I’m Jay - Nathan’s dad. I’m in my sixties and haven’t done any multi-day kayak trips for years. But the universe is conspiring to have me join A Little Paddle for a two-week segment in the waters north of Bella Bella, BC, including the Great Bear Rainforest. For me it’ll be an epic adventure in spectacular surroundings. For Nathan and Sanesh, it’ll be a chance to be re-supplied with food and whatever else they’ve used up or broken. And they’ll have someone different to talk to after weeks on their own. I’m stoked and grateful that they’ve asked me along.
Here are some reflections after the first on-the-water training in preparation for my 'Very Little Paddle'. It was a morning to test the paddling muscles for a few hours, and see how my butt feels after sitting for that duration. It was also a chance to practice getting into and out of a drysuit and do the dance of gearing up, and gearing down. There’s a sequence to getting it all together (survival gear, spray skirt, PFD etc) - sometimes it’s gracefully efficient, sometimes not so much. Today was a solo paddle, maybe not the wisest idea, but I kept close to shore and there were plenty of other craft on the water.
The boat: a Necky Arluk IV
It fits like a favourite, well-worn shoe, comfortable and familiar. Not the fastest or most beautiful vessel on the water, but good enough for an amateur like myself. I just had some keel strips added for extra protection, some gelcoat blemishes filled, and decking bungee re-done. Now it’s totally seaworthy.
A neoprene spray skirt is new to me, had used a lighter nylon one in the past. It took some effort to stretch and secure it over the cockpit coaming. I should take up yoga for the twisting and reaching that was involved (and also for getting into and out of the drysuit, more on that below). Also new to me is the bent-shaft paddle, 220 cm compared to the monster 250 cm that I got with this kayak many years ago and with which I learned to paddle. It did take some getting used to, more of a canoe paddling motion than a rowboat sculling stroke. (I was also reminded that the longer paddle offers more ‘tripod’ stability, as I found when getting out after paddling; I ended up in the chuck).
Using pogies for the first time in a while created issues similar to trying out clip-in cycling shoes; I had minimal clearance paddling under a gangway (the tide was high) and wanted to reach up to slow my traverse before smacking my head on the under surface of the structure….I didn’t get my hands out of those damn pogies on time!
The only other gear today was a paddle float and a pump. And…when my kayak guide son says he has “most” of the family’s dry bags, he means he took ALL of them. I didn’t have a small deck bag for phone, keys, snack…
New to me was the drysuit. Some contortions and effort were required to get it on and off. It takes some flexibility and here’s where yoga, again, might come in handy. I had a light merino shirt and light synthetic jacket under the drysuit and it was hot in there (maybe also from the exertion of getting into the suit and struggling with the spray skirt?). It was about 6-8 degree C on the water this morning, but I was sweating. I’ll have to do more trial and error to figure out what to wear.
Health and safety:
I didn’t put enough Crazy Glue to close a little split in the skin by my thumbnail. Amazing that a 2 mm breech in the skin can be so unpleasant. And, of course, all the things that require dexterity, like stretching neoprene hatch covers into place and then securing the rigid covers with rope, pull that little cut apart. So does gripping the paddle itself…..
Other than that, I forgot to take drinking water. Despite the cool air temperature, the exertion of paddling and sweating in a drysuit called for some hydration….which had to wait until I was back on dry ground.
Weather and current:
I didn’t really check tides etc, since it was going to be a short paddle, but going out was against the wind and standing waves from a slackening flood current. The return had following seas – which was fun and offered the slightest bit of surfing.
All in all, it was a good refresher. I have more physical training to do, for sure, and it will be interesting to see how the muscles feel tomorrow. But being in the boat and remembering the preparation ‘dance’ felt pretty awesome. Oh, and imaging the trip itself, paddling in some of BC’s most incredible waters, that’s awesome too.