a minute later, clearly giving up future attempts.

Neither of us was very excited about having to come in now, feeling good about just having gotten out there safely.   It was looking like a repeat of ‘Monster Day’, with a much more scary and dangerous landing.   We now wished we had planned some communication prior to launching.  We should have had a short pre-launch talk about what to do "if….” .  Also, although I had a VHF on me, Lee's was in his hatch, and Frank hadn't brought his for this short day of play.  But we now realized if we’d all geared up properly, and discussed communications, we’d be talking to Frank right now, putting plan B or C (discussed on the beach) into action.

Lee and I had no choice but to come on in.  Lee landed first and without incident.   I was working my back paddling hard to avoid surfing these large waves when one broke right on me.  Another great combat roll after being thrashed about a bit.  Lee and Frank witnessed this one from the beach, and later told me how surprised they both were to see me roll on up.  Lee said he was counting the seconds I was under and figured I was working on bailing with little to no time to try and setup for a roll.  Practice sure makes a difference.  Landing safely on shore was exhilarating.

It was clear our paddling day was over.  Frank had made numerous attempts to launch, and completely broke off his rudder during his last attempt.   We opted for a long walk down the beach, comparing notes and discussing experiences and lessons.

Our last discussion about lessons learned was order of launching, and something we’ll likely continue to discuss, as the three of us are often organizers/leaders of trips within our club.  Among our regular paddling partners, Lee is always the most organized and the first one ready to launch and on the water.  However, he is also the more skilled in surf.   We now believe a better plan would have been to have Frank launch (or fail) first.  Had we done that, Lee and I would never have attempted the launch nor needed the eventual landing.  If Frank had gotten out, or got out and needed help, Lee or I could have quickly launched next, and would have had us getting out there for any needed help. 

Seems as I continue this journey of skill-ing up in rougher water, the learning curve becomes steeper.  The experiences and discussions that arise after the fact, have been invaluable for my continued skill and safety.

Last lesson learned.  It’s time for me to focus on some backwards surfing and maneuvering while moving backwards.  I’ll start with practicing reverse figure eights in the flats J

1 comment:

Canoe Sailor said...

Tried twice more after breaking the rudder. What is it about these little white waves that small you in face?

Still, when I looked past the little man shore break, it looked like some of them were much bigger than for feet. I could not see you even from the top of the stairs at times, but I agree the short period was the thing that got me. The boat gets turned to easily, and is very hard to turn back to face the waves.