Sunday, August 27, 2006

Brenton Point Break Away

After two weeks without kayaking, Saturday's paddle whetted my appetite for some serious conditions. Since it was looking like trouble was bound to break out, H wisely decided to stay home and made me promise not to get too hurt. Further increasing the probability of trouble, the weather was full of wind and rain and I woke up in a particularly ornery mood.
I showed up for the 10am launch just before 9am hoping to get a good parking spot and a nap. Both goals were foiled. The parking lot was full of cars from the divers who frequent Ft. Wetherill and a few paddlers had not checked to message board to see that the paddle had been postponed until 10am. It was probably for the best since I still had trouble getting ready on time....
One of the early birds was Jerry B., who had his new Night Heron. She is a beautiful looking kayak. Jerry's modesty aside, he did a wonderful job crafting her. The angled pattern on the hull and the shine of the hull speak to the patience and care that went into the work.
With amazing speed, the group of paddlers swelled to seventeen!! The less than auspicious weather was not dampening anyone's spirits. In fact, there were a few people who came looking for some rough water paddling.
Joe, who was substituting for Frank M., decided that conditions called for a safer plan. He, despite offering up rough water options, intended to take the group along the shore by Fort Adams where there would be plenty of protection. Given the size and composition of the group, his plan was definitely the correct one, if not the most popular one.
To mollify us danger seekers, or perhaps hoping to scare us straight, Joe lead the group out of the Ft. Wetherill cove and crossed to Castle Hill Light. With some cajoling, Joe kept the group in a tight formation across the channel. Once at Castle Hill, he stopped the group so people could get a look at the conditions in the outer bay. Since most of the group knew the plan they stayed close to the shore waiting to paddle towards Fort Adams.
Spotting the danger lust in my eyes, Joe told me that I could, if I wanted, form a break away group. Unfortunately, the only people who had ventured out to take a look was a paddler I didn't know, Matt, and Eli. I decided that, given my options, it was wisest to stick with the group and headed back.
While I was making my way back to the group, Tim M. was making his way towards the point. He wanted to take a peak at the conditions just beyond the point, so I turned tail and headed out with him. The original plan was just to take a peak and then return. Then we noticed that Eli and Matt were tagging along and Paul B. was rapidly catching up.
Since we now had a group, and Joe had given me permission to form a breakaway group, we headed off to Brenton Point to see what trouble could be had. Tim and I really wanted to see what our new kayaks were like in bigger conditions. Matt, it turned out, also had a new kayak, a full sized Nordkapp, that he wanted to feel out. Paul and Eli were just out for some fun.
We paddled about 3/4 of the way to the point battling some pretty heavy winds and chop. Then we moved a little further off shore to really get into the swells and turned back towards Castle Hill to catch the following seas. Despite looking like he was riding a rabid horse with the shakes, Tim handled his new kayak, which he has dubbed "the devil boat", with aplomb. We all caught several good rides on the generous swell.
On our way back towards Castle Hill we spotted another group of paddlers heading out for trouble. Ken, Becca, and Carole had left the main group once they realized others had also wandered away. After dressing us down for not telling the main group we were leaving and not asking them to join in our adventures, they joined us and we headed back towards Breton Point.
As Becca pointed out, it was hardly fair of us to hog all the good conditions for ourselves. It's not like there are a ton of opportunities for RI paddlers to enjoy some rough stuff.
As we wended our way back to Brenton Point, we took turns dodging rocks. The game of choice was to back the kayaks into a rock formation, try to touch the tail to the rock, and hang out for as long as possible. We also found just about every navigable slot along the shore to dart through. It was great boat handling practice.
Once back at Brenton Point, we found some real fun. Along the break water that juts out from the point, the water was really rough. The swells piled into each other and the reflection off of the wall created some clapotis. It was exactly the kind of conditions a smart mariner avoids and a kayaker seeks out.
I dashed in and the waves pretty much submerged the Q-Boat. I'd gotten used to its stearn having water over it during the course of the morning. Any wave over six inches covers it. The Q-Boat's bow, which is like a gigantic bubble, had been pretty dry until I tested my luck. Luckily for me, the Q-Boat is, like its little sister the Anas Acuta, as stable as a six legged table that is bolted to a two ton piece of granite. I dashed out just as quick.
Tim M. had a different idea. He was feeling pretty good about his handling of the devil boat and decided now was the time to really push it. He paddled up along the wall, right into the worst of the clapotis, and decided to hang out...
From the Tim's mouth:

Probably not the best place to push it, but I felt I was getting a feel for the boat. The confluence of two wave sets with a small resulting area of clapotis was too much to resist. Once I got in there, I got knocked down by a good sized wave combination. I then rolled up and went right back down again a couple of times in the following chaos. I then hung-out and sculled for support to gain air. That's when Eli got there and asked me if I wanted a bow. I replied yes and told him to bring the bow in, and then dropped back into the water to protect myself and await the bow. That's when another big wave hit. I didn't think Eli's bow bow would be forthcoming. I also figured that the rocks had to be getting closer and that things were getting more dangerous. That's when I decided to bail.

The big wave had indeed knocked Eli out of position, and surfed me right into position. I grabbed Tim's bow and asked for someone to tow us out from the rocks while we put Tim back into his kayak. It was a little dodgy for a second or two. I had to lean out a bit too far to really get a hold of Tim's kayak and almost went over. The waves were not calming down. Tim lost his paddle. Eli, while retrieving Tim's paddle, nearly went over.
Ken, thankfully, made quick work of towing Tim and I out of the soup and things were all good. Tim got his kayak pumped out, I got my kayak, which had filled up while supporting Tim's kayak, pumped out. Paddles found their owners. Towlines were stowed.
Once everyone was situated, we turned towards home. least Castle Hill for lunch. Along the way we continued to enjoy the conditions.
Coming around the point at Castle Hill we had another accident. This time we all stayed in our kayaks, but we needed to rethink our plan. Matt, who is used to paddling a sporty little Anas Acuta, not a SUVish Nordkapp, pushed himself a little too hard. He pulled a big muscle in his side and was in a fair amount of distress.
So, we paddled, slowly, back to Ft. Wetherill and the cars. We made sure Matt got his gear back up to the parking lot and properly stored and sat down for lunch on the rocks. It was not a fun pit stop. There was no hiding from the damp, bitting wind and none of us were really well dressed for the conditions. Things were so bad that Becca and Ken packed up and headed home.
The few, tough, indomitable, paddlers left--Tim(against his better judgement), Paul, Eli, Carole, and myself--headed over to the Dumplings to see if we could get into more trouble. We figured the current would be running at a good clip and we were not disappointed.
Along the way out we ran back into the main group. Joe chastened us about not being clear about our intentions. Apparently, the group had waited to see if we were coming back. Joe had also paddled out to make sure we okay. I felt bad about the confusion and that we had slowed the group down a bit.
Typically, the members of the break away group work pretty hard at being good group members and ensuring that everyone has a good time. Sometimes, however, you just need to go your own way. In the end, despite, the confusion, our splitting off was for the best. The members of the main group had a nice paddle and the crazy people got to play.

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