The Mitchell Madruga Memorial Race Reports

Paddling Delaware and the eastern shore of Maryland and Virginia

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From primarily the  Delmarva Paddlers Message Board these race reports were filed.

Steve Petrie's    Jay Timmons    Steve Corbett's     Chris Beckman     Vince Lewonski   

Cyndi Janetzko

 

The Coast Guard help with Jay and Mike. 

Zoomed in here's Mike inside.

 

Steve Petrie's message # 3846  October 15, 06

The Mitch Madruga Memorial Capital Waterways Challenge was held today
and where do I start...

The weather as you know turned sharply cooler the last few days and
the forecast for the winds were all over the place. I'd seen 10 to 20
mph as the range earlier in the week, by Friday the forecast had
dropped this a little and this morning at 7:00 a.m there was bearly a
wisp of moving air. At the Washington Canoe Club location on the
Potomac, everyone seemed happy that wind was not going to be a problem.

The WCC folks loaded a big trailer with 15 plus boats headed for the
race start in Bladensburg, my Mini-Mystery was strapped down tight.
CPA Cyndi and Dave were driving over to the start and generously gave
me a ride to Bladensburg, my boat showed up minutes later. Within 15
minutes the race briefing was called, maps of both the "short" 12 mile
all water route and the full 20 mile route with portages were reviewed
and a prompt 10:00 a.m. mass start was announced.

Ten plus double canoes quickly churned a calm Anacostia river into
eddies and stern and bow wake mayhem. When am I going to learn to get
clear water from the start? After a few minutes the race fell into a
pattern, a UCF K-1 and ski were disappearing into the distance, a C-1
kneeling paddler looking very fast, five or six C-2's and an outrigger
were ahead of me. There were not that many boats behind.

Eventually I reeled in the outrigger and we both commented how the
unpredicted headwind was getting stronger and making time was getting
tougher, my 6.2 average quickly dropped to 6.0 and then down through
the fives. At each bend of the Anacostia the river got a little wider
and the wind got a little stronger with the increased exposure.

Just after the Navy Yard about six miles in, the wind was kicking 10
to 15. The chop was building. I had a double canoe in my sights and
was slowly closing a hundred yard gap that they had established
earlier on. To my surprise they pulled up to a boat dock and got out.
About fifty feet further I started spotting more and more of the
canoes abandoning. Then the clapotis kicked in with a vengence. The
water was totally confused and two foot mounds of water started to
develop very five feet or so. The water had no direction and a mighty
headwind made it difficult to make any progress between brace strokes.

These are not conditions I am at all comfortable in with the Mini-Mystery.

Knowing I was very close to swimming and without anyone to follow, I
decided that the smart thing to do was "abandon" with them. They'd get
the trailer and we'd all get a ride back to WCC on the Potomac. Right?

These canoeists are not quitters!

They had portage on their brains and decided we'd portage across the
neighbourhoods of South West DC, drop our boats in the Washington
Channel, maybe cut across the Tidal Basin and find calmer water on the
Potomac to put back in and continue to the finish. There was a little
disagreement about how far this might be, but hadn't we planned to
spend a few hours on a Water Challenge? We might as well make it there
by an alternate route, right?

Now the Mini-Mystery is light by kayak standards, boat weighing in at
27 #'s, add another 10 #'s for all the water and other gear I'd
brought along. But she is also 18' long and not designed to be carried
long distances, there's nowhere to put a paddle and no handles or
straps at the ends.

The doubles took off through the kind of deserted neighbourhoods you
warn your kids and people you love to be careful in. Me and a guy with
a C-1 tried solo carries, then we stacked my kayak in his canoe and
did a double carry. A few of DC's residents were amused by this wet
procession of boats.

Eventually we got to the Washington Channel, we got a marina to give
us access to the water and paddled across to the far side and on up to
the Tidal Basin. No way through, so we got out the boats and portaged
along side a multi lane highway for another half mile until we got
back to the Potomac. I was glad to see water again!

The water was still pretty rough and those crazy canoers started
walking up the Potomac River footpath looking for the water to calm
down. After another half mile I decided the pain of carrying the kayak
was enough to let me think less about getting back in the water. I
parted ways with the canoes as they still felt the water was too
rough. (Two of them had swum earlier and were not looking to repeat.)

Although there was a good foot tall wind chop it had direction. Sore
and aching from carrying by boat on my head for a couple of miles, I'd
quit racing. Just slow, easy, deliberate strokes for the last two to
three miles to Georgetown and WCC.

