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9_14_2022 West Beach, Beverly to Graves Island, Manchester. 10:15am - 3:00pm. LT 8:32am -0.2ft HT 2:49pm 10.4ft. Tidal range 10.6ft, ¾ moon springs. Participants: Ricardo, Prudence, Mike, Fred, Sue, Sue H, and Bob L in Castrato Explorer. >10kts W wind, gusts to 25kts. Air temp 75F. 1-2ft long period swells, wind chop, sunny. The ground track for the 7nm trip is shown in Figure 1. The location of the coasteering run is circled on the chart. Figure 1: Ground track for the 9_14_2022 paddle. Mola Mola sighting at black star, coasteering run circled, and wind direction indicated in blue arrow. The group launched at about 10:15am from West Beach into warm west winds. Temps were peaking at a balmy 80F inland. It was sunny in the morning and turned partly cloudy in the afternoon. Perhaps the last summer-like weather for the season. The goals were to combine rock gardening with a mid-day coasteering run. Coasteerers Ricardo, Sue and Bob had helmets, gloves, climbing shoes, and at least three mil neoprene wetsuits. Water temps were about 65F, although we noted a large (~10F?) variation in water temperature as we paddled along the coast. After rounding the Ram Ledge in Manchester, we had excellent rock face runs along Gales Point, into Lobster Cove, and out to Pickworth Point. The 1-2 foot swell was perfect, and the following west wind was nonexistent in the nooks-and-crannies – as we expected. That would be appreciated on the return. On the out-bound run we scoped out many excellent rock formations for coasteering, including the NSPN Ledge and Rock off Pickworth Point. We also circumnavigated Rock Dundy and checked out a deep crevasse on the north side that would be good for climbing. As we were returning into the lee of Singing Beach we were pleasantly surprised by a visit from Alex Debski. He was between jobs for his diving service company, ABC Diving, and stopped by in his motorboat. After catching up with Alex, we paddled along the beach for more rock gardening to Graves Beach and out into the wind to scope out the Graves Island coastline. The stretch between Singing and Graves Beaches offers unique sheer rock faces that continue to Gloucester – including Rafes Chasm. The “Avalon Terrane” rock formations and crevasses are perfect for coasteering. The rocks are rounded vertical and horizontal slabs with deep narrow chasms. The rock faces have small well-placed hand and foot holds allowing climb-outs that appear miraculous from a distance. This is distinct from the “Nahant Gabbro” on Nahant and the outer islands – also great for coasteering – but more sheer, dark, spiky and less “friendly”. As we approached the west side of Singing Beach, we encountered a large Mola Mola. We were able to paddle very close, nearly on top of the fish, and Mike noted that it was surfacing to attract birds to eat parasites on its skin*. While the Mola Mola was not at all concerned about us, the desired birds would stay away due to hovering kayakers! We moved on. After crossing back to Ballarock Cove for lunch, the coasteerers decided to suit up and head for the terrane along the eastern shore of the cove. The coasteering section is indicated in Figure 1 and shown in detail in Figure 2. Ricardo, Sue and I started walking through the ledge, but it quickly became obvious that it was easier to swim. We were grateful for the safety kayakers Prudence, Sue H, Mike, and Fred. The first goal was a deep long chasm that we had passed earlier and decided was too narrow for a kayak (#3 on Figure 2). I’ve eyed this slot many times in the past. It is only 2-3 feet wide, yards long, with high walls and very deep water. The slot is overall highly protective; but concentrates swell energy into a focused vertical wave that runs its distance. We had only 1-2 foot 10 sec swell outside, very reasonable for a kayaker, but the big ones concentrated into a 3-4 foot traveling wall of water in the slot. It looked menacing. However, the wave is vertical, not horizontal, so the effect was just a gentle rise and forward push. It does not break until exiting the slot. This would be a good starting point for coasteering! On the way to the slot, we found perfect hand/foot holds to climb up rock faces. These are shown in #1 and #2 on Figure 2. The ledge skirt was small, so it was easy to jump out into deep water. I think we got up to around 10-15 feet above the water. As noted above the climbs look difficult due to the small hand/foot holds; but the holds are plentiful, and it is easy to navigate upward. The climb starts with a hand hold on an incoming swell, a quick gathering in for the foot hold, and then holding on, hoisting, and moving up or holding tightly for the next swell. Vertical rock faces are far easier than horizontal ledges. If I slipped, my plan was to push out from the face to clear the ledge skirt. The fall would not be difficult. As it turned out, nobody fell, and we had exhilarating jumps into the water. As Ricardo, Sue and I entered the slot, I was amazed at its depth below and the beautiful view to an open ridge of sky far above. Occasionally, that big swell would be seen coming in and we would yell “incoming!”; but for all the visual drama the wave just pushed us gently up and forward – aiding in our progress. Midway, at the front of the line, Ricardo found a small climbable section and managed to get about 5-6 feet up the interior rock face. He then jumped dead center to the slot. I thought it was gutsy, since there was a ledge skirt on either side of a very narrow opening. Reaching that location, I accepted the challenge, climbed out, and plunged into very deep water just adjacent to the skirt. The jump area in the slot is shown in #3 on Figure 2. The traveling wave in the slot did break at the exit so required us to wait for a small wave and a gentle push out. After exiting the slot, we swam along the rock face into