The Frozen Few

After last week’s warm sunshine, March had to tap us on the shoulder and remind us all who was in charge. It was about 37 degrees, extremely strong winds (gusting 17-29mph), and off-and-on rain. But Stephen and Jim were going paddling, so I went as well. I was delayed by something at work, so I texted them to tell them that I’d be half an hour late, so they agreed to circle back and pick me up, for which I’m grateful.

It’s been raining for a day, and I guess that caused some snow melt, because the Genesee River is at least a foot and a half or maybe two feet higher than it was on Thursday. The flood conditions caused swirling water, tricky currents, and lots of floating debris. On top of that, the winds were kicking up high waves in the other direction. I was definitely out of my comfort zone in the Thunderbolt today, but that’s a good thing – I need to get better at boat handling with this boat before the ‘Round The Mountain race. I got lucky that Small Swells and Long Lake were pretty calm conditions last year, but I can’t count on that for every race.

We started off down river into the wind. The fast current was definitely overwhelming the effect of the wind, but some of the waves were coming up on to the deck of my boat. Mostly I didn’t have too many problems handling the swirls and waves. We were doing 7.5 to 9.5 mph on the way down stream. We paddled all the way from Black Creek down to the Genesee Waterway Center.

When we turned around, we suddenly had a pretty strong bunch of waves coming from behind. I was definitely getting a bit of a ride on the waves, but even so I was having trouble going as fast as 5 mph, and I was definitely feeling the challenge. We got out of the waves and into the slower water near the inside shore, and the speeds increased a bit. We did a lot of that sort of reading the river and picking our way up through eddies and the like, and then ferrying over to the other side when the river curved the other way.

On one of those ferries, there was a very strong wind from behind, and so I was surfing and dealing with the swirls and currents, and I had to stop paddling and brace at one point – and just as I braced, I got a terrible cramp in my left foot. I’d had foot cramping problems last year, most notably during the last 3 miles of the Armond Bassett race. The cramp at this time was really bad timing. That’s the one time today when I felt most like I was lucky not to dump. But I didn’t, and I carried on to the end in spite of the cramp.

It was only when I got out of the boat that the raw wind and cold really started to hit me. My hands felt like claws as I was trying to get my boat back in its protective bag and back on the roof rack. The fact that there was a snarl of fishing line trapped in the rudder didn’t help. But I got out of there relatively unscathed and my nice hot shower afterwards felt really good.

Total distance: 7.22 miles
Total time: 1:18.

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