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5th Annual Easter Plunge


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As has been the tradition of the Easter Bunny Plunge, the day started out with an incoherent plan, and improved from there.  Since the Plunge is an early season opportunity for cold-water skills development and improvement, we had a quick briefing on the beach of what people did and didn't want to do, as well as a discussion about weather, which included the impending Small Craft Advisory to take affect in the afternoon due to the wind forecast expected to enter the 25-33 knots range.  Although the wind was going to be primarily out of the south, we decided to chance it and opted for a northerly route from Riverhead Beach to Dolliber Cove and possibly beyond.

The large group of 11 (one short due to illness) discussed CAM options of going as one pod or two.  Since we were a well experienced group, many of whom are capable of being leaders themselves, we decided that we would be fine as one pod, and hard leadership would be minimal.  As we got out of Marblehead Harbor and looked at Dolliber Cove, it was amazingly calm and uninspiring, so we continued on, a bit aimless it seemed.  I initiated what I hoped to be a challenging rescue situation by loosing my boat and paddle, but was quickly and confidently taken care of, and we were soon back on our way.  As we continued around the head without any real plan, we regrouped and discussed what to do with the calm conditions.  I noticed Andy looking off in the distance, possibly thinking of what it might be like at Coney Island or Little Haste, but the potential SCA from the south had some nervous about being caught out of the protection of the shoreline.

Bob came up with an idea of splitting into two groups and looking at landing groups in a difficult landing area, so we went back to Peaches Point and looked at landing on a formidable rock face in pounding surf with the wind whipping about......... well, maybe not so much, but it is fun (or daunting?) to think about the possibilities.  Bob's group landed on an exposed point while my group looked at a spot that might have a little protection by some rocks.  As we got back together and headed for lunch, some of us were noting the slight increase in the chop, and thinking about the impending SCA.

After a leisurely lunch that included a number of chocolates passed around, we opted for another difficult landing in split groups using tow lines to haul boats in.  My group included a skin-on frame and someone who had never even paddled near rocks, let alone landed on them, so the option instead was to leave boats behind and just swim ashore.  I got myself and my boat secured so people could see the process, then we had them take turns leaving their boats with someone else and swimming up onto the rocks.  For those who have not done this before, I highly recommend doing it, but please find someone with experience to help.  Everyone did a fantastic job, and we were soon back on the water as one big pod again.

As we headed back to Riverhead, there was a bit of conversation about the wind, or I should say the lack of it!  We probably could have ventured out to the islands, but it was already around 2:00pm, and even though the wind had not yet picked up at all, some people had commitments later in the day and did not want to say out beyond 3pm ("sooner if possible"), and I think others had had enough of the day getting wet and swimming around.

All in all, it ended up being another good EBP, with just about everyone getting in the water at some point (unlike previous years when I was the ONLY person to get wet).  I think that maybe the late date this year (April as apposed to March) might have made a difference, but I am just glad to see the interest in the trip and the willingness to be adventurous.  Thanks to all for attending, and thanks to Bob for making it an interesting day.

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Hi everyone, I was just about to post my trip report when I saw Rob's. Mine from the perspective of the group I was in. Thanks to Rob for initiating the paddle!

4/15/2017: Riverhead, Marblehead to Dolliber, Marblehead. 10:00am-2:30pm. Bob L in Margarita. NSPN Easter Plunge paddle with Rob, Cathy, Joe, Bob, Beth, David, Mike, Mark, Jane, Bill, and Andy. LT 8:44am 0.3ft, HT 3:00pm, 9.2ft. Tidal range 8.9ft. Middle of neaps/springs tide cycle. Sunny, 60F air, 42F water, morning winds <10kts SW, predicted to intensify during the afternoon. NOAA small craft advisory at 2:00pm due to SW winds and gusts. During the beach briefing we discussed the forecasted synoptic chart (below).  It shows that we were under a high pressure system, but with strong lows impinging from the west. I noted that this pattern could cause strong SW winds on the boundary between the systems, because the circulation of the high and low systems are cooperative (low counter-clockwise and high clockwise). The New England seaboard was exactly along the boundary of the pressure systems. I suggested that in these circumstances, unlike with fronts, the evidence for deteriorating conditions could be subtle – namely the increasing wind intensity. Jane noted that there could be developing clouds. That prediction turned out to be correct in this case. As we got off the water at 2:30pm and later into the afternoon there was a well-defined line of high wispy clouds to the west, with blue sky to the east. The effect was not as dramatic as a passing cold front, but unmistakable. In any case, we decided at the morning briefing to get off the water by mid-afternoon to avoid having to come down the Marblehead harbor against strong SW winds.

