Sunday, October 05, 2014

Outer West Passage of Terror

It was a rough week at work. My boss resigned and my new master made it clear that I was no longer going to have as much freedom to address issues as I was used to having. So H pushed me to get out and paddle if possible.
TG posted a level 3-4 paddle out of Bay Campus for the weekend. Level 3-4 is around the top of my current range, but it is safely in the range-as long as things don't get too pear shaped. The forecast was for wind, but I was feeling pretty good about getting on the water. Then I read the message board on Saturday.....
There was a thread about how this was going to be an advanced level paddle, Only paddlers who had been paddling regularly should attend. There was a second post describing the conditions on Saturday as closer to level 4-5. I was feeling a little less confident that I was up for the trip. Was I really up for an edge of the envelope paddle? Would I slow the group down or become a safety issue?
Upon careful consideration of the facts, I decided to go. I had been paddling regularly. A lot of the paddling was not in rough conditions or on RIC/KA trips, but it was time on the water paddling. Pushing Big Red around exercises the same muscles and takes a good deal of skill. Maneuvering a double without help is not easy. The NOAA forecast for the area did not match up with the described conditions; they were night and day. It was a safe bet that reality was somewhere in the middle. I was comfortable with the middle. I also trusted that TG and TM would tell me if they felt I wasn't up to the conditions.
At the put in, it was a little windy. The seas looked bumpy, but not scary. The scariest decisions were where to park and what to wear. Autumn, like Spring, is always tricky from a wardrobe perspective. The weather was sunny, but a little windy. The water is a little cold, but not really cold. People were wearing drysuits and people were wearing shorts and paddle jackets. I wasn't ready to give up on the warm weather or admit that winter is bearing down, so I went with the shorts and paddle jacket.
We launched and crossed over to Dutch Island. From there we proceeded along the Jamestown coast. The wind and swells were a minor presence. You knew they were there, but just. It was nice to just paddle and catch up with people.
Once we passed Beaver Tail, the wind and swells picked up. Crossing the mouth of the Bay from Beaver Tail to Whale Rock is bumpy on a clam day. Today was no exception. It was bumpier than average, but far from uncomfortable.
From Whale Rock we paddled down to Narragansett Town Beach for lunch. Getting to the beach took some planning. The beach was busy, there was a little choppy surf, and the rip from Narrow River was in place. We stuck close to the rocks to avoid the rip and the surf. A few adventurous paddlers did take the opportunity to play.
Lunch was nice, but windy. It was the only point on the paddle that I regretted not wearing a drysuit. My legs got a little chilly. Several people pulled out storm cags for warmth. I took the opportunity to break out the emergency shelter for a little respite from the wind. The shelter, which is little more than a big nylon sheet, is a little unwieldy. Once inside the shell, you are toasty warm. From the inside, the shelter is easy to manage.
After lunch, we paddled back along the mainland coast and the rocks. The wind and the swell made it a fun ride. We also had the National Guard giving us a show of men being dangled from a helicopter. Gawking at the string of men being dragged through the air on a rope was a nice way to spend the breaks between surfing through rocks.
I've grown more cautious as I've gotten older. I am not more concerned about getting myself hurt; I'm more concerned about finding the time and money to get the kayak fixed. OK, I am also concerned about getting myself hurt. The worry is not really for myself though; it is for my family. How would my being injured effect them? Could I afford to get the kayak fixed without impacting them? That doesn't mean I don't want to play in the rocks. I just have to balance my desire to play with my responsibilities differently.
The rocks were fun. I didn't tackle all of the rocks, but I made anough runs to challenge and satiate the need. Ultimately, I think I enjoy the distance paddling more than the rock playing. The adrenaline rush is great. The quiet is better.
We ran into some paddler looking for surf in Bonnet Cove, so we checked the beach out. The surf was small. People played a little. I mostly just bobbed and recharged.
Back at the put-in, I did the mandatory roll on each side. I can still roll. They were not as pretty as in the past, but I get up.
The paddle was just what the doctor ordered. I drove home feeling much better and mentally relaxed. A good day on the water can wash away a lot of crap.