My official time was 3 hours 27 minutes for the 12 mile course. That's
a new record! Should be easy to beat next year too.

My hat comes off to Cyndi who paddled her Thunderbolt around Haines
Point, through all the wild water and on to the finish without
swimming. She finished in about 2 hours and 25. She said she was
scared but had hooked up with the outrigger and had company and
distracted herself by giving the out-of-towner a tour of the
Washington Landmarks. Todd from CPA in his first race also paddled the
whole course, way to go.

The K-2 that was ahead earlier on, rounded the point but capsized a
ways off shore and had a 15 minute swim getting their boat to shore.

No one even thought about doing the 20 miler.

Back at WCC the wind had dropped a little, the sun was strong, I was
weak, a cold beer sitting at WCC's hundred year old facility went down
perfectly and all was right with the world again.

Stephen
 

 

Chris Beckman message # 3850  October 15, 06

Haines Point?  Steve, you must mean Heinous Point. 

My friend Mike joined us for this race. Heís got the bug, and once he heard about the race he wanted to go.  The weather forecast looked pretty good for a novice kayaker, so I agreed.  I knew the point might be a little squirrelly, but I thought it should be been manageable.  He used my North Bay XL and I borrowed Charlie Zimmermanís 19.5 Patuxent.  I plan to build a new boat this winter and I wanted to experience the different hull shape of that boat.  I know my NBXL is a good rough water kayak, but in flat-water conditions it is slow.   Using Susanís Solstice, Mike, who is very athletic and has experience racing canoes, had kicked my butt in the Broadkill race, so I figured putting him in my predictable NBXL would slow him down a bit, and also be a good safe boat for him. 

 When we arrived at Bladensburg, there was fog lying in on the river.  Not a breeze to be felt.  8 and 4 person college crews were setting out.  While we were prepping the boats, Jay and the Yellow Rabbit arrived.  It is always good to see Jay and this time was no different.  But I also knew that if Jay beat me in Charlie's boat there would be no end to the ribbing Iíd have to rightly endure from Charlie.  This was the first time Iíd been in Charlieís boat since I outfitted it for him, and my 220# frame was tight in a boat fitted for a 165#er and I was uncomfortable. 

With only 12 long miles to go, Mike, Vince, Todd, Jay and I looked like we might travel as a group.  But then unbeknownst to us Jay had equipment problems and fell back.  Todd announced that his GPS said we were clipping along at 5 mph.  Well I work hard to maintain that in my NBXL and I was at half throttle with Charlieís boat.  Weíve learned something already.  Cindy was only a couple of yards ahead of me and I thought ever so briefly OK, I might even be able to keep up with her.  Iíve paddle with her and I know she likes the rough stuff but she is also fast in a race.  Keeping up with her would have been work and I was feeling just a little guilty leaving my buddy back in there in my slower boat so I just watched her take off.  After the start of the race I never saw of Steve Petrie again.  He paddles a beautiful stripper that just glides and I like watching it cut through the water.  He was out like a shot and I didnít see him again till end. 

