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Wednesday (Lunch Paddle) June 21, 2023: The one where everyone capsized


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This AMC trip consisted of three paid NSPN members, myself, @Joyce Carpenter, and @Frederick Goodman.

You could say this all started in 2019 when I foolishly proposed moving Walden Wednesdays to Tuesdays, and thus @Joseph Berkovitz started the Wednesday Lunch paddles instead of the Tuesday Lunch paddles.

Fast forward to Monday June 19th, 2023 when my optometrist unexpectedly changed my appointment date to this Friday, forcing me to withdraw from the only paddle on my schedule for the week.  Let me repeat that, I now had NO PADDLES ON MY SCHEDULE THIS WEEK!  

Desperate times call for desperate measures, I would just have to get up 8 hours early and drive through at least 10 hours of Greater Boston's stop-and-(occasionally)-go traffic to attend Joe's Wednesday Lunch paddle.  So I went to NSPN.org for this week's details, where I discovered there was NO Wednesday paddle on the NSPN Calendar for June 21st!  

I'm not proud of it, but I must admit I panicked.  After paddling twice last week, I couldn't contemplate a week without paddling.  Especially with such gorgeous weather in the forecast.  So I caved, and submitted an AMC sea kayak trip for approval.  

I did retain some sanity.  I didn't want to lead a bunch of recreational kayak paddlers who get their rolls at a bakery or Chinese restaurant.  I wanted experienced companions who do their own due diligence, like checking the weather forecast before signing up for a trip.  Basically NSPNers used to the CAM trip model.  So I carefully crafted my AMC trip listing and submitted it for AMC approval.  Then in accordance with my memory of discussions dating back to @PeterB's reign as NSPN president, I started a thread about my AMC trip listing under "Commercial Classifieds and Events Sponsored Externally to NSPN."  The official AMC listing read:



Short notice ocean paddle for experienced sea kayakers.

We will launch in the late morning from a location near Portsmouth, NH. We will immediately head out to the open water regardless of sea state. Pack a lunch, we will stop somewhere to eat.

On this trip you MAY paddle in high winds and large waves while crossing a busy shipping channel. If conditions permit we may spend some time surfing and/or engaged in rock play. The leader will encourage everyone to practice their roll.

Besides a sea kayak with appropriate flotation, paddlers should have a water sport helmet, rough water spray skirt, PFD, paddles, and thermal protection for water temperatures in the high 50's or low 60's. The leader will be wearing a dry suit.

This AMC trip will also cooperate with NSPN.org


The plan was to launch around 11:00 AM from Fort Stark.  All three of us arrived by 10:15 AM.  Nobody had encountered any rush hour traffic.  Parking was free. There were two porta-pottys on site. The sandy rocky beach was free of silty muck, and launching just inside the Little Harbor breakwater gave a protected launch site with immediate access to the ocean.  With railroad if not military precision, the first of us launched just after 11:00 AM and 3 seconds, and the last of us had launched before 11:00 AM and 25 seconds.  All of us were wearing dry suits and helmets.  Fred and Joyce were also wearing tow belts in case they had to tow me home.

Despite my AMC disclaimer "you MAY paddle in high winds and large waves," if one had checked the NWS forecast Monday or Tuesday, they would have expected that the water and air temperatures would be around 60 degrees, with "Variable winds 5 kt or less. Mostly sunny. Seas 1 to 2 ft" all of which proved true.  We would eventually encounter what recreational boaters consider very large waves.  NSPNers call them boat wakes.  Sadly, conditions were too calm for surfing or rock play.

Immediately after leaving Little Harbor, with no discussion needed, we crossed the busy shipping channel between Jaffrey Point and Whaleback Light.  However, it was a Wednesday with light winds and very little boat traffic.  So we didn't see a single vessel that could plausibly intersect our course to the light house.  During the crossing we shared our "how we got into kayaking" stories.  (My first time in a sit-inside kayak was September 7th, 2009.  My first roll was two days later.  See my NSPN profile for more details.)

After the light house we turned toward Fort Foster, named after a recent NSPN president, seeking a lunch spot.  The first sites were too crowded for our tastes, but just before the private houses start we found a nearly deserted spot which featured our choice of a bench in the shade, or a picnic table in the sun, both with a beautiful view of a gorgeous day.  We ate lunch sharing the bench while enjoying the view, and the clear blue skies.  We discussed at lunch where else we wanted to paddle.  Fred suggested going to Brave Boat Harbor which received unanimous consent.

After lunch we headed up the coast.  I floated the idea that we could circumnavigate Gerrish if we wanted, since we would probably arrive at Brave Boat Harbor near high tide.  Both other participants warmed my heart by indicating they would rather return via the exposed coast.

We continued along the coast, when suddenly, with no prompting from me, Fred declared that he wanted to roll to cool off.  As LEADER, I immediately declared a brief roll practice, after which we continued on seeking Brave Boat Harbor.

Shortly after passing the statue of a whale tail, we came upon and entered Brave Boat Harbor itself.  Before landing there was another roll practice, making this the paddle where everyone capsized, albeit intentionally.

We landed briefly for stretching, and other necessities.  I discovered a toy Yellow Submarine.  Then we carried on a conversation with a passing paddle boarder who urged us to circumnavigate Gerrish.  We indicated that all of us had previously done the circumnavigation, but preferred heading back via the coast this time.

Refreshed and stretched, we launched and retraced our steps, though this time into the wind. Admittedly, it was a less than 5 knot variable wind.  Around the time we reached Fort Foster, we were overtaken by a kayaker wearing a cotton shirt paddling a long plastic kayak with a rudder.  We exchanged pleasantries and went our separate ways.

From Fort Foster we continued to Wood Island were workers were installing or adjusting a door handle when we arrived.  After a brief stop we continued to red buoy number 2.  We checked traffic in both directions, and headed across.  This time a distant sailboat might perhaps theoretically have intersected our path had it maintained its original heading.  However, it soon altered course, probably before even seeing us on the water.

For variety, we tried landing on the outside of Fort Stark, instead of going into Little Harbor.  Doing so saved us a little bit of paddling, and the walk to the cars was a little shorter.  However, that boulder strewn walk was definitely more challenging than the beach and lawn walk from Little Harbor to the parking lot.

We landed at 3:54 PM, for a total of four hours and fifty four minutes from start to finish.

After playing around a little bit with FloatingTrails, I calculate we paddled a bit more than nine nautical miles.  It was a long but very enjoyable day with great companions and great weather.

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12 hours ago, billvoss said:

...we turned toward Fort Foster, named after a recent NSPN president...

I think you're thinking of Fort Folster. Fort Foster was where NSPN miscreants were exiled to work on bettering their forward strokes and their attitudes.

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1 hour ago, Dan Foster said:

I think you're thinking of Fort Folster. Fort Foster was where NSPN miscreants were exiled to work on bettering their forward strokes and their attitudes.

Well @Dan Foster you could say this all started because I needed my optometrist appointment today.

You might also say I never let spelling get in the way of a good joke.

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Sounds exactly right, especially the parts about the great weather, lovely companions, perfect planning, the right price, and the contrasting launch and landing spots. My only question: There was wind coming back? 

thanks so much for suggesting the paddle!

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22 hours ago, Joyce Carpenter said:

There was wind coming back?

@Joyce Carpenter that breeze in our face was obviously mostly from our rapid paddling.  I'm not surprised you didn't even notice mother nature's modest contribution.  However, the NWS had predicted "variable winds 5 kt or less." A little bit of breeze was still present when I paused to adjust my sunscreen, and it was coming from the general direction of my bow.  So I stand by my trip report. ?

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