Saturday, November 06, 2010

Westport River on an outgoing tide

“I love it when a plan comes together”. The week was rolling along and I had no firm plans for Saturday. Then a received this email Friday morning:
“ … I'm picking up my brand new boat Sat. morning at Osprey. ( Limey, the Green Hornet ). With the new moon and tidal ebb and large swells ( 6 ft. ), I'm guessing that there will be good play conditions at the mouth of the Westport river. … (Jon)”


Bob checked the tide timing… he was in. Rick was expecting 7-10 foot seas… he was in. Add Jon and I and we had a nice group of 4 with similar capabilities. Rick and I both expressed some concern about the conditions. I know Jon is reasonably cautious. And Bob? Despite his well earned reputation, he does show good judgment when suitably encouraged to use it.

The Mini goes kayaking

So Saturday morning came and off we went into conditions we knew would be exciting but we had no idea exactly what to expect. It was cold, the air and water were around 50, the sky was grey, and there was a light breeze from the North. On the way out I asked who had a radio. Jon and I both had radios in our day hatches. I also mentioned that the 4 of us were all not known for staying in a tight group. We all acknowledged this and agreed we needed to look out for each other.

The tide was running fast and we reached the mouth averaging about 6 MPH while paddling at an easy pace. When we approached the open part of the harbor we could see that waves were occasionally rolling over the bar within the harbor. The rip at the group of rocks off the end of Cherry and Webb beach was almost as strong as what we expect to see along the Knubble. And the waves? They were breaking about a ¼ mile off the beach, for as far as the eye could see.

Nasty on the outside

We decided (at least in my mind) that it would be a good idea to paddle out of the harbor and see what it was like before we were dragged out of the harbor upside down if we were to go over in the rip. We went out between ½ mile rock and the Knubble. Although 20 years ago this was the marked channel, the channel is now marked to the east of the rock. But we did not want to be on the east side of the rock. It was breaking everywhere to that side. Our path was covered with very steep 4 footers. We went out through them and could see they were growling all around. One in particular had us all paddling hard to get over it.

Once through the worse of it we were in a fairly comfortable spot. We could have paddled to the west a bit without too much trouble but we were all a bit uncomfortable out there. It was just the 4 of us. It’s November, there were no fishermen stupid enough to be out there with us. I suggested that before we went anywhere it would be a good idea to go back in and be sure we would be comfortable paddling with the waves behind us. We turned around and went in. I think we were fortunate to get through without a big set of swells to upset us. It was exciting but not overwhelming. Once back inside we headed for the rip along the Knubble. It was seriously interesting in there; lots of messy three footers standing up at random locations. Near the rock of “Eric loses his glasses” fame there was a steady three foot mayhem and the eddy was nonexistent. We were all barely able to make headway through here regardless of how far from the shore we paddled. In fact it was better to be in the area where it was sloppier because you could surf forward. However, the chances of being upside down in there were much greater. We had spent about 15 minutes outside the harbor and it took us about another 15 minutes to get through the rip and onto the beach behind the Knubble. Our average speed through the rip was less than ½ mph! There were times where I was wondering if I'd be able to paddle through.

Nasty on the inside

We all hopped out on the beach. We had only been paddling for 45 minutes and we were feeling a bit defeated. It was an interesting situation. We were all “statistically” capable of handling the conditions but we all knew that when the narrow side of the statistics caught up with us it was not going to be pretty. The outgoing tide was going to push us to the east in front of Horseneck Beach where we knew we didn’t want to be. The North wind was going to push us off shore so ultimately we would end up on the sandbar off Horseneck. There was a real possibility of getting stuck on the bar and not be able to get to shore nor outside the bar.

With appropriate caution we headed back to the rocks off Cherry and Webb beach. There was enough excitement over there. And, closer to the beach, getting to the beach as a fall back was much more realistic. I started off with a wonderfully long fast ride on a perfect swell eliciting some envy from my peers. (That would change.) After about a half hour we were all growing tired. We were still paddling against a stiff current the whole time. Rick and Jon were paddling together in the rip near the rocks. They headed toward the beach for a break and lunch. Bob and I were playing a little further out where there was more swell. We too would head to the beach but suddenly I was over. I don’t remember the exact situation but ultimately my bow dug in, my stern came around, and despite my brain saying lay on the wave I couldn’t bend my body over to that side. I attempted a roll then predictably was bailing out.

