WR180 Trip Report!!!!

Posted by Petewp on Jun 2, 2004

First Paddle 2004

May 30, 2004 2:30PM to 6:30

Candlewood Lake Allens Cove to Orchard Beach Mileage: 11.5 Winds: variable 5 to 10, mostly calm. Sunny, few clouds, lo hum. 75F

Theres something magical about the moment you push off from shore and the tenuous fluid medium of water replaces the “surly bond” of hard ground. My kayak especially makes this transition apparent – its initial stability being so low. Somehow, this initial stability is always steadier in winters memory than Springs warm up reality…

Momentarily drifting without direction I make certain the few things I carry are within easy reach and adjusted properly – my powerade bottles under the bungees and the GPS in a visible easy to reach location its GO TO function set on Orchard Point- just under 6 miles away – my destination today as I set off from Allens Cove in Sherman CT on Candlewood Lake.

To get an idea of this trips path and environment, picture a lake shaped like an irregular letter “X”. My starting point in Allens Cove is the top left point of the “X” with the destination being the very center where all points meet like the hub on a propeller. All around the shoreline towering usually hundreds of feet up are the foothills of the Berkshire mountains. Its impressive. My father seeing the lake for the first time at 40 mph in a speedboat remarked that it looked like he was in a small lake in the Alps!!! But getting back to Connecticut, Allens Cove is a terrific area to take off from on the lake as its restricted 5 knot speed allows for some flat water for about a ½ mile south before it opens up into the greater expanses with unlimited boat speeds and wakes to match.

I try to keep within 100 yards of shore today as I make my out, the temp in the lake is only about 60F and I don’t want to have to get a hypothermia lesson if I don’t have to. Im not even half way down Allens Cove however and my muscles begin to feel the ache of non use. Specifically my deltoids are having a mild lactic acid burn with my trapezius running a close second. Its just a warm up kind of burn that happens no matter what you do tho. Still its pleasant to watch the docks and lake side homes pass me by as I make a comfy 4 knot cruise pace. My form wanders badly, but I basically hold on 4 knots sometimes exceeding sometimes falling short. It feels so right when I hit my stride, then it disintegrates into a hodgepodge of wandering strokes. Im off tho , ugly brown green water with about 2 foot visibility, but after a long blasted winter I couldn’t be happier gliding on flat water, taking in the idealic view of a lake beneath a vivid postcard blue sky, scattered white puffs, and virtually no wind. Its all so nice, even serene – until I leave Allens Cove…

The chop builds with the open panorama and grandeur that accompanies this living postcard. Speedboats abound casting white wakes, a few sailboats and lush pungent green hills seperating the lighter blue sky from the deeper blue reflecting lake. Its almost a parody type view, a cliché of what fun and folly is on a rural lake in the “mountains”. Its startlingly beauty all underscored by crystal clarity in the air – no humidity – allowing normally muted tones to show forth in full strength. It aint the ocean, but it aint bad either.

I turn left at Holiday Point, the first of a series of Private Beaches and floating docks – not to mention “private community “ sailing craft as well . Another 1/3 of a mile from here and another private beach – Atchison Cove . I contemplate what the laws are for landing on any of these shores – am I still allowed in below the “no tide” line? Not that I’d want to, infact for whatever reason, my normal head nodding to passing boaters is replaced with a singular focus of looking straight ahead. Its like I really don’t want to be bothered and Id just as soon enjoy it if they all called it a day and beached their craft. Usually Im social, today I just don’t want to be bothered which is really an absurd attitude to have on Memorial Day weekend on one of CT’s most crowded lakes. After reaching this second private beach I turn south and begin my long paddle along the steep ridge called Green Pond Mountain that goes on for miles ending at Vaughns Neck my destination where it then runs under the lake. Paddling neath its steepness is truly a beautiful experience – sheer rock cliffs often seen when one peers through the dense greenery. There is a majesty here in it all. The shoreline terminates the ridge with branchy overhangs interspersed with boulders and very few sandy flat areas. Now and again I pass stone piers and with glimpses of the homes they are part of. “No Trespassing” signs abound, even in areas with no apparent homes to associate them with. I wouldn’t be surprised if some jealous land owners went a little nutty tacking them to trees all over the place in some desperate hope of avoiding any unwanted footfalls.

