Monday, April 23, 2007

Knubble Bay, Maine

In my kayaking plans for the year I was planning a spring time Lake Champlain paddle and a fall Maine Island paddle. But when I saw that the Knubble Bay AMC club was holding a spring paddle I couldn’t resist. I signed up instantly and it didn’t take much coaxing to get Bob, MA and Carole to join me. We carpooled up together Friday afternoon to the lodge just south of Bath Maine. We arrived just in time to meet Gail, Dave, Dave and Steve and head back into town for dinner. The conversation over dinner was very comfortable as we traded stories about kayaking, our professions and hobbies. As we left the restaurant our group leader asked us “where did you park” even though we had followed him and parked right beside him. Was this a sign of things to come? (It wasn’t.)

The first day we caravanned to the put in at the top of the New Meadows River. We were joined by Leah, Cathy, Barbara and another Dave. The tide was just about dead low and the mud and rockweed were everywhere. We paddled down stream and then up into Back Cove for lunch. We ate on the shore which MA dubbed the “muddy butt spot”. The group shared food and jokes and took pictures. After lunch we poked north into a narrow cove lined with steep rock walls and tall trees. It had the prettiest views of the day. With so many new people to paddle with there were no shortage of stories. I was yak yak yakking about the Maine Island Trail Association with Steve when there was a Puffin sighting. I missed it. A seal was spotted somewhere along the way also. I missed it. I did see the pair of Bald Eagles in a tree however. And the Osprey were everywhere. On the way back I managed to slip in a few rolls and then a few more at the launch. I just had to do that in the cold Maine waters! Dave had done a few before lunch without a hood on. Ouch!

Back at the lodge the feasting began. Wine and cheese and crackers and snacks. Then pork and carrots and potatoes and peach cobbler and carrot cake. The RICKA crew, sans me, helped with the dishes. I yak yak yakked about where we might paddle on a future kayak camping adventure. (Stonington, Deer Island, and the dozens upon dozens of small islands off the coast was the recommendation.) Then, the RICKA 4 went for a walk in the dark to help the huge quantities of food we ate digest. When we returned Carole and I engaged Mary, Dave, and Gail in a little speed scrabble game. I do not recommend you play scrabble with a woman with a PhD in English. (Unless, as Steve said, you are honored to loose to her!)

Day two was scheduled to be a half day paddle directly from the lodge. We paddled out of Knubble bay by Goose Rock Passage and across the Sheepscott River to Barters Island. Here we explored some nature trails and some beautiful views from the observation benches. We crossed back with the group and then the four RICKA members headed out the Little Sheepscott River towards the Ocean.
We successfully navigated a small tidal rip at the end of the river and were treated to “5 Islands”. The quintessential Maine fishing village. It was absolutely beautiful. We ate lunch on a rock, careful to pull our boats up high, away from the grip of the rising 12 foot tide.

Back in our boats we continued south to the start of Reid State Park. Here the on-shore breeze was just beginning to liven up the seas that had been smoothed by a couple of days of light north winds. On the way back we saw a seal and explored a huge crevasse that although only about 3 feet wide was deep enough to fit all four of our boats end to end and rose straight from the high water line for another 30 feet.

Another tidal rip in Knubble Bay entertained us with its dancing water and a small whirlpool that MA and Bob avoided. And we returned with the second 15 mile day under our hulls.

The ride home included a nearly mandatory stop at the LLBean store. A wonderful dinner at “The Muddy Rudder” finished the adventure.

The lodge and the associated Beal Island Camp both provide a launching point for miles of protected water paddling plus access to a number of reasonable distance open water paddles. Plus, if you play the tides and winds right there are a number of places with some interesting tidal rips. Some with names like “Hells Gate” which I think is a little more self explanatory than Goose Rock.

4/21-4/22 Light winds, 74 degrees and 60 degrees, water temperature 40 degrees.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Soaring Seals

It’s been an unseasonably cool week in the area. The natives need to get out and play. And a paddle from the Bay Campus seems like the right solution.

The participants were Paul B, JoeS, MA, RickTj, BillR, CatR, BobH, CaroleC, and CarleenM. The wind was forecast to freshen from the north and the tide was ebbing so we decided to paddle up bay instead of out to the ocean. The cold morning temperatures and the breeze had most of us complaining and all of us dressing warm. I find that my hands are the first thing to get cold on a day like this but still I always forget to bring gloves to wear while packing the boat for launch. The result is I start paddling with fingers already numb.

We started by crossing the West Passage and passing around Dutch Island. Cat pointed out some very interesting undulations in the rock beside the lighthouse. I had never noticed this before. It’s funny how you can explore the same area multiple times and always discover something new.
The body heat I built while crossing and the wind protection of the lee shore of Jamestown allowed my fingers to warm up in the pogies. From Dutch we headed straight to the base of the new bridge and hugged the Jamestown shore. A few of us, MA excluded, spotted a couple of seals.

The next crossing was back towards Fox I. We made this as a long 2+ mile diagonal and passed the number 10 nun which was a mere 4 miles off station. Based on last weeks extended radio conversation, Joe decided there was no good reason to report this to the GC. We made numerous attempts to keep the herd of 9 kayaks together with limited success. One of the pleasures of paddling at this time of the year is the lack of boat traffic. The largest concern being the fast ferry. We stayed paired up and were always within shouting distance.