Even nasty where it's usually flat

Now I’m in the water. Shit. Rick and Jon are standing on the beach. Shit. Bob is close. Great. My helmet is floating beside me. Shit. When we left the beach Bob offered to help carry my boat and I just popped it on my head without snapping it. Shit. I’m well dressed for the water and I have my neoprene hood on and am really pretty comfortable. Great. I’m trying to grab my helmet while holding the boat and paddle. We are all drifting together so I do momentarily let go of one at a time and gather them all. Great. Bob is making his way towards me. Great. I’m calm-ish but I really want to execute a quick and efficient rescue. I was in a safe place when I went over but I’m drifting out at 3mph. I tried to flip my own boat without success. (why I thought this was a good idea is beyond me.) Bob seems a little too relaxed about all this and executes a nearly perfect rescue if only a little too slow from my perspective. (Actually Bob’s deliberate approach was appropriate. If he was to have gone over too it would have been a whole new situation. ) I’m back in the boat with a little more water than I’d like but I’m in quick enough that we are still in relatively flat water. To the right there are the beach breakers that I can avoid. To the left is the messiness that I can avoid. Behind me are the bar breakers that I desperately want to avoid. I can see that there is a calm path to the beach so I choose to paddle with the water in the boat. Bob paddles just behind me. Had I gone over again there was a real possibility that he could have executed an Eskimo rescue. That would have been fun!

Jon's new boat

We gathered up on the beach and ate lunch. I was a bit cool but not so much so that I didn’t think I would be OK when I got back in the boat. After lunch we headed back over to the rip by the Knubble. We “thought” things had calmed down a bit but it was still flowing strong and the setup was the same except that the eddy had reformed behind Eric’s rock. We messed about here for about an hour, alternating sides as a few boats passed in and out. The paddle back to the launch that took 15 minutes with the tide took 45 minutes against the flow.

Fun for the boys

The new boat is stable

It was a great day on the water. We did take some risks by paddling where we were but I felt like we did a good job of respecting the conditions. The fact that I did go over and things did not break down does indicate that we were not way out of bounds. In hindsight, I’m sure Rick and Jon wished they were on the water when I went over. In hindsight Bob and I should have headed to the beach with them. I could see Rick and Jon watching what was going on. I did not specifically ask but I imagine they were ready to get in their boats. As I sit here this morning it’s easy to say that Rick could have jumped in the boat to be a support boat and Jon could have pulled out his radio and watched what was going on from shore ready to summon support if needed. But my comments are only from the “in hindsight what is the safest thing we could have done” perspective. If any poor judgment was to be assigned it would point directly at me.

11/5/2010, water 52 air 49, wind N-10, strong outgoing tides, 4+ foot swell, 6.9 miles

Monday, October 11, 2010


Cam, Tim, Gerry, John G, Joe S, Rich C, Bob, Rick, and I met in Stonington for a Wicopesset tidal race adventure. It was a new moon in autumn so we expected strong currents. Paddling on the flood tide meant that if we went over we’d drift into the protected side of Fishers Island instead of out to sea. It was also Columbus Day, a holiday for many of us. The setup seamed ideal.

The weather was perfect. Although temperatures started in the mid 40s in Northborough it was predicted to be in the mid sixties, mostly sunny, and light winds on the coast.

The nine of us paddled the 2 mile crossing to the east point of Fishers Island in multiple small pods. We could see dozens of boats and birds circling out past Wicopesset. One could only conclude the fishing was good. We stopped on the island for a short while to let the currents build. Then we all headed around the corner for some play.

Unfortunately there wasn’t much there. The current was strong but the surface was relatively flat. We all paddled through a few times and the most exciting part was playing by a rock right on the initial upslope out of Block Island sound. The water would flow over the rock creating some reliable waves behind it. Joe was the boldest, approaching the rock from all angles and unconcerned about crossing the flow. The rest of us did our best to be there when the standing wave formed and surf a bit.

What the race really needed was some wind or some waves. The wind wasn’t happening but occasionally a boat would pass by and get things stirred up. This happened a couple of times. The best time being right before lunch. During this 5 minute window. Joe, Jerry and I tended to surf near the front of the race. Rich and Bob tended to bounce and play in the more turbulent sections. The others were off playing around some rocks near the shore.

