The weekend started calmly enough on Friday night. Ian and I carpooled down to stay with Scott and Di on Friday night. Scott and Di were passing on the paddling extravaganza we were undertaking, but were providing essential support capabilities: a place to crash on Friday night and temporary parking permits at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. I really appreciate this because it means I don't have to get up at some ungodly hour on Saturday morning and my car will be where I left it when we get back from the trip. We arrived at their house a few minutes before they got back from their Tae Kwon Do class and were greeted by Baretta the guard cat. Scott whipped up some burritos for us (served with the mandatory salsa and chips) and we spent the rest of the evening being social.
Saturday morning the rest of the gang caught up to us at Scott and Di's. Some more socializing occured and then Scott and Di headed off to Connecticut for the weekend while Nick, Dave, Drew, Ian and I headed for the put in. Conveniently, our parking permits are for a lot that is just down the road from where Dave and Drew were planning to launch at Eel Pond. We got the yaks off the cars, loaded up our gear, and then listened to the weather radio before we launched. Not a wonderful forecast - overcast and windy - but both the wind and the current are in our favor so we decide to head out. Dave comments that it's supposed to clear up, but this brings back memories of our Quisset Harbor trip to Drew, Nick, and myself, so we don't believe a word Dave says.
Crossing Wood's Hole over to Hadley harbor is a little on the funky side with waves and wind. I'm having trouble staying my course even with the rudder down which is unusual. Once we're in calmer water, I look back and notice that the blades on the spare paddle on my rear deck have been lifted up by the wind providing new surfaces for the wind to play with. I pull over and flip the paddle around so the blades are more securely held to the deck. I mentally add "make sure the blades on the spare paddle are secure" to my pre-launch checklist.
We've decided to go up the Vineyard sound side of the Elizabeth islands to take advantage of the prevailing currents. It turns out that this puts the wind at our backs as well, so it helps us on our way out to Cuttyhunk. My yak is weathercocking a bit with the tailwind, so after struggling with it for a bit, I deploy the rudder again.
The trip up Naushon Island is calm and uneventful. Martha's Vineyard is visible off to the left and there is little boat traffic in our area. Naushon Island seems deserted and I feel like we have left civilization behind for a spell. Being the only woman on the trip, I'm at the back of the pack, but I've paddled with this crew many times so I knew what to expect. Besides we all look out for each other - nobody gets too far ahead of me and the guys switch off hanging back and paddling with me for a spell.
The lunch stop is at Tarpaulin Cove. My rudder has been sticking a little, so I take good look at it while we are stopped. I mentally add "Do not foul up the rudder cable with the bungies for the rear hatch" to the list of items on my pre-launch check list. Dave picks a nice sheltered spot under the trees and we pull out our food. Since the backup plan is to stay over an extra day at Cuttyhunk if the weather gets bad, we all have lunch makings for several days. Nick has brought a generous supply of his chocolate chip cookies as well as the mandatory salsa and chips. The guys were amused by my new storm whistle. Previously, Lydia and I had gotten whistles at Lifesports on our way up to Gouldsboro and Eric and Nick had labled them as our "hooters". Last fall on the three state paddle, Lydia had tried to signal us using her whistle, but the sound didn't carry far enough. Hence, the new whistle.
Dave wanders back from an errand of a personal nature and starts to complain about the need to get totally undressed to pee. (Dave uses a windsurfing wetsuit which zips ups the back.) He gets no sympathy from me. Men have an unfair advantage in this area. We end up deciding that his wetsuit was designed by a woman who wanted to get back at men. Drew amused us with the comment that he had tried the same wetsuit on when Dave bought his, but it didn't fit very well. It was only after he saw Dave wearing his that he realized that it zipped up the back.
After lunch, we continue on our way. Dave and Drew are commenting on what good time we're making. They did a circumnavigation of Naushon Island a few years back and are the only ones in the group who have paddled out here before, although Nick's been out this way in a sailboat. We cross Robinson's Hole with no problems and pass into new territory. The trip along Pasque Island is as uneventful as that along Naushon Island. It starts to drizzle a little. Martha's Vineyard is starting to disappear from view.
