Monday, January 2, 2017

Paddling in the New Year

The trip led to a chance meeting with Anthony Grippando in
his new fishing kayak.
I hated 2016.  It was the worst year ever.  I was happy to see it go, and didn’t really celebrate its replacement, but I am determined to do my part to make this year better, or at least until the 20th.  So I was determined to get on the water today, especially since the Oklahoma weather was cooperating with highs in the 50’s and winds less than 15.
I headed to Canton Lake to launch on the Canadian side.  When I reached the launch, the lake’s water level was really high.  This meant that the shoreline was all jagged riprap with no sandy edge or bank to launch from, and that left me with just the concrete ramp.  It was slicker than any concoction you can conjure.  I backed Ibi, my Superior Expedition pictured in the header above, into the water and removed the cart.  If I stepped just an inch into the water, my footing was already tenuous.  I got one foot into the canoe, but had to kind of fall into canoe to keep from slipping on the ramp.  It wasn’t graceful, but I was launched and underway. 
The wind was supposed to be 6-8 from the south, but quickly built to 12-15, or about double what was forecast.  It was still workable, and as I drifted away from the ramp, I yanked the Falcon Sail up, and off we went.  I travelled up the lake under sail alone and reached 5.1 mph.  I was getting stronger gusts and waves large enough that I was just beginning to feel a bit of a surfing ride.  I wasn’t going anywhere, but was just out for a chance to be on the water.  I decided that before I got too far away, I should turn and try paddling back against the wind.  It worked fine with me hugging the cliffs in spite of the constant crashing of the waves against the cliff base.
 When I got back up near the ramp, I turned into a side branch that brings a stream in from the west.  As I got close to the head, I was surprised to see another paddler.  When I pulled alongside and wished the fisherman a Happy New Year, I learned he had just gotten the fishing kayak the day before, and was out for a fishing maiden voyage.  The paddler was Anthony Grippando, and the kayak was an Ascend H12 fishing kayak hybrid.  It is 12 ft. by 32-in wide, has a tunneled hull for extra stability if standing to cast, and boasts a 450-lb. capacity for all those fish enticed aboard.  After wishing him luck, I paddled and sailed a bit more, and then headed back to the ramp.
Now I was faced with getting back ashore.  I got one foot on the ramp and had zero friction or traction.  I scrubbed my foot back and forth hoping to clean away a spot I could get a footing on.  When I felt I had something that might work, I prepared to get out of the canoe.  I normally undo the paddle leash as I prepare to get out so I can use the paddle for a crutch to steady myself, but I realized that if I slipped, the canoe would take off with nothing to restrain it, so I retied the leash to the gunwale.  I gingerly stepped out, and used the paddle to steady myself as I carefully put weight on my other foot.  All looked well and manageable……..BAM.  Both feet shot out and put my butt hard on the concrete faster than I could realize I was falling.  Sure enough, the canoe shot out, but stopped when it fetched up on the leash.  This was the slickest ramp I had ever seen, but admittedly it is a steep ramp.  Even while sitting, every time I moved, I slid further down the ramp.  I fell in about 4 inches of water, but was shortly up to my chest.  Thank heavens for the Stohlquist drysuit.  The water was ice-cold.  I rolled onto my knees and tried to crawl up the ramp.  Even crawling, I would slip and slide on the ramp as I held the paddle in one hand to keep the canoe in tow.  Stohlquist had just cleaned and serviced my drysuit, replacing the gaskets, and returned it as bright and yellow as when it was new.  It was now covered front and back, waist down, with the same slime that covered the ramp.  I could not stand until I had crawled completely out onto dry concrete.  There was no one around, thankfully.  If I had seen anyone videotaping, I may have been tempted to just slide below the surface and end it all.
 There are four observations in closing.  (1) I had hoped to go back to the lake tomorrow, but my tail bone hurts bad enough to make sitting here at the computer painful.  Tomorrow may be a no go.  (2) In spite of the fiasco, it was a nice chance to get on the water between arctic fronts. (3) I know of another campground at Longdale, the east side of the lake, where there is enough sand to allow launching off the shore alongside the ramp, which also has a much more gradual ramp surface. (4) I use my rubber Crocs over my drysuit booties.  On a slippery surface like this, they have zero traction.  This has worked for 5 years, but maybe I need to research some better booty footwear before I do permanent damage to myself. 
This was posted the following day.  I am doing fine while up and about and moving around, but getting up and down or sitting is still painful.  It looks like this may take a few days.

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