We launched at around 10:00am and headed down the still-empty harbor to Dolliber Cove. It was the Easter Plunge paddle, after all, so one paddler did some early rolls (hint: skin on frame, Greenland stick, elegant forward finishing rolls…).  As we arrived to Dolliber and Peachs Point, it was clear that the high pressure still dominated. There were gentle 1-2 foot swells hitting the rock faces. Our first task was to break into two groups, with each group organizing a “step out” onto the ledges. The group I was in was tasked with finding a suitable spot for the step out along the outer Peachs ledges, and then haul out and stow four kayaks. Even with the mild conditions, it took a while to analyze the few candidate ledges and decide to execute. Beth and Andy found the location and organized the haul out. The spot they chose had a ready-made underwater ledge to stand on while moving boats upward. We all knew that any swimming, intentional or otherwise, would be fully consistent with the Easter Plunge. Once on the rocks with boats above the swells, we declared victory and reversed the process back into the water. Andy did a very fine seal launch to complete the exit of the group from the rock face. All eleven of us then paddled to Brown’s Island for a quick lunch. Around noon we noticed a slight increase in the SW winds, but nothing to suggest an advisory. If we were caught out in gusts, the strategy would be to go down tight along the Marblehead coast to get lee in the coves.

After lunch, the task was to find another haul out spot on the east-side ledges of Brown’s, and to use tow belts in the landing. As we rounded the south side of Brown’s Island, it was clear that the winds had picked up a little, and the swell and waves were larger and more active. Could this be due to the arrival of lower pressure? We were again in two groups of about four each (three paddlers were not participating and worked on other skills). Mark took the lead of my group and found a preferred ledge with more vertical “elevator type” wave action rather than one with sweeping horizontal water. He jumped out of his boat, clipped in and swam up onto the ledge. I may be remembering incorrectly, but Andy might have applied a stern anchor tow to Mark’s boat during this exercise. We did discuss the benefits of doing this to avoid having the swimmer’s boat pushed against the rocks (not to mention against the swimmer!). After getting his boat up on the ledge, Mark used his combined tow belt/throw bag to throw a line to Andy. Andy then entered the water, clipped in and swam ashore. They then stowed the boats higher up the ledges out of the swells. Andy also practiced throwing his tow belt/throw bag system. I believe it is the same as Mark’s. Beth then entered the water, clipped in and swam up to a slightly different ledge, easily accessible to Andy and Mark to help lift her boat up. I followed the same procedure with the Margarita onto the ledge that Beth had chosen. Andy helped lift the Margarita to the lowest rung, just out of the swells. It looked a little precarious at this spot, but I checked underneath that there were three points of contact to the rock ledge. The Margarita was going nowhere just clear of the breaking swells. The tide was coming in, so the boat would have to be moved upward if we decided to stay a long time. However, that was not the plan, and we reversed the process off the rock face. If I recall correctly, we all clipped into our boats, threw them out onto the water, and swam after them. Some of us used the opportunity for a self-rescue back into the cockpit, while there were plenty of paddlers nearby to lend assistance for T-rescues – also good practice for people. It was noted that, after the first person was back in the boat and secured, the later ledge-launchers could just throw the boat to that person, and avoid putting another line in the water. People just wanted to practice with tow ropes. Also, during this entire procedure people in both groups were trying rolls, re-enter and rolls, cowboys, and etc. Why waste a plunge? It was a good opportunity to stack up rescue exercises. After these exercises, we started down towards Riverhead, arriving back around 2:30pm. While the winds had intensified, they had not yet become prohibitive to a direct paddle back. Furthermore, the SW winds were warm and pleasant. We landed about 2:30pm, and I noticed the high cloud line mentioned above. The distance from Riverhead to Fort Seawall, and then to Peaches, is about 1.9nm. So the trip was around 4nm.

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Glad to finally see trip report of the E B P.  I was thinking of you all from 30,000 feet winging back from Baja.  Thankfully, the 2018 Baja Kayak Fest will not conflict with Easter.  EBP...Definitely one of the most fun events of the year!  But c'mon, people, didn't anyone take photos?!


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