Kayaking with Rob

This morning my cow orker Rob and I went kayaking. He’s thinking of buying a kayak, but he’s had numerous knee surgeries so he needs a big cockpit so that he can get in and out. He also wants something that’s not too hard to lift, so he probably doesn’t want a rotomoulded kayak like I have. But he’s in luck – this year there are new materials that are as cheap as rotomoulded, but nearly as light as fibreglas. Almost makes me wish I’d waited a year.

First he tried a Swift Adirondak 13.6 (yes, he’s a Swift Boat Veteran now) which is certainly an easy boat to get in and out (almost canoe like) but it’s short and beamy and not very fast. We took it easy and had a nice slow paddle. We went up past the weir and turned around at the same place where Vicki and I turned around the first time we paddled up the creek.

On the way back, Rob was starting to notice how much easier it was for me to paddle than for him. And when we got back, he asked for something sleeker, and they suggested he try a Hurricane Tampico XL. But the only one they had was out already, so they said he should wait. While he was poking around looking at what they had, I picked up the paddle he had been using. It was carbon fiber, and very, very light. I took it out for a quick paddle around, and it was beautiful. It was like getting a second wind. Unfortunately it costs $290. I know what I want for my birthday next year.

Rather than waiting for the Tampico, we went across the street to check out Oak Orchard. They have a big selection of kayaks as well. At first, Rob and I found the guy manning the store a bit odd, and not very “together”. But after a while we warmed to him as he seemed to get it together, or we figured out what he was getting at, or something. He put Rob in a Eddyline Merlin XT, which is longer than the Adirondak, and also had a more pronounced V-hull. Rob found it a bit more difficult to get in than the Adirondak, and also because of the more agressive hull shape it felt a bit “trembly”. The guy gave him some really good advice about dealing with the lack of stability, and I think it worked. Rob and I paddled a bit around the bay, so he was dealing with a boat with a lot less initial stability than the one he’d been using before, but also waves and wake and wind. We paddled up and down a bit, and it was obvious that the boat was way faster than the previous one, and pretty close to the speed of mine. Obviously a nice boat, and a good choice for him.

Rob didn’t want to make a decision right away, so we went out to lunch afterwards, and afterwards I went home and he went back to BayCreek to try that Tampico.

Kayaking tonight

I went kayaking tonight. I’m sure I could figure it out from this blog, but it feels like I’ve only been two or three times so far this year, and it’s all because of this move – I’ve spent my daily allotment of elbow pain on shifting boxes or packing or any number of other things. I hadn’t planned to kayak today, but I went to the old house and realized I’d left the keys for the old house back and the new house. So I went to the new house to look after the birds. And I suddenly realized here it was, a not too humid day, still a long time before it gets dark, and I didn’t have any pressing need to do anything to do with the move, plus I’d had a big lunch so I was in no hurry for dinner.

So I quickly threw the kayak on the rack (first test of the new pulley system in the garage) and headed out to Bay Creek Kayaking Center. Good thing they know me there, because I realized just as I was pulling onto I-590 that I’d forgotten my paddle. But they let me borrow one of theirs, so no problem.

It was a great paddle. I got up past the reeds and into the closed over woods in Ellison Park, and there was a lot of wildlife. The usual swans and Canada geese and swallows, but also muskrats and kingfishers and bitterns. In one place I came around a corner and there were approximately a dozen Canada Geese together feeding, many of them obviously this year’s young, but nearly in full adult colouration. Another place, two muskrats froliced on the shore. The river was kind of low and choked with weeds in places. Below the wier it felt like it wasn’t moving at all, but in the narrow and shallow spaces up further you could feel it on the way up.

As usual when I haven’t paddled in a while, I over did it. I went all the way up to the Browncroft Bridge, because I’d heard that there was a put-in there and if there was, it would be very handy to the new house. My right elbow started hurting on the way back downstream, and I’ve taken my usual two Alieve but it’s not helping. But it was worth it – it felt really good. Paddling hard and fast through the straight bits, finessing through the twisty bits where you had to be on the outside of the corner because it’s not deep enough on the inside.

I discovered some fun little things about boat handling. I found that when I got into the shallow water on the inside of a corner, and I could see my wake breaking just behind my boat, it seemed that the wake was sucking the back end of the boat towards the shallow water. Maybe a coincidence, but it sure felt like that. Another discovery was that with the skeg down lower than I usually have it, I could turn the boat just by leaning it. It started when I leaned out to sweep and discovered that I didn’t even have to put the paddle in the water. A bit of experimentation, and I could turn just by pushing up with the inside thigh.

I discovered this nifty little Google Maps application, and if you click here, you can see my route up to the bridge (I took the same route back, of course).

Close on the house, go kayaking

First I wrote the biggest check I’ve ever written in my life, and went to the bank to get a bank check for that amount. Then we went to the lawyer’s office to wear out a couple of pens signing and initialing several trees worth of paper.

Once that was over, I came home and went for a paddle. Without Vicki, so I paddled faster than I should have and took fewer rest stops. I tried to concentrate on making a good stroke without much elbow action, except when doing sweeps. I’m starting to feel a little twinge in my left elbow, so I’ll probably regret it tomorrow. There was a pretty brisk breeze blowing (the aviation weather report said gusting up to 19 knots), which was mostly acting opposite the stream, so paddling downwind and up river and then down river and into the wind, but the creek is twisty enough that sometimes I was fighting both stream and wind, and sometimes I was getting benefit from both.

I did the left fork up from the wier, which is a lot less used than the right fork, and much twistier and with a bunch of false creeks. Lots of paddling with the skeg up, maneuvering around, which probably isn’t so good for my elbows but quite fun.

At one point I coasted along a paddle’s length away from a Great Blue Heron whispering to it that I wasn’t a threat and it didn’t have to fly away. Another point I came around a corner and saw a 20 metre straight stretch of river with 5 geese poking their heads up out of the grass on the bank.

Spring Update

Ah, Spring.

Last night Vicki and I went kayaking. It was great. Vicki used Baycreek’s new Hurricane Aquasports Tracer which looks like a really nice West Greenland style kayak, very similar lines to my Skerray or the Avocet she was using last year, but made of “Trylon” plastic using a new vacuum forming method. Surprisingly sharp bow for being plastic. So is my Skerray RMX, but Valley are famous for how good their rotomoulded kayaks are. We saw lots of geese, some guarding tiny fluffy goslings. Also saw swans, most of them in aggressive postures, swallows, red winged blackbirds, a flicker (which was a surprise) and a kingfisher (which was also a surprise). The river was fast, but not so high as to make the weir too challenging. The reeds are starting to come in, but they’re still low enough that we could see what was down the other branch when the creek diverged. We went pretty far, and my elbows aren’t that sore today.

As another highlight of spring, today was the first real mountain stage of the Giro D’Italia. It’s been great how the sprint stages have managed to avoid being “the Alessandro Petacchi show” that they were last year, but it’s good to be up to the part that matters, where the GC riders make or break. Basso did great today, and I was surprised to see Cunego lost ground to Simoni. I’m still mad that OLN TV isn’t covering it daily like they did last year. And the “live streaming” software only works on Windows and probably wouldn’t work through the company proxy server anyway, plus what’s the point without Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwin? It’s hard to get a real feel for what’s going on when all you’ve got is the web updates, but CyclingNews.com is doing a pretty good job.

And the third highlight is the Kodak Perigrine Falcons. I haven’t been following them as obsessively as I used to when I could compare notes with Maddy, but it’s good to see that they’ve hatched another 5 this year. Pigeons beware!