Monday, August 14, 2017

Pace 18 Rudder Repair

A few months ago I bought a used Tiderace Pace 18, model year 2012. It's a brilliant boat - though long, it edges well, and I hardly ever need the rudder, but it's been nice to have when I do need it.

Unfortunately, while the boat and mechanicals are in overall great shape, after a couple months of use, I found myself unable to retract the rudder from the cockpit. This had been working just fine, and is normally done by pulling on a rope with a toggle on it.

A jam cleat holds the rope in place when the rudder is up, and gravity takes care of deploying it when I need it down. To bring it up, I just pull the rope, and the SmartTrack rudder system comes right up. Everything was fine, until it wasn't.

It took a couple of examinations to determine the problem, and ultimately it's easier to show before I try to explain.

This is what a good rudder assembly is supposed to look like. Note the arched piece at the top.

Good Rudder.

This is what mine looked like. In fact, you can't see from this angle, but it looked more like two offset half-arches. In this photo, you can make out a white fracture line where the plastic was already starting to bend.

Bad Rudder.

Before we get into the assembly/disassembly process though, there was a minor detour in getting the right part. Essentially, you can't buy just that little arched piece. You don't have to buy an entire ne rudder kit (nearly $200), but you do have to by the control sub-assembly.

When I first ordered it, I said it was a Tiderace Pace with a SmartTrack rudder system. My friendly regional kayak parts supplier  (Tom) sent me a replacement - and only after taking it apart did I notice that the Pace uses a "compact" sub-assembly, and by default I'd gotten the "original". 

They're kind enough to print it right on the tin, so to speak.

Compact vs. Original

I thought I might make it work, but even the mounting bracket is a different size - off just enough that you can't mix and match.

Thankfully, Tom was able to find the correct part and send it to me. We managed to overlap each other's efforts to - at one point I wrote SmartTrack asking about the right part, and had some correspondence that went something like this (I'm paraphrasing).

Kayak Cowgirl: Hey there, I'm looking for the correct rudder assembly a 2012 Tiderace Pace 18. I asked my friendly region kayak parts guy to help me out, but thought I'd ask around as well.

SmartTrack: Oh yeah, Tom contacted us already and we shipped it to him. 

Sure enough, the right part arrived a day or two later, not to mention an earlier email from Tom.

I'd been dreading taking this apart, because the mechanical complexity of rudders kinda scares me. However, replacing the part pretty easy. First, since I'd taken it apart previously, when I had the wrong part, I already knew what to do. Second, even that first time, since the control cables and pedals were fine, all I really had to do was detach the control cables from the sub-assembly, and change the foil from one to the other.

The cables are kept on with a simple pin and cotter pin arrangement. The pin goes through the wings of the sub-assembly and a round attach point on the cable, and the cotter pin holds it in place.

Controls Assembled.

To take them apart, you have to carefully (very carefully, if you're working over a plank-decked floor directly over water) take the cotter pin off like a key ring, then pull the pin loose.

Once you do that, removing the sub-assembly is as easy as pulling out the long vertical pin, which you can make out in the first pictures.

I also had to move the foil - my only replacement part was the sub-assembly that the rudder foil sits in. That was pretty easy. Another, larger cotter pin holds in place an adjustment knob that fastens on the opposite side, sandwiching the arm of the sub-assembly.

It's pretty neat. It turns out the spring is adjustable. With the adjustment knob on, you can tighten the coiled spring pictured below, to add a little pop to your deployment.

Ultimately, the hardest part of this whole process was threading the deployment cord through the new part. You can see above that the end of the cord gets tucked in a hole, tied off in a wee knot. To thread it, I had to undo the knot, and that took some pliers and an f-tonne of patience. I have a marlinspike knife, but doubt even that could have gotten in to such a tiny knot.

Annnnnnd . .. that was that. Once I threaded the deployment cord, I tied a new knot and threaded it into the foil. The blad was mounted, the sub-assembly was mounted, I put back the control pins, and tested a couple of deploy/retracts from the cockpit. Perfect. Like butter.