I managed to have some fun in the turbulence, surf over the rock, surf the front wave, and play in the rocks. So when the call for lunch came I was ready. Gerry, Bob, Joe, and Rich stayed for a little more but were not far behind. On the paddle back to the beach I was first surprised by a surfacing snorkeler then was surprised again by a good sized harbor seal swimming within 20 feet of my boat. It seemed too early in the (winter) season for a seal.

We ate a relaxed lunch and we all were in no rush to get back in our boats. Like any day on the water we were happy to be out but we were all a bit disappointed in the conditions. They were far from “Medieval”.

When we finally got back in our boats we headed off towards Latimer Reef Light. Rick dropped a lure for some fishing but got no action. The action we did get was a fresh west wind blowing at 15+. This made for a fun beam sea on the leg to the lighthouse and a great following sea for the leg back to Stonington. We all had plenty of fun down wind surfing. At one point I looked over at Rick and could see his face saying “I really need to stop this ‘cause I’m dead tired but I’m having too much fun.” Tim and I certainly shared his thoughts…. we all kept surfing.

This searching for tidal races is hit or miss. We’ve had one great day in Westport and one nice day at Stone Bridge. But for each of those successes we’ve had three or so just OK days at the same venue. But even when the waves don’t appear we always have fun. This day was no exception.

Stonington to Wicopesett 8.1 miles Air Temp 65, Water Temp 64, winds light going west 19-21 knots

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Surf's Up

First and foremost I’d like to congratulate Tim on receiving his BCU 4 STAR SEA KAYAK LEADER award. I mention that because I was able to paddle with him on his final assessment. If you are not familiar with what that means I think I can say simply that Tim has demonstrated to the BCU coaches that he is everything that we RICKA paddlers know he is. A highly skilled paddler and a strong and competent leader.

Now on to the paddle… Eric J, John G and I joined Tim as his “subjects” while John Carmody, a BCU 5 level coach evaluated his performance. Of course we were happy to help by being Tim’s guinea pigs but we selfishly hoped to pick up a few pointers from John in the process.

The winds forecast for the day were relatively light but there was a good swell running from a windy night. Off shore wave heights were running around 6 feet. My experience is that this usually translates into something interesting out past Bonnet Shores.

We all met at the usual time at the Bay Campus. After introducing us to John C, Tim shared his plan which was basically a paddle to the Narrow River and back. And with that we were off. We paddled as a pod until we reached the rocky shore that is the beginning of Bonnet. At that point Eric took the lead and Tim held back. The swells were already showing some power so Eric held a comfortable distance off the shore. As we approached Bonnet Point Tim jumped in front and made an assessment of whether we could tuck behind the big rock there. You could see the waves rolling through on both sides of the rock so we decided to stay out. The water depth jumps quickly from about 35 feet to about 10 feet in this area. The result was plenty of 6-8 foot waves rolling through. This is actually a fairly predictable area.

Around the next point the waves were all 6-8 foot, but they had plenty of time between them. While predictable in time they were a bit less predictable in space. There is a lot of wave refracting going on in this area as the shore line and the bottom contours bend around. We all had a chance to get caught on a "big one". John hesitated on his and didn’t paddle as aggressively as I would have liked to see but he made it over fine. My chance seemed to be all of 10 feet with the top foot or so folding over. I was fine going up. But the adrenaline kicked in as I popped over the top blinded with a face full of saltwater. There I waited for the bow to pitch back down out of the air into the much more supportive water. Thankfully I landed with a smile.

We stayed outside of the breaking waves as we approached the rocks off the Narrow River. We grouped up there and discussed what to do. Tim, with his local knowledge, was considering bringing us in. I was OK with going in but was a bit apprehensive about coming back out.

At this point Tim and John talked a bit. John Carmody suggested that we stay away from the rocks and explore the possibility of landing directly on the beach. We paddled a bit further along the beach looking for something smaller. I was less than excited about landing in the 6 foot dumping waves. We gathered together and John offered a teaching momment talking about the conditions. We mutually decided the safe thing to do was head back to a protected landing spot to the west of Bonnet.

