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Knocking Off the Winter Rust - A Paddle Around New Castle Island 3/12/16


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Knocking Off the Winter Rust

An Uneventful Paddle Around New Castle Island

Saturday, March 12, 2016



While many have been paddling through this astonishingly mild “winter” of 2016 – I know because I see your photos on Facebook – no one has written a trip report since New Year’s Day (and even that wasn’t a trip report so much as an invitation for a community discussion about CAM issues).  So it’s time to knock the rust off the computer, too, and post a real trip report of a late-winter-pretending-to-be-a-spring paddle four of us took out of Odiorne around New Castle and adjoining Pierce Islands.  It was supposed to be five of us.  Jeff Charette had organized the trip – setting the route, sending out tide, currents and weather info, establishing start time – but a few hours before we were to meet for the 10:30 launch, he contacted us to say that a wonky back had made other plans for his day.

So it was that David, John, Mike and I gathered a little after 9:30 am, glad to see that the Odiorne parking lot was open for business.  (Indeed, I think that this year it never closed at all.)  For some of us, it was the first time that we’d been able to take more than five strokes in a row without having to execute a graceful bow rudder, crash into another boat, or run into the edge of the Haverhill Pool.  Saturday was a lovely day – one in a springish string that have made us rejoice at the warmth of the winter (even as we feel a bit of concurrent guilt that we are enjoying a symptom of something that might not be so great for the planet…) – with forecast for midday temperatures in the 50’s and a lively SW breeze to be kicking up as the day progressed.

We had a beach briefing – acknowledging that we were all winter-rusty, that one of us (undersigned) had been under the weather with a bad cold all week, and sharing goals for the day so that we would be sure that we were all on the same page.  (A valuable lesson learned from the New Year’s Day Paddle.) 

Serious David,




cheerful John,




pensive Mike




and I all agreed that a mellow paddle was in order.  Jeff’s plan had been for a counterclockwise circumnavigation of New Castle Island to take advantage of the currents with high tide at around 2 pm.  He also proposed a side trip out to Whaleback lighthouse and a stop at Wood Island.  As a group, we elected to cut out the Whaleback trip (as Mike put it, “We’ve all been out there before.”).

As we launched, David still looked mighty serious,




but that didn’t last long, and soon we were all paddling and chatting, and perhaps bitching a bit that the forecast wind from the west, which would have pushed us nicely out of Little Harbor, was actually coming from the southeast, and so we were paddling into it.  But it wasn’t much of a slog.  We got to the northern jetty at the mouth of the harbor, gathered up for a moment to check in with each other




and then headed out from the harbor’s protection.




It was nice to be out in it.




The water was a very very wee bit bumpy.




As we made our left hand turn to start the counterclockwise circumnav, we found ourselves the beneficiaries of wind at our back, current flowing in the direction we were heading underneath us, and small following waves carrying us forward.

It was a nice day to be out on both water and land…




David threaded through a few rocks by the naval station.




We tucked in behind the lighthouse there




before John pointed us “Onward!”




David led us…




Moments to pause and reflect along the way…




So nice to be out this time of year, where there are no boats either moored or otherwise.  We wended our way under skeletal docks, some not yet operational for the season.








Prison.  Will it ever be developed into condos?  Such a view people would pay for!




On we went, and for a moment David and Mike magically morphed into paddling a double.




We passed the Naval Shipyard on Seavey Island opposite.




The current rushed us along, until we were at Pierce Island, where we pulled up to stop for lunch




almost in the parking lot.




There were lots of people out enjoying the day, and a man in shorts and his girlfriend took at look at our outfits and asked us what on earth we were up to.  He couldn’t see our boats below, and when we pointed them out, he laughed and said he had thought we were “some kind of parachuters or something.”

We ate lunch and took a selfie for Jeff to let him know how unhappy we were that he wasn’t with us…




Such a nice day it was hard to keep David out of the water!




But we managed with some effort to entice him back into his boat, and on we went, passing walkers on the jetty by our lunch spot.






And then it was the southward turn around the western tip of Pierce.  We gathered up by Little Island, where we spoke with a man on the dock.  Without my glasses, I wasn’t sure I could read the chart correctly, so asked him whether this was, indeed, Little Island.  He said on the chart it is, but the deed to the one house that sits on it calls it Round Island, and so, he said, “I go by what the deed says.”  Interesting.  Round Island it is!

The rest of the way was an intermittent slog, with the wind down in our faces, and the current against us.  But the woodsy view was pleasant




and John pointed out his favorite house across the way, a tidy yellow pile of sometimes loosely connected parts.




No protection now as we headed across the bay, straight into the wind, before we paused again with the Wentworth Bridge in front of us.  David contemplated the current that was running through.  Hugging the shore and eddyline to the right, it was no problem getting under.




And then that final stretch across Little Harbor.  Little Harbor, that at the end of even a shortish paddling day always feels bigger than it did at the start, particularly when it’s all into the wind.  But we made it, and we were back to the parking lot, completely full now on a March afternoon.  I think John did a little happy jig getting out of his boat, glad to have no more wind in his face.




The best kind of a trip at this time of year is an uneventful one.  Everyone stayed warm in our chilly microclimate on the water – even as we saw people in shorts sometimes only feet away from us.  We all knocked some of that winter rust off.  Refamiliarized ourselves with charts (none of us was terribly familiar with this counterclockwise trip).  Dealt with a bit of current and wind.  But mostly enjoyed being out there with each other, and having a few magical stretches where following seas and favorable winds pushed us smartly along. 


The only thing that was missing from the day was Jeff, who had gotten us all out there, but then wasn’t able to join us.  Next time, Jeff!




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The mustard yellow house in the photo is the home of Governor Benning Wentworth, the  colonial governor of New Hampshire in  the 1700's, before American independence.  
 In his  workshop,  John Huth explained why traveling over shallow water is so tedious: That return across Little Harbor and Seavey Creek  to the Odiorne ramp in shallow water can be quite a slog,especially with  a headwind at the end of a day.  


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