I can't want to paddle the Pace again. I've been favoring the Gemini, which is better for teaching, but I've got some journeys planned that will definitely be Pace-perfect.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Baretto Point August 2017

It was another week of watching the weather: would it hold? Would we have our window?

Predictions of one system after another came and went. Eventually, Saturday looked like a day of officially a chance of thunderstorms, but unlikely. My confidence was bolstered by my fellow kayak blogger at Wind Against Current telling me about a trip she was considering.

The day would be muggy and overcast, but we were a go! I took four other members of my local paddling club, mascot "Turtles" out to Baretto Point, in the Bronx.

If you don't know the area, basically our club is located on the Hudson river in Inwood, the northernmost part of Manhattan, New York City. we would go down the Harlem river, cut through a narrow creek separating Randalls Island from the Bronx, and paddle a couple of miles past the Brother islands to land at a small beach.

My Companions - fellow Turtles KW, IC, VT, and GH - all picked their boats, kitted out, and after a short briefing, we were on our way.

We paddled against a little current on the Hudson, finally getting some assistance once in the Harlem.

Paddling the old "Spuyten Duyvil Creek".

VT reflecting a perfect pose in an Avocet.

Proceeding towards High Bridge.

By now, the Harlem is pretty familiar. Please, read the rest of my blog to see how much. It's a narrow canal about seven miles long, with a lot of bridges. Most of the bridges passed under on a circumnavigation of Manhattan are on the Harlem river.

On our way down, we saw a small boat crossing the river back and forth. As we approached, we feared the worst - but it turned out to be a surveyor ship! Just taking measurements.

Proceeding down the Harlem.

After arriving at the Bronx Kill, we encountered our first set of challenges. Seems I was a little aggressive on timing the tides for this trip, so se soon ran aground in mud. I hopped out of my boat and was able to drag my fellow turtles to deeper channels, but in short order we encountered a more robust obstacle.

About a third of the way into the kill is a narrowing of the passage that forms some nice moving water features at certain tidal cycles. Now, though, it was too low to paddle - and too rocky to drag. We all got out and lifted boats over rocks.

Our second portage.

Very low water.

That wasn't so terrible, but I began to worry about the end of the kill. The first time I came out here, we'd come to a drop where the creek dried up. Sure enough, we had one more portage ahead of us. At the small pedestrian bridge connecting the Bronx to Randalls Island, we hopped out and had to carry the boats the farthest distance yet - about twenty yards to water we sort of walk-paddled over.

KW saw a small crab scurry away. We'd disturbed his little spot!
Our third portage.

A familiar portage.

Well, that chore done, we gathered up at the end of the kill and faced our next challenge - crossing water between us and North Brother Island. There was no traffic, nothing on radio or visually, so crossing was straightforward - we attained with current, then ferried over towards the old power plant.

Onward past North Brother Island.

North Brother Island.

The old ferry terminal.

Passing a marker.

We proceeded clockwise with the current, until we were in a good spot to cross to Baretto Point. Our goal was just to the east of a barge that held a swimming pool, and we aimed for the barge - apparently named "The Floating Pool Lady".

The Floating Pool Lady

We got a lot of friendly waves from the lifeguards and swimmers, until we tried to land. Suddenly the lifeguards were yelling at us, saying there was diesel on the rocks, it was slippery, we couldn't land there.

That's new. And weird. But, not implausible. Fortunately, I'd spied another little beach-like feature a little further down - a pebble beach below the high tide line. At the low tide we were at, we had a decent-sized spot for lunch.

Narrow Beach.

I knew the tide would be coming in while we were lunching, so I had everyone move their boats up to the highest point short of climbing rocks. It was a good thing, too. In the photo above, we'd been there about half an hour - an when we landed we'd had another eight feet or so of shoreline.

The wreck.

There were lots of interesting things on this beach - including half of this car, missing its drivetrain. I had to wonder, where was the other half? All the big pieces must have been pulled before it became a beach relic.

