Saturday, September 28, 2013

Just One Shirt and my Mom


My mother is worried on account of me only having one t-shirt.  Every night when I shower, I wash the shirt, and then put on the wet shirt.  My mother is pushing me to get another shirt, at least until my trip starts.  How could I only have one shirt?  It seems indecent and she suspects I smell.

I got an email from Corrado, who’s in charge of the L.N.I. Napoli kayaking program.  He invited me to teach the group.  And the next morning I showed up for just that.  

On such short notice, I had a class of one.  After showing me around, Corrado and I went for a paddle.  We passed the same castles and coast I had finished my trip with so long ago, except this time I had a running narration.  Buildings that had called out to me “I’m interesting,” only to remain silent, now revealed their secrets and ports told their histories.

We arrived at a harbor used by a kayaking club and looked around for the local kayakers.  Corrado thought they would like to meet me.  There was a rack holding some nice looking boats, but we couldn’t find any of the paddlers who owned them.

On the way back, we paddled through a tight rock garden just underneath a castle on an island.  A wall separated a maze of stones and narrow kayaking passages from the castle, and it was an enjoyable test of skill to paddle through smoothly..

In the distance, I could make out the island of Capri and the enormous Mount Vesuvius.  The weather was nice and I rolled for the love of it.  Corrado thought it was cool so I agreed to teach him how.

We were back on Sunday, ready for rolling class in the crystal clear green water of the sailing club’s port.  We only had one sprayskirt between the two of us.  I decided I would try to teach Corrado a layback roll.  I would perform various demonstrations in beginning, then Corrado would take the skirt and we would would see what he could learn.

I prefer to teach the C to C roll to first timers because since it brings the paddler directly into a stable upright position.  But I think a layback roll may be more forgiving so long as the paddler can get his head down against the stern deck, and may be preferable for Corrado since he may not be as limber as was when he was younger.

“Corrado, can you get your head down against your back deck?”  I asked.

He tried.  He got his head pretty low before he capsized.

Good, he could do it.  

He started to swim to the dock but I wanted to teach an assisted rescue whereby a kayaker gets back into his boat with the help of an assisting kayak rather than a dock.  Corrado has been kayaking for over 30 years.  He is eager to learn, but not good at following instructions in a foreign language*.  We got him back into his boat with only a few worrisome moments.

Among other things that were new to him, I was pleased explain to him that you can get almost all of the water out of a kayak just by lifting the bow.  With a bulkhead just behind the seat it was not necessary to take the boat out of the water and rock it back and forth as he thought.

He told me, “I’m a bad student.”

“I noticed, but don’t worry, we’ll get you rolling.”

When he capsized a second time, the assisted rescue went as smooth as good scotch, which was sadly unavailable.

Ready to move forward, I demonstrated a layback roll.

“It looks easy,”  he said, pleased that it was so simple.

I break the roll down into three main components:  Sweeping the paddle way out at a climbing angle from the bow to the stern gives leverage against the water.  Bringing the left ear from being scrunched against the left hip to right ear against the right hip pulls the boat under the paddler.  Finishing with the head as close to the back deck as possible keeps the center of gravity low, making the whole thing easier to pull off.  

I went on to demonstrate how to learn the ear hip scrunch with a bow dip. To perform a bow dip, I explained, you hold onto the other kayaker’s bow while resting your ear in the water.  Since, like Grandpa Sam ז”ל**, it was the only ear Corrado could hear from, the rest of the technique didn’t go so smoothly.

I explained the whole thing from the beginning, this time without insisting that he follow my instructions as I go through them.  He tried and then we did it again, and again. We got to where he was switching from a right scruntch to a left scrunch and pulling himself out of the water almost without his arms.

It was great.  He had learned the technique, and while he didn’t get it right on every attempt, he could tell on his own which attempts were good and which were not.  We’ll work on sweeping tomorrow.

Corrado went off to a meeting and I had the boat and the Gulf di Napoli to myself.  I paddled to the sea caves and islands that I remembered from the last time I was here, years ago.  This time, I wasn’t finishing a 1000 mile expedition, I was just exploring.  And explore I did.  I went deep into mountains.  I skirted barely submerged rocks.  I took lots of pictures. I rolled to cool off. And I waved to other kayakers who sometimes waved back or smiled in return, and sometimes ignored me.

As I paddled back to port, I watched Capri.  In the afternoon sun, it was a lazy shade of purple on the horizon.  15 nautical miles out, I’ll spend the first night of this leg there, and hopefully explore the mythical Blue Grotto.

In the port, a fellow from L.N.I. gave me a t-shirt.  Now I have two.  When my trip starts, I’ll give it back, but in the meantime it makes my life a little easier and my mom will be pleased.

*I suspect that, like me, he’s not good at following instructions in any language.  I really like the guy.

**Of blessed memory.

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