Friday, June 22, 2007

Coffee, Fish, Currents, and Coffee

This is my last weekend as a bachelor and I wanted to spend it having a big adventure. The fates seemed to have a slightly different plan in mind. My original plan was to spend the weekend paddling the new RI blue water trail, but there was no place to stay at the end of the trip. The back-up plan was to paddle over to Block Island on Friday, circumnavigate BI on Saturday, and return on Sunday. However, this weekend is the end of Race Week and the only rooms available on the island are at the center of the Race Week drinking...
The plan evolved into spending Friday playing in the big currents off of Stone Bridge in Tiverton today and checking out the Fisher's Island race on Saturday. Neither place was going to be running at full steam, but the predictions were for enough current to make things fun.
The morning did not start auspiciously. On auto-pilot, I turned off of 128 to continue on 95 south to Providence when I should have continued on 128, which becomes 93 north (the engineering of space/time at this road junction is a feat of convolution.) It was not a huge problem because there are several ways to get back on track.
Then the phone rings... Bubbles is running late - he was just putting the gelcoat on the repairs (Bubbles' tussle with the rocks last week did a tad of prodigious damage to his Pintail). He was going to meet us at some point, but probably not for coffee. Maybe he'd meet us at lunch.
After getting off the the phone with Bubbles, I started to dial TM. Before I hit the Call button, I remembered that he had already left his house and, still living in the 70s, had no cell phone... TM would panic a little, but the speedy egg would get me there only a few minutes late.
At Coastal Roasters, I found TM enjoying an Americano and the superb view. I got a Coco Loco- espresso and cocoa powder melded into a magical smoothness. We sat, checked out the charts for the Fisher's Island paddle, and talked about the plan for the day. We'd put in under the Tiverton bridge, scope out Stone Bridge, paddle around, Gould Island and over to Evelyn's for lunch. After lunch, our bellies full of fried sea food, we would play in the currents.
Around 11, I decided to get my phone and call Bubbles. Before I got the phone out of the egg, the Bubble Box pulled up to Coastal Roasters. A quick look at my phone, revealed that while TM and I were enjoying coffee, the phone had been ringing off the hook. CC and H had both called looking for TM. There was a car crisis effecting H's paddle and CC wanted her spare Explorer back - if it was not on the top of TM's car.... Of course, it was. Everything worked out fine with a little help from our friends. CC borrowed a kayak from the Bomes.
All crisis resolved, TM, Bubbles, and I actually managed to get on the water. We paddled down past Stone Bridge and determined that the Coastal Roasters' side was going to be the easiest side to pass when the current was running. We then paddled around Gould Island.
Gould Island, or Ghoul Island, looks like something out of a Bond movie. We kept expecting the side of the island to open up and expel a menacing ship or divers to silently drag us under and into the layer of a maniacal madman.
Nothing exciting happened. The guano stench is more than any respectable madman would tolerate. The birds simply glowered as we passed.
At Evelyn's we settled into the outside dinning area and enjoyed the best Fish and Chips I've ever had. The fish was lightly fried and flakey. Unlike some other fried fish, this didn't ooze grease. Once past the crisp bread layer, it was yummy cod fish. The chips were just passable, but nobody really cared.
Paddling back into the Sakonnet River we were smacked in the face with a brutal head wind. It made paddling out of the pond and into the river a fair slog. It also made the prospect of facing the opposing current less than pleasant.
Fortunately when we turned up the river, the wind died to a reasonable level. The current didn't even look formidable. I feared an anti-climax.
Once at the bridge we were rewarded with a clear eddy. Bubbles paddled up into it, was pushed to the side a bit, and pushed through to the other side. I followed suit and almost got stuck. At one point I looked over and realized that despite paddling at full tilt, I was not moving. Then I looked over and saw TM being washed back down the river.
Bubbles and I slipped back into the current to play. There were a few small standing waves to ride. In the middle of the channel, I played with some rudder strokes. The sense of danger was provided by the fear of smacking into the buoys. It was thoroughly enjoyable. At one point, I was playing around in the center of the two buoys and heard a grotesque sucking sound. I looked over to the left and saw the green can slowly rising back out of the depths. It then rapidly vanished again.
After about 10 minutes of playing, Bubbles and I realized that TM was just sitting over near the moored sail boats on the far side of the bridge. We ferried across the current and joined back up with TM. Apparently, TM was a daunted by the current. He had a tough time of getting through because he was uncertain about how to handle the fact that the current, when the bow crosses the eddy, is immediately swept back down river. Nobody really talks about how to paddle up river and reacting to currents is the opposite of reacting to waves. Bubbles and I managed by acting instinctively. Bubbles used a quick rudder stroke to straighten out and paddled like the dickens. I used a sweep stroke to push the bow back into position and paddled like the dickens. TM, being a thinker, was trying to do the right thing but wasn't really sure what that was. Eventually, he decided that we had the right idea and just pushed his way through.
It didn't help that he was not used to the way the bow of the Explorer floats freely. Apparently, Valley kayaks are designed so that the bows stay locked in place and the stern floats. Looking at the front of the Q-Boat, with its sharp, prodigious snout, I can see how that is true. NDk kayaks are designed so that the bows float freely. TM's Aquilla, which he has paddled forever, is an old school Valley kayak and he is not used to the different feel.
After getting the kayaks back on the cars, we went back over to Coastal Roasters for some more coffee. We also planned out the next days trip in a little more detail.
We broke up just as the black clouds that had been building all day filled the sky. As I finished sealing myself in the egg, the sky opened.

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