Archive for November, 2011

Nov 26 2011

CAR – Crab, Abalone, Rocks

A storm out of the Aleutian Islands is heading our way. The marine forecast for the next couple of days are for gale force winds, combined seas in the 15-20 foot range and rain. As the storm brewed and winds started to pick up, we figured that we better get out and stock up on food and play. Our whitewater paddling buddy Nick joined us for the adventure.

A 10 knot southerly breeze had started with some gusting in the 15-20 knot range. The texture on the water was definitely showing the effect of southern winds with occasional whitecaps on the outer waters. Our plan was to paddle our sea kayaks out of the Noyo Bay, drop our crab pots, play in some rock gardens, abalone dive, and then pull our pots and head for home.

Of course, we could have dropped our crab pots in the protected areas of Noyo Bay, but instead had to charge out to where things get interesting. I think that Jeff wants to simulate the drama of Deadliest Catch on our crabbing missions. We are definitely getting a lot of towing practice on our sea kayak crabbing adventures.

We dropped our pots and off we went in search of adventure and abalone. First we paddled into a favorite spot and had to stop and admire the US Coast Guard plane doing maneuvers out at sea. This is not an everyday occurrence on the Mendocino Coast, and it was fun to watch.

The area where we were going to play and dive was really gusty with the southerly winds so we modified plans and tucked into a more protected area. Despite the small swell, Nick and I had some fun rides while Jeff took photos and prepared to dive for abalone.

Both Nick and I regretted that we didn’t bring our dive gear. Jeff plucked his abs easily but lingered in the water for a bit marveling at the beauty of the vibrant underwater colors of sea life.

Eventually the fish got out of the water and we strategized how to pull our crab pots in the windy conditions. I was going to pull the pots as Jeff used a tow to keep me from drifting into the kelp and onto a reef. Nick was going to stabilize my boat and help with strapping the pots onto my boat.

I was excited to get to pull the pots and be the first to see our catch of the day. I was a little apprehensive though as the last time we pulled a pot in this area there was a giant octopus on it (feeling crabby). The first pot that I pulled didn’t feel heavy so I knew that there wasn’t a giant octopus on it. It also didn’t feel heavy with crabs. There were 3 crabs in it though. One was a nice sized dungeness crab. Into the cockpit of my boat he went.

When we pulled the next pot, I was excited to see 2 crabs. One didn’t look right though. He was a beautiful dark red color and had latched his claws onto the bars of the trap. It was a rock crab. It took some finagling to get him to let go and out of the trap. After I got him to let go of the cage, he latched on to my finger. OUCH!!! Fortunately I was wearing my gloves and he didn’t break the skin. I got him off and happily sent him on his way back into the drink.

Back to shore we paddled – happy that we had 3 abalone, a crab, and a fun day on the water.

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Nov 16 2011

Feeling Crabby?

We are working on planning our 2012 calendar and updating the Liquid Fusion Kayaking website. Lots of time on the computer has me feeling a bit crabby so I figured a good cure for crabbiness might be a little kayak crabbing .

We decided to put our new Dagger Alchemy sea kayaks to the task. Mostly because they are very stable. We also wanted to get a feel for their outfitting and performance (review of the Dagger Alchemy will be in a future post).

Saturday before our Mushroom Paddle, we paddled out into Noyo Bay and dropped our crab pots. It was a gorgeous morning with calm seas and the full moon setting to the west.

Quickly we dropped our pots and headed to the woods to gather mushroom specimens for my mushroom identification and ecology lesson.

After the mushroom paddle, we paddled out to pick up our pots. Wind and seas had picked up considerably. Also, quite a few more pots were dropped in the vicinity of ours. I was glad that I had my towline. As Jeff pulled up our pots, the wind and currents were blowing him into the lines of the other crab traps so I had to use an anchor tow to keep him from drifting into harms way.

Jeff was stoked as we pulled up the first pot because it was quite heavy. We both envisioned a pot full of tasty Dungeness crabs. As the pot neared the surface, we were dismayed to see a Giant Pacific Octopus wrapped around the top. The tentacles on this guy must have been 5 feet long. It took some coaxing and prodding to get him back into the sea.

Obviously, the octopus was as interested in the contents of the trap as we were. Inside the trap were 8 Dungeness crabs. Four of the crabs ended up being too small so we put them back. Jeff stuffed the 4 keepers inside the cockpit of his boat – No, they didn’t pinch him.