Along this ridge as well the wakes have caused a continuous wave action no less than 1 ½’ peak to trough. This is significant and shows just how heavy the boating traffic is today. I came to this lake today expecting flatter conditions than LI Sound – usually this is always so – not today tho – not by a long shot. Frequently 2’ steep wakes would hit me broadside once washing my deck up to the coaming, but more often wetting the first 5’ of my bow. The action was more of a lifting and dropping than tilting – amazing to behold as these were pretty steep standing 2 footers. I lightly administered a few low braces, but they were ever so gentle “trim taps” more than anything else. I passed many boats whom were oblivious to the action there wakes were causing me even as they smiled politlely nodding in a jolly “ life is good aint it?” smile. It was common to nod friendly then secretly curse the guy as the wakes reached me moments later. Something interesting happened tho – and this will forever stay with me today as a small milestone in my skills acquisition. My low bracing had become confident enough now that I paddle without any need to feel the need to alter my course to take a wake head-on. I used to nearly panic doing this last year, especially in LI sound. Now tho it all became matter of fact - when the 2’ wall broadsided me I merely went into a coasting cruise with the low brace cocked position – never really needing it but finding the confidence in it knowing was ready kept me loose. Never more than a pat needed – but that isn’t to say I wasn’t going to be blown away by one later in the day.

About 5 miles later I decide to look for a private sandy beach clearing to land. All the pocket beaches were populated with the weekend crowds. I really didn’t want to be bothered with small talk elbow knocking “hi how are you’s” so I passed some prime spots for a little privacy. It took some diligence to find, but about ¾ of a mile later I came to rest upon a 12’ wide “beach” of deep terra cotta color silt . It wasn’t protected so often a 2’ “breaker” hit the shore harder than I would have liked. By hook and by crook and some patient floating in, I made shore allowing each wake wave to gently push me onto harder sand/rock until I was assured a decent solid kayak exit. It felt terrific to stand and stretch and have the accomplishment of nearly 6 miles behind me.

I ate some Kit-Kat bars, drank more POWERADE and took out my binoculars for a scan of the open exspanses at this central “hub” of the lake. Speedboats coursed back and fourth often in full planing position at some 40 mph or more. Sailboats tried to make a go of it but it was challenging at best as there sails would continually fill then empty. Many yachts anchored peacefully in pocket beaches and various coves. I noticed I hadn’t seen any wildlife that the lake normally exhibits – not one fish that was alive anyway, and no Herons. Its still early tho in the season. Still it’s a first. I relaxed more by sitting on a log taking it all in as I removed my soaked sneakers to enjoy the feel of soft sand. I wished I had brought a towel to stretch out on and realx – even nap. Those first miles of the season really were a lot and I felt every aching muscle group.

Eventually I got back in the kayak realizing I needed to get back home as I promised a barbecue today. I got back in after a difficult and slow seal launch into constantly breaking wakes on the sand. For whatever reason, it seemed every assortment of lakeshore debris made it under my bungees, over my spraydeck, on my deck bag – mostly dead black brown leaves and gritty mulch-like stuff. I went about 20 feet, realized I wasn’t seated properly. I shifted a bit to readjust and…

I flipped.

My first official capsize with out ready land nearby to break my capsize. I mustve put on about 60 miles worth of paddling – and it finally happened. I was fully submerged and laying back over the back deck pushed back from the water I was making headway into. I never saw it coming – had virtually no air – even panicked as a result. Ultimately I grabbed the loop on the spraydeck bolted out of the cockpit so hard I have an orange sized bruise on my shin where it hit the coaming. I surfaced as fast as I could - it was all I could do to hold my breath – as I never had a chance to take one!! Back to shore I grabbed everything and regrouped mentally as I prepared to take off again.

