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