Saturday, March 21, 2009

Not Quite Ready for the Graves

Early last week JS posted his interest in paddling in Boston Harbor and looking for interested parties. My first inclination was to jump at the opportunity, but then the whisper of reason murmured: you are a fat, out of shape, and not sleeping well. Its been six weeks since I'd been in a kayak. It's been nearly as long since I've used the cycle trainer. I've been playing some Wii Sports and Wii Ski Jump, but that is of dubious fitness value.
H and I also ran into a roadblock in our efforts at building a family and that triggered some non-ideal stress responses. My diet exploded. My sleeping withered.
JS has been paddling all winter and the outer islands in March is no place to be pushing the fitness envelope. So, I decided to stay dark and see how things shaped up. I figured if the weather was perfect and the group right, I'd go. If not, I'd wait for a less strenuous outing.
On Friday morning the forecast looked perfect: 50s, sunny, minimal wind, small seas. The group, however, was still just JS. Around 10am, PB e-mailed me saying he was going and wondering if I was also going. Things looked perfect. With some reservation, I said sure. H, sharing my concerns, told me to be the voice of reason...
I slept well Friday night. In Waltham the Saturday morning weather was as advertised: sunny, clear, and starting to warm. The traffic to Hull was light. I didn't get too lost driving out to Windmill Point.
Driving into Hull along Nantasket Beach I noticed that the surf was rocking. At the point, there was some wind and not enough heat. Still, things looked pretty good for a nice leisurely paddle.
JS' plan was to paddle out the Graves. On a warm day in the summer, padding out to the Graves is an ambitious plan. it is a five or six mile paddle into deep, unprotected, open water. Still, the forecast was perfect and the group was made up of skilled paddlers. So much for being the voice of reason or an easy paddle....
We started off like gangbusters. There was only moderate swell and the headwind was just enough to cool things off a bit. I began to feel the effort just a little, but it felt good. The muscles were warming up and starting to feel energized. The roll of the kayak balanced my spirit. I started feeling confident that getting to the Graves and back would be reasonable.
We made it about half way out before things started getting unreasonable. The seas went from one foot to four feet. BH asked if the light was getting farther away.
JS checked with us to see if the plan was still OK. The alternative was to divert to Green island. Everyone agreed that we should continue to the Graves. I mentioned my concerns about paddling back from the Graves in big following seas and being pooped, but also agreed that we should continue to the Graves. I was feeling good and believed that I could make it back without issue.
After another half mile of big swells and increasing wind, the whisper of reason found its voice. I was no longer sure about the wisdom of the plan. There is no place to rest at the Graves and no safe harbor in case of emergency.
Since it was an all or nothing plan, the group turned towards Green Island for lunch. Turning in four foot swells and paddling breach to the swells was interesting.
We enjoyed a long lunch on Green Island before deciding to head over and check out Shag Rocks. Lunch was so long I forgot my gloves on the beach. BH was kind enough to toss them out to me so I didn't have to land again. While putting on my gloves the little beach swell pushed the Q-Boat up against a little boulder. It made a crunch, but I shrugged it off. It takes more than a nudge into a small rock to do any serious damage to a sea kayak. It was nothing more that a gel coat ding.
We paddled out along Middle Brewster Island. The channel between Green Island and the Brewsters had calmed down a little. The swells had diminished to reasonable levels. There were some waves to be caught, but you had to look for them.
We rounded Middle Brewster and returned to the big swells. It was big enough to keep us interested, but hardly enough to make us worry.
The action around Shag Rock looked pretty, but no one was tempted to explore too closely. The cold waves pounded the rocks. Maybe in the summer....
Once around the rocks we headed home past Little Brewster Island and Boston Harbor Light. The wind was at out backs and the current was with in our favor. We made good time, but I was feeling tired. I was looking forward to stopping and stretching my legs.
Back at the put in we carried the kayaks up the beach to the rocks and enjoyed being done. PB and BH took the opportunity to lay back for a little bit. I popped the day hatch open to get my keys and discovered the lunch bag floating in several inches of water.... I grabbed the bag holding my wallet, keys, and phone from the bottom of the hatch. I didn't notice the stream of water that leaked out as I pulled it from the water. When I opened it to get my keys, I panicked a little. Everything was wet even my keys... Fortunately the lock fob was not shorted out and the doors unlocked with a reassuring beep. Once the car was open I turned my attention to the phone. So far I'd suffered from a double failure. The phone is in its own Otterbox waterproof casing inside the dry bag, and it had held. The phone was fine.
At first I thought the day hatch leaked because I hadn't sealed it properly. Once the Q-Boat was on top of the Egg, I spotted the real leak. There was a chunk of gel coat missing along the chine. I popped the day hatch open so BH (I'm too short) could inspect the inside to see if the glass was damaged. From the inside it looked fine, so it was back to the unsealed hatch idea. When I put the hatch back, however, we could see air bubbles pushing out past the gel coat crack... The gel coat was covering a section of the hull where the fiberglass is very thin and not entirely water proof.
Despite the minor damage to the Q-Boat and the hassle of drying out my wallet, I was glad to get on the water. It was tiring and little strenuous than was prudent for a paddle, but it felt great. My sense of balance was strengthened. My spirit energized. Hopefully, the weeks to come will offer many more days on the water.