The next crossing is Quick's Hole and the wind has picked up bit and is coming through the hole making the waves more formidable. We pull the group in closer together for the crossing. Dave comments that his boat is getting tossed around a bit more. I hadn't notice it, but then realized that I was still using the rudder which was helping to stabilize my boat. We're heading straight across and I'm quartering the waves so I can see what's coming. Nick asks us if we're having a good time yet. He's clearly enjoying himself. I'm wishing that I had read that article on paddling in wind in the latest edition of Sea Kayaker magazine instead of saving it for my upcoming business trip.
Eventually Nick utters the phrase I've been expecting but dreading: "We need to head down wind!" I turn the yak to comply. I'm a little leary because my rudder is still down and I prefer to have it up when I might need to react quickly. But it's not calm enough to reach back to lift the rudder up. It's not as bad as I feared, the waves aren't breaking and my yak is not getting thrown into surfing mode so I feel like I'm in good control. We're approaching the headlands on Nashawena Island and I'm expecting the waves to get a little mixed up so I'm keeping an eye out to the sides. Suddenly I see the bottom of Dave's boat - he's capsized! He makes a couple of attempts to roll back up but can't quite make it. Ian's in position to assist and Nick is standing by, so I decided that Dave is covered. The best thing I can do is avoid going over myself. I start to head for calmer waters but Drew has turned broadside directly in front of me. It takes me about two seconds to decide that I am going to get safely around him no matter what. About that time I hear Nick suggest that we head around the point and Drew starts to turn to follow me. Dave has capsized again, but he's back upright.
The water temperature is down right chilly - in the high 40's - so I mentally go through our options if Dave starts to show signs of hypothermia. I have a space blanket in my med kit and a sleeping bag and dry clothes in the rear hatch. I'm cursing myself for not throwing the stove and a pot in as well and wondering what others have stored in their yaks. Fortunately, Dave is fine with his wetsuit and paddling jacket and we don't need to do anything. He has taken on some water, so we start looking for a place to land. Not much in the way of good landing places, but eventually we find a calm cove. Drew and I raft up with Dave while Ian and Nick hang out on their own. Drew deals with pumping out the rear hatch and I keep an eye on the waves. Drew gets the hatch pumped out but has trouble getting the hatch cover back on. We've drifted out a bit, but the waves are still okay. Drew continues to have troubles with the hatch, we start to get into bigger waves, and I let people know I'm getting nervous. Finally, the hatch cover is secure and we're on our way again. Shortly afterwards, we find a good landing spot, but we can see Cuttyhunk in the distance and are anxious to end our paddle.
Drew comments that it looks like there are some waves breaking at the end of Nashawena. Dave comments that he doesn't really want to hear this right now. I find this amusing but point out that there are usually some breakers at the headlands and that they might be a little more sensitized to waves at the moment because of our last crossing.
We get to the end of Nashawena and the waves and wind are putting on a spectacular show, particularly by the entrance to the harbor. None of us feel much like dealing with this at the moment. I contemplate suggesting holing up at a beach at the end of Nashawena until things die down, but Nick has a better suggestion - paddling across to the outside of the breakwater where the water is calmer and then portaging the boats across into the Cuttyhunk Harbor. This works just fine. Dave does a roll before landing on Cuttyhunk to rebuild his confidence.
We paddle triumphantly into the harbor and land at the docks. As we start stowing the boats and unloading gear, Drew borrows Dave's celluar phone to call the folks we've rented a place from for the night. I couldn't pass up the photo opportunity of Drew using a cellular phone while standing in front of the pay phones, so I dig my camera out of a dry bag.
Our landlords are amazed we did the trip given the conditions, but come down with their jeep, so we don't have to carry all our gear up. They give us some bad news - the restaurant we planned on eating at isn't open and the general store has closed for the day. We tell them not to worry, that we have lunch stuff, but they take pity on us any way. They try calling the store owner to see if they'll open up for us and when that fails they show up with a bag of food.
After reaching our place, we get out of our wet paddling clothes and start to unwind. Ian has brought 4 beers and since Nick doesn't drink, there's enough to go around. Dave calls his wife and then shares his cellular phone with Drew and Ian so they can call their ladies to let them know we've arrived safely. The catch is that you have to stand in the corner to get a decent signal. When they're done reporting in, we unanimously decide that Dave gets first crack at the shower. Looking out the windows, I'm treated to the dance of the bunny rabbits. There are several rabbits playing on the lawn, chasing after each other. Thoughts of rabbit stew spring to mind!
