My first time actually on the water this season was in my surf kayak (a Mega Neutron). Several of us trekked down to First Beach in Middletown, RI to see what we could catch. The water was cold, but the surf forecast was calling for 2 to 3 feet–nothing big–but nice clean waves ideal for honing technique. And the weather forecast was even better: sunny, breezy, and in the 70s. So we figured we could just sit on the beach if the surf turned out to be disappointing, as it sometimes does. But we got lucky: The waves started out small but clean, and between two surf kayaks, two whitewater boats, and a SUP, we managed to catch several good rides. Even better, after an outdoor lunch at a nearby restaurant, the surf picked up considerably. We caught several three-footers, and a few sets came through at four. And they stayed clean–we were able to catch some nice long rides and tweak our surf skills on some real glassy faces. We even switched around the boats and board for a while for variety. As dusk started to roll in and the waves died down with the turn of the tide, we packed up, rinsed off, and headed back North, having gotten our sea legs back in shape for the season. The only thing missing: Flo’s clams!
Yesterday morning Dan Smith called me and said “Do you have plan for right this minute?” I said no and was then whisked away to a local event in Newton Lower Falls/Wellesley to take a few photos. The old railroad bridge connecting Newton Lower Falls and Wellesley had been in disrepair and thanks to a LOT of local organizations and local and state government, it is now a foot bridge!
Since Dan Cox and I had only moved here a year ago, needless to say I was out of the loop. However, it was so encouraging to see what the local and state governments can do when they pull together. The bridge is beautiful and shows the MA doesn’t want to let their state fall into disrepair either. It made me happy to live here. I was a bit dissapointed that the promised apperance of the governor fell through but I did get to hear the Lt. Gov and the Mayor of Newton speak… so that works for me.
If you have not been over to the bridge yet, you should definitely take a look.
See more photos here:
Photo’s by Bethany & Dan Photography
It was that time of year again, spring guide and instructor training for CRCK. Even kayak instructors and ocean guides need to refresh our skill set come spring. Of course we have to do this on days where the average person doesn’t want to paddle, days surprisingly easy to find most years in New England mid April. This year proved no different, even in face of the summer like weather we’d been having.
I’m a part-time guide and instructor at CRCK. I learned to paddle sea kayaks with the company 10 years ago, and now I find time after my day job and on weekends to share my love of paddling. I’ve known some of my fellow guides for years longer than I’ve taught at CRCK. We all have different schedules and commitments, so often it’s only this weekend where we all get a chance to paddle together, share experiences and re-unite as a group
With a predicted nor’easter arriving Sunday, our illustrious leader Dan Cox shuffled the scheduled order of activities around. On Saturday we headed down to Sakonnet Point in Little Compton, RI for a series of training scenarios designed to test and extend our skills in waters that we didn’t know like the back of our hands. Ten of us took turns leading in sets of two, while our fearless leader set up our ‘students’ with actions designed to test our leadership, teaching and problem solving skills. Of course, the moderate fog, ocean swell and wind added to the challenge of leading this group of difficult ‘students’. As troublesome students, Christian and I discretely paddled away from the guides, ‘trying to get around a fishing net’ that lead far out into the foggy ocean. In another, a “panicky student” let go of her boat and swam to shore instead of listening to instructions for the rescue. Navigation challenges in the fog, group management issues, medical emergencies, multiple seasick paddlers and a ‘random’ wave that put everyone in the water were all created out of thin air to challenge our leadership and paddling skills. And at least from my perspective, we all relished the challenges. We came home, I believe, having identified skills that we felt great about, and probably a thing or two that felt rusty and needed work. I can’t ask for more from a day of paddling than that.
Sunday involved what was normally day 1 of instructor/guide training, with discussions about our strengths as individuals and as a company, questions we wanted answered, and on the river teaching and demonstration. Of course the nor’easter moved in earlier than forecasted, so much of that was in light to heavy rain, wind and temps falling from close to 60 down to 45 by the time we were done. Issues of group management and hypothermia prevention were easy to come by right next to the Newton boat house. Still we persevered though the weather while playing silly (but educational) kayak games. By the end we were all tired, all wet and all smiling; it was another good day.
