Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Advice: Spring is Back! Plan Accordingly.

Bring it on! I'm ready for Spring. We have passed the vernal equinox, and the sun is hanging longer in the day. Coming off a series of nor'easters, and mercifully, a (hopefully) final one that missed us largely to the south, southern New England is slowly melting out of the snow. Rivers are high, and the air will soon gain a scent of new, green growth. I know I need it - I'll bet others do too.
Here comes the Sun!

I've been spending a little time scouting some target paddling locations, picking up some minor gear improvements (a new waveski seat), and trying to ease myself back into some kind of paddling/carrying shape (kettlebells are great for the shoulders). I think a few weeks out to the paddling season (I know, better paddlers than me are probably out right now) is a good time to envision some highlights of your upcoming spring, summer, and fall. Even if you only get to execute on a couple of them, you're priming the imaginary pump for future paddling seasons.That can't be a bad thing, and some research has shown anticipating an event can increase your experience of pleasure (here's one paper on the subject from researchers at Cornell University) - so why not luxuriate a little in your fantasy paddling trip. Do this for a couple of weeks, then block out your calendar. The older I get, the more I realize scheduling can be more of a tool than it is a prison. 

I've said it before, but I will continue to repeat it; Spring is the most dangerous time of year for paddlers, in my opinion. It's the time of year when folks want to get out on the water as quickly as possible to enjoy the long awaited sun and warmer air temperatures - and to forget about how cold the water still is. Remember the mantra: dress for the water, not for the air (read my post 8 Tips for Dressing Right for Your Kayaking Adventure). The winter will linger in the water far longer than it does on the land - and it could kill you if you don't treat it with respect and plan accordingly (read my post Please, Stop the Kayaking Deaths! (proper risk management)).

Watch the Coast Guard perform a cold water rescue in Portsmouth, NH:

I like to keep the early paddling trips shorter, and in more protected waters than later in the season. This gives me a chance to re-build skills and conditioning that have atrophied over the winter. I am also careful about river paddling trips in the Spring, as water levels are high, and flow is generally faster. That can be useful in a typically smaller river that might not provide sufficient depth in the dryer seasons, but it could be dangerous in a river that is hemmed in by steep banks or other natural and man made features. Scout Spring river locations carefully, and leave the rapids to the white water kayakers and rafters (read my post 5 Tips for Touring a River in a Kayak). 

A full review of your gear is necessary for the beginning of the season. Check your kayak, your paddles, your PDF, clothing...everything - to make sure it's in good working order. If repairs are needed, get them done asap. Also, check your transportation. Make sure your vehicle is in good shape, and check your crossbars and related hardware to make sure they are structurally sound and solid. Check the condition of your straps and other tie down gear to make sure you have what you need, and that they are safe and strong. Consider purchasing any season passes (if they are required) for locations you will visit more than once. Add any additional gear that might make your trips safer and more efficient - like a headlamp, a water resistant watch, fore and aft boat lights, communications equipment, etc. I just purchased a new waterproof map case to help aid my navigation this season. With any new gear purchases, read reviews, carefully consider features, and imagine how you will use them when you're on the water.

If you're planning on doing any fishing from your 'yak, check all your fishing gear, rod holders, and required permits - then schedule your trips for the times and locations best suited to better your odds of hooking a few. Also, consider how you're going to preserve any keepers for the trip home.

The birds are singing, flowers will soon be in bloom, and the sun will shine warm upon our faces. Paddling season is upon us. Mind the water temperatures, upgrade your safety gear and knowledge, plan your trips thoughtfully, and prepare to enjoy.

We survived another winter - now comes our reward.

TB on the Water