Category Archives: Kayaking

Lighthouse to Lighthouse 2017 Video

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a GoPro for the camera on the front of the boat, so I had to go back to my old Contour Roam 3. The Contour has good battery life, but unfortunately, it doesn’t do 1080p at 60fps and it doesn’t have image stabilization. As I found out in this race, it also doesn’t have a good strong mount so it wobbled around a bunch and then flopped over.

On the plus side, I have a new GoPro for the front for next weekend’s race – it arrived at home about the same time I was arriving in Norwalk.

The video is a little on the long side. What can I say? It was a long race and there were a lot of other paddlers to interact with.

By popular demand, I went back to using music. Hopefully, since Great Big Sea is basically broken up they won’t be siccing the YouTube police after me.

I’d appreciate any feedback anybody would like to offer. Are the videos too long? Should I show fewer incidents out on the course? Fewer jump cuts? Keep the cuts, but make each one shorter? And what about the music/no music question?

Lighthouse to Lighthouse 2017

So this is my third Lighthouse to Lighthouse (L2L). I did it in 2014, then they didn’t have the race in 2015, and I did it again in 2016. I had high hopes this year because I’ve been training hard with Tom Murn trying to fix some flaws in my technique and add some speed to my great base that I’ve built up by paddling all winter and spring with Jim M.

L2L is a great time to catch up with friends from Traverse City and with people I’ve met out west and here at L2L. We met a good crowd the night before at the Tavern on Seven and more at the race site in the morning.

Ok, some salient points in case you haven’t read my posts from the previous times I’ve done this race:

  • It’s long. Nearly 22km.
  • It seems to always be hot.
  • It’s dominated by boat wakes from all directions rather than wind or tide driven waves.

As in previous years, the water was flat as hell when we arrived. It was also foggy. At race time there was a light breeze that was basically along the long part of the course between the two lighthouses – at our backs on the way out, in our faces on the way back in. The waves were small on the way out, and maybe about a foot high on the way back. The fog had lifted a few feet off the water so you could see the other racers and the landmarks.

At the start I did two things right compared to last year: I lined up sort of in the middle but one row back, and I didn’t go out too fast. I’d sort of hoped to keep up with Chris Chappell but he rocketed off the line so I settled into plan B and tried to find somebody’s wake to ride. After the first turn, I was behind a guy in a red Nelo. I’m not sure, but I think he was the guy who paddled a V8 last year with no shirt under his PFD.

I kept on his wake for a little while before dropping off. Then three more guys came by and I couldn’t get on any of them for any length of time. One of the guys was in a Fenn Swordfish, who I later found out was Ray Fusco (who organized the Mayor’s Cup races a bunch of years ago) and another guy had an Epic paddle with gold blades (possibly Yosef Dayan).

After the first lighthouse, we turned generally downwind. It was hot and humid but I was catching some waves. Cliff Roach from Goodboy Kayaks (they make really good v-racks) came up beside me and started chatting. I didn’t look back to see who he was talking to, but he told somebody else to slot into my stern wake – I think he called him Allen or Alex but I don’t see any likely candidates in the results. I looked at my video, and I couldn’t read his boat number. I also could not see him pass me either then or anytime after. He was in a black Stellar with orange tips – not sure if it was an SS20 class boat (SR) or unlimited. (Looking at the video from the start, it might have been Bradley Ethington.)

I was catching waves and I pulled away from them. I caught up to Ray Fusco again, and he also wanted to chat. I stayed with him and it looked like we were catching the guy with the gold paddle blades until the water got really choppy and confused. Then Ray and gold paddle guy pulled away like I was standing still. Soon afterward, so did Cliff. That always happens to me – the segment from the end of the last island to the second lighthouse and back is a confused mess of waves from all directions and I slow right down. I said to myself as it happened “oh, this is where I lose all the gains I’ve made so far”.

