Saturday, January 05, 2008

Starting the Year Off Paddling

At work the new year started off with a bang of the wrong kind. It was a short work week that ended up feeling like two. So when PB e-mailed to see if I was interested in paddling today I jumped at the chance. I needed to do something to rebalance the scales and the forecast looked like a winner.
JS had suggested Hull as a possibility and PB and I were keen on taking him up on the idea. Hull is local to Waltham compared to most spots on Narragansett Bay. It is also a spot we don't often paddle. There is too much boat, and beach, traffic during the summer. The Gut also dictates the days it is appropriate to paddle out of Hull.
PB e-mailed JS to see if he was still up for the trip, but JS said he was feeling under the weather. However, he also said he could make himself feel better if we were definitely going. A few e-mails and phone calls later, PB and I decided we were definitely going to go. We hoped that JS, and a few other stalwart RI paddlers, would make the commute to the northern wilderness. There was always the chance that an MA based paddler would see the message board post and show. However, we decided that even if it was only the two of us we'd paddle.
While the standard wisdom is "on the sea always three," we figured that there were conservative routes inside of Hull's protection that would be reasonable. We could circumnavigate Peddocks or explore the Weir River. If other paddlers showed up, we could change routes and explore the outer harbor.
After getting a little lost on the way through Hull (I always get lost getting to the Hull put-in), I found PB and JS getting ready. We had the magic number.
The weather was sunny and calm, but still cold. High tide had just passed so we'd have the current with us. PB wanted to possibly paddle around Lovells, but JS pointed out that it was pretty boring. So, we turned our bows towards Green Island. The rough plan was to lunch on Green. Then we would make our way back to Hull meandering through the Brewsters.
The current pushed us towards Green at a fast clip. JS estimated that we were moving at 5 miles an hour and were not paddling hard. We arrived at Green much earlier and less tired than expected.
Graves Light was looming in the distance and calling in us. Fortunately, JS and PB had their sensible hats firmly attached. We decided not to the extra distance. There is no place to land on Graves and the winter is no time to take silly chances.

Instead, we spent some time wondering if there were any seals in Boston Harbor and then turned towards Outer Brewster to find a lunch spot. Outer Brewster offered plenty of cliffs, frozen rocks, and spots to play. JS and PB found a nice run through some rocks along Outer Brewster and decided to enjoy their new kayaks. PB made the run but scuffed up his bow. JS took a different line through the slot but also managed to scuff his kayak. After watching the other two and the slot, I picked a perfect line and slipped through without a scratch. (It is good being last!!) My scratch free status didn't last long. We found a few other places to play in the rocks and I found a rock that was happy to scuff the Q-boat. I misread how fast the water evacuated an area and rubbed the rocks.
After we played in the rocks and determined that we were not going to lunch on Outer Brewster, we started to move onto Middle Brewster. Before we got very far, we encountered a pod of about six seals. We hadn't seen any seals all morning and thought that Boston Harbor may not have a seal population. These seals seemed curious but kept their distance.
Middle Brewster was also inhospitable for lunch. So, we paddled over to Boston Harbor Light. The landing there is not great, but it is serviceable. I was hoping that their would be a light keeper home so that we could get a tour of the light!! Or just a sheltered spot to eat. Instead, we found a no trespassing sign.
PB found a nice sunny rock ledge, with a back rest, along the beach. We ate a leisurely lunch and had interesting conversation. It was very relaxing, but the sun had slipped behind the hazy clouds and a slight breeze started. We needed to get moving before we got chilled.
The paddle back to Windmill Point was slower than the paddle to the outer islands. The current was against us and the slight breeze chilled us. To pass the time we talked about teaching people how to roll. JS, who is a certified instructor, said to share your own experiences with learning to roll - but not scare the students too much. I was not a roller who picked it up the first, or the 20th, class. We also talked about different ways to approach the technique. JS is a Euro blade paddler and felt that the standard start with hip flicks and move to a C-to-C progression worked best. I had taken a Greenland rolling class where they started with learning how body position effected the balance of the boat and the hip flick was never mentioned. I found the Greenland course to be more helpful than any of the more commonly taught classes. Different strokes for different folks.
Back at the put-in, I felt compelled to do one roll. It is a silly compulsion and today reminded me of just how silly a compulsion it is. I did the roll; it was hardly smooth; I rushed the whole thing. When I popped up my head felt like it was in a vice grip. I wasn't disoriented and could think clearly, but I was in pain. I was very happy to have to excellent paddlers nearby for support and the beach a few feet away.
Once off the water, my headache subsided. We all changed into warm clothes before dealing with the kayaks. The kayaks were quickly car topped. Once our gear was stowed and the kayaks secured, we headed to a nice bakery for coffee and pastry.
With a kickoff like this one, 2008 promises to be a very good year.

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