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A slow kayaking day

A slow kayaking day

Time to read: 5 min

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

Time to read: 5 min
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!

 

 

Paddling Blind

Paddling Blind

Time to read: 5 min

One of my favourite poems ‘On his blindness’ by John Milton ends

Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.

A friend of mine, Sandeep Mhatre, had buzzed me when I last checked into Karanja. A 17 km paddling trip that was one of these flights of fancy. I’d returned home to powai when he’d seen it but I promised to meet him saturday morning.

Waking up at 7 today, I have to say it took a long time to get on the water. A few days back, I’d lost my right eye contact to a wave while re-entering my kayak(subsequently, I tried in vain to get back in). So I broke a new case open, got my glares out and was ready to hit the water by 9. A good warm up and I hauled my kayak down to the water. The plan was simple. Cut straight across to Uran following the flames. I sent my spectacles and my contact lens box with a friend who would join us in Uran. 100 metres in, I felt my right eye twitch. I felt my contact travel down my cheek and fly into the water. Good luck finding that again.

I had two options. Head back to the club house and open another contact lens box or paddle to Uran. So began my 8.5 km trip with one eye. Now, I know it’s probably romantic thinking of an eye patch and a wooden leg, but the ground realities are that when your kayak is being washed by waves on starboard and a nice morning wind is slapping your right cheek, the depth perception of two eyes is a good thing. I had to veer off quite a bit, and like Frodo & Sam, make a circuitous route to the eye of Mordor. (Flames of Uran) It made for a fun trip and my brand new waterproof earphones, that Saurabh kindly gifted me for my birthday, dubstep blaring, was a bit of a distraction keeping me from hearing the waves. I changed course and made more for Karanja, planning on hugging the coast when I got there. It meant a bit of headwind and I learnt to make peace with that. Little by little I corrected my course till I was staring right at the flames. Keeping them to my right, I carried on, past the dargah, across a line of rocks and in between the fishing lines. An old couple on a rickety green boat was making for shore. As they saw me, they enquired who’s boat this was. As my reply went – mine, they asked me where I came from. I said Mandwa, and got an incredulous question back – is there a motor attached. I said – No. Bewildered he went – Chappu? I wished them a good day, and paddled on past the broken jetty that was our decided point to meet with Sandeep.

Landing at Uran
Landing at Uran

As I disembarked and walked my kayak to shore, I was happily reunited with my spectacles. I swapped out the lens and sat to admire the stretch I’d just bested. While Sandeep couldn’t meet us, his brother Sanjeev and his wife, Anita had brought their boys, Dishant and Mohit, down to the water. I took Mohit out on the kayak and he loved the way it ran on the water. He looked a natural taking my club carbon paddle and even stroking the water. A passing wave rattled him a little but only for an instant, and when we finally took him out of the kayak, he had the paddle stuck in his right hand. #startingyoung

Sanjeev, very graciously took us to coffee to a lovely place overlooking the water and it was a welcome break, talking about NDA and sailing and my upcoming trip. It was an hour well spent. I wanted to cast off, since the afternoon wind wouldn’t be in my favour and I didn’t intend on being stuck in the sun for any longer than I needed to.

Coffee table at Uran
Catching up

I set off and skirted past the fishing lines, pulling my rudder up in the ones I couldn’t avoid. It seemed to be going well enough, when I realised my right eye was leaking. I contemplated washing it out, but thought it would probably pass given time. I was wrong. As I waded deeper into the water, crossing into the channel, the irritation got worse and I found myself keeping my eyes shut for longer durations of time. The glare off the water was immense and very soon, I could keep the right eye open just for a few seconds. Again, I found myself paddling blind in one eye. There were a few things in my favour though. For one, the water was calm. Secondly, the wind hadn’t picked up considerably. Mid channel it was anyone’s guess where the waves were coming from, but I kept the pace. I barely braced, but corrected my course multiple times. Starting with Gull Island to my starboard, I ended up crossing it at port, something that was necessitated by a series of rocks on it’s east side. Past the island, I figured I needed to correct my course further, and the ferry from Bombay helped a blind man remap Mandwa. When I was past Gull Island, with a couple more kms to go, the glare was blinding, and with just my spectacles(spectacle to be honest) I had a tough time keeping an eye out for sudden waves. When I arrived at the jetty, I was a little more at peace. I rushed ashore and washed out my eye. It felt so good, I even did away with my PFD and did a km run within sight of shore.