-Written by Part Time Guide and Instructor Phil Allen
The forecast was for bright sunny skies and light winds with a bit of energy in the water. Perfect day to head up to one of my favorite paddle spots – Manchester by the Sea. CRCK staff member Dan Cox and I met at the Newton boathouse and quickly loaded a Delphin & an Alchemy on top of the car before making the long trek up to the North Shore. Upon arriving at the parking lot, we met up with two very nice gentlemen from the North Shore Paddlers Network. We all got boats and gear ready and headed out to sea: me in the P&H Delphin, Dan in the Dagger Alchemy and our NSPN friends in a NDK Explorer and Valley Nordkapp.
We started out heading up north past “sand-dollar beach” to play in some of the slots at the mouth of the harbor. We all had a blast going in and out of the rocks, getting used to the timing of the swell and occasionally leaving some paint on a rock or two. After a bit we decided to continue north towards Singing Beach. On the way up, we would challenge ourselves and feed our ADD by playing in a slot here and there.
In one area I decided to bring my boat around a large rock in front of a slot and shoot through the other side. As I came around the backside of the rock, a large swell picked the Delphin up and wedged it part way up the slot. As the water pulled back, it left me with the bow and the stern of my boat firmly planted into the rock face of the slot and me in the middle, suspended in mid air! I tried shaking the boat and bouncing up and down to work the boat free, but it would not move. So I thought to myself, just wait for the next wave to come by, pick up the boat and I can just paddle out of the slot. This did not happen. Instead the next wave just forced the boat further into the rock face. At this point I was figuring that I’d have to get out of my boat, jump down into the water and get the boat down by hand. Before I had a chance to do this, Dan Cox came up to the bow of the boat and started trying to get it free. Once he got the bow loose, it dropped down into the 46 degree water and rolled over, leaving me underwater. I immediately rolled to the other side to bring the boat back upright, but I had forgotten that the stern was still firmly planted in the rock, so the boat did not roll with me. Needless to say I rolled right out of the Delphin and found myself swimming next to it. Dan and I quickly got it down from the rocks and he helped me back in. We all agreed that we wished we had brought our cameras, because it would have made for a very good photo.
We continued up the coast to Singing Beach and had a snack before heading back south to Manchester Harbor. We continued to play in the rocks here and there and had a great time with many laughs. We got back to our cars and loaded the boats quickly so we would miss Boston rush-hour traffic. On the way home, Dan and I both agreed that we had a blast paddling in Manchester even with the mishap on the rocks.
Written by Staff Member Kevin Horner | Photo by All Daggett
Here I sit, alone, looking across twenty yards of rocky coast toward six-foot surf. Beyond that, I can see nothing, because on this morning, just like the last, the Maine Coast lies beneath a blanket of some of the thickest fog I have ever seen. Yesterday I needed two trips (with the movement of an improperly placed can away from my compass in between) to hit a buoy less than ¼ mile offshore. Today I need to paddle 19 miles of mostly exposed coastline and cross two shallow bars, and the forecast called for 8-foot seas, 25-knot winds, and I can’t see an eighth of a mile. This was supposed to be an amazing eight-day solo trip around Isle au Haut and Mount Desert Islands, but I am about to give up and go home not yet halfway through.
Day 1 of the trip was spectacular, with blue skies and light winds helping me along from Naskeag Point down through the Merchant Row archipelago. Day 2 was calm, too, but the morning broke overcast and foggy and the forecast kept calling for afternoon thunderstorms — exactly what I didn’t need if I was caught on some unapproachable shore as I rounded Isle au Haut, a 17-mile trip I’d been dreaming about for years. And to make matters worse, the weather radio kept repeating a flash flood watch for the interior to the exclusion of any other information. However, having made it to Duck Harbor and fueled up on lunch, the weather started to clear and I decided to make a go of it.
In the end, this leg of the trip worked out. The isolated and totally exposed southern shore of Isle au Haut is almost certainly one of the most spectacular sections of the Maine Coast, and being there, with the high and broken cliffs to my left and the chop blowing in from the ocean to my right, was one of the best experiences of my paddling career. Just as I was sneaking between Eastern Head and Eastern Ear, finally escaping the turbulence, a pair of hikers waved at me from their perch atop the 60-foot cliffs. I waved back and continued, alone.