Off to the next pot we went. This pot was heavy too but we were cautiously optimistic about its contents. By darned if there were no crabs in it but 2 large slobs. Slobs is a term that crab fisherman use for Sunflower Starfish which are notorious for getting into pots and devouring crabs.

We stowed our pots and happily surfed the swells back to the beach. We would be having fresh crab and Chanterelle pizza for dinner.

Special thanks to Jimmy Callian for tagging along with us and taking photos (and keeping us laughing).

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Nov 03 2011

Tales from the Surf Zone

Would you/Could you launch here?

This was the decision that I had to make. We had just finished 3 days of coaching and instructing at the Lumpy Waters Symposium and today was coaches’ play day. We critically looked at this surf zone. As we scouted from the parking lot, a lull hit. We deemed it doable. 20-30 minutes later we were dressed and on the beach and this is what it looked like.

(I’m not sure if this photo does it justice. Many armchair QB’s will say that this was nothing.)

There were some rips and areas with lots of whitewater and poorly formed waves, but it was the large dumping closeout waves on the outside that were intimidating. It was interesting to hear each paddler’s read on the water and the best line and strategy for getting out.

About 100 yards out there was a dumping monster wave that intimidated me. I felt confident that I could work my way through the frothing whitewater of the broken waves just to the north but was not certain that I could time it correctly to avoid being there when the monster reared. Much of this intrepidation came from an incident 3 days prior in which I was sucked out of my boat and had a long swim in to shore (more about this later). My heart said go for it but my gut said that I might be a liability to the group. I went with my gut and decided not to launch.

The first wave of paddlers hovered for a while just in front of the dumpers waiting for a lull and then tried to punch through. They ended up coming back in to regroup. It was validating to see Sean find the seam in the foam piles that I had selected as my line. I was supposed to launch in the 3rd group with Jeff and Bryant. They took Sean’s route and just made it over the top of the outside dumper as the monster reared up and crashed. I knew that I didn’t have their speed and power and very likely would have been caught in the monster’s big teeth.

As the guys disappeared from sight, I knew that I made the right decision but was pissed that I wasn’t out there. I contemplated taking a nap in the sun or going for a walk on the beach, but decided that this could be a learning experience so I sat and studied the surf zone and honed my water reading skills. I practiced picking routes and timing sets. Could I have made it out if I had sat and watched it longer? After having watched it for an hour, I had a sense of the lines and timing and was confident that I could launch but had made my decision to stay on the beach.

Some of my decision came from an experience that I had on Friday . . .

On Friday, we went out for a morning surf session in short boats. Prior to getting our boats, we walked along the beach and saw others launching from the north end. It was a relatively straight forward surf zone. We opted though not to drive up there but launch from the beach right in front of the house where we were staying. There was a significant rip there and a mid surf zone dumping closeout wave, but some nice peaks and shoulders on the outside that were quite alluring.

I looked at it for a moment and looked at Jeff and off we went. I found a rip that created a seam through the inside and was on my way out to those peaking waves on the outside. I saw the mid zone dumpers and felt certain that my line and speed would carry me between them. Just then one reared up in front of me. I guess I drifted slightly to the south and right into the impact zone. Rather than take the impact on my head and risk imploding my spraydeck, I attempted to duck dive under it by capsizing my boat. The plan was to sneak under it and roll up on the other side. My timing was a little late and I went cartwheeling over the falls upside down and backwards. I rolled up only to face the next thumper about to crash on my head. I purposely capsized again and expected the same maytagging but instead felt suspended in the wave and then sucked out of my boat. I was dismayed and grabbed for the cockpit combing to hold myself in but the wave had other plans and ripped me out.

Jeff was just 10 yards to the north of me and avoided this whole experience. Another paddling buddy was 10 yards to the north of him ended up out of his boat too. Due to the rip currents and trying to swim out of a rip with a boat full of water, it was a long swim in to shore. When I made it to shore, I was glad to be out of the grips of the sucking currents but felt invigorated. It has been awhile since I had a good swim in the ocean. There’s nothing like a little cold water immersion to make one feel alive.

Chalk these 2 up to experience. Paddling is about skill but it is also about experience – applying ones paddling skills in situations/conditions and applying the knowledge gained through experiences to good decision making. I hated the decision that I made not to launch but I still think that it was the right one. Of course those that know me, know where much of my time and efforts will be spend this fall/winter training season.

PS Fall/winter training has already begun.

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