Mexico's Lake Chapala Kayak Club enjoys a paddle in strong wind and waves Monday March 10, 2014. Summary by Doug Burnside:
There is a huge psychological difference between practicing brace strokes in calm water under Ian's watchful eye, and being in the position of knowing both at a gut level and intellectual level that if you don't do that brace stroke correctly and do it right now you are going over.
That realization doesn't really hit you until part of your skirt is under water, and if you have to take the time to think about what to do next, it is already too late. In Ian's words, "Practice, practice, practice." It has to be muscle memory that saves you, not intellectual processing.
There is a huge difference between going upwind into the wind and waves, and going downwind with the waves. Into the waves is a piece of cake, the waves wash over the bow and the forward motion of the boat through the water stabilizes it directionally.
My grand plans for turning around and surfing those three-foot waves back to shore disappeared the moment the first wave hit the stern of the boat. You cannot surf three foot waves when they are coming so close together that while the nose of the kayak is going down one wave the stern is being pushed sideways by the next one in line. Instead of catching waves, all of my effort had to be spent on keeping the boat straight.
Even a ten degree deviation from absolutely perpendicular to the wave front would be enough to make the boat begin to broach. It's a positive feedback situation: the more angle to the wave that the boat has, the more surface there is for the wave to push against and the faster it broaches. I was using forward strokes, sweep strokes, back strokes, high-angle, low-angle, and braces in combination, and all of that didn't necessarily keep the boat pointed the way I wanted.
After landing, Ian pointed out to us that in the conditions we were in assisted rescues becomes very difficult if not impossible.
First there is the problem of the rescuing boat getting where it needs to be and in the right position under conditions where just staying upright is challenging.
Then there is the problem of the boats banging together under the force of the waves. Any body or parts thereof that get caught between the boats is going to be damaged. Under the circumstances, any rescue would likely be a self-rescue with paddle float, and that would not have been easy.
With my limited experience, I would most likely have opted to let the wind blow me and the kayak to shore, and vainly hope that Ian wasn't watching my ignominious return.
The wind was strong enough that for the first time I was able to experience the actual (as opposed to theoretical) advantage of a feathered paddle blade.
Chick and I only stayed out there for about 45 minutes ~ that was about as much fun as we could stand for one day; but I wouldn't have missed it for anything!
I think that was about the worst that Lake Chapala can dish out, and it was an incredible amount of fun. Of course, the return part of the trip would have to be categorized as type-2 fun: not so much fun while you're doing it, but upon later reflection you can convince yourself that it was great.
Mexico's Lake Chapala Kayak Club meets every Thurs 12 Noon Maria Isabel restaurant, Ajijic, Mexico.
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