Saturday, September 22, 2007
Playing in the Waves
In the summer just past, I can remember very few windy days out on the water. I got a few in Newfoundland but almost none here at home. Today was an happy exception, with a good steady breeze fetching down the lake building up lots of breaking waves. It provided a good classroom for learning about one's boat and how it handled in waves.
I mounted up my video camera and headed out with the intention of filming my boat in various situations ranging from directly up-wind, to down-wind and the angles in between them. Most people prefer to be headed into waves as it's perhaps the most comforting. You can see what's coming and take appropriate action. Going down-wind is often the scariest as you hear breaking waves, but it's not always easy to know if you're about to be swamped by one. Paddling at an angle to the wind also presents challenges requiring braces and remaining flexible. I practiced every which way looking for uncomfortable situations and working them to gain greater experience with my boat control. Conditions were perfect for exploring and learning.
One interesting effect I hadn't felt before was how my boat would find a groove in which it was most comfortable heading up-wind. Bear off too far and the wind began pushing the bow of the boat off the waves setting it into a slight sideways spin requiring correction. Head up too far into the wind and the boat would begin pounding into the steep waves and burying its bow. But a happy groove existed at a point just below the angle where the bow was caught and pushed downwind yet off the wind enough to soften out the steepness of the on-coming wave. At that spot the boat was really happy. Cutting the waves at this angle was pleasant, the boat maintained its heading with little correction and my progress upwind was considerably easier. It was like that spot when you're wind-surfing and everything comes together perfectly. Finding the same groove on the opposite tack enabled me to rapidly move up the lake to my destination. I hadn't realized such a spot existed before, although reflecting back to my paddle in big waves going around Manitoulin, I recall something similar. I just never was conscious of it until now.
A great day on the water, full of learning and satisfaction!