Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Sunday Paddle to Fog Island
On Sunday, we had an unusual convergence of friends with a free day and nice weather, so six of us gathered at Old Quarry and, hoping to find a few watery bumps on an otherwise calm day, headed-out along the east side of the Stonington archipelago. It was great just to see friends, and as we paddled-out, often found ourselves in pairs, chatting about how our summers had gone and what our next plans were. As we rounded the corner of Spruce Island and the broader expanse of Jericho Bay came into view, we found a very mild swell washing-in along the glacial erratic boulders, and instinctively, we gravitated toward the places where the waves rose and fell among the rocks. It was a nice warm-up exercise, since as we proceeded southward, the swell - and the challenges among the rocks - gradually increased.
This kind of progression, from flat calm onward, feels pretty nice. We start the day not knowing what we'll find out there, but we bring along helmets, just in case there's a chance for some play. When you first encounter these waves hitting the rocks it might feel a bit mystifying... 'what am I supposed to do with this?' you might wonder. But you figure-out a safe way to get in there- bow seaward so you can see what's coming and get-out if need be, and get your stern up close and see what happens.
We lingered along the outer shore of No Mans Island. Nothing was too big or imposing, so it was a good spot to refine some skills. A lot of paddlers might never get a chance to try-out a brace if they didn't get into a bumpier spot like this. It's good to see what works well and what doesn't- an effective reality check.
We pointed out to Southern Mark Island and then onward to Fog Island where we ate lunch. By the end of lunch, our group of six was down to only three, since other priorities beckoned for some. For the remaining three, Popplestone Ledges had been beckoning the whole time we ate lunch. Exposed to open ocean and subject to the current squeezing in and out of Jericho Bay, this can be a lively spot. We found some small pour-overs, but mostly just found waves hitting rocks in spots where we really didn't want to end-up. Around the last ledge though, the swell wrapped around it and the waves reared-up nicely, and we all got a few nice rides.
We took our time getting back, stopping at Gooseberry Island, enjoying the warm air, the nice light- all seen through a somewhat nostalgic lens with the feeling that this would probably be our last time paddling together for awhile. Rebecca and I will continue onward soon - to New Hampshire and then Newfoundland, and we don't have particular long-term plans. Gooseberry is a favorite spot: the erratic boulders sprinkled like giant marbles, the backdrop of Isle au Haut and just enough swell to keep things lively. We savored it for awhile and headed back-in.
This area is covered in Trip #14 in my guidebook AMC's Best Sea Kayaking in New England. If you don't have this book yet, you really ought to get it. Since I've been at Old Quarry, I'm often astonished at the lack of research done by many of the paddlers heading-out here. They may hope to get 'local knowledge' from whomever happens to be at the front desk in the office, but that's a pretty hit-or-miss proposition. When I'm advising people, I often find that one tiny piece of information could make a crucial difference in their trip planning- in their enjoyment of the trip and their safety. Why not educate yourself as well as you can before leaving it all to chance?
The trips in this book are more than just lines drawn-over a map, and often they're more overall background information than just a route. In addition, the introduction to the book contains very condensed background information that would be useful to most paddlers, regardless of how experienced they perceive themselves to be. I'm usually a bit hesitant to suggest my book in such a way, or to make public observations about paddlers, but you don't have to watch people launch from a place like Old Quarry for very long to understand that most paddlers could have a better, safer paddling experience with a wee bit of guidance.