After the lighthouse and back to the island, but it wasn’t really getting easier because the headwind, while refreshing, was also throwing waves straight at our faces. There was a sea kayaker who was just a few meters ahead of me at the turn, but I just couldn’t seem to catch him. We paddled parallel courses for ages. A guy in a v14 came paddling by. When he had his paddle in the water, he was pretty fast, but he kept having to brace, and one time he let go of his paddle and put his hands in the water – I was sure he was going to lose it there. A classic case of a paddler who would be a lot faster in a boat he could actually put power down. But he managed to pull away.

The guy with the gold paddle blades was bracing a lot, and I was actually catching him. It was so unusual for me to pass anybody in the rough part of that race that I actually asked him if he was ok as I passed him.

After a while, it settled down a bit and I started to speed up. I passed the guy in the sea kayak – we had a brief conversation about camera mounts. Evidently being chatty with people you’re passing is contagious. I felt like I was catching back up to Cliff as well, but he had a substantial lead by this point.

After turning around the second last island to the lighthouse I was catching waves and it suddenly became fun again. I passed one of the Achilles doubles (Achilles is an organization for disabled paddlers) and I tried to say some encouraging words to them. I think the guy in front is blind – I’d seen him walking around on the beach before the race with a white cane. I thought about making some joke about him being in a chair with somebody blowing a fan and spritzing him with water, but I didn’t know how it would be received. As I got to the actual lighthouse, I was trying to plot a course between the lighthouse and a rower who was kind of zig-zagging around so I didn’t say much to the second Achilles double I passed.

Right after the lighthouse, this gigantic fishing boat cut between me and a woman paddler I was chasing (looking at the video and the results, and it might be Fiona Cousins, but that would mean she lost 5 minutes on me between then and the finish). I had to brace a bit when the wake hit me and I swore out loud – somebody behind me, either the Achilles double or the rower apologized, but I wasn’t swearing at them, I was swearing at my inability to handle a boat wake at that point. The wake make me brace, and when I got into the middle of their wake I hit heavily aerated water that you couldn’t really paddle hard in, but I sprinted over to the other side and caught a ride on it, enough to catch the woman and pass her. I was putting in a full-on effort – Cliff was up there, but I didn’t think I could catch him. I went a little too close to the last island and it got slow in between waves because it was so shallow. But I still had enough energy to sprint, but I never quite caught Cliff.

There was one of the official boats at the last turn buoy and it looked almost like the finish was there. It didn’t fool me, but Mike got briefly confused. I was already fading from my sprint, but I keep going with whatever I had left.

In the end, I ended up 32 seconds behind Cliff Roach, and nearly 9 minutes faster than last year and 7 minutes faster than 2014. I’m pretty satisfied with that. I think for next year I’ll have to spend more time in sloppy conditions. I don’t enjoy them, but I’ve got to figure out how to maintain speed when the waves are coming from every direction. I think I say that every year after L2L – one of these days I’ll figure it out.

Then after the race, it was time to eat and tell stories. They put on a pretty good spread at L2L. Really good chowder and chili. I’d tell you how good the hot dogs were but I dropped mine when I was trying to roll up my sleeve to show my tattoo to Tim Dwyer.

Ok, Final Cut Pro has finished transcoding my video, time to start editing.

Some random thoughts on naming conventions

Something recently made me think about product naming conventions. It seems to me you can start off with a really nifty naming convention, but after a while, it gets so cluttered with exceptions and new products that it doesn’t work anymore, and then you have to throw out the whole thing and start again.

Take, for instance, Epic Kayaks. Now I’m not 100% sure of the history, but I believe their first surf ski was the V10, and their second was the V10 Sport. Calling it “Sport” didn’t make a ton of sense because the V10 Sport is actually a less capable surf ski, but was wider and more stable to appeal to a less elite audience. To me, “Sport” usually implies a faster or more capable model, like the “Sport” model of many cars that maybe has more horsepower and gripper tires, or maybe just go-faster stripes and a manual gearbox. They also have a V10L which was at the time just a low-volume version of the V10. I believe they’ve redesigned it since then to be more of its own boat specifically for lighter paddlers.

