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Celebrating summer

May 10, 2011
By MEL NEWELL, Gulf Coast Kayak, Matlacha

Summer is here. Unbelievable how busy we have been these past few weeks at Gulf Coast Kayak in Matlacha Florida. {MAT-LA-SHA}.

We have had some super weather {most days} and I guess you have to take a bad one every once in a while.

However, for the most part it’s been great. So this brings to mind a question asked of me a lot? What do you do on a windy day? Do you sit home? On the other hand, do you still go out?

There are many places like Kissmet, Shell creek, Babcock Lake that are sheltered from the wind, and still offer a beautiful place to paddle and fish.

I always check the weather the night before a paddle. I look for days with the most abundant sun shine and the least amount of wind Yet still keep in mind Sometimes even the weather man is wrong. Welcome to Florida. I often times think we have weather men on the take,” today it will be sunny and in the 90s and no rain in site, it’s a great day for the beach, this message is sponsored by the Florida vacation tourism bureau.”

Then you have the real deal on another channel. Some times it’s hard to find out the real weather by just listing to the radio. We have been out and the forecast calls for sunny with a slight chop on the water. In the morning when we leave it is a lovely day in mat-la-sha. Then as the day paddles on we get strong winds from the east and the west. Now some times the wind is a good thing, like when it’s at your back, but there is nothing worse to encounter when you are dog tired after a three-hour paddle and turn the bend and find 30 mile a hour winds, and a two foot chop in your face, with two miles still left to paddle.

What can you do? Well, first you should have checked the weather before you came out.

I use www.wunderground on the computer and put in the zip of were I would be paddling that day. I look at the five day, and hourly forecast, and then check the Doppler, looking for wind and rain. Still there are days when even we guess wrong. So here are some things you may want to bring along, just incase Mother Nature changes her mind on the weather day.

One an extra paddle. Should you lose or break the one you have, use a paddle leash so as not to drop the paddle or to keep it secure to your yak should you flip over, if you do flip do you have a paddle float to help you get back in? In addition, you have had your vest on? Moreover, it is a good fit and all the straps and buckles work? And you can reach your whistle should you need it. How about all the other folks out with you on the paddle today do the have their vest on and a good fit? Another thing to think about is, every one in the group as good a paddler or swimmer as you?

Maybe this trip you are showing grandma what a lovely place Pine Island and Matlacha are, and the weather goes bad?

Well, I carry a length of rope with some carabineers on each end. Now I mean real carabineers not the ones you pick up for a buck at the dollar store, and use as a key chain. The rope should be a good thickness and rated for a few hundred lbs. The kayaks you are using do they have a secure place to tie or hook the line?

No, don’t tie the rope to the person your trying to help. Tie it to a u-bolt with a good backing on the deck of the kayak. The u-bolt can also be used as a locking device on your car so no one runs off with your kayak. Just run a cable with a lock through it and secure it to you car.

So now we have grandma in tow. Ask her to keep paddling, to help you get through the wind. Try to point the bow of your kayak into the waves. Don’t let the waves come over the side of the boat.

Sure it’s hard, but you want to get back from were you came from don’t you?

Don’t be a hero. If you can’t paddle back, get to shore and walk back. Mother Nature is strong and some times it’s best to let her win.

Some other things to keep in mind, did you bring a pump, or bailer, just incase you do take on a wave or two. How about a cell phone in a waterproof container? 911 are so much easer to get hold of if you have a phone.

Did you bring a horn or whistle incase you have to flag down a boat that is passing by for a tow home?

And don’t forget a light or strobe should you be caught out in the dark or fog. Most of the time the weather in Florida is great, but keep in mind it can change.

One of my readers asked me if I would say a few words about paddles, so here they are.

Which paddle do I want to buy?

I think that a paddle is a personal thing just as your kayak or seat that you chose is. There are some questions you need to ask your self before you purchase a paddle. How much will I be paddling? Are you a weekend warrior, or do you paddle only on vacation.

Maybe you want to paddle every day for a work out? I would also say cost is a big factor.

Then what kind of kayaking do you do? Like if you are in the mangroves and the water gets so low you will need a paddle that is hard and sturdy to push off the sand bars. Therefore, an ultra light or thin one would be of no use. Will you be putting the paddle in the car? You may want to think of a two or three piece so it is easy to store. The materials of today’s paddles are many. You can find aluminum, fiberglass, composite, and let’s not forget good old wood. You can by different shapes; flat, round, bent, curved, and egg. Long and short and yet another one the Green land paddles. Most cheap paddles are heavy and you fatigue fast. I have a cheap paddle, but I only use it as my spare or back up paddle. On the other hand, I have a light expensive one that comes apart, has rubber hand grips, drip rings and it is very flexible, and sells for around $300. I probably should tell you what drip rings are. They are the two rubber rings or plastic rings on the end of the shaft of your paddle. The idea behind them is that you place them six to eight inches above the paddle blade so as not to put them in the water when you dip the paddle in the water. This should make it so the water from the paddle blade drops the water on the out side of the kayak when you raise the paddle.

If you don’t keep the rings in place and let them slide down the shaft of the paddle, your kayak will fill up with water and you will no longer have a kayak but a submarine.

There are some classic wood paddles that are made of different kinds of wood and sure look pretty. The only problem I find with them is that they take a lot of care to keep them looking good.

The Green land paddle is nice if you know how to make them and know how to paddle with it. However, again they need some attention now and then. Some folks like the feel of just the natural wood, others chose to cover them with a Polly coating.

To find the right one for you, try a few different kinds, borrow one from a friend. What does he think of it? Also keep in mind that a 300 pound man may not like the same paddle that a 125 pound woman may like. Moreover, vice versa.

Try to get a good kayak shop and have them fit you for you paddle. Nothing like a good fit. Not to long and not to short or heavy.

Well. I hope this helps and gives you some food for thought before you go out and get you next paddle.

The weather is great so get out on the water. Remember every one needs a good paddle now and then. Hope to see you on the water and thanks for paddling with Mel the guide. Mel the Guide tours 941-661-8229.


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