Saturday, April 18, 2009

Westport to Goosewing

Some days I’m more into paddling than others. This Saturday was one of those ambivalent days. It was supposed to be nice in the morning and I really wanted to get out on the bike. But I had already rode two days in a row and I hadn’t seen my kayaking friends in a few weeks. I waited until the morning to decide and my choice was to load up the kayak.

The forecast was for air temperatures in the low 60’s. Water temperature (a bit more predictable) was about 45. I started out wearing my fleece “PJ’s”. I was over heating before I was even zipped up in my dry suit. So I switched to a thin polypro top and bottom. I jumped in at the ramp. I’d like to say that I was testing my clothing but really the die had been cast. I was simply getting all the air out of my suit to keep me as cool as possible.

Jon planned the paddle. Tom and Rich C were there when I arrived. Jim, Carole, and Bob rounded out the group. We headed out at just about slack tide. We joked about how when the matriarch plans this paddle we are always fighting the tide both ways!
We were treated to sunny skies and 1 foot seas as we rounded the Knubble. We did the usual rock gardening and were visited by some seals. I think at one point I saw three at once. It was interesting that the SW wind at about 12 knots was effecting my boat handling around the rocks in a way I didn’t remember experiencing before. But all in all I felt good in the boat.

There were some waves popping up around Brayton’s point. We chose not to play there which might have been a mistake as I think they may have been better on the lower tide. I did mention to Carole that although I was really comfortable in the air I didn’t really want to get wet. Instead we headed to goose wing beach more or less where Tunipur pond flows out (when it is flowing).

The waves were approaching 2 feet as they rolled over the sand. There was some talk of going further west where the waves bend around the next headland and are even smaller. But it was pretty tame and I thought everyone was quite capable of reaching the shore unscathed. I suggested a spot where there was a gentle rip going. The deeper water in the rip causes the waves to bend a little leaving the smallest waves in the center.

Tom went in first with Rich following. I was feeling a bit impatient about making a big deal about a beach landing and the wind was pushing me towards shore. Just as my turn was opening up the larger set was approaching, maybe 3 feet. I had drifted right where the wave was at its steepest. I thought about letting it pass but I was pretty shore it was going to catch me regardless. So I started to half heartedly build up some speed with the paddle. With little speed the wave caught me. I expected the boat to speed up and slide down the wave as it usually does. Instead the bow went down. In what could only have been 2 seconds I watched the nose drift down into visual fuzzyness and the layer of water make its way up to my spray skirt. It felt like I was 80% of the way to an “endo”. (Jon saw an awful lot of white hull in the air from behind.)

Fortunately I went over fairly gently. I was not conscious of hitting bottom but with an 18 foot hull I must have at least rubbed it. I set up for a roll but couldn’t get my body in position for my first sweep. I made a relatively patient second attempt with the same result. I popped the cord.

Now the wisdom of going in at the rip took on a new edge. I was in the break and didn’t expect any help. But I was making no progress towards shore. The little pull in of the breaking wave was canceled by the rip. Rich came in to try and help and got thrashed by my boat and a wave. His roll worked. Finally I could get a toe on the bottom and push the boat in.

I was in the water for a few minutes. It was not uncomfortable and when I got out of the water the sun warmed me back up quickly. Unfortunately when the sun went behind the clouds I was cold. I considered putting the “PJ’s” on. I had packed them in the boat.

After lunch when everyone headed out to surf a little I stayed on the beach. Partly to stay warm. I didn’t think another swim was a good idea. The other part was to get some surfing pictures. I never get pictures from the face on point of view. After a few pictures I headed out and caught a couple of waves.

We headed back to Brayton point and did some surfing there. Jon was testing out a P&H Scorpio on this paddle and found himself upside down in the surf. Possibly due to his poor fit in the boat (without custom foam) he ended up out of the boat.

From there we headed back to the ramp. We made a quick stop to climb on the Knubble. From the top of the rock we could see Martha’s Vineyard quite clearly. The effect is called a “superior mirage” where the light bends in the warm air over cold water making everything look higher on the horizon than they actually are.
Like all good paddles it was relaxing with a bit of excitement and some good stories to tell.

10 miles, air 60 , water 45, winds SW 10+