But since that time, they’ve added the V12 and V14, each of which is narrower and less stable (and faster) than the previous, and then the V8, V7, and V5, which are increasingly more stable and slower as the number decreases. Then they made a boat that was sort of intermediate between the V8 and the V10 Sport (which was already intermediate between the V8 and the V10) and found themselves naming it the V8 Pro. Not as bad a decision as the use of “Sport” in the V10 Sport, because it does imply something faster than the V8, and it is. But still an obvious shoe-horn into a naming convention that was already under stress.

Then this year they demoed a boat that had the same width as a V12 but which was shorter (shorter even than the V10 Sport) to handle short period waves. When they were demoing it, they were calling it the V12M. And that wasn’t a horrible name because really I think it was designed to be “like a V12, but only for specific conditions”. But then they announced it officially as the V11. That to me implies something faster than the V10 and slower than the V12, and it probably actually is.

But I think their number system is getting crowded. It mostly works that the higher the number, the narrower, longer and faster the boat is. But there are exceptions. The space between the V8 and the V10 has two boats, neither of which is called the V9. There are three boats that are called “V10” (ignoring the V10 Double for a second), with pretty different characteristics. People confuse the V10 Sport and V10 a lot. There aren’t that many V10Ls around here, so I don’t know if they get confused for V10s a lot.

Epic is going to continue to design new boats. Some of them are going to be brought to market. I think sooner rather than later they’re going to have to throw out the whole “V number” system, and either just bring in new boats with a different designation or maybe even redesignate the whole fleet.

Naming conventions are tricky. I like that a person can broadly tell whether an Epic boat is more elite or less elite just by the name. I can’t tell anything about, say, the Fenn boats because they use proper nouns instead of numbers. But on the other hand, as long as Fenn designers can think names, they’re never going to have this problem.

At least they aren’t doing stuff like the computer hardware world, where you get horrendous long names with numbers and letters in riotous abandon. I’ve got an HP OfficeJet 6700 Premium printer. That name doesn’t tell me anything about its capabilities or how it stacks up against the OfficeJet J6000 or the OfficeJet L7000 or anything else in the HP printer line.

I’m reminded of the software world. Basically, most software uses monotonically increasing version numbers, usually with a minor and maybe a semi-minor version number as well, and you know that a change in major number probably means something significant and a change in semi-minor is probably invisible. So macOS 10.12.6 is obviously newer than macOS 10.12.5 and possibly just fixes some bugs, but it probably has some feature changes from macOS 10.11.1.

Windows started off with monotonically increasing numbers (Windows 1, 2, 3.11) and then switched to the last two digits of the year (being the only people I know stupid enough to set yourself up for a Y2K problem with only 5 years left to go) with Windows 95 and 98, broke the convention with Windows 98SE and Windows ME, then looked like they were going back to it with Windows 2000. But then they switched to names that meant nothing (XP) and then back to numbers for Windows 7 and 8, but due to problems caused by lazy programmers in 95 and 98, had to skip Windows 8 and go directly to Windows 10. Ugh, what a mess!

One piece of software I used way back in the day was a dBase III compiler called “Clipper”. I used to love the fact that their naming convention was actually the season and year of release, so Winter ’84 was followed by Summer ’85, etc. Good, because it was easy to tell if the version you found on the shelf was newer than the one you were using. But people evidently didn’t like it, because for their 6th release, they switched to calling it “Clipper 5.00” (yes, it was the 6th release – I guess that means they started from 0) and then “5.01”, then “5.01 Rev 129” because who needs consistency? Although looking at Wikipedia, it’s possible that people didn’t like the seasonal names because they lied a lot. “Summer ’87” was released on 21 December 1987.

So I guess what I’m saying is I’m glad I don’t have to name stuff because my OCD would want the names to tell you something, but I’d also want to leave room for fill in products without breaking the convention, but at the same time be memorable and not confusing.