Eric and I led the way back by heading out towards Whale Rock staying well away from trouble. It was great fun when we turned north and finally had these 6 footers pushing us along. Without incedent, we all landed for lunch.

After lunch we headed to Bonnet Beach for some surfing. I did a little rock gardening along the way. At one point I was setting up to pass through some rocks when John C started calling out “wave”. It was only a 3+ footer but I was in close to the rocks. With the advanced warning I had time to prepare and easily passed over it.

Tim led us to a safe landing on Bonnet beach and we discussed the plan. John C helped us with some pointers. I had watched John come in to shore and saw him doing a lot of intense stern ruddering as he rode the wave. My boat surfs well and I often end up out in front of the wave. So when he told me apply some “brake” with my stern rudder to keep the boat high on the wave I knew exactly what he meant. His point (to all of us) was to keep the stern of the boat up over the top of the wave so that it would be easier to turn the boat. My first try was positive. In my second try I slowed too much and buried the bow. It’s all about finding the right balance. John’s other points… lean more subtly with your butt instead of your knees, watch where you are on the wave, don’t watch the bow. He had other points for Tim, Eric and John.

We left the beach before we were all too tired. We again stayed outside of the rocks at Bonnet point and turned north towards the Bay Campus, pushed by some nice swells. Back at the launch there was no rolling and rescues. We were all tired and ready to call it a day.

I guess John Carmody liked what he saw. What I saw was once again Tim led us in some challenging conditions, kept us safe, allowed us to push ourselves a little, and still allowed us to have fun. That’s what I want to see out of a BCU-4 leader!

9/29/2010, Bay Campus to Narragansett Beach, 12.5 miles, light SW winds, Air 70, water 62.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Saguenay Fjord (Paul's View)

I’d been planning a trip to British Columbia this summer but work and life combined to make the trip inconvenient. But I did not want the summer to pass without some sort of kayak camping adventure so I reserved the week following the Pan Mass Challenge bike ride for some sort of trip. On my list were three areas that I thought Keri and I could paddle as a pair. We settled on the Saguenay Fjord in Quebec. This is an area we could reasonably expect to see Beluga whales. It is also an area that is amenable to kayak camping with a Canadian National Park providing tent platforms accessible from the water only (no car camping) over its 60 mile length.

Generally the park wants you to paddle in one direction out of the Fjord. This would require a shuttling of the boats or at least the people to complete. We investigated this but found the number of days that the shuttle ran to be limited and not compatible with our schedule. I also found that the employees making reservations at the park were not strict about the one way direction. These issues as well as the tide timing mapped into the following plan:

Launch at Anse de Roche in Sacré-Coeur on an incoming tide paddling 7 miles to camp at Anse des Îlets Rouges. Launch late morning with an incoming tide 10 miles towards camp at Anse du Portage. Launch very early morning to catch the outgoing tide 13 miles to Anse au Cheval. Launch at a leisurely morning pace to return 5 miles to Sacré-Coeur.

The wild card in this plan was the wind. The Saguenay Fjord is generally about 1 to 2 miles wide and lined with 300 foot steep sides. It is part of what makes it a beautiful place. It also forms a wind tunnel with the wind blowing up or down its length.

We drove straight up to Tadousac in one day. It is about a 10 hour ride without any significant stops. We stayed at “La Galouine Auberge et Restaurant” where we had a wonderful dinner and a fine breakfast. This set us up to be at the launch around 9AM and on the water before 10:30. (We pre-sorted the gear into dry bags in the B&B parking lot.)

The boats packed up relatively easily. Keri felt a bit helpless watching as I stuffed bags into all the crevices of the two kayaks. I wanted to make sure her boat was loaded properly with the weight centered and low in the boat to maximize her stability. She had never paddled a loaded boat.

It was a beautiful warm day with little wind. Even though the water is cold we did not wear wetsuits. This is always a calculated risk you take based on water temperature, air temperature, weather conditions, skills, number of paddlers, and proximity to shore and/or rescue. As we paddled towards Baie Sainte-Marguerite the wind began to pick up in our faces. Keri was beginning to struggle with boat control when suddenly we were in amongst the Belugas. They were popping up all around us as we held our position into the wind with the tide and light paddle strokes.

