We Minnesota types, excited that the water had softened up early this year, organized the inaugural paddle of the year yesterday. RonO, ChrisE, and myself headed for Lake Waconia. I was accompanied by the VoiceOfReason and her nifty blue and yellow Avocet. When we hit the landing she took one look at the 37F registered on the car thermometer, the 20 knot wind, the whitecaps, and the horizontal rain and said simply, "I'm out. I want my first paddle of the year to be fun". Sage wisdom which we menly men failed to heed. We battled out and back around Waconia's only island and pretty much had enough. Ron took my photo in front of the last big pile of ice and snow to be seen anywhere on the lake and we agreed that some of the horizontal raindrops that hit us were kinda hard....sleet maybe? As we neared the landing I noticed Chris practicing his high brace. No, he's gone over! Some very steep and close together 3' waves, combined with being rusty were the culprits. This won't happen to me I thought as I maneuvered to land and was shortly in the water too. Ron, not one to be odd man out, shortly was upside down also. Moe, Larry, and Curly could not have done it better. The VoiceOf Reason stood on the shore and didn't say anything. We did, however, receive "The Look". And we deserved it.
Which beings me to cold hands. I tried out my new NRS neoprene Toaster Mitts and was not impressed. NRS, a fine company which has provided me with many a functional piece of gear says these, "Toaster Mitts offer the warmth of Mambas with the feel of gloves". Well kinda sorta. You can't get your spray skirt on easily and, when used with a dry suit, you need to do the double velcro, overlap cuff, more velcro dance which makes it impossible to get them off if you need any fine motor control with your fingers. Like for properly securing your spray skirt. Once you get one of them lashed on to your hand getting the other one on is problematic. I have a pair of gloves that uses the same setup which is a similar pain in the ass only with colder fingers. I have some much looser gloves that tend to fill up with water quickly. I had water sloshing around in the mittens after about 10 minutes of paddling. I pretty much use a Greenland stick and gloves/mittens limit your ability to do a sliding stroke effecively. I love to use pogies since you have great paddle feel and your hands are toasty. However you ain't sliding anywhere with the pogies strapped to your paddle in a fixed position. A veteran Greenland paddler from Duluth said he just took his hands out of the pogies to get out on the end of the paddle. I don't see this working well in any emergency situation however. Reed makes a glove that comes up over the elbow and, since I have a tuliq on order with them (It won't look nearly as good as it does on Freya....and thanks to Greg Stamer for letting me try his out) I could easily tack one of these on to the VISA but I'm still torn. Rather than buying a pair of every kind of kayak hand covering on the planet, I'd welcome some feedback, epecially from folks who use those funny looking 2 x 4 paddles. What do ya'll think!?