a basin #4. The 1-2 foot waves, while less consequential in a kayak, can have very significant impact at the swimmer’s level. This is particularly true in shallow basins and ledges. After experiencing just this condition and enjoying the sloshing rides in basin #4, we swam around the headland to basin #5. Here I discovered a completely unexpected tunnel (circled on Figure 2)! In many kayaking traversals of this rock garden, I had never seen what I was facing at the water level – a tunnel of approximately 20 feet or so with a small, yet passable, triangular entry right at the base of the ledge. On the drain I could see light at the other end. It appeared that the exit was also passable. I exclaimed to Ricardo to come take a look. As we stared at it, I mentioned that despite being flooded to the roof on a swell, the tunnel was passable. I wondered out loud what would happen if I got stuck in there. Ricardo looked grim, then smiled and said, “You will die”. We laughed just as a big swell came in and swept me back toward the entry. Ricardo looked alarmed as I disappeared in the water and said later that he thought that I may have been swept in. He could not see that I was positioned so that was impossible. Well, traversing that tunnel was above today’s paygrade, and anyway would require examination of the exit; and possibly entering through the exit side first to test for a push out. We decided to leave it for next time and move on. The next slot is shown as #6 in Figure 2. This is a known slot that is passable in a kayak at very high water. We flushed through and back on swells. I went feet-first through, but my leg got caught on a rock and the ride was bumpy. We decided that it was better to run through head-first. In a flowing current of green water (not breaking) it was possible to keep your head up away from the rocks, and it just seemed easier to direct the push through. After #6 I went onto a ledge at #7 that had a little more action. It was fun to get pushed around with one footers flowing over the shallow table, but a larger set came in and it became chaotic. I briefly lost control in the sloshing and felt a sharp pain in my left leg. I was wearing only Body Glove shoes for a good climbing grip, and foolishly left the bottom of my wetsuit pantleg unzipped. Big mistake. My feet were swept over some sharp rocks or barnacles, and I got a nasty scratch exactly in the opening of the wetsuit. Lesson learned. The larger waves (really no more than two feet) continued pounding over the shallow ledge; and this caused a very challenging climb-out. Much harder than the rock faces. I eventually managed to crawl, not climb, out onto a rock that was probably 4-5 feet above the water level. Standing at #8 I was initially going to jump but could barely discern lighter coloration in the water as it drained. I think it was deep enough, but that set off alarms of a possible ledge. In an abundance of caution, I worked my way off the rock and just stepped into an oncoming swell. Ricardo and Sue were already swimming back and I started in that direction as well. I managed a nice climb-out and jump at #9 before following them into the original slot #3. Now experienced with the slot dynamics, it was a relaxing passage for us before the final swim into the beach. High-fives all around for Ricardo, Sue and me – and a heartfelt thank you to the safety kayakers. The scrapes on my leg were painful but just superficial – a good reminder to wear heavy-duty high socks with the shoes, and fully zip the wetsuit. It is for more than just warmth! Figure 2: Overview of Coasteering from Ballarock Cove. White line is the track, red stars are jump locations, the location of the tunnel is circled, and numbers refer to basins, slots, and jumps mentioned in the trip report. Back in the kayaks, we had a delightful rock gardening run to Gales Point with very high springs water. The venerable NSPN Rock was just a bump over breaking waves. By looking at the treetops, it was clear that the coastline was providing water-level lee from the west winds – a fact that had motivated the paddle plan. As we rounded Gales Point, it at first appeared that winds had died down. Perhaps we had escaped the expected slog from Gales to West Beach? Unfortunately, as we moved into the open area of Manchester Harbor, sustained winds and gusts increased. We’ve seen worse though, the air was warm, and the sun emerged occasionally from the clouds that had arrived during the afternoon. It was a very pleasant paddle past Chubb Island into West Beach. We landed in high water at around 3:00pm. Thanks to all the participants! PS. Coasteering is a sport combining swimming, rock climbing, jumping, and diving. As seen in today’s session, participants experience unique environments and water dynamics at the interface of the ocean with rock faces, slots, ledges, and basins. The kayak has an important role in providing accessibility to island coasteering, and for safety. With or without safety kayakers, a nearby fully provisioned kayak is useful for the safety and comfort of coasteerers. We are currently in the three-mil weather regime dictated by water and air temps. Five mil wetsuits will be preferred later in the fall. *PPS. Note on the Mola Mola. More than 40 species of parasites may reside on the skin and internally, motivating the fish to seek relief in a number of ways. One of the most frequent ocean sunfish parasites is the flatworm Accacoelium contortum. In temperate regions, drifting kelp fields harbor cleaner wrasses and other fish which remove parasites from the skin of visiting sunfish. In the tropics, M. mola solicits cleaning help from reef fishes. By basking on its side at the surface, the sunfish also allows seabirds to feed on parasites from its skin. Sunfish have been reported to breach, clearing the surface by approximately 3 m (10 ft), in an apparent effort to dislodge embedded parasites.