Sunday, June 07, 2009

Outer West Passage

The outer west passage of Narragansett Bay is one of my favorite places to paddle. We have a well worn route that we paddle several times a year. It offers a multitude of environments that can be experienced by beginners and enjoyed by experienced paddlers.
Today was the "official" outer west passage paddle for RIC/KA. It is the 2nd ocean paddle in TM's paddle series. It is the first paddle in the series to offer some open water.
The weather promised an easy, almost boring paddle. It was so nice I decided to leave the paddle jacket in the car. The wind was minimal, the water was calm, and the sun was warm.
Once on the water I realized that leaving the paddle jacket behind was not such a great idea. The temperature on the water was much cooler. The water is still in the 50s. If I found myself swimming, my polypro t-shirt wasn't going to offer much warmth. It was also a little windier on the water.
The first part of the paddle is along the Jamestown shore heading out to the mouth of the Bay. TM led most of the group well off shore to take advantage of the outgoing tidal current and avoid the rocks. A few of us, however, decided it was more fun to hug the shore. The sea was too calm to make the rocks challenging and the reverse current was negligible.
As we neared Beavertail, the swells got a little bigger and a lot choppier. Some of the newer paddlers starting getting a little unsettled, so TM decided to alter the route a little. We typically paddle out past Beavertail to the channel marker before making a turn towards Whale Rock. TM decided to make the turn at Beavertail and head straight to Whale Rock.
The crossing from Beavertail to Whale Rock is always interesting. The swells come in from the open ocean and get constricted as they enter the Bay. Today the swells were being chopped up by the light wind and the outgoing current. I enjoyed the bouncy ride because it was just enough to keep me awake. Others, however, were not so happy. I remember the first time I did the crossing - I was mildly terrified.
The fun didn't stop at Whale Rock. The section of the paddle between Whale Rock and lunch was all following seas. For me following seas equals free speed. For some of the other paddlers, following seas were unnerving. Following seas require that a paddler relinquish a little part of the illusion of control. The swells sneak up and push the kayak around. The swells can also give a paddler some nice rides.
After a nice lunch we paddled back to Bay Campus along the Bonnet Shore bluffs. The rocks along this section of the paddle can offer some nice playing when the swells are right. Today, however, the action was minimal. I did manage a near death moment. I was spotting a section of rocks for the other paddlers and a stray swell washed in and pushed my bow right into the rock. Luckily, the swell was big enough to wash me over the rock without a nick.
We all arrived back at the put in safely and having enjoyed ourselves. The taste of open water paddling has awakened the slumber desire for open water paddling. I'm looking forward to the more adventurous paddles coming up in the next few weeks.

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