When there was a lull in the whale surfacing and we started to try and make headway again it became apparent just how much the wind had picked up. It was clear we needed to get going so I put Keri under tow to help make her strokes as efficient as possible (no worries about directional control). We both did some hard paddling until we landed on the NE edge of Baie Sainte-Marguerite. We needed to rest, get some food in us, and put on our wetsuits which we had stored accessibly in our front hatches.

I was concerned. The wind at this point was blowing about 20 knots (as measured by how tightly I had to tighten the elastic cord in my hat to keep it on my head). The waves with an opposing tide had built to at least a 2 foot chop and it was difficult for us to make forward progress. We would seek refuge behind each little point but then as we rounded the point we would be exposed to the worst combination of tide, wind and chaotic waves. Fortunately, our first camp site was closer than I expected and we dragged our tired bodies ashore in a cove protected from the wind.

Our campsite was beautiful. We were the only campers on the six well spaced tent platforms. We cooked up our steaks and potatoes and relaxed in the evening light. I was enjoying myself but I was concerned about the wind. I was tired from the first day’s effort and I knew I would not be able to tow Keri for a second day like I did the first. We discussed this casually and I pointed out that we could always turn back if the wind returned.

The second day started out reasonable but there was already a head wind right from the start. It appeared to be coming across the fjord at an angle so we crossed over to the other side to seek refuge. Unfortunately, as I feared, the wind was coming straight down the middle and riding up both sides as it was slowed ever so slightly by the cliffs. We fought it for a while but I wanted the experience to be fun, not a slog. I chose to abort our planned destination before we were a third of the way there. We would take our chances that there would be an open campsite at one of the three pullouts that were within our reach. Anse à Tidée was the destination of choice.

With the decision made we crossed back over, now with the wind at our backs, to explore some islands on the other side. We sought out eddies to push us against the tide and played in some mini tidal rips. We ate lunch in Anse Gagnon. The gradual slope of this beach combined with the 15 foot tides had us pulling in the boats every 10 minutes. On the crossing back over to Anse à Tidée Keri spotted one lone Beluga.

We were the only campers at this pullout. We began to empty our boats and scope out the prime tent site. Just as were ready to settle in 5 paddlers came around the corner. They were a Maine Based tour group and they had reservations at four of the six sites. Fortunately no one else showed up and we settled in on an upper platform. We let them use the beach and we cooked dinner up by our tent.

Because of our plan change, the paddle from Anse à Tidée to Anse au Cheval was only about 3 miles. These three miles would bring us back by Baie Sainte-Marguerite where we hoped to see the Belugas again. I chose to fight the current around Île Saint-Louis so that we would drift through the whale zone and not have to paddle directly towards it. Unfortunately the currents were strong and pulled Keri’s boat around mercilessly. I quickly put her on tow again to get her around the island. Although the tow helped achieve my goal it was probably a poor decision from the point of view of building Keri’s paddling self confidence. Here we were in flat calm water and I was towing her. We could have just gone with the current the whole way.

We did not see any whales this morning and we pulled into our next campsite at the bottom of the tide. We settled in and I put a long rope on the boat and slowly advanced them with the tide. Through binoculars we kept watch for the Belugas. I was unsure if they showed up each day at the same time of day or the same time on the tide. Our plan was to wait until we could see them and then cross over in our empty boats. We waited until almost 4pm and the top of the tide. (This was later in both day time and tide time than we had seen them the first day.)

Near the mouth of Baie Sainte-Marguerite there were Belugas everywhere. We saw at least three distinct pods and we watched 3 and 4 surfacing simultaneously. We even saw one floating vertically in the water with its head in the air. A tandem kayak passed a few hundred yards from us and a pod of 4 or 5 chased it as it paddled away!
Suddenly, there was a disturbance right off Keri’s bow. She could see the whale passing under her boat. I looked down and could see mom and baby (the young whales are gray) sitting parallel to me about three feet down. The mom swam forward while the baby held position a bit longer.

(head up Beluga, look close)

In the all the excitement I failed to notice how well Keri was paddling. The wind had picked up, there was tidal rip happening, she was paddling beam to the waves, and all the while she was in perfect control. Maybe all the struggling with a loaded boat made paddling an empty boat seem easy? I do think the boat was loaded a bit bow heavy on the second day and paddling in calm water can make every mis-stroke of the boat even worse as the hull is so tightly attached to the water over the entire length. With only a handful of paddles under her skirt she was doing amazingly well.