Eventually, we decide that we need to exercise our lower bodies some, so we decide to go see if we can rouse the general store owner. At first, it doesn't appear that anyone is home and Nick and I head down to the yaks to grab some of our food. We come back with cookies and the mandatory chips and salsa and find that the others have been successful and have acquired the makings for spaghetti and bacon and eggs. They tell us horror stories about the store owner who was evidently not pleased to be roused on a Saturday evening.
We dump the food off at the house and continue our walk. The sky has cleared up and its sunny out. We hit almost every road on the island and the bunny population has obviously been climbing. At the top of a hill in the center of the island is an old deserted bunker. Standing on top of it, we are treated to a 360 degree panorama. I'm quite confused as to what direction is what, but Nick has his bearings straight and points out New Bedford and the Vineyard. We try to figure out what the little patch of land is off of the Vineyard. We decide it must be Nantucket, but later find out from the charts that it's really an island called Nomans Land. We continue our walk and watch the sunset over the water. Then it's time to head back to the house for dinner.
I hop into the shower when we get back to the house and when I get out I find that the guys have started making dinner. There's water heating up on the stove for the pasta, they've popped up some microwave popcorn, and of course there's salsa and chips. We shoot the breeze about the day's paddle and enjoy a leisurely dinner. The guys thank me for doing the dishes and I thank them for not assuming that I was the cook. We crash for the night.
I wake up early on Sunday morning. The guys aren't up yet, so I grab and magazine and go read in the kitchen for awhile. Eventually there are sounds of life. Dave and I get breakfast going. Bacon and eggs never tasted so good. Soon it's time to pack up and head for the boats for our return trip. It's a bright sunny day and the seas look calm. Dave thinks we've been transported to another location over night, it's so different from yesterday. I wear my sneakers down to the docks, figuring that will be easier on my feet. However, I forget I'm wearing them and go after something in my front hatch before I've donned my wetsuit booties. Another item to add to the pre-launch check list.
The crossing to Nashawena is absolutely painless. Little wind and no waves. The weather forecast is for lighter winds and sunshine. I'm happy, a no rudder day if I ever saw one! We've opted for the Buzzards Bay side of the Elizabeth Islands to get the more favorable currents. We've checked the current charts and we should be getting to Wood's Hole around slack time. There will be some current going into Quick's Hole, but we figure we can get around it. We play in the rocks along the shore of Nashawena. Dave is a little apprehensive after yesterday's paddle and is staying out of the rocks for the most part. We stop for a rest at the end of Nashawena so we can check out Quick's Hole before we do the crossing. It too is vastly different than yesterday and the crossing is quick and painless. We decide to press on and have lunch after we get across Robinson's Hole.
The lunch stop is a friendly beach at the end of Naushon Island. The water is shallow as we approach the beach and its green color is reminiscient of a more tropical location. We all have the same stuff for lunch as we did yesterday as well as the mandatory chips and salsa.
After lunch we continued heading down along Naushon Island. Ian, Nick, and Drew continue playing in the rocks, but Dave's more interested in going from point to point and I stick with him. The wind is picking up a bit and coming head on. Shortly after I comment to Dave that I don't mind paddling into the wind as long as it looks like we're moving, it starts to look less like we're moving. After reaching the next point, I suggest that we take a more inland route to get some shelter from the wind. About the same time the rest of the guys decide to go point to point.
We've spread out a bit from Ian, Nick, and Dave, but eventually we raft up in the same general area. Nick and Dave start paddling together, I'm a little behind them but not terribly so and Drew and Ian are a little further out to sea. Eventually I decide that a rest stop is in order. I pick up my pace to try and catch up to Nick and Dave. They don't realize that I'm trying to catch up and apparently have decided that I'm just speeding up a little. We pass by several good landing locations. I speed up some more and get into earshot. My first "arrgghh" gets Nick's attention and the second one slows them down enough for me to request a pit stop. We're in the home stretch now. We decide to press on to Hadley Harbor and stop on Bull Island before crossing Wood's Hole.
It's a short stop at Bull Island. We want to get across Wood's Hole while the current is still light. That crossing is also much calmer than yesterday's. We nose around a little until we find our way back to Eel pond. Ian does some roll practice and we paddle around a little, but we're all kind of beat so we head for the shore and the cars. Dave and Drew call Donna and Lisa and we make plans to meet up with them for dinner. After a leisurely dinner, it's time to head for home and a more mundane life - at least until next weekend.
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