Last night the team went out on the lake for practice. From the parking lot, you can’t see the lake so I asked Dan what it was like, and he said “flat as a pancake”. Evidently in Dan’s world, pancakes have foot-and-a-half swells overlaid by numerous boat wakes.
Launching in the surf zone, I fell out of the boat once and got soaked, and while trying to get in a couple of waves came into the cockpit. The water in the cockpit made me unstable, and while I tried a couple of times to pump some out, I would have to take my paddle out of the water to pump and I was too unstable to do that except during breaks in the boat wakes, and those were few and far between. It was a real Catch 22 situation where I wasn’t stable enough to do the very thing that would make me more stable. So I ended up paddling the whole work out with about 3 inches of water in the bottom of the cockpit (and thanks to a lousy seal at the rear bulkhead, in the rear compartment as well).
After “playing” in the surf for a while, Dan told us to head to a head of land you could see. In the linked map, you can see the head just about where the two mile marker is. At about the one mile point on that map, Dan yells at me asking why I’m so far off shore, because he’s about 200 yards from the shore. I tried to explain that when he says to head directly somewhere, I for some strange reason took that as meaning to head directly to that place, rather than skulk along the shore line in the general direction of that place. But maybe that’s just me.
In spite of the feeling that I was going to dump any second, I preferred to be out off shore a bit, because when you get close in, you get the rebounds off the shore coming at you full strength, and when it’s boat wakes rebounding, sometimes the first of the rebounds is hitting you while you’re still dealing with the last of the direct wake. I hate that. And just to make this evening complete, we were getting attacked by nasty biting flies. One of them bit me high up on my inner thigh while I was trying to deal with about three waves from different directions, which did not help. We were in a soup of algae for much of the way, and I don’t envy Paul D who dumped into it once. Oh, did I mention that Paul D has gone over to the dark side and bought a surf ski, so I was the only paddler there with a decked boat? Yeah, sucks to be me.
Frank had come out with us, but some time after the point, I noticed he wasn’t there. I found out that he’d decided this wasn’t fun and turned back. Man, I wish I’d seem him turn because I would have graciously offered to paddle back with him. I wanted to turn back myself, but I didn’t want to be alone out there.
By the time we hit the 5 mile mark, my back was killing me. I suspect that if I’d been able to adjust my foot pegs I would have adjusted things to not hurt so much, but the jury rigging we did on the rudder pedals last week wouldn’t allow that. (As an aside, the new pedal track arrived as I was writing this, so I’m hoping Frank will help me install them in time for this weekend’s Rochester Open Water Challenge!)
On the way out, Dan had been promising that when we turned the swell would provide good surfing opportunities. I turned for home a few hundred metres before the pier that we’d been aiming for, expecting all these fast guys in their fast surf skis to surf on past me in no time, especially since I could barely hold 5 mph. It had seemed to me on the way out that even though the swells were coming towards us, I was actually getting a bit of speed from sliding down the back sides. But now on the way back, either the shape was working against me, or they’d slacked off some, because I felt like I was spending more time paddling “up hill” on the swells than sliding down them. It took a long time before any of the other paddlers caught up to me, but eventually Ken came sliding by and Ken and Bill and I paddled the long stretch home together – I was too unstable to look back, but I heard afterwards that Paul D was having trouble getting used to his new surf ski so Dan and Mike stayed back with him. My foot was cramping up, my back hurting, and the bugs were still biting and I just wanted to get back, but Ken kept zig zagging around to try to find some surf. It seemed like “rush hour” hit the channel between the lake and Irondequoit Bay, and every boat on Lake Ontario was either coming out of the channel and heading our way, or coming from behind us towards the channel. Lots of wakes to deal with.
My biggest problem with dealing with waves and wakes is, I think, my own mind. If I do what I’m supposed to, which is to let the boat pivot underneath me and keep myself loose, I think I’d be fine – the boat does have a lot of secondary stablity. But ever fibre in my being wants to slam my thighs into the brace position and take control of the boat. I know paddles on the lake like this are supposed to help me unlearn that reflex, but I can’t say I’m having fun yet. Maybe now the water is warmer, I should spend some time in the surf near shore, so I can dump without worrying.