I’m not one for standing and waiting, but paddling hard over Land and Ocean without rest seems just fine.

Post over land and sea
Post over land and sea
Dolphins at Mandwa

Dolphins at Mandwa

Time to read: 5 min

Today was the first day waking up at Mandwa. I’ve been, very kindly, put up as a guest at the Bombay Sailing Association Club house by the gracious and extremely affabale Randhir Behl. A long evening of kayaking yesterday, aggravated by a heavy wind and rocky waves, meant I woke up with a touch of soreness. Since no one likes waking at the clock, I snoozed till 8:10.

I stumbled out of my room and was greeted by the extremely caring attendant, or mama, who enquired about my breakfast. I was happy collapsing into the chair and awaiting a double omlette, I downed a cup of coffee laced with a strong dose of sugar. Good morning world.

Kayaking into the sunrise
Into the sun

Passing past Battery Park, I waved to the circle of friends I’d made the day before. And headed to pick up my kayak. The good natured Sridhar helped me take my beauty out of the housing and I took it straight down to the water. I had an idea of what I wanted to do today, and a good warm up after, I was in the kayak paddling away. The waves were kind today and after a few practice drills, I set off for the fishing village just off the cliff at mandwa. And what a glorious sight it was. The sun was out and it paled everything that the mist hadn’t already conquered, but through it all, one could see the outline of an army of fishing vessels. Anything else would be a gross understatement as I stared at 20 big fishing trawlers. But only for an instant. Then I was gone. It was a good route with a 2 km downwind stretch that let me test out my kayak. Heading back I got the headwind, but it was quick going and I had no complaints as the sun hadn’t set the air on fire.

On the run back, I was plagued by fishing nets. Not wanting to jump in and have to release it from my rudder, I chose to paddling through the minefield of bobbing thermacol. Pulling up alongside one, I found that I was not the only person avoiding it. 10 metres off my kayak, a grey creature emerged, took a deep breath and dove back in. As always, everything stops for dolphins. And I slowed to watch him do it again. He, like me, was looking for a way out. Every now and then you find a kindred soul in another species.

I made a couple of runs and ended the morning session with 15 kms in just under 2 hours. It wasn’t my fastest and I found myself bracing in the downwind conditions. But it was fun. A couple of seat adjustments and a deeper seating meant I was more in control.

Lunch was very welcome. And I dug into the rice, dal and bhindi that made me nostalgic about Kolad. I wolfed down on it, and it helped that the moushi had asked me twice over the amount of rice I’d requested. (My own estimations of how much rice I eat, were grossly exaggerated) So I ate as much as I could, and took a walk down to the jetty. My friends from battery park were in the process of leaving, so I took the time to say goodbye and headed back home.

A group of very bubbly women had recently checked in to the club house and I set about welcoming them (including agreeing to take one of them on the water in the afternoon). I then retreated to my room to catch up on some rest. My body had been asking for it. A quick nap and that alarm I’m getting so used to loving, chirped.

My clothes from the morning were sufficiently dry and I picked my kayak and dove into the water. As the evening high tide swung in, I found the going more fun. The evening wind was strong and my short forays were met with much resistance. I clocked another 7.5 km and then brought the kayak in for my capsize drills. The water was a lot calmer than yesterday, so I enjoyed a fair amount of success. All in all, I spent about 2.5 hours on the water. Then I hauled the kayak back and decided to call it a day.

The evening has been kind. And I’m finding out how much I adore a hot water bath. There is probably nothing sweeter after spending 5 hours on the water in various degrees of being soaked to the bone. I polished off my rice and moushi produced some fried fish that I used as desert.

An old sailing friend, Muruggan Nadar, is holding a beach party it would appear, so I’ll sign off and see if I can soak in some of the bonfire. From Mandwa, feeling good, this is Kaustubh Khade Paddling Hard.

