Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Freedom

When TM e-mailed me to see if I was interested in taking a Friday off to paddle I knew immediately that I was going. I did, however, feel a little pang of stress about the mountain of work that I needed to finish for a looming deadline and the days I really needed to take off in the next few weeks... Once that passed I filled in the time-off request and started hoping for nice weather. I needed some stress relief before I collapsed under the weight of house repair, moving, weddings, work, lawn work... (I find the lawn relaxing when I have the time to get it done.)
Friday turned out to be a gloriously sunny, warm day. PB, TM, and myself started the day off with a relaxed discussion of the merits of going through the BCU star levels. (I don't really see the point unless you need the credentials or to prove something to yourself.) Then we had the standard debate about dressing for the water or the air. The water was still in the 50's the air was was in the 90's. TM took a turn at being a rebel and decided to go with just a rash guard. PB went with a wetsuit. I decided that shorts and a dry-top would work; I decided I would just stay in the cockpit no matter what....
We packed up our helmets - in the hatches - just in case we decided to play in the rocks along the Jamestown shore. I also tossed my tow belt in the day hatch just in case... The three of us would never get into trouble.
We set out of Bay Campus heading towards Bonnet Shores and the bluffs on calm seas. The water was flat and showed no intention of picking up. That was fine with us as we set a relaxed pace and occasionally darted around the rocky outcroppings along the bluffs. TM was feeling out CC's regular sized Explorer and not shying away from taking chances with it. The calm water and lazy sun made it a perfect day to play in the rocks with little fear.
The big rock that guards the entrance to Bonnet from the bluffs had a little wave action boiling around it. It also offered a nice break from the heat. The rock radiated the cold of the water into the balmy air. I lingered in the cool air to abate the heat build up inside of my dry-top.
We then headed into the cove to see if we could find any surf. I found a tiny breaking wave that was enough to splash some cold water on me. There wasn't a hint of foam, so we rafted up and had a long talk about Buddy Cianci, coastal development, the criminality of politicians. (I'm not convinced all politicians are criminals, but I'm convinced all politicians posses a moral flexibility that would impress most criminals.)
After a leisurely float, we headed over to Whale Rock. As we approached the familiar landmark we noticed something was askew. We thought it might have been the haze playing tricks. The bluffs looked flat as we paddled away. A fishing boat out in the distance looked like a massive skimmer bug. When we got up close we saw that, in fact, Whale Rock was different. The last Nor' Easter had ripped away more of the walls and left a part of the staircase exposed.
We pondered the wisdom of doing seal landings on the rock as a five star practice, but decided that without helmets it would be foolish. Instead, we played in the breaking waves near the far point for a bit before turning towards Beavertail and the Jamestown coast.
The crossing between Whale Rock and Beavertail always surprises me. Intellectually, I know it is the mouth of the Bay, but I've got a weird mental lapse that keeps the crossing permanently inside the Bay. The first few ocean swells sway me back to my senses and I settle into a pleasant and familiar rhythm. The open water feel was a nice break from the adrenaline of playing close to the rocks - even if the conditions were benign.
Once close to the Jamestown shore it was time to look for a lunch spot. We had been in the kayaks for 2+ hours and I didn't pack a snack in my PFD. Fortunately, PB was prepared and had packed several snacks. He shared one of them - a "healthy" snack bar that tasted as good as any candy bar - with me before my blood sugar dropped and I started doing silly things....
While looking for a good lunch spot we again played in the rocks. I decided to scope out a possible gap to run at exactly the wrong time. A rouge wave pushed me into a spot between a sharp rock, a big rock, and a steep ledge. The wave then sucked most of the water out from underneath me. I'm not sure how I managed to keep the Q-boat (or my unadorned head) off the rocks, but I managed to survive a sloshy wave set and back my way out. It was definitely a sign.
Shortly after that I was watching TM play in an area where he could easily have needed a towing and realized that my tow belt was stowed in my day hatch. Fortunately PB was wearing his. I slipped into a small cove and put mine on.
All of the prime lunch spots taken. There was a chatty girl at one, a naked guy at another... So we pulled up on a beach most of the way to Fort Getty for a relaxed lunch. We lounged, ate, and soaked up the warm sun.
TM reminisced about H's first real ocean trip in her Capella - a grey windy paddle along the very same shore. She rode the following seas like a rocket ship on the solar winds. TM and I were hard pressed to keep pace.
After a long break, we packed up and paddled back to Bay Campus. The winds had picked up just a bit so the crossing back to Bay Campus was a small challenge. The breach swells pushed the Q-boat around just a bit. I'm sure putting the skeg down would have solved the problem, but why do anything the easy way?
We followed up a relaxing paddle with the mandatory - albeit laid back - rolling practice and coffee.
A perfect way to blow off some stress and recharge the batteries.

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