We also had a good view of the Manhattan skyline, an the bridges and islands between us and our home island. We watched as thicker clouds rolled in from the south - a portent of the humidity we'd feel on the way back. It got breezy enough that a couple of Turtles put on jackets.

Watch the clouds roll by . . .

Time for group photos!


Turtles and K.C.

As the tide rose and we approached our return launch time, we got in our boats and hit the water. The current was a bit against us, but not for long. We paddled hard past the southern end of North Brother island, where I checked on a familiar landmark: a TV an chair on the water's edge.

A familiar sight.

We came back towards the Bronx Kill.

Back into the Bronx Kill.

We saw something in the water that we hadn't seen earlier. It wasn't moving with the current, so something held it in place. It was near our former surveyor-friend's work area . . .but also near some construction. Perhaps it was some detritus that came loose and caught something beneath.

Not moving .  .  .not her earlier.

Sharing the waterways.

There was little traffic the entire day, but not entirely devoid of traffic. The Manhattan II, and a Circle Line boat near the end, were the only commercial vessels we encountered. Several pleasureboats, and from our lunch spot we saw a barge. Otherwise. . . not much.

Passing Yankee Stadium.

We didn't hear any ball-playing.

We made our way back up the Harlem.

Rounding back up the Harlem.

We were friendly to the passers-by.

VT had an evening date, and we realized she'd be set behind schedule if she went all the way back to the boathouse. Fortunately, she lives at 218th street, so we dropped her off at the Columbia dock in the Harlem, and I towed her boat the remaining mile or two home.

The Henry Hudson Bridge.

We saw some boys jumping off the cliffs in the Bronx into the river. This is a time-honored tradition, somewhat famous from early Leonardo Dicaprio film, "The Basketball Diaries", as well as a documentary here and  NY Times article there. This was the first time I saw it live, though.

Keep in mind, these kids have to cross railroad tracks and then climb this cliff. It's not for the faint of heart! We heard taunting from across the river.

Boys dare-jumping.

So much culture. . .

So apparently, there's a vessel called "Naval War College", and whoever was piloting it that day referred to the Spuyten Duyvin bridge as "railroad swing bridge".

The Spuyten Duyvil Station.

Onwards towards the Palisades, we passed the Spuyten Duyvil bridge and felt a welcome wind on the Hudson. Most of the Harlem had been muggy and stuffy; the breeze freshened us up.

Approaching the Palisades.

In short order, we arrived back at our boathouse. We unpacked, cleaned up, and made our goodbyes. Of course we'll nearly all be back the next day to volunteer with our club's public program! But all the same, it was a good trip, at just under 18 nm roundtrip. Good on my fellow paddlers - all women - for making it out that day.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Mixing it Up

A friend of mine passed along a good deal on a whitewater boat recently, including matching spraydeck and a one-piece paddle, slightly feathered. I had to drive a bit out of my way to pick it up, and suffered a biblical deluge of rain on the way home, but I did get the boat, a Liquid Logic Remix 59.

I've only done white water paddling a couple of times. The first, a few years ago, when I was first starting to paddle a bit more seriously and learned a friend at work was into kayaking - but only whitewater. He invited me along to do a stretch of the Lehigh near Jim Thorpe, with a class he was assisting with, and it was eye-opening.

Moderately Terrifying is the way I would have put it at the time. I paddled like a sea kayaking - charging through and over waves, trying hard to resist the instinct the edge to the outside of turns, rather than to edge downstream. In whitewater, always edge downstream.

A couple of years ago I started dating a paddler, one who does whitewater, and in short order learned we had mutual friends, including two women who paddle whitewater canoe. So, once again in a borrowed boat, I paddled part of the upper Delaware river, this time with a few more years overall paddling experience, including some time in big, dynamic water.

The very weekend I bought the Remix, my friend LB was taking another group down that same stretch of water on the Delaware. As white water goes, it's pretty easy, with a couple of interesting pieces, but mostly just a steady flow of water to practice boat control in. We drove up past Port Jervis and lower the boats to the water's edge, and in short order, we were off.

