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Thanks to rough water instructors

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I would like to thank the large number of experienced paddlers that showed up yesterday for the Rough Water Workshop. It was a lot of fun and educational.

For those who are curious, the winds recorded at the Isles of Shoals between 10AM and 2PM were 20 to 22 kts sustained with gusts from 24 to 27 kts.

Dee Hall

Impex Currituck, Blue over Smokey Ivory

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I was still packing neo and drytop from last weekend's trip. Yesterday was, of course, clearly drysuit weather...

Would love to have gone out as the ocean looked interesting at from Lane's Cove. Had to settle for an hour drive home, retrieve the drysuit and do a Gas Tank to Spectacle Island to City Point and back solo in Boston Harbor. I did find my own "rough water" practice in the quick outflow from Pleasure Bay. That's worth a trip, on a falling tide, for anyone wanting to practice current work and small rapids in a long kayak.

Have to catch the next time -- WITH a drysuit -- I hope.


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This session found us in a totally different type of rough water from the first session. Instead of a warm day with swell and breakers caused by the bottom topography, we had cold temps, a 20 knot onshore wind and heavy chop. Last week, we had to seek out the rough water; this week it was relentless. Such is paddling in New England.

The conditions were nasty enough that several people decided not to go at all. We had two that capsized due to the conditions and ultimately decided that "discretion is the better part of valor" and decided to retreat to terra firma. A couple of boats suffered pretty signifcant gelcoat damage during the rescues, but will definitely live to be bashed again.

A certain instructor-who-shall-remain-nameless decided to cut out the middle man and pre-damage his boat before the session. He arrived with his vessel sporting a snout bandaged in gleaming silver duct tape, covering a 10" split in the hull-deck seam and a nasty chunk of gelcoat missing from the keel. Lest anyone jump to conclusions, the Nameless One was neither Mr. Luby nor Mr. Stohrer.

There really wasn't much opportunity for playing, as there was no consistent surf and the wind was pushing the water onshore so hard that there were no reflected waves (it may also have to do with the shoreline coutour and an apparent lack of underlying swell). Basically, we got practice paddling in and out, back and forth in chop running to 3' or so.

The group I was with had no problems and we were about a mile north of the put-in when a radio call went out for everyone to return to base.

After regrouping and hauling out for a debriefing on land, most of us went back out for another hour of bouncing around. We then hauled out on the backside of the sea wall for lunch. It was calm, warm and comfortable there. After eating, basking and drying out, several of us decided there was no point in going back out, so we packed up, changed clothes and hung around the parking lot for an hour until the rest of the group came back. The report was that the conditions were the same as during the first two, 1-hour sessions.

We all cruised over to Liz's place for pizza and socializing. As it turns out, this was like one of Adam's 2-to-1 paddles; we spent a lot more time chillin' than paddlin'. Sometimes it just works out that way. While we didn't have as much time on the water, hopefully it was a good experience for the participants.

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was it tough, hauling your boats up the back of the seawall, brian? carabiners and pullies, too, i presume you needed?

you know those photos you see of climbers camped out on a nylon platform, halfway up some impossibly sheer rockface? are we going to start doing that with kayaks?

avast, there, landlubbers! belay!

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Yes, thanks to all for the safety net and support on a very cold and very windy day! Here is some of what I learned:

If you wear cold weather hiking/running tights (instead of long underwear) under a dry suit, you can reach the front key pocket through the relief zipper.

That when your first huge wave nearly tips you and you right yourself, you feel pretty charged. But if you really never got a good brace down or learned to use a skeg after years of paddling a barge… you might want to learn better boat control in slightly lower winds.

If people raft up to discuss a tow in high winds, they just cruise faster toward the shore.

Some people can stay in their boats, upside down, in remarkable circumstances.

Be slow and clear when on the radio, and in person, during rescues/requests for help/etc., so there is no extra discussion necessary.

NSPN trip leaders still smile after major gel coat loss.

Helmets are your friend.

If Suzanne's boat is heavy, don't complain, she might be making you soup later.

The loop of some spray skirts are big enough to get snagged on the bow of a boat.

Rocks are very, very, very slippery; especially when you’ve decided your only option is to climb up one so you stop being hit by boats/people/waves. (Still, slippery seems better than jagged or barnacled.)

If your toes are frozen and you walk for ten minutes (say, to get your car, after smashing yourself onto the rocky shoreline elsewhere), they feel better.

Pride takes a back seat behind safety (and that includes the safety of others, not just your own).

If you help out someone else after you’ve scared the *&^ out of yourself, you forget you were scared.

Adam does own another PFD, but both of them float.

If you think up 10 reasons why you might not be prepared for a particular trip, sometimes you aren’t just making nervous excuses. Learning the difference is what life is about.


