Wednesday, October 15, 2008

In Search of the Weekday Rush

TM has been on a quest to find the ultimate tidal conditions for the last few months. About a two weeks ago he made it clear that the best day in October for the Westport River was today. About a week ago, he started pushing to get people to skip out of work to play. By Friday, the paddle was posted on the message board.
I'm usually one of the first people to jump at the chance to skip out of work midweek and take a chance at playing in the mouth of the Westport River. The Westport River is one of my favorite places to paddle and midweek paddles are always fun. This time, however, I was feeling uncertain. Work is crazy lately. I've got an gargantuan, and growing, pile of tasks with high-priority stickers and immediate deadlines sitting on my desk. Part of me felt like it would be irresponsible of me to skip out of work for the day. Part of me realized that one day, a day that I have to take before the end of the month or lose, was not going to make the pile appreciably smaller. Part of me realized that the only way out of the ridiculous, unrealistic, unassailable hole I'm in at work is to take a much needed breather. The pile on my desk has been in perpetual backfill for months. As soon as one task gets completed, three more high priority ones take its place.
So, I promised myself that I would take the day and not think about work.
Except for the dial-in meeting that was of "super-high" priority. It was a dial-in meeting, so I could listen in from the safety of my car as I drove to the put-in... The dial-in information for the meeting was wrong, so I spent 30 minutes in a rest area trying to find the correct information and get dialed-in. When it was apparent that I was not going to get dialed-in and that I was going to be late for the paddle, I called PB to tell him I'd be late and got back on 128. I was not happy about how the day was starting.
Fortunately, the roads were clear and I made excellent time. It was surprising since I was driving during the AM rush hour.
I got to the put-in only slightly late and made excellent time getting ready. TM and PB got the Q-boat off of the car. CR and RR (no relation) helped me unpack the egg. i was ready to go in five minutes - a record for me - and didn't forget a thing.
We paddled out the mouth expecting to find the current flooding out like mad. What we found was fast, but flat, water flooding out. So, we decided to poke around the rocks on the outside of the river.
The waves from Buzzard's Bay were smallish and didn't pose any real challenges for rock gardening. It was fun to poke around and try out some skills that would be suicide in rough water. Still I was hoping for more....
We went back into the mouth to see if things were any more interesting, but it was still flat. The current was moving quick, but without an opposing wind it didn't make any waves.
We decided to head off towards Horseneck Beach to find some waves to surf. About half way, we found some small waves to play in. PB and I stopped to play before the others did and caught a few nice waves.
The others were about 100-200 yards away from us when we heard a large a loud crash. I looked over and saw RR shooting down a wave as JS and CR separated from each other. It looked like a close call where three people tried to catch the same wave.
When PB and I joined up with the rest of the group, we discovered it was much worse than a close call. CR's kayak had a fist sized hole in its side and she was paddling straight for shore. Apparently, JS caught a wave and found himself surfing into CR. He couldn't maneuver his kayak in time to avoid her and didn't think of flipping over to stop his momentum. (If you find yourself careening down a wave into another kayaker, a surfer, or any other person in the water, you need to flip your kayak over to arrest your momentum. The drag of your body in the water will precipitously slow the forward progress of your kayak. It is the best way to avoid seriously injuring the other person.) So, he speared her pretty hard. The nose of his kayak shattered her hull and whacked her thigh.
Fortunately, the beach was less than a half mile walk to the cars. We were able to get CR ice for her thigh, which swelled up like a ballon. We were also able to get a car to carry her kayak back to the put-in. She was determined to field patch her kayak and paddle it back. We were all convinced she could have managed it. However, there was no need to push lady luck. We carried her kayak to JS's car and she drove back to the put-in.
We expected the return trip to be a low-key affair, but PB noticed that there was some action at the mouth of the river. He started peel off from the group to investigate and I immediately joined him. TM and RR followed. As the water level got lower, the tidal stream at the mouth of the river got more active. The lowered water level meant that the surface was more effected by the contours of the river floor.
We got 10-20 minutes of solid play time in the race. The waves at the top of the race were decent sized and pretty consistent. The way things were set up made playing and resting easy. You could jump into the race and surf for as long as you'd like and then glide out the top into a nice calm pool of water. When you were ready to play some more, you could edge into the current, ride it out a ways, and jump back on the wave train.
After the paddle we made the long drive to Coastal Roasters for the best coffee in RI. The sun was poised perfectly. The view of Stone Bridge from the patio was a vision. As the sun set and we prepared to leave, a paddler swept through the abutments and towards a safe landing in Bristol.
Days like this make me wonder why I toil away under life sucking fluorescent lights and the glare of an LED computer screen.... Oh yeah, it is so I can afford to have days like today.

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