Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Affluent Coast

This weekend presented a dilemma: go for the sure thing or risk it all for an epic paddle? Saturday’s paddle was Fort Wetheril to Newport. Sunday’s paddle was a circumnavigation of Fisher’s Island. My preference was for the Fisher’s Island paddle. It was out of the ordinary and offered plenty of chances for fun. The weather, however, preferred Saturday’s paddle. The forecast for Saturday was OK. The forecast for Sunday was bad with a slight chance of less bad.

On Friday, I had to choose. H, who is very good about making sure I get time on the water, was offering one day of paddling. I either went on Saturday, or I took a chance on Sunday. I wasn’t going to get both…. Play it safe or risk it all?

I like to think I am a risk taker, but I am pretty safe when it comes right down to it. I choose the sure thing. Fort Wetheril to Newport may not be exotic, but it is pretty darn good. There are big channels to cross, rocks to play near, and reefs with crazy waves to surf. In addition, the coast line has some of the biggest, most expensive houses in the country.

We crossed from Whetheril directly over to Newport, just north of Castle Hill. From there we worked our way along the coast to just past Kings Beach. Getting there was relaxing. The conditions were mild. There were some chances to play along the rocks and I took full advantage of them.

At lunch trouble started to develop. One of the paddlers in the group had clearly underestimated the difficulty of the paddle (or overestimated their abilities). This meant we needed to make our way back to the launch without stopping for playtime.

The conditions on the way back were pretty benign. The only trouble spot was off of Brenton Point. The water gets shallow and the wave get steep. Most of the pack took it pretty tight through the slop. A few took it wide with the struggling paddler.

As we made our way back up the coast, we slowed down. The crossing was a little bumpy, but tense. There was a constant worry that we would have to do a rescue in the middle of the channel. Fortunately, we all made it across without incident.

Everything turned out fine in the end. Still it was a situation that was avoidable. The paddle was clearly advertised as a certain level and the conditions were well within the posted level. A paddler needs to be cognizant of their limitations and make smart judgements about their ability to safely participate in a paddle.

I know it isn’t always easy. I struggle with it often. I remember the glory days when I paddled every weekend and was more than able to tackle just about any paddle on the schedule. Now that I am older and don’t paddle nearly as often, I cannot, with confidence, do the same. Sometimes I do let the memory of the glory days cloud my judgment and show up on days that are on the edge of my abilities. To date, I’ve gotten lucky and things have gone my way. Still, I do think about it before showing up. If there is a question, I always consult H and often TM. Being that guy is not fun for for anyone. It is also not safe.

I hope that I will not pull a Brett Farve when the time comes for me to dial down the paddling.

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