We had one last big weekend of classes through Pinniped: a calm day in Frenchman Bay, searching for features among rocks and ledges, a day at Sullivan Falls with a fifteen-foot tide range, and an incident management class out around Bass Harbor and Great Gott Island. On that last day, we carried over the sandbar between the Gotts where a chilly north wind stung the face and I found myself imagining that warm cup of gas station coffee I’d drink for the ride home. I felt a little relieved that it was the end of my teaching season.
Almost on cue, those last days of October brought strong winds- warm, tropical air with fifty, sixty – knot gusts. Good days to stack firewood and go to the library to catch-up on the Internet. But with winter coming, one can develop a mildly desperate sense of purpose; make the most of every warm day. Chris wondered about a Sunday trip in Muscle Ridge, maybe look for a rock or two. Sounded good.
Chris and Nate are both preparing for a Level 5 Instructor assessment. I did the Instructor Development Workshop for this in the spring with them, but hadn’t planned on assessing this year. As I see them preparing, I feel both a sense of regret that I’m not doing it (nothing like knowing you’ll be on the spot to get your skills sharpened) and relief that I can just go out and have fun.
It’s a dramatic place to paddle, even on a calm day.
But on Sunday we had some moderate swells rolling-in- a bit big to be working-out tricky maneuvers among the rocks, but perfect if you wanted to find spots to let those waves roll beneath you and explode on the vertical rocks. As people like to say, there was a lot of energy hitting the shore.
Erin is fairly new to sea kayaking, but thanks to Chris she’s been getting a lot of good instruction and gradual exposure to lively conditions. She was the one beside me on the “Killer K” section of the Shubecanadie who expressed my assessment of the steep haystacks (“holy shit”).
After a little encouragement, she nosed her bow in close to a steep slab of granite, and held-on as a bigger wave slammed into the cliff. The sound alone was daunting- an explosion of surf on hard, hard granite. Her bow lifted high and then dropped down as the wave rebounded. Erin looked back at us with a huge smile.
Landing for lunch was a challenge in itself, but afforded us a gorgeous place for a picnic atop a flat slab of pink granite, with views along Andrews’ shore toward the familiar trio of wind turbines on Vinalhaven. Out to sea, Matinicus was a low smudge on the horizon.
It was the first day of Daylight Saving, and the end of the day seemed to come quickly. We paddled back to the launch with the wind at our back.