Sunday, August 17, 2008

Pier 5 to Castle Hill

Pier 5 to Castle Hill is one of my favorite routes in Narragansett Bay. It is also the route TM uses to cap of his summer long sequence of paddles in the Bay. It is a six mile trek across the West and East Passage of the Bay. Unlike a lot of long crossings this one offers some great views and an open water feel. The trip is good for paddlers who are strong beginners to stretch themselves and for intermediate paddlers to paddle in their zone.
The forecast was for reasonable winds and small seas. I took that with a grain of salt since this paddle inevitably turns into a battle against the afternoon winds. Sitting on the pier things looked calm. Our group expected no problems.
The paddle to Castle Hill was interesting. The swells and wind were not strong enough to be worrisome. They were strong enough to be wearisome. Between Pier 5 and Beavertail (about half of the crossing), I continually needed to counteract the Q-Boat's weathercocking. My first inclination was just to throw in a sweep stroke once and a while. When once in a while turned into every other stroke, I decided to deploy the skeg. The skeg made the problem worse. It didn't stop the weathercocking and made correcting more difficult. I finally settled on a combination of cocking my hips into a permanent lean and throwing in a few sweep strokes as needed.
Once past Beavertail, the weathercocking stopped being a problem because the water got much lumpier and we needed to do double time across the channel. The channel between Jamestown and Newport is the preferred channel for large shipping traffic into and out of the Bay.
After a quick break at the Castle Hill Coast Guard station, we crossed back to Jamestown for lunch. TM wanted to get the crossing out of the way before the afternoon winds (and the boat traffic) reached its peak. On the crossing a Jamestown photographer snapped a bunch of pictures of us doing our thing. We could be famous!!
After lunch, we headed south down the Jamestown coast towards Beavertail. The swells weren't really big enough to make playing in the rocks fun. However, we did our best to find excitement. BH got caught by a wave and nearly flipped. He managed to catch himself on a rock. Then he braced up off the rock and paddled away. I was a little bummed to not get a chance to practice a rock rescue.
Once around Beavertail we lined up with Pier 5 and began the long slog home. The afternoon winds blew out of the west and pushed against us. The winds were not particularly strong, but they were constant. As often happens in windy conditions, the group drifted into a number of pods. One pod took off for the pier. Another fell behind a little bit. Another drifted around looking for surf waves. Another just tried to keep moving. It was typical, but still frustrating. In windy conditions in the middle of a shipping channel, we should be able to stay in a tight group...
We all made it back without a hitch and did some rolling practice.
Once off the water a group of us retired to Java Madness for post paddle coffee and snacks.
It was, despite the wind, a great paddle. It was a good workout and provided enough of a challenge. The weather couldn't have been much better.

No comments:

Post a Comment