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Month: February 2015

A slow kayaking day

A slow kayaking day

Another day of training started early and I was awake by 7. A look out at the water though sent me back to the covers. The tide was way out and there was no wind at all. Despite having to tackle the afternoon sun if I lingered, I decided to catch up on some much needed sleep. After a quick breakfast, I slept off for 45 minutes. Re-woke at 8:30 and was on the water by 9.

Conditions had improved marginally, and I set a decent pace down to the rocks just off Mandwa beach. The tide was out and I could clearly see the rocks. Just to highlight their presence, the breakers created white froth as they crashed on them. I steered well clear to the point of pointing towards bombay. Once sufficiently out of harms way, I turned south to coast down the coastline. Rounding the turn the is the north face of the mainland, I turned to find the blue fishing boat from yesterday. Abandonment is a thing. I dwelled on the loneliness of the boat for a few seconds and then carried on. About 4.5 kms into it, I had my first break. I saw a clearing in a beach I’d not docked at and pulled in; If for nothing else, but the beauty of this picturesque house / villa / resort on it.

Kayak against someone's sprawling house on the beach
Not a bad property is it? The house in the back’s not bad either.

I got back in the water quickly and made for Awas once more. This time I met the fishermen of Sasawane and had a quick chat. The sun was coming up quick and I didn’t linger. I was looking to head back after 7 kms but in the distance I saw a group of people playing on the beach. It seemed like cricket, but the love for games on the beach is something I couldn’t resist. So when I drew up alongside, I was happy to see that they were playing a real sport. Football. Before the breakers could toss me out the kayak I was on the beach, ready to join in.*

Football. Not cricket.
Who can resist a good game of football?

In return I let the eldest of the family sit in the kayak for as long as he could. Having had his fill of sea water, he re-enquired about my expedition. I got on with my training and had barely gone 200 metres, when a fish flew straight out the water and back in again. Such sightings are now a common thing, but when I say fish I mean, a fish the length of my arm and the height of my face. Short of a catapult, I could not fathom the power that would propel this, easily 5 kg, beast out the water and a metre into the air**. Barely had I had the time to say ‘Whosbeenfeedingyouyoumonster’ when it had gone back in. I’m not sure what he was doing getting some air time, but I think we both left with the impression that strange creatures abounded in the waters near Awas. As if by mutual understanding we decided to put each other out of our minds and paddle on. Paddle Hard fish.

The rest of my paddle was uneventful except when rounding back to the jetty, the tide had found it’s feet and was crawling up the beach. I hadn’t accounted for it, and at the lovely breakers that were so pronounced, I miscalculated my turn and found myself in the midst of the rocks. Feeling through the rises and falls around me, I gave the rocks the slip, but it was a bit of tricky business with the water falling and rising and waves hitting me from three sides for that minute I was hung. It quickened my heart rate a little and I have to think that Mr. Fly-So-High fish must have had a “that’ll teach you, you white-black-and-orange surface dweller” smile on his Fly-So-High lips.

I returned to a healthy lunch of chicken and rice. A few phone calls to sponsors and media ensued and I spent the afternoon recovering. After a quick snooze, I got back into gear and headed out a second time. I made for the fishing village of bodani aided by the light evening wind, which was a trickle compared to what I’ve had on this stretch in the recent past. The tide had gone back out again, and ahead of bodani I saw teams of fishermen in pairs, out a km from land but standing up at waist length.

Fishermen with their hand nets
Low tide means get the fishing net out to go shrimping

It made for a fun way to unwind with no wind in sight, and I spent some time going from one fisherman pair to the next. Once content they knew what they were doing, I headed back. Job done. The kayak back didn’t offer much excitement, but was an hour of paddling in the wind again. Finally back to shore, I practiced my re-entry without the jacket, and I must say it’s a lot easier. I’m tempted to tuck it in the back and pull it out only in emergencies.

*This is disputable, as the author might have been thrown out of the kayak by a vicious wave that didn’t respect the rules of kayaking. As there were no witnesses to this, (football is a very immersive sport) the author is entitled to deny this allegation entirely.

**No, I didn’t take a picture of this fish. But it would look something like this –

http://lonestarchronicles.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/BertDan015.jpg

The goatee is a little misleading.

