Sunday, March 25, 2007

The First Paddle of Spring

The calendar says spring. The air says spring. But the water still says winter. My response to all this talking is to continue to watch the weather carefully. I was tempted to postpone my paddling until Sunday but it was forecast to be sunnier on Saturday and at this time of the year I hedge my bets in favor of the most comfortable day I can find. Plus, Saturday was the RICKA club Soiree. Why make the commute twice?

JoeS, JohnS, EllenS, PaulB, CaroleC, and BillR arrived at Compass Rose Beach in Quonset. We said our spring hellos and discussed how many layers to wear. The wind was dead calm as we launched and temperatures were in the mid 40’s. We were greeted by a solo seal that turned and followed us for a bit. This was a great show for E. It was the first seal she had seen from a kayak. (And I've been describing winter seal sightings to her for 3 years now.)

Our first destination was the north side of Jamestown. The paddling was smooth and easy. We discussed Joe’s knee, Joes’s memory, Joes’s dinner… and movies, mostly Bill Murray! We passed Jamestown and turned north towards Prudence. We were entertained by a large container ship moving at a crawl and two tugs creating surfable waves, unfortunately not in the direction of interest.

As we approached Prudence we choose to head up the west side. This was an area I’ve never explored. We passed waterfalls cascading over the rocky shoreline and some very nice houses. We chose to stop for lunch by a rock jetty about 1/3 of the way up the island. By this time the breeze had started out of the south west. It was gentle but we all found that we quickly cooled off as our dry suits passed some built up moisture through evaporation. Again, the Kelly kettle was conspicuously absent. Fortunately we had all packed our favorite hot beverages in thermoses. It’s interesting that despite the warm sun and warm forecast temperature, we packed up from lunch more because we were chilled than anything else. It just helped to confirm my decision to paddle on the sunnier, warmer day of the weekend.

We then headed west towards Hope I. This was the destination of a very memorable paddle we made last November. Today however it was just a rest spot. And an opportunity for me to trade my Boreal Ellesmere for B’s Riot Aura. This sleek, 17’10"x. 20.5" is a full 10 inches longer and 1.5 inches slimmer than my boat. It was however very comfortable. It would not turn flat but responded well to a bit of lean. It had a definite point of secondary stability despite its slim profile. My only gripe was that it needed inside knee or thigh bracing to keep me in contact with the boat. I stayed in this boat all the way back to Quonset so I got a pretty good chance to try it out. I didn’t push it too hard however because of the cold water. I really didn’t want to end up up-side-down.

We paddled around the north side of Hope and tucked just inside of Despair I. Here we spied another handful of seals. Just as we were ready to peel away from Hope we saw what looked like an abandoned inflatable boat. Joe pulled out his hand held radio and called it in to the coast guard. They seemed to chat for quite some time about the details of the discovery.

Only in retrospect do I realize that the final crossing back to Quonset had a very different feel. Back in November this crossing was a bit somber because we all new that the “nice” paddling weather was over. This however was the first paddle of spring. The best of the season is yet to come.

3/24/07 air temperature 46 degrees, water temperature 40 degrees. Photo courtesy of Bill R.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Paddling the Oregon Coast (in my dreams)

I just spent a week on the Oregon coast. LisaB and I explored 140 miles of coastline from Rockaway Beach to Florence. Yes, this was done in a rented Ford Taurus on the coastal highway as opposed to a kayak but it is clearly a beautiful place to paddle. We had views of the ocean from the highway almost 50% of the time.

The coastal terrain varies from rocky headlands to wide flat beaches. These are punctuated with numerous small bays that can be explored in and of themselves or as put in points to access the ocean. There are also many sea stacks and arches to explore.

We did not paddle on the ocean for numerous reasons. All related to safety. This is no place to go with out skills and proper equipment. There were very few areas where the sea could be accessed without negotiating surf. And once “on the outside” there were many areas where a safe landing could not be done under any expected circumstances.

Once on the water however it is scenic viewing, surfing, rock gardening, and wildlife viewing heaven. We saw seals, sea lions, bald eagles, ducks, and gray whales. The gradual slope on the beach provided multiple breaks with plenty of opportunities to get off and back on without washing up on the beach. Rock gardening was down right dangerous in many places but out from the rocky headlands you could pick and choose your challenges.

I think we can find similar experiences here on our New England coast but I don’t think they are nearly as ubiquitous. And everything was “just a little larger” than I’d expect to find here. March 3-11, 2007

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Salmon River, Otis Oregon

I was longing to get out in a kayak in Oregon. I considered packing my dry suit for the trip and had contacted a local about boat rental options in the area. But in the grand scheme of things the logistics seemed a bit much. And LisaB had arranged to borrow a pair of recreational Dagger kayaks that we could use on the Salmon River estuary that is just below her studio.

This adventure began with packing them in the back of a Volvo wagon to get them down to the water. They stuck out about half of their length. On the water we both put on vests that were too big for us. If there was any question about us staying in the safety of the estuary the decision had been made for us.

We paddled gently against the receding tide. Tides in the area are close to 8 feet so we were cautious about getting stranded on a mud flat. In many ways the river was typical but the seals near the mouth were just a little more curious, the ducks were everywhere, and there were HUGE trees washed up on the salt marsh everywhere.

Compared to my usual paddles this was very uneventful. Just a relaxing cruise that allowed me to feel like I’d gotten out on the water. And the scenery was beautiful with distant mountains and nearby hillsides.

We explored a few branches that led to nowhere. Snacked on Hummus and trail mix. And let ourselves drift with the tide.

We paddled back comfortably with the tide and with waning sunlight. Arriving at the ramp with light to spare but beginning to feel the cold of the evening. We loaded up the kayaks and headed back up the hill to return them. OK, so I mentioned hill and I mentioned the kayak sticking half way out. Yep, as we parked in the up-hill driveway and untied them one of them decided to do a little tar surfing. Thank god for plastic kayaks!

March 6, 2007