From Tybee Island, Georgia, at the hour we call “chirp o’clock.” (Per our own early birds, i.e. pet parrot and parakeets, back home.
Let’s talk about two key pieces of gear: 1) the contact tow and 2) the scopolamine patch. The former is a rather short towline (3x the distance between your boat’s decklines) with a clip on each end. The latter is a small Band-Aid-like thing that, stuck behind the ear, keeps Jean from throwing up! (She gets seasick in lumpy water when not paddling vigorously…Her motto: To bob is to gurk. We’ll cross-stitch it on a pillow someday.) On Sunday, we were batting 500…
All is revealed in this video of Gordon Brown’s contact tow technique:
On Sunday morning, we launched into perfectly calm waters. But 11 NMs and one circumnav of City Island later, conditions got pretty bouncy (or as some people say, “gurky”…). Close to HHYC, scopolamine-patchless Jean turned green. Thanks to Luke’s contact towing and Alex’s tow of both parties in the wind, we happily covered the last few yards to shore. What are friends for? :)
From the point of view of a capsized and helpless/unconscious kayaker, suddenly being flipped right side up is nothing less than a miracle. This week’s TBD “to be done” focuses on the “hand of g-d” rescue (a nod to our upcoming multi-flavored, multi-miraculous holiday weekend). Jean has been working on this move in preparation for her ACA Level 3 instructor certification at the end of April. So far, she can flip someone 25 pounds heavier than she is. Sixty-plus, however…well, we may need a miracle. Click for “Virtual Coach” video:
Are you smarter than a duck? We like to think so. But sometimes we have to wonder about ourselves. Take two Sundays ago, for example… “Sunday morning: West winds 10 to 15 knots gusting to 20, increasing in the afternoon with gusts to 35 knots.” So droned the local marine forecast each time we checked. (Ducks have their own mysterious methods of predicting weather.)
Thirty-five knots?! Whipping up 32-degree water? Luck—or rather, land—would be on our side, as a northwest wind is an offshore wind to us. We’d hug the shore, duck-like, enjoying its protection from the wind, all the way from Larchmont to Mamaroneck to Milton Harbor/Rye Marina and back. Plus, we’d start early and be off the water before things got too bouncy. Plan!
We met up with Alan, Rick and Andrew (experienced year-round paddlers) at the mouth of Mamaroneck Harbor. A mile later, we were astonished to find our usual shortcut near Hen Island was still frozen over.
The ice was too thick to punch through. So out and around Hen Island we went, as ducks stood one-legged on the ice, eyeing us warily, conserving their energy.
Milton Harbor was ice-free. As the wind picked up, we paddled in the lee of Hen Island and Marshlands Conservancy to Rye Marina (and deli). Five scrambled-egg breakfast sandwiches later, we got back in our yaks and headed for home.
We heard it before we saw it. At the mouth of Milton Harbor, 35-knot NW gusts howled across the open Sound, blowing anything and everything swiftly to Long Island, four miles and one shipping channel away. From the windward side of Hen Island, we remembered that our iced-in (dangerous) shortcut wasn’t an option. After some exploration, we decided to portage to the calm protected side of Hen Island, then relaunch and—maybe, maybe—round that vicious corner to slog upwind, exposed, just one nautical mile to Mamaroneck.
“We won’t be able to hear each other over the wind,” Jean hollered. “We’ll need a hand signal for ‘Plan B.’”
“Plan B?” Alex shouted back.
“NOT slogging to Mamaroneck! Instead, we float downwind to American Yacht Club where they’ll be very happy to see us alive and kicking, and where there are roads (unlike Hen Island) so we can get picked up and cartop it home, yay.”
“Er, what’s the signal for that?”
Jean yanked her thumb back over her head. Retreat!
While these conversations were happening, Kevin—the sailing instructor at American Yacht Club who’d just cancelled the frostbiters’ class due to ridiculous weather—looked out across Milton Harbor and saw this (click for video):
And about ten seconds later, he saw this:
Plan B arrived in the form of Plan “D” for Deborah.
So… in conclusion: What if we had stuck with our Plan A: Paddling to Mamaroneck in a 30+ knot headwind in choppy 32-degree water? What could possibly go wrong…? Well, we might’ve got back just fine. On the other hand, upon venturing out from the wind protection of Hen Island, one (or more) of us might have been capsized by the gale—inspiring others to attempt rescues, who’d likely capsize while trying to reach the swimmers. An icy “all-in” situation (very bad). Other risk factors we considered:
- We were already tired from the portage
- In those temps, hands become useless very quickly. (Blow up a paddle float? Press a radio button? Good luck.)
- You can go hypothermic, despite the drysuit (due to mild air temps that day, at least one of us had on fewer-than-usual layers underneath…)
- No other boats were around to assist—or even see us
- Ducks were having none of it
Beware the Ides of March, they say; and may we add, the temptation to see what it’s like to paddle in winds higher than we’ve ever experienced. Let’s just save all that for warmer weather and water. Plan!
Oh, to be able to roll as effortlessly as this… Below, our friend Gwen tries out her new Water Field Kayaks Mosquito, a Greenland style qajaq that’s built to roll (just like Gwen). Click for video (NOTE: this soundtrack is entirely at odds with Gwen’s sweet disposition!)
This week’s TBD (“To Be Done”): Ask Gwen to teach us some forward finishing rolls at the lake this summer, where mosquitos actually do want to suck your blood.
Today, we celebrate the second full day of Spring with the cutest video you will ever see on this blog. Hands down, cutest. A big shout-out to J, our young friend and fellow water-loving ACA member. (She points to a bird at the end.) Click arrow for video, then scroll down :)
Someday soon, we’re going to polish up our French/Algonquin dialects and explore Lake Champlain, the sixth largest body of fresh water in the U.S. (the Great Lakes are Numbers 1 through 5.) Champlain is 120 miles long, contains 70+ impossible-to-pronounce islands, and lies in a valley with Vermont’s Green Mountains to the east and New York’s Adirondacks to the west.
A big thank you to Michael and Julie—our paddling friends in Albany and today’s guest bloggers—for the suggestion. TBD = To Be Done!
Toward the end of 2013 paddle season, weary of beautiful Lake George’s almost unrelenting upscale tenement architecture and rude powerboat operators, we looked for better water to the north and found it.
We were not strangers to Lake Champlain, (we were introduced to Valcour Island by the Lake Champlain Sea Kayak Institute in 2011), but we’d explored very little of its expanse until September 2013. The best part starts about two hours from Albany, an easy drive up the Northway once Saratoga County is left behind. Highlights were a launch from Port Douglas and 450 million-year-old fossils in Bulwagga Bay (an endless refrain of “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”).
Last year, we stayed for a week just after Labor Day, planning to explore the Otter Creek marshes, circumnavigate Carleton Prize (a small rock with an extraordinary history), lead a club paddle at Valcour Island, and penetrate the Inland Sea via The Gut from Point Au Roche. Unusually obliging weather allowed us to accomplish everything, barely getting a taste of what this lake has to offer.
This lake is bigger than the rest of my paddling life!