Sunday, September 21, 2014


I had given up hope for paddling the season. It looked like every weekend save for a very few were booked up. The fall season, while it can offer great paddling days, is also notorious for rainy weekends. Work was feeling like a long, bleak slog to nowhere. Is it any wonder that most representations of Autumn in literature are bleak and hopeless.
Then TM e-mailed asking me to post a Jamestown circumcision paddle on a day that I had free!! I only had two days notice, but I was hopeful that I'd get clearance. I was a little uncertain about my stamina and skills for a long haul paddle, but felt that I could handle the distance and the price I'd pay the next day.
Saturday morning I woke up achy and stuffy... Initially, I thought it was just lingering effects from a long week. As the day wore on, I started thinking it may be a cold. Knowing there was a potentially excellent paddle the next day made me even more miserable.
The forecast for the following day was looking pretty grim as well. There was a better than 50% chance of thunder showers. In New England 50% is hardly a sure thing. I checked with TM and his feeling was that the showers were a red herring.
H kept asking if I was still thinking about going. I kept saying that I was holding off until morning to see if I felt any better. Secretly, I think both of us had come to the conclusion that I was going to be home.
I was not prepared to admit defeat. I packed the car and deployed the roof racks.
Sunday morning I woke up feeling much better. At least better enough to go paddling. The sky was grey and the forecast still called for showers, but the paddle was not being canceled. H was very kind and said nothing and helped me load the kayak on the car.
The paddle crew was an interesting mix of old faces and new faces. It was odd not knowing everyone. It was odd to be using the stick again. It was even odder to feel like I may be the weak link in the chain. I resolved to just pretend everything was normal and that I was still the same seasoned paddler I was years ago.
As it turned out, I am still a pretty good paddler. All the paddles in Big Red kept my paddle muscles in functional shape. The rest of the skills are like riding a bike. I little time on the water and I felt pretty good.
The paddling was an interesting mix of play boating and distance paddling. Our first leg was up to the dumplings to see if there was any current to play in. There was a little, but not enough to hold our interest for long. We then headed south along the Jamestown coast. There was enough energy in the water to make things fun and require helmets. We worked our way down the coast and around Beavertail. Then we headed north up the other coast. TM wanted to lunch at Ft. Getty, so we passed most of the little coves that dot the coast. After lunch we passed Dutch Island and into the harbor. We carried over the beach and headed back to Ft. Weatherill.
It was a long paddle at nearly 13 miles. I was tired, but I felt good. I was fully re-energized and ready for a week of work.... even if I was planning on being a little stiff on Monday.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Big Red Gets Ice Cream

We bring all of our toys with us on vacation. The car is not happy about lugging everything to the far reaches of Maine, but that is the car's raison-de-etre. So, we spent four days in Searsport camping.
On Friday, we biked around Belfast and found a Cool Spot that has great ice cream and coffee.
On Saturday, we wanted to use the kayaks. Bug mostly wanted to hang out and it took us until mid-afternoon to get our acts together. We used ice cream as the lure to get Bug's buy in for the adventure. The paddle to Belfast is along a pretty protected coast with no major crossings. I'd guessed that it was maybe four miles one way, and would take about an hour.
Once we got on the water Bug cheered up. She enjoyed playing with her paddle and looking for birds on the water.
We moved along the coast at a nice pace until Bug had to pee. I didn't think this was a big deal. I suggested that she just climb out of the boat, hang on the side, and do her business. There was no chance of Bug tipping Big Red and she was wearing a PFD. It would be a quick in and out stop. I was overruled and we headed into shore to find a decent place for Bug to get out and pee in shallow water. It took a little doing, but we did find a spot.
Back on the water, Bug and chatted about all sorts of things as we made our way to ice cream. Then we repeated the pee stop.
The last third of the paddle was free of stops and involved the only crossing of the trip. The Passagassawakeag River empties into Belfast Bay. The currents are barely noticeable, but it was enough to stir up some anxiety.
The paddle turned out to be more like six and a bit miles. It took closer to two hours. Our time for ice cream was going to be short. If the return trip took as long, we would just beat sunset.
Once on land, we rushed to the Cool Spot for yummy, and deserved, ice cream. We each got our own version of chocolate decadence. The flavors are lush. It was hard leaving.
After ice cream, the fun stopped. Bug didn't want to get back into the kayak. She refused. It was clear that the return trip was not in the cards, despite our best efforts. Fortunately, we were in a populated area and could call a cab. H returned to the campground and got the car.
The trip was good until it wasn't. H and I learned that you cannot always push a four year old. Bug is usually pretty flexible, but has her limits. Our plan was ambitious for adults.
I'll take a good oneway trip with the family any day. Even if we don't complete the whole mission.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Bug's Big Adventure