We stopped for lunch on Fox. We were escorted to shore by a pair of curious seals. Rick had already rolled about a dozen times starting at the launch point so I felt a compelling need to roll myself. Normally I would pass on a lunch time roll in cold water but my confidence in a “prepared” roll is building. I accepted the risk that it would be a chilly lunch if I had to bail out of my boat and set up for a roll. 2 for 2, lets do lunch!

Again I regretted not having cloth gloves to put on on shore. I wore some dry Sealskinz out of my hatch. While eating lunch we were entertained by seals leaping through the air 300 yards away by a pile of rocks known as The Clump off Rome Point. I had never seen this behavior before. I don’t know why they do it but I’ll choose to think they were just playing. Carleen was the first to launch after lunch and let herself drift between the rocks and Rome. She had a seal surface near and swim right under her kayak. The rest of us had to settle for distant leaping and a plethora of curious seal heads popping up.

We were all hoping that a forecast snow squall and 20 knot tail wind would materialize. Instead the wind just died and our bodies heated up. At least the ebbing tide performed as predicted!

Back at the launch rolling-Rick made a surprisingly quick exit. I set up and made 4 rolls in succession and found myself dizzy and a bit disoriented. I paddled around a bit expecting the feeling to pass but it didn’t so I went ashore. When I mentioned this later MA yelled at me (in a “nice” way) for not informing someone. She was right.

Meanwhile Bill attempted a roll and found himself in the water. He experienced the same dizzy disorientation and had some difficulty getting back in his boat. Joe pointed out that this is a common effect of cold water in the ears.

Both Bill and I were wearing neoprene head wear. While both of us were fine in the controlled circumstances we were in, both of us would have had difficulty if we happened to be doing this while bobbing around by Whale Rock. It’s another example of why we choose to winter paddle with friends who are skilled, cautious, and prepared.

Why do Eric and I share these little stories of cold water difficulty? I think we want to share, through our perspective, the risk we accept and the risk we choose to mitigate while extending our kayak season to year round.

4/7/07 36-40 degree air, 10mph N wind, 42 degree water

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Same Paddle, Different Day

I’ve held this theory since I was in High School that you can’t do the same thing twice. What I mean is: If you have a lot of fun and try to set up to do the same thing again it just won’t be the same. How does this apply to paddling? Well, I claimed that a paddle I did out of Westport in June of last year was the best paddle of the year. Here we were again 10 months later. What would happen?

BH suggested a paddle from some mysterious “Gooseneck” place I could not locate on the map. I think he meant “Gooseberry” and right away I had visions of a paddle we did just about 12 months ago. A very exciting “Surf” paddle off Allens Pond. JSc suggested that the winds were more conducive to a Rt88 launch so that’s where we met. EricJ,BillR,PaulB,MA,CarleenM,CaroleC and BobH all showed up. We had a slow start for reasons I don’t fully understand. But it allowed me to poke around in an eddy by a rock just off the launch.

When we all gathered up we rode the out going tide through the mouth of the river. As we passed The Knubble we were facing a fairly stiff SW breeze which was quite away from the north wind that was forecast. (There is probably some lesson to be learned from that but it turns out to be inconsequential to this paddle.) We all agreed that we were going to head in the direction of “Goosewing” beach. As we headed west CM and I were greeted by a couple of seals.

The paddle west was calm and easy. BH, EJ and I caught a few open water surfing opportunities. The small waves were amazingly pushy in a few spots. We stopped for lunch in Little Pond Cove. This was about a mile short of Briggs Beach, the more logical destination because of its more sandy beach. It was my vote because I was hungry and I was thinking about the group and the SW breeze that we had not paid much attention to because it was behind us.

Lunch included the usual relaxing conversation and food sharing. The high point being HC’s “healthy” bran brownies. (Honestly I have no idea what was in them but she said they were good for me!) I was a bit cool again in the breeze despite the warm sun. It is difficult to stay toasty in the drysuit at lunch time. I think it’s due to evaporation. How can I prove that to myself? Hmmm?

When we headed back it became clear that the breeze had softened and my concerns about slogging back into the wind on an early season paddle were unfounded (this time). The group spread out a bit more than we probably should of. The clear water at a depth of about 6 feet over Tripp Ledge, a ½ mile off shore, made for a very pretty paddle. Some unnamed rocks off shore were asking for exploration and provided the focus for us to group up again.

We rafted up together near shore by Acoaxet. Here, with the heat built up in our drysuits from paddling, we were very comfortable, just basking in the sun. The conversation turned to seals and interestingly, CM and I realized we were the only people to see the seals on the way out of the river. Apparently, the seals must have popped up behind the main group in that characteristically seal way.

JohnS met us on the end of Horseneck Beach with his wife and dog. He had not joined the paddle due to flooding issues in his basement. The timing of his beach stroll was perfect!

Back at the launch CC, BR and I made some roll attempts with various degrees of success. The water has lost a bit of its winter bite but exposed hands are still chilled very quickly.

So as I would have predicted, the paddle was very different from my favorite paddle of last year. It stands as a very enjoyable early spring paddle. But the story doesn’t really end yet. I seem to have forgotten to discuss the “post paddle” activities in recent blogs. This day was to end with a very enjoyable gathering back at CM’s house. Hours of snacking and stories and laughing. Finished up with a showing of “This is the Sea Volume 1” and talk of our own kayak adventure plans.