After several winter months of spending most Saturday afternoons practicing rolling, rescues and whatever other games we come up with in the 80+ degree water at the YMCA in Bar Harbor, it may be a good idea to gently return to reality by practicing some of those moves in 40 degree water with a strong current. That wasn’t our intention when, on a whim we went for a mid-day play at Sullivan Falls on a 15.5-foot new moon tide, but it’s rare that this venue doesn’t provide a few challenging moments.
Rebecca and I had been vaguely aware of the higher-than-usual tide, but it hit home as we crossed the Sunshine Causeway an hour before high tide, which felt more like a road through the ocean rather than over it. We dodged clumps of seaweed and ran the wipers to clear away salt on the windshield. The previous day, snowplows had been used on the Deer Isle Causeway to clear away seaweed.
We thought ‘why does Nate always want to go on the biggest tides?’ Of course, part of it is simply morbid curiosity, getting a chance to see and experience Sullivan Falls in all its moods and incarnations. Fortunately we would get there to catch the end of the flood. With such a tide range, the ebb becomes truly massive and fast enough that you can hardly catch a wave, with holes that really will swallow you. We found a familiar spot looking a little less familiar with so much water moving over it, and a wave that was hard to stay pointed into, but upon which you could side-surf for about as long as you could stand it. My capsize came when, while bracing with my right hand on the paddle, made an exaggerated yawning motion with my left. Served me right, I suppose. Chilly water. Didn’t stay down there long.
Despite the tongue-in-cheek title of this post (we weren’t really there to practice capsizes) it is good to do, to get comfortable out there, above or below the boat.
When this wave started to die-down, we had a nice picnic lunch in the sun. There are worse excuses to get-out of the house for lunch. After the current shifted, we got back out on the water and paddled back and forth as features began to build. It’s amazing how quickly it went from not much to big. The front wave felt smooth and surf-able for about ten minutes, but you really had to work to keep from getting pulled back over it. Then it seemed to be getting just faster rather than bigger, and a wave near the edge was near-perfect for a few surfs- until it too just seemed too fast to catch. By then, we had to go. Nate had to pick-up the kids and I had to get back to Deer Isle – I was on stage crew for an amateur theater production (called Cabin Fever Theater, an ailment we seem to have avoided) which I may have enjoyed more with the feeling of salt still clinging to my skin.