Kihim or a beach just like it

Kihim or a beach just like it

Me, Kayak and the untouched beach of Awas
Selfies that must be taken

I woke up rather rested today. I have to admit, I stayed off the water entirely yesterday. (My lower back hasn’t fancied carrying the kayak everytime there is a low tide, and I felt it needed to lay low yesterday) The day rest had done me good and as I eased out the muscles at warm-up, I felt like there was a fair bit of paddling ahead of me. I was on the water the earliest I’ve been in my last week, and at 9 o’clock I was rounding the bend at Mandwa.

Map of Mandwa
The where’s where of my training camp

Taking the advice of seasoned kayakers, I stopped mid-way to chat up some fishermen. This is something like asking for directions in Bandra, minus the condescension at not knowing pali-hill. I’ve learned fishermen are most helpful, and these chaps were quick to point out where I’d meet some rocks and what time I should look to head back unless I meet headwinds that would render me useless. Since trudging seems to be the order of the week, I trudged on. Saw the breakers and steered clear off them. They seemed harmless enough and after rounding the rock face, I started my quick trip down.

The wind was a little high here, and the uncertainty of the swell around the face meant I had to stay sharp. Generally, I don’t mind head wind. I can feel the wind change better and I tend to see the incoming waves. It’s where two waves meet that one has to brace. A km of paddling cautiously meant I was out of this area and headed down further. I could feel a small tail wind and the waves wanted to drag me onto some rocks they had a fancy for. I decided otherwise and paddled deeper out into sea. At 5.5 kms I came across the fishing ships of, what mama at the BSA club house would later point out, Sasawane Beach. As Google confirms this, I must remember to slap mama on the back and tell him what a good old chap he is. (This might eventually lead to my ousting from the club house, as mama is a good chap just as often as I take a strong dose of sugar in my tea.)

I tried my best to amble through the fishing boats, but the following waves meant I steered clear and kept all of these boats well to port. At this stage, I might remind you that my fishing friends from mandwa had given me a strict mandate for when to return. And at 8 kms out, I felt I had another 15 minutes before I started back. I found a nice stretch of beach that didn’t look very threatening, and I made for it through the waves. Waves don’t always think highly of your plans so when I had my two legs out for a nice swift dismount, they decided to throw me out and fill my boat. Nothing quite like getting a little wet in the morning, and I laughed as I pulled me kayak out the water.

I let the water out the kayak and stretched my legs. I took a few minutes to appreciate the untouched beach I’d found myself on. The lone person walking the beach, I found, was some random pole 500 metres off. The trees lined up 20 metres from where I’d landed and things looks surprisingly white and green. I paused long enough to readjust my food and water, and take a few selfies. Then it was back in the kayak. There were a few strong waves and I waited for the large one, and then ducked into the water. Marathoners at the finish would have been proud, and I found myself on the other side of the waves in no time.

Then it was back to paddling and I braved the first 2-3 kms in full headwind. Nearing Sasawane, I heard the unmistakable hum of an overhead chopper. Having had enough of their antics, I was in no mood to stop for the Navy. At first, I felt the Navy thought the same of me, and they ran right over head. A little over the fishing boats, still a km in the distance, they turned and ran past me. Circled around and then went overhead into the sea. It’s that mixed feeling of relief and anguish at being deemed ‘small fry’. Paddling back was good fun, and I enjoyed the wind in my face. By the time I rounded the turn for Mandwa, I’d better the tide and wind, and wasn’t overtly concerned about he breakers near the coast. The last 2 kms, the wind died entirely, and the high tide carried me slowly and surely home.

Abandoned fishing boat
Everyone looks for a reason to avoid mondays

18 km in a little over 2.5 hours. It was a good start to the day.

In the afternoon, I admit I snoozed the alarm a little longer than intended and was out on the water at 5 p.m. It allowed me to catch a nice tailwind and coast down to the picturesque fishing village called Bodani.

Bodani on a map
Good to know where these fishes are

I passed bodani and decided to stop to chat up my fellow maharashtrians. I found they were busy mending their boats. And it made for a sight indeed. On one of my roadtrips, from Manipal to Panjim back in 2010, I’d chanced upon a fishing boat factory where they were making these fine boats, and the warmth of the people there always brings a smile to my face. I encountered these people toiling away at their boat were no different. They were quick to pose for a photo and full of question about where I came from.

Here are some pics from that lovely little village.

Hard working people mending the ship
The ship and it’s lovers
Beached fishing boats on a low tide.
Beached!