 From the beginning Mike and Jay were falling behind; Vince in his relatively short plastic boat was pulling away.  If Susan ever lets him get a good boat heíll be in the top 3 in every race.  Todd was slowly pulling away.  He was fitted out with all of his sea kayaking gear.  Radio, GPS, assorted safety equipment both on him and his boat.  Racers generally try to travel light, but he was loaded down and in his comfort zone.  Little did we know that for what was ahead of us, he was the only one properly prepared.  I really wanted to go faster, but I thought I had already learned what I wanted to know about Charlieís boat so I stayed back with Mike and kept turning around to check on Jay.  Itís not characteristic of him to fall that far behind, and I didnít know about his equipment problems.  Somewhere near the Naval Shipyard and Ship 933, Jay finally caught up with us, and we stayed together.  Jayís a retired Coasty and fortunately didnít hear Mike call it a damn big boat.  The wind and waves were picking up and Mike was beginning to struggle.  He paddles the kayak like he would a canoe, and his arms were tiring.  Jay pulled slightly ahead.  The trick to paddling choppy stuff is to keep your speed up.  Your strokes become a series of correction strokes coupled with a bit of bracing.  Mike knew little about bracing and I could see Jay struggling too.  The waves were becoming more confused and unpredictable.  A WCC launch came towards us, and although it also looked unstable in these conditions I hoped they would come over and check on us, they didnít.  I was a little pissed.  I didnít know they already had their hands full with the other boats.  I was still believing that these conditions had just popped up and thought that perhaps the faster boats had been able to get through it OK.  Later I would find out I was wrong.  We kept slogging it out.  We are not making much progress, and I thought maybe we should bail out into the Tidal Basin.  Jay was out of earshot so I couldnít signal to him.  Mike was really struggling.  And at this slow pace Charlieís boat was a handful.  If any of us went over we would be blown quickly into the stone revetments, which I supposed was preferable to being blown done the Potomac, but hardly comforting.  A Coast Guard boat pulled up to us and asked if we needed help.  For about 5 minutes or so, it seemed like hours, Jay and Mike declined the offer to get hauled out and taken to WCC.  Finally as we began to head up the Potomac the USCG said now or they were leaving us and Jay motioned to be picked up.  The waves were becoming more intense, and un-surfable and Mike agreed too.  I really wanted my boat back, but switching was out of the question.  The USCG boat looked inviting, but I declined the offer and headed up the river.  I finally managed a long drink of water.  I knew Cyndiís mate Dave had my cooler of beer so and with the vision them having a cold Dogfish Head brew waiting for me I cranked up my Greenland stick.  Wind and current were pushing me and I was still fighting the confused water, but at least making good progress. 

 I did this race for 3 reasons.  First for the memory of Mitch, then to learn something about hull performance, and to see Washington DC from the water.  My lesson in hull design continued.  Long hulls with little rocker really suck in short choppy waves from behind.  Rudder or no rudder, it didnít seem to matter, in fact Iíll be checking it before I return the boat as Iím not sure it was even working.  I made myself a promise never to cuss my NBXL again.  (I had already begged God for forgiveness in getting Mike involved in this)  Oh what Iíd have given for my boat and a skeg.   I pass under the first bridge.  The confusion begins to subside, a little.  I could now start looking around more.  Planes were coming right down the river into Regan National; that was really cool.  The Washington Monument, Jefferson, FDR, and Lincoln Memorials were on my right.  There is a walking path along the river, and I became aware of a couple of canoes being carried. I thought it a bit odd, and then realize they are competitors in this race.   The USCG had told us about one overturned canoe.  Seems we werenít the only ones to have experienced trouble after all.  They put back in and eventually passed me.

 I tried to make it a point to see the scenery, the boat was still a handful, my legs were in pain, and the distraction was welcome.  A Police boat pulled up to me and asked if I was OK.  Yes I told them.  I occasionally do tell untruths, obviously there is something wrong me, I wouldnít be doing this if there werenít.  The WCC boat pulled up and asks the same thing. Yes, I said again, but Iím really getting too old for this shit.  I had no legs, they had been numb since mile 2.  My new knee didnít like this boat.  Iím not comfortable in it but I do like its efficient hull in flat water.  Finally I passed Roosevelt Island, and the Kennedy Arts Center, and remembered fondly attending an opening for a buddyís music composition.  The finish was near, but nature needed to through out one last insult.  The wind direction changed.  The last half-mile was against a wind that is being constrained and concentrated by the tall banks on either side.  There was nothing left to do but buckle down and press on.  Thereís the dock.  I was hoping Dave would have a beer ready.  I saw him, but he was taking pictures.  I figured I was the last one in.  I was sure Jay and Mike had convinced the USCG to put them back in the water before they could be spotted from the WCC and there was Dave and Cyndi taking pictures of me coming in last.  And no beer.  Everyone was congratulatory about me making it and want to help me out; I figured they are all being polite.  I sat there in the boat trying to get feeling back into my legs.  Still no beer.  I rolled out of the boat on to the dock and slowly learned that very few boats have actually made it past what was now being called Heinous Point.  That was amazing and I forgot about the beer.  Others were still coming in; the Coast Guard had dropped Jay and Mike off at WCC, so everyone knew that story.  Steve Petrie was behind me, how could that be, that had never happened.  Then we learned about his portage.  Steve Corbett told us of a couple of canoeists he helped to get off the rock wall embankment and then scale a fence.  They were last seen walking their boat out what looked like a park.  It turns out they had broken into Fort McNair.  I havenít heard how they made out. 

