The Girls Take it Tandem

27 February 2007

In the quest to give GirlDiver more credibility in the eyes of the female divers who do not adorn themselves with OPI nails and Sephora mascara, we’ve planned a series of dives that will allow us to delve into the more adventurous side of diving. And…as a bonus…ALL these dives will ROCK!

The first dive of the series was “Girls Taking It Tandem”. My GirlDiver staff member, LeighAnn called and said that Blake from NuCanoe had invited us to demo their new recreational kayaks which their R&D department had put “scuba thought” into. She wanted a time…and a photographer on site.

Kayak Diving? Was she crazy?

I had never tried it, but I was pretty sure that the experience was going to be a whole lot of work and I would be fully exhausted by the end of one dive. And HOW was I supposed to get back in the kayak “gracefully”??? Did I really want a photographer there when someone would have to haul me back into the watercraft…or watching me “tired diver tow” the kayak to shore because I wouldn’t be able to lift my bum back into the boat?

Well, LeighAnn is new to GirlDiver, so I couldn’t just shoot down her first suggestion.

We arrived at Les Davis Marine Park to find Blake waiting for us with a trailerload of kayaks. (At least we LOOK like we know what we’re doing to the passersby) Our chosen dive site, bordering Commencement Bay, had fresh glacial runoff clouding the top ten feet of water, but turned out great for the pictures on the surface. We got our gear together while Blake unloaded the kayaks and brought them to our cars.

I had done my homework on these vessels. Ninety pounds empty. Not being a kayaker, I underestimated the magic of the kayak cart. ”Load your gear into the kayak,” said Blake.
Blake had just got done giving me a pep talk about how easy kayak diving would be. He said the easiest re-entries into the boat he’d witnessed, so far, were done by petite women. So, while I thought loading more weight onto the already heavy boat was contraindicitive to moving it to the entry point, I obliged him. Afterall, it’s his idea, so if I can’t move it, well, he’s the rep…he can pull it.

90 lbs. of boat + 160 lbs. of gear. ”Go ahead and grab hold of the handle and just pull it,” he directed.

Wow. Not only did it move, it pivoted, and I was pulling this bad boy with my fingertips!

The entry to this site is a set of stairs, made for divers by divers, courtesy of the hard work of the dedicated group Washington Scuba Alliance. We positioned the kayak at the top of the stairs and slid the boat with all of the gear aboard into the water. Amazingly easy.

LeighAnn and I assembled the paddles, LeighAnn choosing an unfeathered (parallel) blade adjustment, and I angled mine to a 60 degree right hand control. For never kayaking together before, we did a great job of immediately synchronizing our paddle strokes and efficiently made our way around the dive site.

With our photographer in place, we moved to the middle of the site, threw our inflated gear (important to INFLATE your gear) over the side and individually splashed into the turquoise sea. Donning your dive kit in the water is a skill not often practiced, but with very little struggle, we were geared up and ready to descend.

After a great dive, we surfaced to find our kayak a short surface swim away. Returning to the mothership, we fully inflated our BCD’s, slipped easily out of the gear, and faced the kayak re-entry challenge.

Fully aware of where our photographer was, we moved to the opposite side of the boat, so that we wouldn’t have to look at any “bum over the side” shots. Blake promised that I’d just take ahold of the bench seat, and would “pop” up and out of the water. Maybe he underestimated my upper body strength?

“Just kick and pop into the kayak,” he coaxed. (Did he forget that my fins were already aboard…how much good would my drysuit boots be here?)

I kicked. I’m effortlessly boosted up! My arms locked at the elbows, I lean forward and move my legs ”semi-gracefully” into the kayak. My gear retrieval is more difficult, due to the BCD integrated with 28 lbs. of weight and a steel tank. But LeighAnn and I work as a team, and pull both of the units aboard, along with a full hull of water.

No problem with the flooded boat, as the kayak is unsinkable. We did bail out some of the water, but only to make better paddling time on the way back.

The review results? Kayak diving with NuCanoe’s new recreational kayak rocks! Easy entry. Provides an excellent platform to stage from. You can hang bottles, gear and current lines from the 21 attachment points on the boat. Adjustable seats let you decide where you’re storing your gear and where you’re paddling from. Optional paddle leashes ensure that you’re paddles will be there when you surface, and your fins will make it out to the dive. With the help of a kayak cart, your shore entry has never been easier, and a surface “paddle” beats a surface “swim” anyday.