This was the first weekend day in a long while that we didn't have any obligations, so we decided to take advantage of the perfect weather and have a family adventure. Many options were discussed including kayaking at various locations and biking on the Providence to Bristol trail. I wanted to kayak and, fortunately, the rest of the family agreed.
To my pleasant surprise, H mentioned kayaking out of Hingham Harbor and checking out Grape Island. We had talked about camping on Grape several times, but the camp sites were booked full since early in the season. The weather was perfect for the paddle and the tides were favorable, so it seemed like a great idea.
We planned on launching around 10 or 10:30. That put us on the water when there was plenty of water and give us more than enough time to explore before low tide turned the harbor into miles of sticky mud. Plans are funny things....
We got a very late start. We all slept in a little. We tried a new way to tie Big Red to the roof. We had to revert back to the original way of mounting Big Red. We forgot the sunscreen and had to make an extra stop on the way to the beach....
We managed to get on the water before noon. We still had plenty time to play. We brought along a bunch of sand toys for Bug to use on the beach at lunch. She also had her new paddle along for the ride. It is a "daddy" built greenland paddle. It is not terrible effective as a paddle, but it put a smile on Bug's face and made her feel like she was part of the team.
Bug's new paddle also makes it easier for me to paddle. She used to bring along half of a real kayak paddle and drag it in the water... That could create a lot of drag. The new paddle doesn't create nearly as much drag and it is double sided, so she can actually paddle with it.
The paddle over to Grape is about 2.5 miles and is mostly along the shore. It was a nice relaxing paddle. Bug pointed out all of the boats and birds and planes. H paddled along nearby in her kayak. There were a few bumpy spots, but nothing major. Bug wasn't sure what to make of the bigger waves, but seemed to enjoy them once she realized we were safe in the kayak.
Lunch on Grape was nice. There were a number of people waiting for the ferry to bring them home. We spoke to one of the park rangers who told us that the island, despite what the reservation site says, is rarely full. Apparently, you can all over the day you want to camp and they can usually accommodate you. It is cheaper to pay for the unused site than cancel a reservation....
After lunch we were going to play on the beach. Bug was all set to play near the kayaks, but H wanted to go on an adventure to see what was just around the corner from the kayaks. After some protestation from Bug, we made our way around the corner. H sat down on a nearby bench and figured Bug would stop and play in the sand.
Bug didn't get the memo and wanted to continue the adventure to see what was around the corner... We walked around the corner. There was plenty of interesting things to see as we walked around the corner. We saw crabs, all sorts of shells, interesting trees, more kayaks, and even some other people. After a while, Bug started getting tired and wanted to be carried as we continued the adventure around the corner. By that time, it was shorter to keep going than to turn back. After a nice walk around Grape we returned to our kayaks.
Our trek ate up all our time on the island. The tide was receding and we didn't have a lot of time to get back before the mud flats took over the boat landing. On the paddle back we went around the back of Slate Island before crossing over the closer to shore. Bug curled up in the front cockpit for a little nap. It was a pleasant paddle back.
We got back just before the mud flats raised their sucking maws. A few people who came in after us were not as lucky.
We finished the day off with some nice cold brew coffee and excellent burgers. What a great day!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Rain, Rain, No Way

This weekend was our annual Boston Harbor Island paddle. I was jonesing for a big boy paddle. I love getting on the water with the family, but sometimes a boy needs to stretch his blades....
The weather forecast didn't look promising. On Friday it was a chance of thunderstorms. On Saturday it was a 50% chance of thunderstorms. Late Saturday it was a 60% chance of thunderstorms.
I checked on Saturday with PB to see what he wanted to do and he figured we would stay the course. The forecast looked a lot like the forecasters were essentially tossing their hands up because they couldn't tell what was going to happen. In addition, we could always stick to the inner harbor and be safe. It was the answer I wanted to hear. Without a second opinion, I may have whimped out and canceled the paddle.
Sunday morning was reasonably sunny, but a little windy. The wind was actually good. PB and I needed the reminder that paddling to the outer harbor was a bad idea. There is enough stuff to see on the inner harbor for an interesting day on the water.
The weather forecast was enough for a number of people to decide against paddling. The only ones rugged enough to join us were TM and CMO. Four boats is a very nice size pod for a day on the water.
We launched from windmill point and crossed the gut to the outside of Peddocks. We made our way along the outside of Peddocks under clear skies and almost no wind. The island shielded us from the blow. Peddocks is a deceptively big island. It is like two islands: the half with the fort and the half with the houses. There were people out on the beach enjoying the morning as we paddled along the shore.
When we rounded the end of Peddocks, we hit the blow. From the tip of Peddocks to Grape we paddled in wind. It was a strong beamy blow that churned up the water into a pleasant chop. It was my favorite section of the paddle. The Q is happiest in choppy water. The wind did cause some weathercocking, but that just added to the fun.
As we neared Grape ominous storm clouds filled the sky. We knew something was coming, but there was no thunder. We had lunch by the ferry dock on Grape Island with the camper waiting for the ferry. Just after breaking out the food, I got a text from H making sure we were off the water. Then the rain came down.
It rained, but didn't thunder for about 30 minutes. Once the sky dried up, we continued on our way back to the cars. The rain washed away a lot of the wind and chop. There was still a beam wind that pushed the back of the Q around, but it was far less than what we saw coming from Peddocks to Grape.
Our return trip took us around Slate and over to Bumpkin. We figured if the thunder did arrive we could hang out at the shelters on Bumpkin. There was no need to worry. We paddled under clear skies the whole way back to the put in.
I did try a couple of rolls before landing. I came up both times, but they were ugly. My blades dove both times. It is a clear sign that I need more practice....
The rain didn't really come until we were sitting having coffee and pastries. That was a perfect time for the storms. It meant less hosing down at home...