The WCC had some nice hot food.  We finally cracked open the beer.  We talked about paddling strippers and how some like it rough.  Where else but amongst kayakers could this be a PG rated conversation.  Mitchís wife Arlene and their children graciously greeted each and every one of the competitors, what strength she shows.  We shuttled cars and boats around and finally left the WCC, all of us proud we made it.  I called Pam and told her we were out of the water and headed home, and that Mike had been picked up by the Coast Guard, but was alright.  I quickly realized Iíd better elaborate.  Mike called his wife and after first telling her I had tried to kill him, told her, with some understatement, exactly what had happened.  Mike has had some adventures and can tell a story.  She didnít believe him, Iím not sure I was able to convince her either.  He has the names of all of the Coasties and plans to send them a thank you.  He also plans on going to Church today.  I dropped him aff at a friend's house to meet his wife who was already there for dinner. I'm sure it was interesting.

 I got home and had a quick dinner.  The plan had been to go out and experience some of Rehoboth Beachís Jazz festival.  Iím sure it was good.  The last thing I remember was that the Metís were losing 0-5 

It was a good day, Iím not sure Iíd say it was a good paddle, but Iíll be back.

 The irony of us hitting the harsh unanticipated weather and water conditions at Haines Point escaped no one, and nothing needed to be said.

 

Jay Timmons' message # 3852  October 15, 06

Chris tells a good and truthful story. This was to be my retirement kayak race and it turned out to be a jim doozey. At the beginning of the race I apparently had a breathing problem and couldn't suck in enough air to consistently paddle a strong stroke to keep up. Also my seat needed to be readjusted. I decided to stop and take a breather and catch my breath, fix my seat and continue on. While trying to fix my seat I injured my right hand somehow. When I started paddling again I realized my hand was bloody red. I kept an eye on it to make sure the bleeding stopped, it did, and I sure didn't want to wash it off in the Anacostia. Chris and Mike had gained on me a good 3/4 mile. I finally caught up to them just as the water started getting nasty. I decided to stick with them and take it easy in the rough water. I have been in some really bad water conditions before but this confused water could easily have been a killer situation. I took the point about half a mil
e to Haines (Hell's point) point. I almost lost it a couple of times and I was pondering my options. I knew my truck was at WCC and no way was I going to take out, especially when I had no idea where to take out. I sure couldnt walk back with my physical conditions. The only option I thought I had was to keep plugging along and hope for the best. This was a situation I sure didn't want to be in!!!!
At this point the race became a survival situation. I started getting cramps in my arms, my legs and hands. It was all I could do to keep bracing and stay afloat. I knew that if I made it around Haines point I would need my rudder for surfing the following seas. I made an attempt to lower it. My bloody hand was so numb from the stress of paddling I had no feeling in it. I couldn't lower my rudder. Any shift of weight inside my kayak trying to attempt to lower the rudder would have met with disaster. I had to keep my hands on the paddle for bracing. Just as I had made it around Haines point and started surfing, I heard a boat coming up on me from the rear. All I could think of at that moment was "Oh God, I don't need a passing boat and it's wake now".
Just when you needed the COAST GUARD, where were they, RIGHT BESIDE YOU BABY. I don't know where they came from because I could only concentrate on the wave action in front of me. I couldn't even check on Chris and Mike behind me. It didn't take many more strokes before I swallowed my pride and hailed to be pulled out. If only I could have gotton that damned rudder down. Soon as I was pulled out, Mike also hailed to be pulled out. I didn't want to leave Chris by himself and even asked to CG to pull him out too, but they let him be. Chris needs to be commended for the great effort to finish the race.
The Coast Guard crew were very nice and they actually got a chuckle and some enjoyment pulling a retired coastie out of the water. We had a nice conversation and enjoyed each other's company. Mike and I tried our damnest to get them to let us off before we finished the race to avoid all the embarrassment but it was against their regulations. They were required to make sure we were safe to our destination.
After the Coast Guard had put us ashore at WCC, Mike and I realized that no embarrassment was to be. We were told that everybody else had taken out before Haines point. I know that Chris completed the whole race and also think a couple other kayakers did too.
My retirement race turned out to be a bummer. Over all the years and all the races, I registered as a DNF, first and last in my career. I am so glad I am able to tell the tale.
The Yellow Rabbit Lives!!!
 