Rolls Training

Rolls Training

Time to read: 3 min

Day 3. Rolls Training.

Pali. 04.01.2015

Blue Pyranha Play Kayak
Weapon of Choice: Play Kayak

The day started well with a slow breakfast at our not so favourite haunt. A good poha later, our merry band headed down the Unhere road in quest of the ‘dharna’ that’s the elusive beauty of Pali. After a good deal of going the wrong way and providing ample amusement for the villagers going about making their pukka houses in the heat, we found the misleading turn just-yonder the temple.

Finally after a bit of running around, we arrived at the foothills of that most august of dams. And the wonderful overhanging valley. It served as a fitting end to a day with the best of company.

After that it was back to business as usual and a drive down to Kolad saw us arrive shortly before lunch. I’ll admit a touch of sunday laziness kicked in and we took a leisurely lunch that is soon becoming our staple diet here. Rice, dal, bhindi and roti. And a laddoo I was most glad to donate to the eager crow. While we lazed awaiting the water levels to rise,we were subjected to HS’ brand of humour. One that we are all beginning to fall in love with again. Shortly after it was time to get our feet wet. As I skirted up, the others got ready to take a couple of sit on tops out on the water. Rajesh, my exceedingly patient and terribly talented kayak instructor was ready to save my drowning behind, and in all honesty, and at the cost of sounding immodest, I didn’t let him early on in the day. By the time I was into my 30th roll of the day, I looked comfortable doing it. I felt I was doing a better job of sticking to the kayak right after finding myself in the drink. A couple of the drills from Day 2 rally helped and I found myself more at ease at looking at the world upside down from under the water. I found myself taking my time even after Rajesh’s customary tap telling me it’s time to roll. The sweep of the arm was longer and I felt I carried the blade along the edge a lot better. There was still a fault in the distance between the arm and the ear and the angle of the blade on the water, but towards the end of the day I found I as cutting it a lot closer and had to lean and push back a lot less. The kayak continues to resist my lower body and mishearing Rajesh’s concerned statement that ‘it’s small’ provided amusement for the juvenile company I’ve been keepinmg this weekend.

We ended the day with some tired shoulders and arms, and it was a good decision. I left content in the knowledge that I could do a guitar roll unassisted. Mahesh’s comforting words that I had achieved a lot in the span of 3 days were welcome.

Tomorrow we graduate to the eskimo roll. And perhaps, back to basics.

PaddleHard.

Pain

Pain

Time to read: 3 min
Trypewritten article on Pain
Journal Entry

11.01.2015

Pali, Maharashtra.

PAIN.

An hour into training I hit it. That moment you get hit by that feeling. I started the day spectacularly, with some quick rolls. I was out of the water instantly after toppling. And I braced on. Things were going smoothly when I missed a roll. Unable to get the paddle back I surrendered to the river and Rajesh had to swim in to toss me over. All the spectators on their weekend office trip, who till now were delighted to see me disappear and reappear with only the pretty blue hull of my kayak to show for it, stood a little quiet now. I shrug it off and get back into position. Tilt left, turn right, go under. Position the blade, take a moment to breathe (or not) and sweep. Air, light, boom, Water. As Rahesh rushes to position himself under me, I realise I missed again.

As I grab some air, and wipe the water off my face and eyes, I ask myself, What gives? Undettered, I reposition and fall back in. Same result. The quiet spectators make way for worried spectators. And I’m struggling.

It’s called Pain.

My hip was sore. And my knees ached. The toes that had found some allowance in that baby kayak were being asked to clear out, and were seriously considering it. My shoulder would hurt if it felt something. And I was back to sq. 1.

It holds true for nearly every sport I’ve tried. At sailing, for a week I had no gloves and a broken jam cleat meant my hands chafed every session. During the races I felt no pain. At archery, the first few sessions my left arm knew what the bow string tasted like. When Oscar changed our technique while kayaking, my calves cramped. So, Why do we do it?

Why am I spending a sunday afternoon trying to repeatedly drown myself when there are other pursuits? Why should I endure back pain tonight? Or put myself back in that tight kayak tomorrow morning?

