Friday, June 16, 2006

Playing Hooky

When the weather gods hand me a sunny day after so much rain, and it happens to coincide with a scheduled paddle in a great spot, I have a hard time passing it up. I hedged my bets all week, kept an eye on the weather, and refused to let myself get too excited. Thursday afternoon, after Tim M. confirmed that he was going and the weather forecast continued to look like a gift, I e-mailed my boss and told him I needed a personal day. My boss is an Irishman with a keen respect for the occasional mental health day, so after a bit of ribbing, he gladly agreed.
Friday morning I pulled into the Westport boat ramp and had a brief moment of panic. All of the parking spaces were marked "trailers only." A quick phone call to H, who was being a good dooby and working, confirmed that I was at the right spot. Shortly after I got off the phone and started to nap, Tim M. pulled in, followed shortly after by Paul B. and Bob H.. With four cars it was easy to fill up a couple of trailer spots in a manner that seemed to appease the parking police.
The trip provided a good opportunity to play in currents and practice ferry glides. Carleen--who missed the paddle due to a babysitting emergency--picked a day where the river was running against us both ways. Fortunately, there was very light boat traffic, so we had plenty of room to play. On the way out we just did a couple of zig-zags to get out to the ocean. We were all itching for some swells and open water. On the way back in, we played in the currents for a while. There was a nice eddy along the sea wall so I would poke out into the current, glide into the channel, ride a few bumps, slip back into the eddy, make my way back to the top of the eddy, and repeat. Tim and Paul mostly just hung out gliding around in the current.
The ocean portion of the trip had something for everybody: swells, wind, long haul paddling, rocks, and rescue practice.
We paddled out to the Marsh whose name I forget. There was a nice wind in our faces that kept the heat at bay and the swells up. That area of the coast has a lot of interesting features that Tim M. explained to us. There are a few exposed rocks to create little breaks, but we hung pretty far out to sea. We lunched by the marsh and soaked up the sun after a few embarrassing mini-surf landings.
The launches also offered a bit of comedy. The beach was just steep enough and the surf just big enough to breach my boat before I could get the stern afloat. Finally, with a few shoves from Bob H. I did manage to get off the beach.
On the return trip, we decided to make the trip a bit more exciting. It was rock time. There is a nice big rock formation right by the beach that we played dodge the waves with a couple of times before turning homeward.
We decided to stick a little closer to shore and see if we could find any safe rocks to play around and not get our knoggins bashed.
All went well until Bob went in search of a surf wave... The next thing we know there was a bright yellow spot where Bob should have been. Nobody, including Bob, knows exactly what happened, but we had a swimmer near a wave break and rocks. This is where rescue practice pays off. Bob held onto his boat and paddle; I spun around, locked up his boat and started the rescue; Paul B. clipped his tow-line into my bow and pulled us away from the rocks. In short order, Bob was out of harm's way and in his cockpit.
A bit later, I nearly got trounced by a wave. We were all trying to move outside a break and I was the innermost boat. A little wave crept up and forced a brace. Right behind it a bigger wave rolled in and took me for a ride. I managed to use my brace to stay upright and spin the boat so that I was facing down the wave. It was a roller coaster ride. While on the wave being pushed towards some rocks, I was terrified. Once safe, I was exhilarated.
We decided to test our luck once more on the rock formation just outside the mouth of the Westport River. There was a nice gap where the waves broke a little. Tim, Bob, and I all took several runs through it. Going out towards the waves was the easiest run because you could see what was coming. Going in was a rush because if you mistimed it, you could end up parked on a ridge waiting for the next wave to flip you or bash you into the rock. Tim actually got caught in the swirly on his first trip through, but held himself off the rocks.
I knew I had pushed my luck to the limit and decided to call it quits after four or five runs. It was a good thing too. While we were rounding the sea wall into the river a little breaker caught my boat just right and I had to brace in a hurry. It was definitely a sign...
The weather gods and the water gods shined on us.
Post paddle coffee was had at Tiverton Roasters--Great Coffee. The conversation was deep and thoughtful. Then the party moved to Evelyn's--a tradition reborn from its ashes--for fried sea food.

1 comment:

  1. Paul B. has a post calling this his best paddle of the season here.