Friday, August 27, 2010

Chasing Sean Morley

With my Channel Islands Expedition approaching I went down to the coast for a couple days of training paddles.  Day one was a solo trip From Bodega Bay up to Jenner to get some distance in (around 30 miles).  Conditions were very mellow so a good representation of what we expect in Southern California. 
The paddle went well and in addition to the nice scenery of coastline I passed a couple whales playing just outside the breakers on Bodega Head on my way out.  They were still there when I returned and had attracted a large crowd on the cliffs above.  There seemed to be three or four of them playing just outside the waves - closer in than I wanted to go.  But they ended up working their way out and actually came close enough to get a few good pictures.

The next day I went out for a shorter paddle with Sean Morley who will be joining me on the expedition.  Sean claimed that he hasn't been getting enough paddling in so was a little worried about his fitness.  We set off from Horseshoe Cove and crossed over to San Fran under the golden Gate Bridge - ferrying across the ~2 knot flood.  Then we headed out along the coast with Sean hugging the shore and playing in the rocks while I chased behind trying to keep up while taking a more direct route.  It was still a big effort just to stay close enough to get a few shots of his rock gardening.  Of course, as soon as I pulled the camera out I would be losing precious ground so I didn't take as many pictures as I would have liked.  I don't think Sean has to worry about his fitness as much and Pedro and I need to worry about keeping up. But then Sean is planning to circumnavigate the islands we are simply visiting so he has further to paddle.

I was also testing out my new video camera mount in different position.  I ended up getting some interesting footage with the camera facing back at me.  It's a pretty standard shot you see a lot in kayak videos that is suppose to show what the paddler is doing and what the conditions are like.  It's fairly easy to do since you don't have to try to hold a camera and aim.  I've always thought it was a bit of an ego shot - a close up focus on the paddler instead of the paddling.  But I have to say after looking at the footage that it actually works pretty well - let me know if you think otherwise.  Though I would much rather the camera were pointed at someone else instead of myself.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Channel Islands Expedition training

I mentioned in my post a couple weeks ago that our unsuccessful attempt to get to San Nicholas Island in the Channel Islands was chalked up to training for the next time. Well, that next time is coming up fairly soon. I've put together a team to make an attempt to be the first (that we know of) to kayak to all eight of the Channel Islands off southern California. Five of the islands are a National Park, Catalina is another, and the final two - San Nicholas and San Clemente - are owned by the military and you are not allowed to land. I've paddled to six of the islands, my friend Duane Strosaker has paddled to seven - he did a out and back trip to San Clemente Islands solo - but I don't think anyone has made it out to San Nicholas.

The team for the trip includes myself and my buddy Pedro, Sean Morley and Helen Wilson; a stellar team of a Californian paddlers. Duane was suppose to join us but he's decided to focus on his training for the upcoming Greenland competition in Washington. Our route will start on the mainland outside Santa Barbara and cross over to the islands of the park. We will make our way back out to Santa Barbara Island and from there make a 60 mile and and back trip to San Nicholas. Then from Catalina make and out and back trip to San Clemente. The whole trip should take about 11 days and average over 30 miles a day (with several over 40). I'll be sending in my location to this blog through my SPOT but you can also check out the expedition website. The trip is set to start on Sep. 10.

To get ready for this I've been switching from whitewater to ocean paddling. I went down to the San Francisco Bay yesterday for a little training and since the swells were so small I got the chance to get in close to Pt. Bonita for some easy rock gardening. I've been around the point quite often but never seen it with such small swell (though it was fairly windy). Paddling alone I took it easy and left a couple tunnels and caves unexplored but I still was able to check out quite a number of cool little locations around to Rodeo Beach. Here's a little video of the rocks:

Monday, August 16, 2010


I taught an ACA Certification course on the local lake over the weekend. It was actually a Coastal cert course and we were able to simulate ocean conditions with Folsom Lake and lots of boat wake from the unknowingly obliging wave-skiers. This was a special class for me in that the four participants were all friends of mine who I not only paddle with regularly but also folks that I've helped to train and mentor in one way or another since moving up to the area three years ago. It's such a rewarding thing to see paddlers develop over time and become accomplished instructors worthy of becoming Certified.