Taking off again it was disconcerting. I blew my confidence bubble. I also didn’t like being submerged with no air in my lungs. More than anything that really rocked me. I don’t care what skills I shouldve could’ve or would’ve had to self rescue – non of it was going to happen with no air in my lungs. I settled back into my cruising composure about 45 minutes later. Along the way I was behind half a dozen paddling Canadian Geese and gaining. The one straggler behind the group did a brief take off to catch up, but I was within its “personal space” shortly after that, it moved again – then the whole flock of six took off together with so much honking and wingbeating only to land 150 yards ahead of me. We never crossed paths again.

The welcomed halfway point of Deer Island finally loomed into sight, followed by Green Island to which I made a brief passage enjoying the peace of its cool low shadow it cast across the water. The lake was getting quiter now – and I thought I was out of the woods – that is – until this massive cabin cruiser came busting along at a good 20 knots with a very prominent white foamy wake trailing it. Id not seen any wake on the lake this white and churning. The boat passed no more than 30’ and probably closer to 20’ – way to close for anything that big and moving that fast. I had to believe they did this with some measure of mischief. Then just as it passed, I saw what was coming my way after the foam dispersed. It was a standing wake wave 3’ tall with a series of slight shorter ones building up to it. Id never been in a wave of any kind this steep so I threw in a few sweep strokes to take it nearly head on and then when it struck I lowered my paddle in a cocked low brace position. The first wave or two was lifted and dropped me and I was ok. Then the standing wake with droplets of water coming off the top like so many waving fingers lifted my bow like it never had been before and let it down with a resounding “Thwock!!!” as it met the lake again. I impulsively thru in a low brace on starboard that sounded nearly like a crack followed by a lesser one off my port. The initial drop put the yak into a teeter totter rocking port to starboard that I had stopped – well – pretty good I have to say . I couldn’t believe a boat passing that close that fast wasn’t looking to see if they’d flip me – I was pleased to resume stability and immediately after my cruising cadence. No big deal for this kayaker .

From there I hugged the easter shore of the main ridge that I followed in the beginning. It was here too that I noticed the screen on my GPS went blank. I wrapped it in a sandwish bag, it didn’t get wet in the dunking, btu a little pin hole on the plastic allowed some drops to get in – and not too many – and – that’s it – DEAD. Great. Its not even splash proof. Moving on, my mood is lifted when a fisherman off my starboard pipes up: “Hey, this is a “NO WAKE” zone!!!”

I cut corners around Atchison Cove and it was shortly after that the placid water of the lake that I had hoped for resumed. My twin bow wake, casted prominent streamers on each side as very gently the hull rocked form port to starboard as I paddled each side one after the other. I love flat water. It doesn’t have the thrill factor of surfing but in its own way there something distinctly satisfying about it. Its as tho the beauty of the design of the hull is allowed to work the water in an undisturbed nearly text book way - the way it was meant to on the drawing board. I love that.

Turning North back into Allens Cove I pass two people in a green canoe, commenting back and fourth how much nicer the lake had become with the lack of traffic that had filled this area not long ago. I make this last stretch of a 1/3 of a mile achey and tired but pleased and satisfied with the mileage I put on. This was a satisfying paddle.

Finally standing up at the boat launch area Im amazed at the pain in different parts of my body. I can barely stand, or even force myself out of the kayak. And when I do, my calfs ache like Ive not felt before, as do the inside of my thighs. I felt good as it meant I used my legs to help drive the craft. Too, my shoulders and trapezius ached as well – but again, it was my legs that surprised me.

All in all a satisfying first season paddle with a noticeable improvement in speed varying between 4 and 4 ¼ knots when my form was right on, tho dipping to 3.8 when it fell apart. I need to concentrate more on form in future paddles and less on speed. I need to get another GPS – its more than a nice gizmo. Watching my speed was like having a coach calling out comments and remarks to speed it up, slow it down, tighten it up and so on. Theres nothing like it. I cant see paddling for long without one. Lastly, Im very satisfied with my low brace skills and the nonchalance of taking standing 2’ wakes abeam without any real effort or concern. Tho 3’ is still too new to me.

Wheres the wildlife?

Pete

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