I can’t honestly say. I guess on some level it’s a reminder that you are doing it right. Your first steps in anything tend to be like that. And after that first fall, first taste of ddust, first mouthful of river water your body becomes more ready.

The first time I kayaked a distance I was hit by a gust of wind heading back, and it put me off balance. I was 2 Kms off shore and there wasn’t a soul in sight. In our lives we experience pain and we shy from it, avoid it even. Take a day off working out, or give up an activity altogether. This, when it might be the very thing we need. In the basic way of looking at it, aren’t we All born off pain. Kicking and screaming we’ve made it this far. And we have a long way to go.

I took the kayak to the launch site, squeezed my severely cramped legs out, let the water out of the kayak. Took a breath or two. Got my feet back in and execute the rolls to perfection. We start at 8.a.m. tomorrow.

PaddleHard.

Thank you 2014

Thank you 2014

Time to read: 1 min

You’ve given me a lot.

And by 2014, I mean everyone who’s been super involved and appreciative of the expedition. Nothing says it like a thoughtful gesture, and I wanted to take some time out to thank everyone who’s done that since I started on this quest.

2015 is the year. And I’m sure big things are meant for all of us.

I hope it’s bright and beautiful for you.PaddleHard.

GoPro3
Rohit Prakash’s GoPro that will see some miles.
Epic SkiTop & Paddle Leash
Shekhar Kumta’s generous gift of a Skitop and a Paddle Leash
The joy of receiving…

The joy of receiving…

Time to read: 2 min

…your paddling equipment.

Epic Paddles flown in to Bombay
Hello Equipment!
Mid Wing and Touring Paddles
Sphinx (Black) & Nameless(White)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With baited breath you wait at the arrivals gate of the airport. I’ve been here tons of times, with tons of friends and had many a fun moment scaring, exciting and surprising people. And yet, today I wait with baited breath. With an unspoken anticipation that is telling to present company.

My cousin Rohit, or RB, was kind enough to purchase, parcel and post my brand new kayak paddles just in time for the journey. I do not know the person I am to receive, just a name and the familiar sight of Epic Paddle bags. Her family awaits at the head of a queue of eager, bubbly, teary-eyed, red-eyed people awaiting their sons, daughters, wives, mother-in-laws, bosses.

I however, am the only person checking out luggage.

An hour of waiting and I see them. Proudly mounted atop two other suitcases. My babies are here.

Decorum dictated I didn’t rush Mugda. Or hug her and jump up and down in glee. After the requisite time allowed to her to greet family and friends, I respectfully approached at her brother’s calling. Thanking her and her most accommodating brother Sourabh, I whisked away my paddles and let the family have their space.

As you can see, I wasted no time in letting them out for some cold(?) Bombay air. And have been fawning over them all day today. The black one is Sphinx. (After Vinnie Jones from Gone-in-60-seconds.) The other needs a name. Suggestions?

Personal Safety – Check

Personal Safety – Check

Time to read: 2 min
Getting enrolled at NAMAC
Sign up for Safety

Seafarers know that there’s nothing more brutal than tempting the sea. I was advised to keep the mad ideas aside for 3 days and focus on what I might encounter at sea.

I signed up for NAMAC’s Personal Safety Techniques course that should in all likelihood keep my head above water. 3 days later, I’ve walked out with a good understanding of what to expect out there, and some quick insights on what to do if I come across the unexpected.

However, there were some gems that went like –

Me: So, sir, if I were to encounter a shark. What should I do?

Naval looking instructor: See. Shark is a fish. If it smells your blood, it will come. And it will suck your blood.

Me: Ok.

Naval looking instructor: See. It won’t bite you. It will suck your blood. And it will leave.

Needless to say, I called it a day after that. [Jaws.Twilight.]

The practical training was quite a bit of fun. And jumping from 4.5 metres into a pool and ferrying people using just the one hand makes for a highly successful day.

We had a good bit of fun over 3 days, and the chaps headed to the next level were a good crowd.

Boys in class
Survival 101
Sea King Rescue Helicopter
The one thing I’m not hoping to see