And that is what the four of them did - get certified. It's unusual to have a whole class pass the class - the standards are high and I couldn't just lower them for my friends. But everyone involved put in a lot of prep work - getting together to practice strokes, writing up lesson plans and giving mock presentations, even recruiting some local paddlers to be students for their practice teaching. That kind of effort put forth by students makes teaching a joy and it also paid off in the final results. So congratulations Neil, Gary, Jeff and Terri!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Perfect Paddling Weather

The wind was calm. The whole time. It did briefly manage to stir in the late afternoons but it was with all the energy of uncle Bob rousing from a tryptophan stupor after Thanksgiving dinner to change the channel to the other football game before falling back into the La-Z-Boy. Perfect weather for a paddle. Unfortunately we were hoping to sail. Pedro and I set out in his Feathercraft tandem with a plan to sail out to the Channel Islands and ultimately San Nicholas - an island never visited by kayak as far as we know. We were rigged with a stepped mast, main and jib, and a couple inflatable outriggers to keep us upright. But without wind we ended up paddling, often using only half the paddle as a canoe blade to avoid the sail rig. It made for slow paddling and ultimately changed our plans.

Our planned route was to launch in Ventura and head to Santa Cruz Island. Then on to Santa Barbara Island for a night before heading to San Nicholas. Since it is owned by the military (part of the Pacific Missile Test Range) you are not allowed to land so we would just get as close as allowed and then turn and paddle back to SB Island for the night. Then maybe we would swing by Catalina before heading back to the mainland. We made it to Santa Cruz without problem - we were expecting to have to paddle that leg into the wind anyway. And the forecast when we set out for SB Island was promising - 10kt to 20kt from the NW - but the wind never really materialized. So after fifteen hours of paddling we crossed the 46 miles and arrived in the dark. In the dark at a 20' high dock with a ladder to exit on. While unloading the boat for the big hoist to the top we managed to flood the boat, leading to a marathon pumping session and the loss of a few unimportant items to the dark sea. Getting to sleep around 1am with a similar pattern of wind expected the next day we abandoned our plan for a 55 mile round trip paddle to San Nicholas and settled on a day of rest before heading directly back to the mainland.

The paddle back to Marina del Rey went much more smoothly. We took down the sail rig and just planned to paddle the whole way. This allowed us to make better time and mentally we were fine with the effort. When the winds finally came up around 5pm we took the time to set up the sail and cruise the rest of the way into port (though with the still light winds we didn't actually get there any faster than we would have paddling). So while we didn't quite make our goal we had a good trip and chalked it up to a training paddle for the next attempt at San Nicholas (more on that shortly).

Pictures Her
e and Route Here.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Leaders in Training

In the very large city of Los Angeles there are precious few kayakers and a lack of a robust kayak community. When I was living there years ago a group of us formed a Yahoo! group called Bruinwhitewater (most of us were affiliated with UCLA at the time). It was never a formal club but just a way to try to get together with other paddlers. We would run beginner trips every year to try to increase the number of local kayakers with the more experienced paddlers helping to train the newbies. These trips were quite popular and successful and over the years the 'group' has grown and has turned a little more formal as the Los Angeles Kayak Club. No longer an Angelino I still feel I have a vested interest in helping the club grow and I was happy they invited down south to help run a leader training course to get more of the members up to speed on how to train new paddlers and help guide them safely down the river. I drove down to the Kern straight from a week teaching on the Trinity - 12 hours later got me into camp at 4am and ready to go by 9am.

The club has some very experienced paddlers and skilled instructors (they are the people who trained me when I started) but they wanted me to bring in my perspective as a working instructor and ACA Instructor Trainer. So we set up a weekend to train six new leaders - people who knew how to paddle but needed to learn how to look after beginners on the water. We started with a review of basic rescue techniques and common teaching methods so everyone would be on the same page. And then the fun began with lots of scenarios, planned and unplanned swims and good debriefs to consolidate the lessons learned. It was a lot of fun and I think the club has a bright future with several new leaders set to introduce a whole new batch of beginners to the sport. Maybe, just maybe, Los Angeles will turn into a boater town yet.

After teaching eleven days in a row I have earned a little vacation and will be kayak sailing the Channel Islands for the next week. Pics and trip report upon my return...