 

Steve Corbett's message # 3853  October 15, 06

Dave and I started off fairly well in C-2. It had been a year since
we had paddled together, and we were right behind the lead boat, an
Olympic C-1. Then we got a little wobbly in the wakes of a K-1 and K-
2 that blew our doors off almost right away, and Judy and her
partner crept up on us in their C-2. They slowly but steadily got
away. By about mile three, the wind and chop were starting to pick
up some, and I thought we were starting to pick up ground on Judy's
boat. But every once in a while I thought I could hear the huts of
another C-2 somewhere behind us. I couldn't chance a look back
because I was focussed on staying upright.

About 1/2 mile above Haine's Point, at Thomas Cove Marina, we were
within 100 ft or so of Judy's boat, but the clapotis you've already
read about was bringing water aboard about every other stroke. As
Chris said, long zero rocker boats aren't real good for confused
chop. The bow of our C-2, where I was, was being shot up completely
clear of the water, and when it crashed down, it would submarine.
I'm not sure how we didn't flip, but at the very last dock, we
realized we were going to swamp in a few more seconds. The bailer
just couldn't keep up. We struggled 20' to our right to the dock,
dumped out the water, and sat back in the canoe to ponder our
chances of continuing. We watched Judy and her partner, now about
50' ahead. They were paddling hard but the boat appeared stalled. I
saw the gunwales completely awash, then the boat capsized.

Judy and her partner started swimming their boat toward a sheer wall
to their right. I could see they would need help getting themselves
and their boat out of the water. Dave and I ran over to help. We had
to scale a fence to get to them, and Dave poked his hand on a spike
on top of the fence. We ended up helping two C-2s and crew up onto
the wall. I thought we had entered a campus of some sort. When I
heard we had just climbed a fence into a military facility, prudence
dictated I'd better get myself back on the civilian side of the
fence. I don't know how that ended for those who walked their canoes
further into Fort McNair.

I learned that all the C-2s had got off the water here. I was
astonished that the Olympic C-1 paddler had continued upright beyond
where all the wider 2 person canoes had been forced to stop. I later
heard he had climbed a wall further down the course, but another
story said he only paused to watch us, then continued paddling.

There was a pow-wow in the grass at Thomas Cove Marina, and various
options were discussed for portaging to some point where we could
resume the race, although it was clear no one was paddling for time
anymore. Dave and I ended up walking upriver to a point above the
tidal basin and below Memorial Bridge. We got back in and paddled
the last two miles to WCC.

I probably would have passed on the race given the cold morning, the
drive, and the fact I was going on less than 6 hours sleep. But I
was there out of respect for Mitchell, and it was in that spirit I
paddled in to WCC. Many thanks to the folks at WCC for putting on
the race. I got a great story, and we had a chance to remember a
great guy.

Steve

 

 from Vince Lewonski

Saturday was the race in Washington, D.C. It was either 12 or 20 miles. The
20 miler entailed a couple portages. I only wanted to do the 12 miler.

This race was in memory of, and a fundraiser for the family of Mitch
Madruga, a kayaker who died this spring on the Potomac while practicing for
the 70 mile General Clinton race. His death sent shock waves throughout the
paddling community, not just locally, but over the whole northeast, with
much discussion on safety equipment, hypothermia, group paddling, etc. It is
encouraging that many people have taken lessons to heart from this
unfortunate event, so that there is less likelihood of a repeat.

The race course was down the Anacostia River, then upstream on the Potomac
to Georgetown. I had been on a section of the Anacostia where the dragonboat
team practices, and on a section of the Potomac from the end point to about
2 miles downstream. This would be an opportunity to see the whole thing.
Tales of pollution and snakeheads in the Anacostia did not faze me - once
you've been on the Schuylkill, pollution has no power over you.

I met up with Chris, Mike, Todd, Dave and Cyndi at the start. Todd had his
inflatable purple alien strapped to the back of his kayak. As the trailer
with the rest of the boats came in, there was a lot of activity. I believe
that there were 23 boats entered. About half were racing canoes. Quite a
variety for the rest - a Nelo sprint kayak, an outrigger, a high kneel
canoe, a tandem racing kayak, a Thunderbolt, Stephen's wooden racing kayak,
Chris' homemade CLC kayak (with Mike in it), Charlie Zimmerman's homemade
CLC kayak (with Chris in it) - this was not a race that attracted casual
paddlers. There were no clunky aluminum canoes, and only one plastic kayak.
(That would be mine.) I felt like I was taking a soap box derby racer to
Nascar.

No wind, nice and sunny before the start. I asked Judy Jeanes (awesome C2
paddler) if she thought I should wear my skirt. She said yes, as there might
be boat wakes on the Potomac.