Ready on Deck.

Most of the Delaware looks like this here.

LB paddling her canoe.

But parts of it get a little perky.

Fellow instructor C paddling his canoe.

As we proceeded, we stopped and played around various rocks and wave trains. There is a spot that has a drop with a funnel next to it, and we practiced eddy work there.

Further down, there's the "Mongaup Wave", where the Mongaup river roars in almost perpendicular to the Delaware, and rather steeply, with a tall cliffside opposite. Where the waters converge is a long and strong wave train, with narrow eddies along the side. We played there for a bit. The Remix surfed well against the waves, but it was hard to attain against them.

We did have one mishap, easily recovered. One of the newer paddlers lost her balance against a rock and fell in, but was easily recovered in the next eddy. While that was going on, LB and I took turns surfing a small wave a little ways down.


At the end, we were supposed to rendezvous with a group that had done the Mongaup run, but there was some confusion about where to meet. They're suppose to come here, each group thought, at their respective take-outs. Eventually two emissaries from the other group arrived, right as we were about to head to them.

The Remix is a fun boat to paddle. I even took a roll in it at the end - not as graceful in a sea kayak, but do-able. I need to practice more. It's super-stable and very snug. The spraydeck is a bit tight, but hopefully it will stretch out a bit the more I use it.

Thursday, June 29, 2017


I was immersed in the Westport River, awaiting rescue. This was during a class I was taking, in late June, with sunny skies and air temperatures in the eighties.

"Are you alright, Julie?"

"Yes,"  replied, "but I'll need to take a break after this." A moment later I thought to add, "I'm not kidding!" Sometimes my joviality masks real concern.

By the time I was climbing out of the water and into a canoe, my teeth were starting the chatter, and I sat out the next round of practice rescues practicing my "inner lizard", soaking in the sun, fully clad in wetsuit and booties, watching the other participants in my group sort a rescue.

I get cold easily. To be really clear, I have no complaints about the course or how it was managed, or any other course I've been on. In this case, I told the providers ahead of time I was bringing all my layers short of a drysuit, and I was never in real danger of hypothermia. They rotated me out, and the shop we were working out brought out a drytop before I could get to my car to grab my paddling jacket.

I'm no stranger to cold. Over the years, I've been careful to manage my temperature, even at the bewilderment of others. Generally to the effect of "it's such a nice day, you're overdressed." I wore a drysuit on a warm September day for my 3 Star assessment; I've worn my dry cag over neoprene on windless days in spring; I carry my paddling jacket and, nowadays, my storm cag, if I expect F3 winds or higher and being more than half an hour from shelter.

I've been on the fence about identifying myself as one who gets cold easily. Maybe conditions are actually chilly? Maybe other people are putting on a tougher front and what I feel is normal?

I'm considered quite skinny and lean - at 5'9" and about 130 lbs, I'm barely even stewpot material, let along a serving of protein when the aliens come to devour us all. Anecdata and some basic internet research leans toward the side of body fat being something of a shield against hypothermia, but not as simply as is commonly assumed. This article from Popular Science summarizes things nicely. This article on says much the same as well. Fat people might feel colder, but their core temperature is better protected.

For myself, the real chiller is wind. Immersion time is a close second. I might do a roll, or some rescue practice, in reasonable water temperatures, say the low seventies, as we had in Westport. But, once out, if I get a steady breeze, even a gentle borderline F2/F3 breeze, I chill pretty quick.

Immersion simply sucks my heat out. Cumulative immersion (multiple times in the water) and prolonged immersion (more than a minute or two) have their effects, even when layered to the nines, as a quick review of my cold water blogging reveals: a winter rescue and paddling session, my distinctions between cold water and winter paddling, and my first notes on cold water paddling.

Nowadays, I would bump my personal comfort level up a bit. I'm grabbing the drysuit in the low sixties, and keeping the neoprene on up to the low seventies. I might vary that based on risk of immersion.

