Saturday, April 24, 2010

Spring cleaning

Every couple of years, the sand and silt in Chicago's harbor mouths need to be cleaned out. We lose shallow spots we enjoyed for teaching and surfing, but the big ships that pay to dock have more clout. This is Chicago, after all.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The fellowship of the traveling kayakers

One of the pleasures of paddling is the community it creates. Perhaps because it's such a small sport, those who are passionate about it are supportive of and interested in each other. But it's more than just that. Something about kayaking seems to attract good people. Our home has become a free B&B for visiting paddlers from across the country and across the world.
We were thinking about this during the past weekend, when our friend Keith Wikle was in town for a business meeting and managed to build in enough extra time to paddle with us. We met Keith because we're fellow paddlers and have become good friends. During this visit, we filmed strokes together.

Director Alec atop the dock.

Alec and Keith check out the images.

 Lyn demonstrates effective strokes with a Greenland paddle.

Then we practiced silly kayaking tricks. 

Sharon uses her head, an essential piece of paddling equipment.

Our local paddling community is rich and varied, too. The next day, we set out with Paul Redzimski, who is preparing for a ACA Level 5 instructor certification workshop. Paul wanted to practice rescues, tows and scenarios. We agreed to be his crash-test dummies.

Paul fishes Alec out of 40-degree water.

 Alec safely lands his boat on the rocks.

Sharon ends the day with a roll. No ice-cream headache!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Warm day, cold paddle

Yesterday was warm--very warm. The air temperature topped out at 76 degrees. Yesterday was also windy--very windy. The peak gust measured at the Harrison Street crib was 50 knots.

Yesterday, in other words, was an interesting day to paddle on Lake Michigan.

Alec looks back before paddling past the "dolphins." 
Yes, that's what those pilings are called!

The water off North Avenue Beach was calm because of a jetty and the shape of the land, and the stretch south to Navy Pier was similarly protected (meaning the wave height didn't correlate with the wind speed). The water was bumpy, and we could see gusts on the water before they hit us. It was one of those days when you put into practice what you've read about paddling into the wind. If your casual sightseeing speed is about 3 knots but the wind is reducing that to 1.5 knots, then cranking up your effort to a 4.5-knot pace will effectively cut in half the time it takes to get to your destination. Talk about a good trade-off.
After we passed Navy Pier, such thoughts blew off with Alec's hat and all we could think about was, "Is this such a good idea?" That's when the wind reached its peak speeds. The water was cold (38 to 40 degrees), there was lots of clapotis, and a quick check over our shoulders confirmed that we weren't making much progress. Fortunately, we had options, and the one we chose was turning around and returning to the lee of Navy Pier.
We checked out the Chicago Fire Department boat, which was built in the 1940s and still boasts on its side in bright yellow letters, "We're there when you need us." Barry, who was on duty that day, was out enjoying the weather and appreciating a job that apparently consists of long periods of calm punctuated by moments of absolute urgency.

Barry, with beverage and books, gently informed us that we were paddling in a restricted area.

Then we flew back to North Avenue with the wind at our backs.