Saturday, December 24, 2011

Post #100 - Deception Pass Dash

I've been negligent about updating my blog, but it has partially been because I haven't been on the water for a few months. The race of December 4, 2011 was the first time I was on the water since the Mercer Island race in October.

So...going back a couple of weeks earlier...

I went and ordered 42 inch long aka tubes with the same wall thickness as the previous akas as well as some thick walled tubing the akas could nest snugly within, and a length of tubing that fits very snugly within the aka tubing. The extra thick tubing was in case I decide to move the ama mounts to the center of mass, lengthen the akas even more, or whatever. The new snugly fitting smaller diameter tubing is intended to reinforce the akas where they exit the mounts on the hull. I don't know that this will really help, but we'll see.

As usual, I waited until the day before the race to drill the holes for the push buttons and pins to secure the akas in their mounts. I took special care to make sure the tops of the amas were level and that the akas were preloaded to handle the torque of the amas. They turned out pretty close to level, with the ama tails slightly elevated. I added about 3/8 inch thick foam spacing to the hull aka mount with no angling, so the amas would be slightly higher than before.

The day of the race I wore a new farmer john wet suit (Kokotat medium size) which fit me with no room to spare. It is possible the legs of the wet suit are too slender, but when I tried the next size up the legs felt much the same and there was way too much room for my torso. Anyway, it was quite nice and warm in the near freezing air temperature at Bowman Bay, especially when worn with a microfiber top, fleece vest, long sleeved synthetic t-shirt, long sleeved nylon shirt, and a nylon jacket. I don't have booties, so instead I wore thick synthetic wicking socks and cycling sandals.

As luck would have it the sun actually came out, making it quite a pleasant late Fall day, with the temperatures reaching the upper 40's.

Launching at the boat ramp was pretty easy, and there was very little wave action. Unlike previous times wading into very cold water, this time my ankles and feet didn't even hurt pushing the boat around and extricating the dolly.

The new akas and the foam thickness at the mounts is just about right. While I was a little concerned that the bows would be too downward pointing they actually ended up about where they should be. A couple of the race photos seem to show one of the amas being a little tail heavy, but not too badly.

Anyway, a few quick spins of the pedals and the Garmin GPS said I was reaching over 8 mph! That was not quite believable, but maybe...

When the race started I was in the middle of the pack of some 155 boats, hindered by a couple of other racers on either side in front of me going a little slower than I wanted. A strange thing was also happening: the propeller was acting like it was aerating every so often even though there was very little wave action to speak of. After a few minutes I figured it out. I was pedaling through the bubbling vortices made by the paddlers ahead of me.

Once I figured that out I made sure to steer to the sides of them, and this became much less of an issue.

Heading around Deception Island I encountered the infamous kelp beds. On the north and west sides the kelp was fairly sparse, and I was able to coast right over it. On the southwest side it was a lot thicker, and I soon found myself stuck with the propeller not easily able to turn. If I had a paddle with me it would have been quickly and easily solved. Surf skis and kayaks were passing me left and right, and I was seriously considering asking for a tow. It took a minute or two before I was able to propel the boat through the last of it and get free.

Up to the point of getting stuck I was more or less keeping pace pace with Herbie Weisse, a middle-aged man in a flat water rowing shell. When I exited the kelp he managed to put about 150 or more yards distance between us.

It was fun passing a bunch of the boats that had just passed me as we headed towards the bridge over the pass. There was still a bit of current flowing against us, which could be seen in the various patterns at the water's surface. Most of the racers made a line very close to the shore of the island where the current had less effect, but I was unwilling to get stuck behind those folks - or in the occasional kelp growing there.

Heading around the next island, Strawberry Island, I gave it a wide berth in order to avoid the kelp growing around it. I was catching up to Herbie who also went outside. Just about everybody else took a path only a couple of feet from shore where there was a lack of vegetation. The net result was that several of the boats I had just passed were now ahead.

I managed to catch those boats one more time as we headed through Canoe Pass, and the standing waves were pretty short and easily traversed. My shin muscles were getting a bit sore, which I found a bit unusual. With the heat of exercise I had unzipped my wet suit and jacket, unbuttoned my shirt and periodically cooled my hands in the water - and I was still dripping with sweat. My legs were getting rather tired, and I was hoping I'd have enough energy left to have a decent sprint at the finish.

The wind had shifted to the southwest and the wave action was starting to build, much as it did a couple of years earlier when the course became very challenging for most people. I saw Herbie decide it was too much for him and his boat as he turned off the course and went directly to the finish line. For the V15 the conditions were no problem whatsoever, though some of the waves did hit the deflectors and splash the seat cushion.

Going back around Deception Island I steered wide around the south end, going through the kelp in a much sparser area. Again, the boats I had just passed were now ahead as we headed back to the finish. It was here that the waves, now from the northwest and approaching from the port side stern quarter, made it seem on several occasions like the boat was close to capsizing. On those occasions the winglet on the starboard ama definitely helped to keep the boat upright. I think the extra length for the akas also contributed quite a bit.

With the finish line in sight I tried to push as hard as I could, trying to keep my feet moving in circles rather than as pistons. My muscles were not quite as willing to obey, however, and the springiness of the prop shaft worked against me. I *almost* managed to catch and pass another boat, but the finish line came too soon.

With a time of 1:01:04 I ended up in 35th place for this 6.3 mile race.

Photos are available here:

My heart rate was a bit on the high side throughout the race: upper 150's to low 160's, peaking at 172 bpm toward the finish.
Overall I'm pretty happy with the longer akas, and the strut steering is acceptable. The performance going over the kelp was actually pretty amazing for a propeller-driven craft. The Cadence would have gotten stuck much, much earlier. The only thing that needs adjustment now is getting a propeller shaft that is not so springy, or switching to a higher ratio gearbox.