Sunday, June 01, 2008

Hingham High

Hingham is a great place to paddle. The public beach has a ton of parking. At mid to high tide the beach offers an easy launch and landing. The harbor provides easy access to a number of the Harbor Islands that are inside of Nantasket arm. The harbor also offers enough shelter and access to sheltered areas that even sub-prime conditions are manageable.
The only drawback to paddling out of Hingham is that I paddle with a Rhode Island paddling club. There is a kernel of truth behind the joke that people from Rhode Island think a trip to Providence requires packing an overnight bag. I knew that TM and PB were both unable to make the paddle. A few others had mentioned that they might show. H had a ton of work to do and wasn't going to paddle....
The weather was so perfect that as I pulled out of the drive way, I considered paddling alone if nobody showed. I had my drysuit, so taking a swim wouldn't be too bad. I also knew there were plenty of "easy" paddles in the area. If I had to go solo, I would stick to the Weir River or possibly paddle over to Grape Island. I was pretty sure, however, that someone would show. It was a beautiful day.
All the while a little voice in the back of my head was saying: This is how people die... Easy, solo paddles... The media will love another reckless kayaker story... Can you really resist the "easy paddle" out to Peddocks...
I showed up early and saw that a BSKC paddle was also leaving out of Hingham. I asked if I could join them if my group didn't show. They said it would be fine. They were doing a "novice" paddle out to Grape Island. They planned on grilling on the island.
In the mean time, MK pulled into the parking lot. I figured if it was just the two of us, we could still hook up with the BSKC trip. Two is not an ideal number for a level 3 trip.
As I began to resign myself to a short paddle, I spotted CC's CRV with two kayaks. It was followed closely by PH's car. Five makes a great number for a solid level 3 trip!!
The group consisted of MK, CC, BH, PH, and myself. (The H's are not related.) With a solid level 3 group, I was pretty sure we would have an exciting time. The plan, if you wanted to call it that, was to paddle out towards Grape Island, turn north and cross to Peddocks Island for lunch. After lunch, the plan was to cross to Bumpkin Island and from there to World's End. Then the plan was to follow the shore line around and back to the beach before low tide. It seemed doable since we were launching just after high tide.
Naturally, MK and I took longer to get our acts together than anticipated. We actually launched about an hour after high tide. I figured we still had plenty of time. The group was made up of fast paddlers in fast kayaks.
PH was paddling his shiny new Cetus which is supposed to be a fast cruiser with superb handling. In yellow and black, it is a pretty kayak. I also liked the front day hatch that provides a nice place to stow small items for easy retrieval.
The weather was warm and we all had trouble figuring out what to wear and be safe and comfortable. MK, CC, and PH opted for a combination of a wetsuit and a paddle top. BH and I opted for shorts and a dry top. A quick trip in the water before launching almost had me in my drysuit. The water was still extremely cold. I rued the day I discarded my wet suit... I also decided that there was no way I was coming out of my kayak on this paddle. I'd rat swim to shore if required.
The paddle over to Grape Island was a nice warm-up. There was enough breeze to make wearing a dry top reasonable. BH and I talked about his trip to Sante Fe the previous weekend. I love hearing about places that I have not been. It sounded interesting. However, without access to the ocean, it is lacking.
We also discussed his mild tendonitis in the elbow. Tendonitis scares me. It sneaks up on you, forces you to stop paddling until it feels better, and then never really goes away. BH was trying to see if using a bent-shaft paddle made paddling less stressful on his elbow. He was also trying to shorten the front part of his stroke. Both seemed to be having a positive effect for him.
The group decided not to stop at Grape and we headed straight for Peddocks Island. It is not a long crossing. However, the crossing is bisected by a major channel. It looked like the gas prices were keeping the traffic to a minimum. I've seen the channel look like 128 at rush hour. Today, it was busy but manageable.
We grouped up near one of the green cans. When the coast was clear we bolted across to the nearest red can. There was just enough wind to make the crossing bumpy.
Lunch at Peddocks Island was interesting. We found a picnic table on the very edge of the dock. PH and CC, who sat on the far end, were a slight tip from swimming. Fortunately, the rest of us provided a large enough counter balance. After eating, PH spotted lightning off in the distance as clouds threatened. We also watched the current in Hull Gut build.
The Gut did not look too threatening today. It is deceiving though. The current is powerful. When mixed with boat traffic the waves become unpredictable. The eddy along the beach could offer some relief, but the fishing lines and beach making that path tricky.
Since the threatening clouds and the lightening disappeared as quickly as the appeared, we decided to continue with the plan.
The crossing from Peddocks Island to Bumpkin Island was fun. The wind had picked up a trifle and was kicking up some small waves. I just enjoyed the experience and did my best to keep an eye on the rest of the group. BH and PH continually searched for wavelets to ride. It seemed like a lot of work....
After a quick exploration break at Bumpkin Island, we headed to World's End. Then we turned towards the put-in. The wind was beginning to pick up and low tide was rapidly approaching. Instead of hugging the shore we took a slightly more direct route to save time.
Ultimately, it did not make much difference. We had to pick our way through the mud flats to get close to the Hingham boat ramp. The mud flats stretched several feet from all access points to dry land.
Instead of landing, CC, PH, and I decided to do some rolls. Anything was better than slogging through the mud....
A few rolls did little to help the tide rise faster... I got the worst of the mud. I sank in to my knees. Everyone else sank to there ankles at the least. The kayak's hull got covered in the muck.... The egg's roof will take days to clean off.
Despite the mud, it was an excellent paddle. I got my weekly fix of paddling and socializing.

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