We got an early start on our final day’s paddle. The water was calm, the sun was warm and it was perfectly relaxing. It was relaxing and uneventful until we heard the blow. Actually we both had heard it a few times before we became aware that a Minke was feeding in the cove in front of us. We sat spinning on the eddy line in front of Anse a Pierrot for at least a ½ hour while the Minke surfaced dozens of times. We saw it roll on its side. We saw its throat pleats and its flippers. Finally it crossed the Fjord to give a similar show to some kayakers we could see on the other side!

(On side, look close)

Our experience on the Fjord was phenomenal. Our whale encounters were unforgettable and the camping was beautiful. Our decision to alter our plans without having the appropriate reservations worked out well. Truth is we ended up doing the same amount of paddling that day but we did it with the wind and without the stress of charging toward a distant destination. Unfortunately it will take some really close encounters to exceed this experience. But I’m very willing to settle for “more of the same”!

Day1, 7.1 miles Day2, 9.3 miles Day3, 11.8 miles Day4, 11.6 miles

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Saguenay Fjord

8/10,11,12,13 Saguenay Fjord, 8/13,14 Flueve St Laurent

(This is a guest blog kindly submitted by Keri. I will follow up soon with a different perspective. PB)

Being new to kayaking (first season this year), and never having been on a kayak/camp adventure, I had no reference point to base this trip on. So when Paul suggested this as our first major outing, I was a little apprehensive. I saw the pictures from two years before and was wondering if my 10+ excursions so far were enough preparation for this level of adventure.

Starting out the first day, after packing up the kayaks we headed on our way. We entered the water at Anse de Roche and headed upstream with the tide. As we got to Baie Sainte-Marguerite (a haven for Belugas), the wind had started to pick up. We did stay in the Bay for a bit as there were many pods of Belugas and it was mesmerizing to watch them. After a while we needed to head to our first camp site at Anse aux Ilets-Rouges. The wind had really picked up by now, and the tide had actually started to turn also and I quickly found myself struggling to not lose any ground. After a while Paul finally put me out of my misery and attached the tow rope to get us both around the point to the safety (and calmness) of our cove. The campsite itself was incredible. There were 6 tent platforms and we were the only ones there for the evening. We unpacked, cooked dinner and enjoyed the solitude of the campsite.

On the second day we were due to head upstream further to Anse du Portage, however I was still having control issues with my kayak and after much frustration it was decided we would paddle locally, and settle on a closer campsite. We enjoyed a nice paddle around some of the islands and shores and saw one lone Beluga before settling on and heading to the Anse de Tidee campsite for the evening. This camping area also had 6 tent platforms and we waited anxiously to see if any other paddlers would show up to see if there was an extra one for us. Luck was with us and although an Adventure Kayak tour from Maine arrived, they had only reserved 4 of the 6 platforms and we were able to make camp for the night.

The third day we awoke, packed up and headed out to our final campsite. Since it was close by, we decided to unpack our camping gear to lighten our loads for the day. The campsite was at Anse au Cheval and had a beautiful landscape to it as we arrived at very low tide.

We were close to Baie Sainte-Marguerite and as we relaxed at the campsite, we kept the binoculars nearby to wait for the Belugas. Finally in the late afternoon they started arriving. The water was very calm and there was only 1 other visible kayak and a few small sailboats. We sat towards one shore and watched the Belugas as if it were our own personal nature program – completely in awe. As we were peacefully and blissfully unaware, a big air bubble came up right in front of my kayak – Paul started laughing at my barely stifled scream, and as I watched below me, the dark form of an adult and baby Beluga passed directly under me. I can tell you I was very scared that they would surface and tip me over, an event Paul thought would be very exciting to have happen. That would be our closest encounter. As the Beluga’s migrated back out of the Bay, we made our way back to camp to prepare dinner.

The nature show was not yet quite over yet. It was now high tide and our camp was very flooded. The beautiful landscape was completely submerged, and as we sat on our tent platform we watched as a harbor seal came into the flooded area, swimming around and poking his head up now and again. What a great way to end our final evening on the Fjord!

