Monday, July 18, 2011

The Perfect Storm . . . of spray skirt problems.

Wikipedia defines a perfect storm as "an expression that describes an event where a rare combination of circumstances will aggravate a situation drastically."  I experienced a mini perfect storm this weekend while paddling.

By way of background, my 2 year old Seals Shocker sprayskirt has been "acting up" lately. I've noticed that after every paddle I've had a lot more water in my boat than my fellow paddlers. I just assumed that it was water coming in around my waist or under the skirt rand while I was rolling and edging. I never really put much though into until about a month ago. I was on a paddle and after 1.75 hours in the boat, I had about 2" of water in the cockpit. I asked others if they ever had any water enter while paddling. The general consensus was "no"  to " just a little".  I bailed the boat out at lunch and we paddled back to the take-out. After 1 hr of steady paddling, again I had about 2-3" water in the boat. I was confused as I consciously paddled with the boat upright so that the cockpit coaming stayed out of the water.

That night I did a good visual inspection of my skirt and I'll be damned if there weren't holes in the deck areas by my waist and back. I could pull the neoprene tight and see light through the holes!!!   I popped on a neoprene patched and on the smaller holes I whacked on the aquaseal.

Subsequent paddles saw a great reduction of water in the boat  - but still a little more than I'd like. I left the skirt alone and just continued to use it as is.

Fast forward to Sat, July 16. A group of us left Mobile en route to Tors Cove. There was a good swell on and the clapotis was very chaotic (See Dean's and Tony's blog entries).  As the trip went on I noticed the boat getting a lot less stable. I was thinking that I was either getting tired or my new boat wasn't a stable craft in rough water. At one point I stopped to switch paddles and almost went over during the transition - not something I was expecting.  Then I noticed that I could feel water sloshing under the backs of me knees. I popped the skirt and there was about 3" water sloshing around in the cockpit.  There was my problem. We all know that you can throw some water in your boat for good balancing practice but I would not suggest that you do it while on a paddle in rough water!!

I rafted up with Neville and pumped all the water out. Badda Boob Badda Bing, the boat was back to it's old tippy, but much more predictable self!!

So where's the Perfect Storm in all this, you ask? What were the combined conditions?  First, and most obvious, is the fact that I had a skirt that leaked like a sieve. The water leaking into the cockpit was throwing off the stability of the boat dramatically. Every lean into an edge, send a significant weight of water to the lower side of the boat, making it hard to maintain that edge safely. The second factor was the chaotic wave action which  was sending the water from side to side quite rapdily making for a very unstable boat. This went on for most of the paddle and was quite taxing.

The third, and final, factor is directly related to the nature of the Greenland paddle (GP). GPs do not have drip rings and their long blades are buried in the water right up to the paddlers hands. Therefore, they tend to pick up a LOT of water, which runs down the shaft and drops right onto your spraydeck. When you paddle with a GP your sprayskirt is ALWAYS - even if the water is dead calm with no splash or wave action. On Saturday I looked at a fellow paddler's skirt. We were paddling in the same conditions but his was drying in the sun, while mine had big water puddles on it. He was using a Euro paddle with drip rings.

The combination of a leaking skirt which was exacerbated by the fact that my paddle was shipping large amounts of water, which subsequently went "below decks" while paddling in chaotic water, was, indeed, my perfect storm of spray skirt problems.

I toyed with the idea of buying a new skirt (104.00 + tax) but opted to seal the worn areas with half a tube of Aquaseal. It's good and tight now but for how long?  From now on I will be inspecting my skirt a little more closely. I'd suggest that others do the same.



Thursday, July 14, 2011

Disko Bay - Taking Shape

It's been quite a while since I've posted any updates on the Disko Bay build. I ordered my "skin" from George Dyson in Washington just prior to the postal strike. For reasons unknown, the package first went to Mexico, then it was bounced off Canada because of the strike. For weeks there was no update on its status until one day it finally said that it was in Canada. A few days later it arrived at my door!!

The arrival of the polyester was the reason to get back at working on the boat. I already had the frames cut and the gunwales and stringers ripped. The intention was to build outside as weather permitted but the summer started off so slow that I got very little done that way.