At the start, I started way in the back, so as not to get in the way of all
the sprint boats. S. has already written at length about Evil Roto-molded
boats getting in the way of Serious Racers at the start. I didn't want the
serious people to get mad and begin hitting me (carefully!) with their
expensive carbon-fiber paddles.

At the start, all the racing boats took off while flailing away, while those
of us in pokey kayaks were immediately left in the dust. After about two
miles, the only boat I could even see in front of me was Cyndi in her
T-Bolt, and she was about a half mile ahead.

This section of the Anacostia was actually pretty nice. Shoreline was mostly
woods, and there was a group of guys in hip waders (probably from a
work-release program) picking up trash on the bank at one point. Maybe a
prosecutor on the list could start something similar for PA's rivers. I
recommend starting with Tinicum. ;-) Also saw a couple mergansers and a
Great Blue Heron. Some scullers going by occasionally.

Having a good time so far, nice pace, no one close behind me, no one close
in front of me, though I could occasionally see Cyndi. Wishing I had left
off my dry top.

Went through a low rail bridge, passed two OC-1s, though they weren't in the
race. Still gave me a good feeling. Wind picked up a little, so there was a
little more headwind to slow me down. Passed by where the dragonboats are
kept, then around the corner under the next bridge. Almost to the Potomac at
this point. Under the bridge, the wind was stronger, and the waves were
about a foot high. In just a short time, the waves had increased to two feet
high. Clunky rotomolded boats are not made for slicing through waves, so my
15' boat would ride up on a wave, then smash me back down. Forward progress
slowed to about 2 mph. I had lost sight of Cyndi. I could see the Potomac at
this point, so I struggled on, figuring that once I was past the point and
not going into a headwind, it would get better. There was someone on the
dock of the marina to my right yelling at me. I was finally able to make out
that all the canoes had pulled out there. I was figuring that meant the
kayaks had kept going. I wasn't happy paddling slowly and getting smashed
down by the waves, but didn't feel it was dangerous. Yet. I could see one
kayak and a launch ahead of me.

As I got closer to Hanes Point, I could here the horn from the buoy on
shore. After hearing it several times, I turned around and found that it
wasn't a buoy, it was a massive ship coming straight at me! It looked to be
about 40' wide. I had been paddling kinda gingerly, but I found a new gear
and got towards the shore as quickly as possible.

I passed a launch from the Washington Canoe Club. They warned me to stay
away from the shore. The shoreline around the point is a park, with a stone
wall around it, and a fence on top of the wall. Not a happy place to try to
get out, or to be bashed against.

Things changed, and not for the better, when I got closer to the point. Wave
heights increased to 3 feet. Serious whitecaps. Wind-driven waves this size
are much, much worse than ocean swells of 3 feet. Swells are spread out
enough that you just go up and down. These waves were breaking over my bow
(God bless Judy and her spray skirt reco!!!), and torquing me around with
each one. I had brought a boat with no skeg or rudder, which didn't help. I
have only had the Egret a short time, and this was only the second time I
had been somewhere in it that had waves. I approached the corner and was
trying to stay about 75 feet from the wall, while trying to keep the bigger
waves from hitting me from the side. I was definitely in conditions beyond
my comfort level, and probably beyond my skill level also. Knowledge that
this was the same area where Mitch had drowned didn't help my frame of mind.
I was the most scared that I had ever been in a boat, and I have paddled
with both alligators and with Chris...

The launch came back over and yelled at me to stay away from the wall again.
I thought, "Screw them, if I go over, I don't want to be in the middle of
the Potomac!" The other kayaker kept going across the Potomac. Apparently he
wasn't one of the racers. Once again I was by myself. It was really weird
having no other boats in sight in front or in back of me under such
conditions. I had no idea if any other boats were even still on the water,
or whether they had all pulled out. I would have felt better if I knew there
was someone still crazy enough to still be paddling.

I turned the corner and finally had a tailwind. But the waves were still 3
feet high. The waves were not going straight upstream, but at an angle
towards the wall. I just kept turning the boat so that the waves would not
hit me from the side, and surfed the waves as best I could. I was probably
doing about 5 miles an hour just surfing, with just enough paddling to keep
the boat oriented. The wind was ripping, and I was glad I had my paddling
jacket on. I passed a couple walking along the shore. As I continued to
struggle with keeping the boat oriented, leaning back to try to stay on a
wave, while trying to keep from being pushed too close to the wall, I yelled
to them, "This isn't as much fun as it looks!!!" They yelled back, "It
doesn't look like fun!!!" I yelled back, "It isn't!!!" Then I was past them.