More camera woes

One of the things I’ve struggled with over the years is that a typical waterproof action camera has a battery life of around 80 minutes, and most of my races and training paddles are longer than that, especially if you want to start the camera when you leave the shore for your warm up and not have to faff around on the start line trying to get it started when you really should be concentrating on the race. I’ve experimented with various ways of providing power from a USB battery pack to various cameras with varying success but they either haven’t worked or they’ve succumbed to water damage.

My newest camera is a GoPro Hero Black 5, which is waterproof without an extra case. It has two openings with waterproof covers, one for the battery and memory card, and one with a USB port and an HDMI port. The USB port can be used for charging or for downloading video. I was assured by people on the GoPro forum that it would be perfectly safe to remove the cover over the ports, plug in a USB cable, and seal around it with one of those silicon putty earplugs they sell to swimmers. I’ve been using it like that all year and it’s been great. With a small USB battery also sealed with silicon putty I’ve had record times over 3 hours with no problems.

However last Thursday was the first time I actually let the camera get fully immersed, rather than just splashed – I was landing in a big surf and the boat flipped over after I jumped out. I didn’t think much of it – the camera seemed fine, although the touch screen was acting a little wonky. I didn’t think much of it – I just figured it didn’t like the water on it and I’d have to remember to disable it next time. I took it home and plugged it into my computer to charge and download the pictures, and then forgot about it.

Until the middle of the night last night, three nights later, when I heard the distinctive sounds a GoPro makes when it’s powering off. That’s odd, I thought, maybe it took this long to fully charge and now it’s shutting off. And then some time later, it happened again. Shit! I got up and stumbled into my office, and discovered it was powered up again. Not wanting to be kept awake all night by this stupid beeping, I took it into another room and removed the battery. That’s when I saw green corrosion on the battery terminals. A very bad sign – that means that water had gotten into the case and into the electrical parts. I’m afraid to power it back in this morning and see if it’s still working. I’ll have to see if it’s too late to properly dry it out and hope it survives.

Onondaga Cup 2017

There was a canoe/kayak race yesterday – 23 July 2017. It wasn’t highly publicized, it isn’t a NYMCRA points race, it was very short, I had raced both previous weekends, and very few people I knew were going. But on the other hand, it was close and it is a rehearsal for next year’s USCA Championships. Oh, and the other drawback is that I put a big gouge in my V10 Sport so I’d have to use my V12 – fortunately, the race was on a river. So I decided to go.

When we arrived, the venue was huge – vendor areas, parking marshals, signs everywhere. I’ve rarely seen a race organized like this – but basically, our race was tacked onto the end of a big rowing regatta the previous day, and most of this stuff was there for the regatta. I kind of feel bad for the people who were manning these beer gardens and food booths with more people serving than were competing in the race. Mike and I registered, and there were a couple of touring class boats and Scott S was registered. There was a guy with a Stellar SR in the parking lot – I think I remember him from the Seneca Monster race last year where he finished behind me even though I was having a terrible day. Hey, I was thinking, maybe I’ll actually win. Then Brian Mac showed up with Royal’s V12 on his boat rack. Oh well, there goes first place.

By race time, the field still hadn’t filled in – just 5 of us in Unlimited Kayak, and 2 in rec kayak and 2-3 in touring kayak. I didn’t count how many canoes, but it wasn’t many. There appeared to be almost as many SUPs as anything else. Mike said something about how it would probably be Royal, then me, then him. I secretly agreed but thought he probably shouldn’t have said that out loud in front of the other competitors.

The race organizer was used to doing rowing regattas, so Brian Mac was helping him with logistics. They had moved the start/finish line out into the lake “so the spectators could see that something was going on”. I seriously doubt anybody except the competitors noticed. They also went down to 2 start waves – everybody except unlimited kayak, and then us.

The tiny little waves on the lake were screwing with my balance. I guess I didn’t warm up enough to get really comfortable with the V12 – I really need at least 2 kilometers before I feel less twitchy in it. You can see my body twitching on the video, even though I had one foot in the water until seconds before the start to increase my balance.