Checking frames in the very beginning of the build. This was a on the b-ball court in the backyard.
I also needed to find a strongback on which to build the boat.  By chance I was also constructing a new deck and amongst the lumber was a very straight piece of 2x6x12. I poked it in the basement for safe keeping. With the arrival of the fabric I decided I needed to get going on this project and this meant not relying on the elements, i.e., building outdoors.  I already had an 18 ft work table in the attic from when I built my Point Bennett so I decided to move the project indoors to familiar territory.

In a matter of minutes I had the strongback set up on the table and was off to the races. Below are a few shots of the work I completed the first evening. This is just a testing phase to see how the things fit together and what I'm up against. For those who followed my blog during the construction of the Point Bennett, you will immediately recognize the surroundings!!

Looking Fwd. Frames, keel and gunwales in place temporarily.

Looking aft @ amidships. Gunwales and chines in place temporarily.

Looking FWD @ amidships. A very flat after deck.

Looking aft from the bow.

I know it's not much to report but the intent of this blog entry is to show that, indeed, I am still actively pursiung this build. Now that I have the strongback setup in a "stable and predictable" environment, work should progress nicely.

Stay tuned!!

p.s For some reason I cannot respond to my blog or make comments on any others. So if it seems like I'm ignoring you, I'm not.  I just can't figure out what is wrong with my account!!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Just Bein' Thankful . . .

As I write this entry, it's pretty much 14 years to the hour of a significant event in my life.

It was a beautiful sunny July morning. We were in the midst of building our new house yet we were taking the day off to join family in Northern Bay Sands. Prior to leaving, I wanted to do some work on the roof. I was alone and in, a very stupid move, placed a ladder where it should never be - from the porch roof to the eve (two stories up).  I overreached at one point and the ladder became unbalanced and started to slide off the roof - with me on it!!  I can still see and feel that moment in slow motion. That feeling of falling. The feeling that you can do nothing to stop it. The awareness to tuck my head into my chest before hitting the ground below. And finally that dull thud on the back of my neck as it hit the compacted rock and gravel!!  (I have the willies now as I think of it!!)

I lay on the ground for just a moment. Then though that if I don't get up now, I may never get up. I pulled myself up, feeling the dull pain in the back of my neck , and proceeded to walk the severl hundred meters down the road to where we were living. I was dazed but, trying to look alright, I said hello to my wife's aunt who was out on her front step.  When I got home, the door was locked and Cheryl was in the shower. Finally she heard me and opened the door. I said that I wasn't feeling well and that I wanted to lie down. When I did, I noticed that my right elbow wasn't quite right - it felt kind of loose.

I said I was fine and that I just needed to rest before we went to Northern Bay. It was then decided that we should go to the hospital. We got in the car and I placed a piece of wood under my arm to support it. Cheryl (who was nine months pregnant) drove. On the way out I noticed that my neck hurt when I tried to turn it to the right and it wouldn't go all the way. As per usual, I kept testing it to see how far I could turn before it really hurt!!  On the way out, the gear stick on the car popped out and we had to drive the whole way in third gear - even at red lights!!

At the emergency ward, the nurse who checked us in, for some reason, took me in right away. I was packed off for x-rays right away. While lying on the gurney, I still kept trying to turn my head all the way to the right. The Tech said "You really shouldn't be doing that". I stopped!!

X-rays confirmed that I cracked two bones in my neck and that I had subluxation (shifting) of a few vertebrae in my lower neck. I had also broken off a chip of bone in my elbow and it was loose in the joint.  I was told that I was very lucky not to be paralyzed and even luckier, still, to be alive. The cracks in the vertebrae were very close to the nerves - damage to those nerves would've meant paralysis.

To make a longer story short - I was on my back in hospital for 4 days. I was fitted with a neck brace that prevented neck movement for 4 months. My elbow was casted for a few days but they removed it and sent me to physio right away. Physio on a broken elbow ain't fun. The first time, I took pain killers. The therapist was not happy - she needed to know how much pain I was in during the exercises!!

Three weeks later my son was born. I was still in a lot of discomfort but at least I was there for him!!

So why this post, then?  Because, eventhough I still have residual effects from the accident - like a right arm that cannot straigthen out nor rotate all the way and sometimes my neck makes funny noises like it has sand in it - I'm still here and still able to do most of the things that I want to. Kayaking is certainly one of them. 

In a nutshell, I guess I'm just thankful.