Avocet RM, Dark Turquoise with Character (to match my knees)

Stonewashed Ravenspring Drysuit

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Gloves and cold fingers can make what seems like a simple launch into surf much more complicated.

Keeping your boat oriented the way YOU want it in high winds can be distracting enough to cause you to:

1. Not notice the boomer in front of you

2. Get your short tow wrapped around your waist

3. Not hear when someone is asking for your help

The only time my boat doesn't weathercock is when I want it to.

Dee Hall

Impex Currituck, Blue over Smoky Ivory

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Firstly, thanks for setting this up. It was a great mix of really skilled paddlers helping us participants. The 1-to-1 ratio made for a real good safety net, especially considering that chop. This was a very valuable experience. Kudo's to all who made this happen!

Some of my lessons:

1) I can't turn my boat AT ALL in rough conditions with the skeg down. Is that normal?

2) Ken Cooper has an incredible amount of patience and is really good at going slow right behind you in rough conditions in case he needs to save your life. (Thanks Ken, I appreciate the help!)

3) I can't C-to-C roll with bad technique and cold hands. (thanks Jim for not laughing at me - it must have been hard to contain yourself though)

4) Water in your hood and under your helmet makes for almost a complete noise block. I couldn't hear anything for a long while after getting back up.

5) I need more top fleece.

6) Double check to make sure you didn't leave your thermos bottle, gloves, and lunch bag at the launch site before you drive home.

7) I also learned my "across-the-street" neighbor has a Prijon in his shed that he hasn't used in a while. He's committed to going to practice sessions when it warms up! New member?


"Would a knife help protect you against a ‘curious’ shark? I don’t know but I would like the option." - Trevor Gardner

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One of our wise leaders yesterday--was it Ken Cooper or was it Jim Brayden?--pointed out that while the fresh breeze* at Lane's Cove was fresh, the sharp chop of 2-4' meant that for much of the time we were not paddling in much of a wind at all. Down between the crests the wind was pretty mild, at least on the hull where weathercocking happens. That may be why the weathercocking did not seem to be much of a problem.

I did experience some consistent weathercocking, but a lot less than I expected given the fact that most of the day we were paddling beam to the wind. And use of a skeg was not a factor (or an option) for me as I was paddling the Avocet without a skeg (subject of another long thread elsewhere on this board).

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that with all the bouncing around, we were pointed the wrong way as much as the right way. In such an environment, I ended up speculating whether I want a boat that keeps tracking, or a boat that is easy to swing back on course after being knocked off course by a wave (not blown off course via weathercocking). In other words, pick your challenge: use a skeg to minimize the effect of weathercocking and make it more difficult to turn back onto course OR deal with more weathercocking but have it easier to turn back onto course. It would seem the choice depends on the relative problem with weathercocking versus wave action. Matt Boze pointed this out in his discussion of kayak design philosophy behind his Mariner kayaks.**

To really stir up the pot, this line of reasoning suggests that rudders would make more sense than skegs in high winds and highly confused seas: the rudder would provide a baseline balance to the wind and a MOVEABLE rudder to help steer back onto course after a wave knocked the boat off its intended direction. After all, a skeg is a static trim to a boat's handling (it increases the lateral resistance at the stern) while a rudder offers both static trim (also increasing lateral resistance) AND the option of a turning effect. A skeg, it would seem, works best when there is a steady force (e.g. a beam wind)on the boat. Of course, there is a third alternative: neither rudder nor skeg...which may have been the best choice in yesterday's conditions.


* - Courtesy of Captain Beaufort http://www.crh.noaa.gov/lot/webpage/beaufort/ See the photos of sea state for each level of the scale.

** - See the Mariner site discussion at http://www.marinerkayaks.com/ (You'll need to click on "Design" in the left frame.) Look for the section on "Tracking and Maneuverability" or read the entire fascinating discussion. While there, note their views why rudders on kayaks are a bad idea.

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Not another skeg vs rudder argument...why not argue about PCs vs Macs / cutting vs. stretching / spoons vs sticks / politics / religion??

My limited experience has been that high beam seas don't call for much skeg use at all (consistent with Scott's observation). I find my boat to be very lively and easier to control in a crosswind when there ARE large seas -- the top of each wave provides an opportunity where very large leverage provides a lot of control for very little paddle action. All the course correction takes place topping waves. It is much harder to slog the boat around in the troughs.

The skeg is more useful in crosswinds in fairly low seas, where there is a steady weathercocking effect that can be tiring to correct for over the long haul.

I also like dropping the skeg in high seas from a rear quarter, wind or no wind...it seems to help the boat surf without broaching, and makes it much easier to hold a course.

I can't compare to a rudder, as I haven't the experience. Perhaps one of our old hands can reconcile my experience with Scott's?

p.s. Sorry I missed Sunday...an untimely bug killed my weekend. I gotta get out and get wet...perhaps play hookey later this week? Anybody feeling irresponsible?

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