The final day we awoke at our usual 5 am, and packed up our kayaks with our camping gear for the last time as we needed to catch the tide as it recedes. We figured we were done with our whale encounters and explored the high Fjord walls. The water was like glass which made it my favorite paddle I have ever done.

I was in control of my kayak and the views were spectacular. To top it off, as we were slowly making our way to the launch, a Minke appeared in the bay before us and we again sat and watched our own private nature show as the whale surfaced, rolled, and fed in front of us for over a half hour.

It was truly an amazing day, and it was going to get better still. We exited the Fjord, retrieved the car and packed the truck back up with all of our supplies and equipment and headed to our last campsite of the trip; Paradis Marin. Again, Paul had been here before, and thought it would be a good place to whale watch. He didn’t know how right he would be. When we arrived we were informed we should drive around and pick out or campsite first, and then register at the office. We decided to take a quick drive through the water front spots on the off chance there was something available. As luck would have it, we spotted a prime camping spot as the current occupants were taking down their tent. Since it was a Friday afternoon, this was great luck!

I stayed at the spot while Paul went and registered us for the night. I sat and watched the glass-like water conditions in the Fleuve St. Lawrent as pods of Belugas, Minkes and even White Beaked dolphins swam by. You could clearly hear their deep breathes as they surfaced. We could hardly wait to get into the water and join them, but since we had not yet eaten lunch, we needed to get some food into us. We couldn’t bear the thought of leaving this front row view, so for the first time of our trip, we ate a freeze-dried meal. We chose the chicken breast and mashed potato meal, and because it was not well measured out, it ended up being cream of potato soup with chicken. It wasn’t too bad, but I think the consistency got to Paul as he excused himself, and when he returned he was done with lunch. After lunch, we quickly donned our wetsuits, and launched the kayaks. I think all the marine life decided it was time to take a break, because although it was a beautiful paddle, we saw whales only sporatically. The interesting part was, since it was so calm out, there were pods of kayakers gather around the fleuve. People were congregating in small groups on the water, just enjoying the fortunate weather and water conditions. The colors of the water were amazing, and although we didn’t see much marine activity, it was still one of my favorite paddles.

As we made our way back to the launch point we encountered some bubbles coming from the deep water. As the bubble path was moving, we were sure that it was a bubble net and moved out of the way to make room for the feeding exhibit we were about to witness. When nothing surfaced, but the bubbles continued, curiosity got the better of Paul and he tenaciously tracked the bubbles until he finally was able to discover the source. It was the elusive marine diver. There were two of them, and if they were able to see the kayak following their bubbles on top of the water, I am sure they were getting a good laugh at our expense.

As the day turned to dusk, we ate dinner and sat on the rocks in the sunset watching the few and far between whales go by. As per usual, we were barely able to keep our eyes open by 8 pm and crawled into our tent for the evening. Just then, we heard a whale blow, so we frantically threw back on our warm clothes and dashed out of the tent to watch the final whale of our evening go by.

The final morning in the St. Laurent we were woken up to the sound of a whale. We unzipped the tent door to reveal a spectacular sunrise and we were again fortunate to view whales saying good morning to us across the glass-like water. It was tough to pack up and leave. We stayed as long as we could before heading out to Quebec City. We enjoyed our time poking around the streets and shops of the city, but I think we both wished for more whale and paddle time. We are already trying to pick our next adventure, but how we will ever equal this experience will be a challenge.

Friday, January 01, 2010

The Paddles of 2010

The Paddles of 2010

3/6 Bay Campus to Rome Point
3/20 Salt Pond
4/3 Lake Chauncey Practice
5/15 Narrow River Surfing and Practice
5/17 Gooseberry Neck to Allens Pond
5/22 Stonington, BCU-3 Training
5/23 Nashua River, Pepperel
6/7 Sakonett Point
6/13 Potter's Cove
6/19 Quonny Pond Safety Practice
6/26 Bay Campus to Jamestown
7/18 Westport River and surfing
7/24 NH Rolling Practice
7/31 Sakonett Point
8/10,11,12,13 Saguenay Fjord
8/13 fleuve Saint-Laurent
8/28 Kayak Waveology Training
9/26 Bristol to Prudence
9/29 Tim's BCU 4
10/11 Wicopesset
10/30 Tucker Pond
11/5 Westport Rip
11/13 Ft Wetherill

26 days of kayaking