The challenge I've had lately is managing exceedingly warm days when the water is quite chilly. Removable layers, and planning to cool off in the water if I do overheat, are my new tactic.

So, there I was, in water bordering 70s F, patiently awaiting my rescue; moments later, laying out in the sun to soak in its warming rays; a bit later, using a canoe as shelter against the wind until I got a jacket on.

Just the weekend prior, I'd taught a course at a lake and rented my neoprene to students. After just three immersions apiece, they were tuckered and a bit cool, and we took a break. I kept my jacket on, and adjusted my plan accordingly.

So, I'm officially someone who gets cold easily. I layer up, I keep a jacket and tea handy, even on warm days. As far as the tea goes, my worst case is that I make some iced tea when I get home.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Rockaway Point

Wow. It's been weeks since I posted last, though I know I've paddled since. I was so taken aback that I went through my calendar, weekend by weekend. It did this that weekend and that on this other weekend, and sure enough, except for a short trip out to enjoy my new boat (the Pace 18), I really haven't gotten out. I took a class in early May, and that was nice, but for weeks afterwards, weather kept me off.

Well, I made up for it this past weekend.

For Memorial Day weekend, I reserved camping at Bennet Field. This is my third time camping out here. In fact, I was here last year as well. Just like last year, the nearby Sebago Canoe Club held their season opener, including some interclub racing that I participated in (3rd, 2nd, and 3rd place BTW, in 100m, 400m, 800m sprints).

Also just like last year, on the Sunday after, DR and I set out for some surfing - only this time on schedule, and to great reward.

We set off from the old sea plan ramp, paddling south as military helicopters took off and set out for Manhattan. It was Fleet Week, after all.

Hangar B.

Helicopter taking off.

Helicopter flying away.

Our paddle out was mostly uneventful. We had more and more current as we went along, and while the day was partly cloudy, visibility was good. We avoided some pleasureboats, mostly setting out to go fishing, as we went under the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Bridge. We crossed south to the Rockaway side, then continued westward past varied beaches, mooring yards, and piers.

DR taking in the view.

Looking North.

Passing R10.

Our basic plan was to paddle out to the end of Rockaway Peninsula. We'd gotten some tips from the Commodore of the Sebago Canoe Club. West of the shipping channel was a very shallow area the broke incoming swell and, in some parts, formed a little island at low tide. We would come to call that place "Bird Island", because when we got out there, it was little more than a bald beach in the middle of the water, with various gulls on it.

To find it, we'd looked at a chart and seen it was just southwest from a range formed by the G7 and R6 buoys. So, we'd paddle out to those buoys, then cross the channel. The current would be ebbing, growing in strength at that, so to avoid getting taken out to see, we kept in from the channel.

However, as we paddled along we saw R10 (pictured above), then R8, and then . . .the end of the line. No more buoys, just the day marker mounted on the end of the jetty, the very southernmost tip of Rockaway Point.

Hmmm. Well, there were some big waves coming in, so yours truly paddled out to see what they were like. In hindsight this was probably unwise. The waves were tall and short-period, too short to surf properly. I ended up cruising in towards the rocks of the jetty, which was part of my plan: paddle the weaker current back up. The tidal current was ebbing, which meant that in the even of something going awry, I'd be carried out to sea, and more importantly, into the swell that wasn't already being broken by the jetty.

Also a larger sport-fishing boat came over and positioned itself at the end of the jetty. Fishermen love to get where fast current is whipping fish by like on a conveyor belt.

In any event, I completed my survey without misadventure, and came to the conclusion that we'd be better off finding our originally planned surf zone.

We landed for lunch on a pocket beach and orientated ourselves on the chart. We could see our quarry. It just wasn't near any of the buoys we'd planned for.

Here is a snip of the chart downloaded from NOAA May 31, 2017. The red X is approximately where I noodled in the big water, and the blue box is our approximate Area of Operation for the remainder of our surfing. Squint and you'll see that the last red buoy is R8, not R6, as indicated on my Maptech chart.

