Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Swim launch

I have had Gordon Brown's DVD for a while but I couldn't watch it until last week. In the second volume of the DVD he shows a landing and then launching from a rocky shore where there was no real room to land the kayak. So he swims in with a rope attached to the kayak. Once on land he pulls the kayak in. To launch again he pushes the kayak away with the rope attached and he swims out after it. He re-enters his boat and paddles away. Then he appears again on camera saying he finished the exercise very tired and that he would not want to do it again... or something of the sort.

I paddled along some cliffs last weekend. The swell was low so it allowed us to get close and play with the features at the base of the rocky walls. Then I saw this section which looked challenging to land but not impossible.
It was a shallow platform at the end of a narrowing gully. Just before the platform there was an overfall and further out the walls of the gully opening to the sea (by 'overfall' I mean where the water rushing out with the wave falls from the platform to the lower surface of the sea and creates some turbulence and a bit of a hole on the water surface, not sure if 'overfall' is the correct term though, if you know it let me know).
On a different day, a different 'overfall'
Nearby there were a few rock fishermen, so if the situation went pear shaped I could walk out, if they came down there must be a way out too. I paddled backwards to be able to look at the waves coming and slowly, timing the peak of the waves I was washed over the platform. I removed the skirt and jumped into waist deep water on an uneven rocky floor. The place was no more than 1 meter wide. Quickly I dragged the boat up the side and out of the waves way.
I was planning to drag the kayak to the front of the gully and seal launch from the low walls but after a quick inspection I saw the rock was full of barnacles and from past experience I've learnt you can't seal launch from there. The kayak doesn't slide on the shells. My options were seal launch through the overfall or swim launch. With the memory from the DVD fresh in my mind and the prospect of trying a new technique I opted to practise the swim launch.
I tucked the paddle under the bungees and deck lines. Then I clipped the deck lines to my tow rope paying attention to clip it from below and clipped the quick release of the tow rope to my PFD. I waited for a wave to come and when it was going out I pushed the kayak out to go with it. I made sure the kayak was out of the overfall and I jumped into the water.
A previous experience where the kayak didn't slide.
And here the things stopped going according to the text-book. When the kayak went out through the overfall it had capsized, came right again and back with the top down. I started to swim. The kayak, now upside down, was pushed again over the overfall and onto the platform very close to where I was. I decided to ignore it and swim out as fast as I could. I didn't want to be floating in that white water with the kayak bouncing close by. When I was a good distance away I started to pull the tow rope but it didn't come.
It reminded me of times when I had climbed a 'needle'. After reaching the top you rappel down, then you start pulling the rope. It usually slides but sometimes it gets stuck. You start a fight to recover the rope, they are not cheap and you don't want to solo climb to recover it... anyway I am being side tracked.
My tow rope was stuck. I could see the boat upside down in the middle of the white water and the rope that went under water close to its bow. What now? Gordon Browns DVD didn't say anything about the rope being stuck. I gave the rope a few more hard pulls and it started to come. But the relief was short as I realized the rope was coming with no boat! The carabiner was still attached to the rope so it was not rope failure. I can only think that with all the bouncing around and banging against rocks the carbiner came undone. I was floating, with 15 meters of rope around me and a boat stuck in the overfall. I started to coil the rope back into its bag but it was very difficult in the water so I asked Caoimhin, who had been watching from his kayak, to coil it for me. I was planning to swim toward the walls of the gully, climb out, fish the kayak out and repeat the swim launch hopefully with better results. However before Caoimhin could finish coiling the rope the kayak was released and came floating toward us. The rest was an easy re-entry and paddle away. I didn't want to temp my luck again.
Again, another day of good fun around the rocks.
My camera on this day was off so I added some colour with photos from my archive taken by Rob, Josh and Matt in some previous paddles.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Landing with the sun

A combination of factors conspired to keep me out of the water for a few weeks. Some of them external like the colder weather that makes it harder for me to get out of bed. But most internal: a flu, some ear infection and a neck problem that comes back from time to time. Sometimes I feel I take a 2 slow steps forward and 2 quick steps back regarding my fitness. What takes me a couple of months to gain I lose in matter of 2 or 3 weeks of 'forced resting'. Well, it may be the natural process of life... or a defective engine.

 I have discovered that play pladdling (surfing, rock gardens, playing rebounds, etc) is the best for me to gain back some fitness as I think of the environment I am in, instead of the aching muscles and sore bum. So with a forecast of wind blowing that way, tide and fat swell coming from the other I was back in the water. I went to the spot where the current would be the strongest (only 2kn in our part of the world) and the water the shallowest to paddle.

My idea was to play the conditions for an hour or two. We got there and the tide was working, the swel not too high but very fat and the wind was blowing... somewhere else, probably in the middle of the ocean. With us there was barely a breeze. Instead of playing the flat water (what is to play there I wonder?) we went for a social paddle where we chatted while paddling all the way. In the end it was a longer way that I intended and I was lot more tired that I would have liked to admit. I came back with the last of sun.
Sun setting
I had to land through the surf and the waves were dumping. Being tired as I was I put all the attention in avoiding the brakes which I mostly managed except for the last one that threw me on the sand.
Bracing onto the sand
Below is the video of that landing, not much action but my face expresions are funny, especially when I look over my shoulder and see a big dump coming my way. It doesnt look big on the video, it never does...

Monday, 5 August 2013

Nautilus lifeline vs PLB

It is getting cold around here and for the next couple of months the water is only going to get colder. I am skinny and get cold easily, specially if in contact with cold water. For that reason in winter I use thin neoprene gloves. They don't last long. Paddling 2 or 3 times a week, before the cold water is replaced by the warmer ocean currents, my gloves start to disintegrate.
I went to a scuba shop to get a new pair. While talking with the saleswoman in the shop I asked her if the scuba divers use PLBs and she showed me the Nautilus Lifeline. She said it is better than a PLB because you can talk with it like a VHF on steroids (she said a range of 20km), it has a small screen showing you the GPS position, it can go far deeper than most PLBs and it has a distress signal that transmits the GPS position. I asked her if that distress is through satelites like a PLB or a line of site like a VHF and she claimed the first.
I was very impressed and when I got home I googled it. It is really a good device but not what she claimed. The range for talking is not 20 km but more like 5 according to some reviews I read and the important bit about the distress signal is not through satelites but line of site. So if you are in problems under the cliffs and no boats within the range (for the distress signal the range claimed is 12 miles) you are on your own. Another thing is that whoever receives the distress digital signal has to have a 'new' radio capable of understanding it.
Bottom line the lady was confused and the Nautilus is a good VHF radio with GPS capabilities not a replacement for a PLB.

While researching about the nautilus I came accross the rescueME PLB. A new device that is 30% smaller than the PLBs I have seen before plus 7 years of battery and warranty (instead of the 3 or 4 usually offered). It also has a new system for deploying the antena that appears innovative. Of course all that comes at price and it is a bit more expensive that the other PLBs.

Disclaimer: I don't own neither of the devices mentioned, except the new gloves that keep my hands warm and wet all day long :-)