Sunday, May 13, 2012

Blown back, Blown Roll, Blown in

It was just an ordinary paddle.  Fort Wetherill, the forecast sunny, temps in the mid 60s, light winds freshening from the south west in the afternoon, waves 1 foot.

At this time of the year I hope for cooler days (like last week’s paddle from Gooseberry) because it is hard to dress for both the water and the air.  This week I chose my dry suit with just a thin layer of poly-pro under it.  I jumped in the water (55 degrees) before getting in the boat.  It was clear that I’d be OK but cold if I had to swim.  But with a bright sun I knew I’d be able to warm back up.

We (CC, RB, BH, TG, TM, JS, CM, PB, Cam) headed out into still air and very calm water.  In the open water there was the beginnings of a light breeze which make it very comfortable and the 1 foot seas were perfect for a little rock gardening along the Jamestown shore.  We all started without our helmets but quickly realized they would be prudent.  Of course the addition of a helmet only makes us more bold in the rocks that we take on.  Bob and I predictably ended up temporarily grounded but things were generally pretty calm. 

There is one little rock passage at the end of Southwest Point just before you make the turn into Mackerel Cove.  It appears as if it is well protected behind a large rock but there are guard rocks and the granite behind the rock slopes up gradually so the wash wants to run you up.  Rick and Jon seemed to be thinking about it.  Tim, the last to engage in the rock gardening, went in.  He washed up the rock a bit but maintained composure and remained in the sweet spot.  Then he attempted to cross the shallow necked down rock passage and got hung up.  The water washed out from under him and it looked like he was sitting at about a 45 degree angle pointing up.  The return of water is always a mixed blessing.  It came back in and floated him but he ended up upside down.  Somehow, I think a paddle on the rock roll, he righted himself.  With a little re-organization and a bit of a thrashing he made his way back out.  The body was fine but a think the adrenalin level was a bit high. 

We slipped into the first cove and regained our composure.  It was a bit too early for lunch in Mackerel Cove so we continued on towards Beavertail Point.  I was not as warm as I would have liked so I added my neoprene hat under my helmet.  By the time we got to Short Point, the first point as you start to head towards Beavertail, it was clear that the wind was picking up.  A command decision was made to have lunch in Hull Cove.  There were some tempting waves along this shore but they would have washed you into the rocks if you couldn’t get off them.  No one pushed their luck.  I caught a nice one by the sandy section that people were landing on.  Unfortunately it pushed me right towards the landing party.  I managed to keep from wiping them out and headed back for just one more ride. 

 Lunch was a relaxing affair and we were all comfortable in the bright sun.  After lunch we continued on to Beavertail.  The wind was now approaching 15 from the south west.  We knew we’d have an easy downwind ride home.  Back in the open water it was a bit of a slog.  We got strung out a bit.  At one point we stopped to gather up.  I checked the GPS, the wind was pushing us back at about 100 feet per minute. 

We got to within striking distance of Beavertail coast guard station and turned around.  Down wind was fun and without seeing the cresting waves we all allowed ourselves to get a little closer to the shore.  At one point a wave grabbed my stern and rotated me about 60 degrees instantly.  I started thinking about how quickly the wind was pushing us and began to prepare my tow rope in case something happened.  It was lively enough that I couldn’t manage to swing it around my waist to grab the carabineer.  I abandoned that plan so I wouldn’t be the one going over.      

There was some great down wind surfing across the mouth of Mackerel Cove.  The shore along Jamestown was exciting.  There was calopitis and waves were peaking up momentarily all over the place.  The wind was strong enough that turning back away from the shore was a challenge.  I never felt unsteady but my waist got quite a workout as the boat twisted and jerked about under me.

By this point we could even surf into the Fort Wetherill Cove!  Once in the cove Rick, Cam, Jon and I did a little rolling.  Others did well.  I blew my first.  Managed my second.  Then blew a third.  Once on shore I realized just how tired I was.  And also how windy it was.  The Newport weather station listed it as 17 gusting to 25.  The Buzzards Bay buoy had a steady 30!