At the start, I was still having problems putting down power. By the time we hit the entrance to the channel, I was in last place. A few seconds later, I started to pass Mike as he was passing Scott, so things were almost as expected, but that guy in the SR had taken a very short line to the channel and put on such a sprint that he was briefly level with Royal. He was still pretty far ahead. It actually took me until the 1-kilometer mark until I came up level with him. I was going to say “nice start” or something, but I just didn’t have the breath. But once I got ahead of him, I was pretty much alone for the rest of the race.

Just an aside – the course is kind of “Y-shaped”, except there is an island smack dab in the middle of the place the legs of the “Y” join. So you paddle up one arm (the channel) to the island, go 1/3rd of the way around the island, up the next arm to a turn buoy, come back to the island, go the second 1/3rd of the way around the island and up another arm to a turn buoy, back to the island and last 1/3rd of the way around the island, and back up the first arm to the start/finish. There are three bridges across the first channel and the USCA champs will start at the second bridge, and do the “Y” twice.

Just after I passed the SR guy I was approaching the third bridge in the channel. Royal had warned me before the race that there was a big mat of weeds on the right side under the bridge, so to keep left. I could see he was quite far left, and I did the same. Afterward, I found out that this had confused Mike because he knew we had to head right as soon as we went under the bridge. The turns around the island weren’t sharp enough that I could look back and see where everybody was. I could still see Royal up ahead working his way through the kayaks, canoes, and SUPs of the first wave. He seemed to have moved all the way to the right bank even though there was no reason to – we had about a kilometer per hour of current behind us, and staying in the middle was the fastest way. I was basically was on a straight line to the turn buoy, except for having to move right because of two on-coming canoes who had already rounded the buoy. Royal rounded the buoy almost exactly a minute ahead of me. Don’t know why I took note of that because I knew that there was no way I was catching him.

Just as I’m getting to the buoy, I’m also passing the slowest rec kayaker of the first wave. He was heading directly to the buoy, as I was swinging out to round it at speed. But I remembered what Mike had said on the start line: “Make sure you don’t get t-boned”. He was referring to the fact that the other paddlers were taking a different line to the channel outlet than us at the time, but I suddenly realized this rec kayaker was going to run right up to the buoy and then try to pivot around it. So I make sure I rounded the buoy about a boat length away from it.

After the turn, I could see Mike was in third position, with the SR guy not far behind him, and Scott behind them. I started working my way up through the first wave paddlers. Even though the breeze was not behind us, I could definitely feel like I was going upstream. Speeds were dropped off, even when I started searching out the banks to get out of the current. A couple of places there were distinct current shadows that were completely filled with water lilies, so they were out.

One of the signs that this was organized like a much bigger event was that there were marshals at every decision point (every time you got to a “Y” junction at the island, and at the turn buoys) pointing out which way to go. Not that I needed them, but it was a good sign. Especially if we’re going to be doing this course twice next year – it’s easy to make mistakes when you’re 18 kilometers into a 20-kilometer course.

Approaching the second turn buoy, I passed a C-2 that looked beamier than some of the racing C-2s I’m used to seeing that was putting out a really nice wake. I tried to tuck into it and grab a drink, then blasted ahead. I could see the boats coming back from the buoy, and I could see that ahead of me were Royal, a guy in a pristine West Side Boat Shop EFT, and a C-1 paddled by a person I recognized but whose name I don’t know. After the turn, I could see that Mike was still comfortably in third, and Scott had passed the SR paddler and had a good long gap on him.

It didn’t take me long after the buoy to pass the C-1, and I set my sights on the EFT as a possibility. I lost sight of him in the turns but once I got into the channel I could see him dangling ahead of me like a carrot. I put on as much speed as I had left, and I think I was closing the gap, but there just wasn’t enough time. I think he finished about 30-40 seconds ahead of me.

Looking back, Mike finished in third not far behind me, and Scott seemed like he must have slacked off because the SR had nearly caught him. So pretty much like Mike had predicted at the beginning.