Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Touring, racing, and swimming
Friday is normally tour day at the Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium and a lot of folks did get out for some sightseeing in the Pictured Rocks area. Four of us put together our own little tour from the Hurricane River back to Grand Marais, a distance of about a dozen miles. Racin'Rick and JewelryJane had a nice compact double and the VOR and I paddled our usual craft, the Avocet and the Q boat. We got all the boats on RR's roof rack so we could do a one way trip. The route took us past the Au Sable lighthouse, a couple of shipwrecks that prompted the construction of the lighthouse, and the impressive Au Sable dunes.
Saturdays weather was building already on Friday. Wind and waves were freshening out of the northwest and the seas were already in the 1-3' range that had been forecast. I shoved off the double and the VOR, and then did the 'knuckle walk thing' to launch. The shot of the lighthouse is one that I heisted from a previous trip since the water was too rough to pull the Nikon out of the deck bag. We oogled the dunes, felt properly dwarfed by their size, and headed east down the shore for lunch at the mouth of Sable Creek. A quick hike up to the falls and we launched again. It was about 200 yards off the beach that the VoiceOfReason took her very first involuntary dip in Lake Superior while kayaking.
As happens frequently, a rock had been pounded up in the skeg box and she needed someone to give it a yank and free it. While attempting to raft up with the double, she reached over to brace herself on the bow except the bow was gone; a three footer had moved it about 18" away. I turned when I heard the splash and saw white hull and a floating Tilley hat. She was quickly up however, hanging on to the boat and her paddle leash hanging on to the paddle. RR and JJ quickly got the T rescue going and in just a minute or so the VOR was back in her boat and snapping on her spray skirt.
It was a very efficient and panic free rescue. A person never knows how they or their companions will react in that kind of situation but this reaction and recovery would have passed the ICE test with flying colors. More importantly, the VOR was confident back in her boat and didn't miss a beat. When I first started paddling, I was on a guided trip out of Bayfield and a woman went over. When she got back in her boat her confidence was shot. She had to switch to a double (maybe that's whey they bring those things along; that and to carry more beer) in order to make it back to camp. None of that tense, frozen up attitude in this situation however, and we cruised around the increasing hectic and clapotis plagued jetty and into the harbor.
The next day it would be Racin'Rick's and my turn for involutary swimming. RR was leading the harbor race when he applied just a hair too much edge on a turn. Over he went. The thing that really stunk was that he was leading the race at the time, only 20 yards from the finish. Once again a perfect T rescue and he was a across the finish line.
My unexpected inverted experience occurred when I was demonstrating a forward finishing roll to RR while he was trying out my stout basswood Greenland cudgel and I had my old Sitka spruce backup paddle. RonO had explained a couple years ago how he had busted a carbon fiber Greenland stick doing that very same roll but I guess I'm just not a quick learner. Over I went and was about halfway up when I heard and felt the snap. Once again I was upside down with half a stick in my hand. I was able to get set up and roll up successfully with half a stick but I certainly did get that rush of adrenaline.
The one common thread to all three capsizes was that we all had practiced what to do dozens of times. Like most endeavors, practice makes perfect and while perfection might have not been achieved in any of the cases, we all recovered nicely, quickly, and efficiently. Yet another reminder that if you keep your skills up they will be there when you need them.