I passed the K2 on the shore, on the other side of the fence. No one was
around it. Eerie. Kinda like coming across the Mary Celeste. I found out
later that they had swam, and had managed to make it to shore there.

After about 2 miles, I passed under a bridge, and the wave height died down
to 1 foot. I was still able to surf some, but by this point my technique was
starting to go south, and I kept turning. Further up around the corner, the
wind and waves died back to almost nothing. Passed Jack's Boathouse, where
Cyndi and Dave were pulling her T-Bolt out onto the dock. They clapped and
took pictures as I passed. Then to the Washington Canoe Club, where I
remembered to yell out my number. I dragged my carcass onto the dock, and
heard someone yell, "I know you!" It was Eric from the Philadelphia Men's
Dragonboat team, who is also coach of the Yute team. He was the one in the
OC-1. I hadn't realized that he was there until the finish. Good day for
dragonboaters!

I was greeted by Arlene, Mitch's wife, and talked to her a little about the
race. I was shivering in the wind by now, and changed into a dry shirt from
my drybag and started to look for the other racers. There were none. Only
Cyndi and Eric had made it in, paddling alongside each other from the point
to the dock. Dave had pulled out at the point and got a ride to the club.
The Tortoise in a (gasp!) plastic kayak was the first male kayaker to
finish. I went to get the great food that the club had on hand for the
racers. Twelve thumbs up for the turkey soup!!!

Found out that Eric and Cyndi had stayed alongside each other for the end,
while Cyndi acted as tour guide, pointing out sights along the way. Had I
been nearby, I would have made a LOUSY guide, since I was afraid to look any
more than 10 feet from the boat. "Here comes a big wave!!! Oh, shit, here
comes another one!!!"

Mike and Jay came in aboard a Coast Guard boat, their kayaks tied to the
sides. They had actually made it around the point, but when the Coast Guard
offered a ride for the second time, they said "Screw it" and took them up on
their offer. I never saw the Coast Guard boat, or I might have done the
same.

Todd came in, having successfully completed his first ever race.
Congratulations, Todd - they'll all be easier from now on!

Chris came in next. He is much more used to ugly wave conditions - in fact,
the second most scared I have ever been in a boat was with him off of Cape
Henlopen. Whenever something bad happens, there is Chris! There might be a
lesson in there somewhere. Both Mike and I might learn something.

Several canoes and kayaks came in later. These were all the ones that pulled
out before the point, had to carry their boats through D.C. for several
miles to get past the bad waves, then paddled the last section. I don't
believe that anyone actually attempted the 20 mile course. Of the 23 boats
who started, only 5 actually paddled the whole way, with maybe another 6 or
7 doing a "biathalon" by paddling and portaging.

I know that at least 2 canoes and the K2 got dumped at the point, and had to
climb out up the rock wall.

Certificates were handed out when everyone who was going to come in finally
made it.

Props to:

Cyndi and Eric for not only completing the race in boats not really meant
for such conditions, but doing it in such good time!

Chris for being the first kayaker with a Greenland paddle to finish, and for
providing Delaware beer and wine at the finish! (It says something about my
state of mind that I had no beer!!!!!)

Charlie Zimmerman, for his boat successfully completing the race, even if he
didn't!!!

Mike and Jay for their effort - Mike is a newbie, and it was both his first
time in Chris' boat, and first time in such conditions! He changed the
certificate so instead of reading "for successful completion of the race" it
read "for successful survival of the race."

The Coast Guard, for being there to offer assistance.

Todd for being the first finisher in the coveted "Human-Alien K2" category.

All those that did the Big Portage through the mean streets of D.C. I want
the rights for the TV movie.

Lessons learned:
Very few. I'm a slow learner. But it was instructive as to how quickly
conditions can change, or be so different in different areas of the same
water.

I did have a whistle, pump, bailer, dry top, and skirt, though if I went
over I don't think I could have gotten back in under those conditions. I did
not remember to bring my paddle leash.

Sprint boats are very good for going fast in flat water, but even in
experienced hands, they aren't meant for the rough stuff. Every boat is a
series of trade offs.

Vince
15' Yellow Old Town Egret
"I Egret Nothing!!!"
 

 

 

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