Monday, December 5, 2016

O Captain ! Great Captain !

I paddled right after Thanksgiving with the westchester crowd - my good friends the 2 Geeks, and AD, JT, JB, and B with the Nordkapp. We're paddled pretty regularly, some more than others, as AD and Jean look to build their leadership logs, and the others just want to practice basic skills. We went around Hart Island, and later went out to Jones Beach, and most recently, met up in AD's back yard (literally) to paddle from Mamaroneck to the Captain Islands - right around the corner in Greenwich, CT.

AD lives in a swell-looking condo right on the waterfront, complete with a kayak rack in the back yard and a proper gym and sports club on the grown floor. We were able to park in a pleasant residential neighborhood, putting in at a beach at a the end of a dead end street. The 2 Geeks paddled over from their boathouse in Larchmont, and once we were all assembled, we set out.

Unlike our previous journies, this one had a pretty stiff onshore wind, and the tide was unusually high as well. The tide meant we were able to take a shortcut out over a low point in Hen Island, but the wind would be hitting us abeam as we came about along the coast.

Leaving Mamaroneck.

A pleasant little gap.

Assembled for the briefing.

AD ready to lead.

After a short on-water briefing in the lee of a rock, we set out, and went around Milton Point to cross the long harbor from which we could see Rye Playland - and old amuement park, still operating in the warmer months. To lessen the wind we paddled closer in, and after assessing the overall speed of the group, made a short stop for a bio-break.

Rounding Milton Point.

From here, it was determined that about half the group would want to turn back earlier than the rest, owing to off-water obligations later in the day. We knew by then that Great Captain would be a longer journey, and more exposed to wind and an open crossing, so Jean and JT and I became the "Captain" group, and the rest formed the "Byram" group, that would go no further than Byram point.

We left and went around the next curve to be alongside Manursing Island, when suddenly an alarm was raised. Where was Alex?

We had separated into two smaller pods, and we all took a quick look around. The answer was quickly given: Alex's skeg had broken, and owing in part to the frustration, he'd opted to turn around and land where we'd been previously, and paddle back with the group on the return.

This was fine, except only two people knew that. We'd all seen Alex launch, too, so everyone else assumed he'd be with us. We had a quick talk about communication. Changes in plan are for everyone to know, not just the trip leaders.

By this point we were paddling into the wind, and the Byram group turned around to head back and pick up Alex on the way, while the remaining trio of Jean, JT, and myself, heading on the Great Captain.

Great Captain Island is one of the Captain Islands, part of the town of Greenwich, CT. It's home to a proper lighthouse that, until recently, had a live-in lightkeeper and his family. Hurricane Sandy made the local drinking water brackish, so the family moved ashore. The island is a park for the town, but in the off-season local paddlers have landed and taken in the view.

We paddled north a bit and then a fairly steep ferry angle to account for the wind, and landed on the northwestern corner of the island. After pulling our boats up, we hiked a bit to see the lighthouse.

Approaching the light after landing.

It's a sizable home.

Originally established in the 1600s.

The wind was still a-blowin', so we took our lunch in the lee of the lighthouse. Here, we could talk, soak in some sun. If it weren't for the wind, it'd have been a warm and pleasant day.

I'd brought roasted chestnuts, leftovers from Thanksgiving. Though cold, they still had some sweetness to them. I'd never considered it before, but they do make good paddle food!

A beautiful front lawn.

Long Island Sound.

By now, the wind had picked up and was easily on the upper end of F5, gusts to F6. We still had outgoing tide in our favor, but to cross the mile or so from the island back to the mainland, we were going to take a roundabout route - heading up towards Calf Island, then cutting over and letting the wind and current carry us south. Even at that, we might've overshot and gotten carried out further than intended, if we weren't paying attention.

Ready for the Wind !

I rarely use the hood on my drysuit, and was keenly aware that with a headwind, it would be more likely to catch wind, so I cinched it up. I was glad for it - my head kept warm, and when not taking wind in the face was actually quite comfortable.

That said, the Gore-Tex is stiff, and so it was more like a porthole than a hood. My head tended to turn inside the hood, rather than the hood turning with my head. I had to really goose-neck my head around to keep an eye on my companions.

The seting sun.

As the sun went down, the wind declined as well, and in short order we were just paddling the miles back to Mamaroneck.  By now, everyone else had landed, and all but Alex had left.

Paddling again past Hen Island.

Contrails, Clouds, and Sunsets.

Approaching the harbor, we had to wonder if all those contrails in the sky were holiday traffic taking visitors home.

As we approached the harbor, we could make out a lone figure in Mango yellow with a white hat, walking about on shore to keep warm. Jean radioed in to let Alex know we would be there soon, and with sunlight dwindling, he prepped his boat so as to get going right as we approached. They had to paddle another couple of miles back to their boathouse.

JT and I helped each other with our boats and drove off separately. By now it was dark; I'd left my house around seven in the morning, and hadn't considered how long the day might be. But it was grand - a journey of at least 16 nautical miles, a mildly challenging wind, a split group, and some great scenery, most of which was still new to me. It was a great trip, and one I'd happily do again.

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