The third day held the longest crossings of the trip: a mile from Isle au Haut to Fog Island, then two miles to Marshall Island, and another mile to Swan’s Island. Fog in Maine is most prevalent during the summer months, when warm air moves over very cold water flowing down from the Arctic with the Labrador Current, and today the fog was thicker than molasses. On the second try, I did hit my target buoy, and continued on through the white, featureless surroundings. In the middle of the two-mile crossing I passed within 100 feet of a lobster boat, who must have thought I was insane. Perhaps I agree. Eventually, guided only by compass, I reached Swan’s Island and paddled out to a nearby island on the Maine Island Trail.
And that’s where I sit. I’m wearing my full rain gear to fend off the chill and the drizzle, and I still can’t see 200 yards. I hike the beautiful, moss- and dew-covered trail along the perimeter of the island back to my campsite, and sit on the beach writing in my journal, wanting deeply to pack up and move but refusing to go anywhere until either the forecast or the fog improves. Even if I decide to abort the trip I still need two days to get back to my car, and those two days might be spent paddling into a 20-knot wind. It’s already Noon, and if I can’t get started soon there’s no way I’m reaching my destination in Somes Sound, a 4-5 hour paddle. The agony sits heavy in the pit of my stomach.
And then, the fog lifts. Suddenly I can see Frenchboro Long Island more than two miles away. I look around my campsite, and there is stuff strewn everywhere. My normally organized nature had been overcome by the knowledge that I wasn’t paddling today, and I struggle to pack my belongings quickly. Finally, after what seems like forever, I push off the sand beach and begin my trek into the unknown. Yes, the fog has lifted, and the predicted 20- to 25-knot winds have not materialized, but there is a big swell running, much of the day’s route is exposed, and I have to cross the Bass Harbor Bar and head up the Western Way, whose charted depths are only 14 feet and 16 feet, respectively — not the spots I’d like to be in 8-foot swells.
As I start out, I have a nice 5-foot rolling following sea, and I round Swan’s Island and make the crossing to Placentia Island without incident. After a long lunch on Placentia waiting for a favorable tide, the sky has turned blue and I can see that Bass Harbor Bar is not breaking, as I had feared. I cross the bar and stare up at Bass Harbor Light, one of the most famous and most photographed lighthouses in America. The jealous tourists stare back.
But the worst, I fear, is yet to come. I am less than halfway to my campground in Somes Sound. As I approach the Western Way, the swells get larger and larger. I am almost a mile offshore to avoid the breakers on Long Ledge. As I turn north around a green buoy, the swells are now coming directly from my stern. When I look behind me, I see each swell rising until it eclipses the horizon, and I feel my boat surge forward, and the swell keeps rising, and rising, and rising until it sweeps under me and the whole cycle repeats. I estimate the swells at 8 to 9 feet, a measurement I later confirm via buoy data.
Across the entrance to the Western Way, the chart shows an ominous blue swath, a shallow bar ranging in depth from 11 to 16 feet. It’s low tide, so I don’t get any additional depth there. How is it possible, I ask, that these 9-foot swells are not breaking on an 11-foot spot? However, my eyes tell a different story: I see no breaking waves ahead, and sailboats are regularly traversing the passage. I aim to the right of the channel marker, hoping to find the deepest point, and paddle my heart out as the big waves push me along.
I reach the buoy marking the bar, and then pass Southwest Harbor, and eventually struggle, physically and emotionally exhausted, into Somes Sound. I pull out beneath the 700-foot cliff of Valley Cove, walk up to the edge of the trees, and splash cold, clean water from a stream onto my face. I sit down and relish a snack. After another mile, I reach my campground for the night, and after four more days I’m back at my car. I’ve gone 120 nautical miles, by kayak, alone.
The image of me is on Day 6 of the trip described in the post. Photo by Mel Mashman, a random guy I met at a campground who liked kayaking and thought what I was doing was awesome.
We got to get out on the water for a short evening paddle on Tuesday. We cannot wait to open the doors and have you all our here with us! Opening day can’t come soon enough!