Rockaway Point

We landed at a beach not far north from the jetty, so our closest referents were the day marker on the jetty and G5. Based on landmarks to the north, we fixed out position and checked it once we launched, by paddling up to R8.

Location and theory confirmed, we set out to enjoy the surf.

Approaching "Bird Island".

As you can see, there is no island charted, but it does get quite shallow, and there is a spot that comes above the surface at low tide. It's bigger than the chart would have you believe, and forms a broad eddy, particularly on the western side. We found it very easy to surf in, ride the eddy up the western side, come around, and then paddle with current down the eastern side.

For that matter, in the surf zone, the current was weak enough that it was easy enough to turn around and paddle back into the surf, then ride it in.

For the birds.

Coney Island in the distance.

We surfed, and surfed, and surfed and surfed. Farther out there were bigger waves, closer in, smaller waves. We had set out near the end of the peak ebb, so the waters calmed as the afternoon wore on.

One phenomenon that we both experienced, no matter what we did to edge or trim, was that we'd get continually cocked to the right while riding a way. In some spots, there were clearly two wave systems intersecting, and one would take you off the other. At one point, it seemed like I was getting weathercocked, as the wind picked up. We tried trimming forward, backwards, edging left and right. Mostly we were just able to manage coming off the wave early and circling back to try again.

As the water got more shallow, I began to feel its effects. Even on the smaller waves, I found my boat starting to plow into the sand. We started experiencing breaking waves - not huge pounders, they were still 1-2 feet, but breaking nonetheless. It was one of these that finally put me off balance into a capsize - in about two feet of water.

I tried my roll, a couple of times at least. I even stopped to try figuring out if I was coming up on the correct side of the wave - pretty sure I was. But, by the third attempt. I realized I was reaching over the top and not getting the support I needed, and my shoulder was dragging on the sand, so I exited, and there I was, standing on a sand bank in the surf off Rockaway Point.

A couple of thoughts went through my head, while I held on to my boat, keeping it downstream of me. First was, I know in whitewater we're not supposed to stand up - but while the waves were relentless, they weren't worse than any shore surf I've stood in. Second was, should I self-rescue? But in my estimated I thought it was a good opportunity to try an assisted rescue in bouncy water.

DR didn't think so. He was worried about bumping into me - and in hindsight, that wasn't an unrealistic concern. He also comes from a whitewater background, where the better play is usually to let the casualty wash out down stream - although in these conditions, neither of us was sure if "downstream" meant the bird island or the lower harbor.

Instead, what I did was swim my boat out of the surf zone, and form there we did a conventional assisted rescue.

Problem solved, we surfed another forty minutes or so, basically running out the clock until the tide was a bit further past slack. We'd ride the flood in to Jamaica Bay - the opposite of our ride out.

Taking a break on bird island.

Cruise ships and more, in the distant Ambrose Channel.

Far in the distance, we could see ships coming in and heading out along the Ambrose Channel. We could even make out West Bank light and Romer light, two of the lighthouses that mark the treacherous shoals of the lower harbor.

Our route back was more than a bit of work. The predicted F3-F4 winds were on the higher end of that scale, primarily headwinds as we paddled towards the bridge and under, and then as crosswinds while we paddled north. Fortunately the tidal currents improved in our favor, so as we might have been paddling slower, the currents made up for it.

The wind also chilled us a bit. We'd felt a bit overdressed in various layers of neoprene earlier in the morning, but were glad to have multiple layers now, as well as paddling jackets. Once we landed, DR got to break in my fancy Kokatat storm cag; he reports it was very warm and kept him comfortable while we packed up kit and boats. I was wearing my Reed Chillcheater dry cag, and once onshore had some rain paints on to keep the wind off.

Overall it was quite a fun day. I've been meaning to check out this surf spot for a while, and I learned a lot very quickly. I think in the future I'd time it differently, and it's certainly not an environment for beginners, or even improvers who do not have surf experienced. Like most of NYC, there is a bit of traffic to manage. It's also a bit of a schlep to get to. All that being said, it is a fun place to play, and I hope to go back.