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Wed Lunch Paddle 7/26/23: Winthrop/Graves Light/Outer Brewster I.

Joseph Berkovitz

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People: Joyce Carpenter, Ricardo Caivano, Joe Berkovitz



(Click this link to view route on Floating Trails)

The forecast was for light winds, seas < 1 ft, sun and air temps around 80 with tolerable humidity. Low water was between 11:30 and 12 noon giving us a favorable ebb current out of the harbor and flood on the return trip. This made it a perfect day to get out to the outermost reaches of the harbor islands. We all wanted to visit Graves Light and set out accordingly, just after 9:30.

Our plan was to cross the North and South branches of Broad Sound Channel separately on our way out. This is a nice route that provides excellent visibility for traffic in all directions, and avoids the fast boats going through The Narrows or Nubble Channel like the P-town and South Shore ferries. This day, not many other boats were out there. Once we got past the subdued tide race over the bar out to Deer Island Light, the water became very calm. Whenever we were near a buoy we could see that the water was helping us paddle outward at a good clip.

Passing Green Island, we reached The Graves a bit after 11. We had hoped the owner might be there, coming outside with a cheery wave to offer us a beer and a tour of the plush digs inside,  but our fantasy was not to be: the place was deserted. We landed on the rocks near dead low—the calm conditions making it easy although a bit fiddly—and took a quick look around. 


The Graves is one of the most distant places in the Outer Harbor. It's over 8 nm from downtown Boston, 3.5 nm from Nahant, and 3.5 nm from Hull. There's a feeling of great remove from everything to do with the mainland. If you are the owner of the Graves, relaxing in the oil house with your mug of coffee in the morning, you may feel temporarily untouched by the cares of the world. I want to ask some time about how it feels, if I get the chance. I would also like to be able to ask my wife, as he did, "Hey, can we buy a lighthouse?" and hear her answer, "Sure."

The ocean feels really different out there. I don't mean "feels" in an impressionistic sense—I mean it feels different in a direct, physical way, as experienced through your boat and your paddle. The long swells rise up and swoop gracefully through the channels between the ledges, a solemn oscillation that seems to come from nowhere. On a calm day, there may be no waves visible on the surface of the ocean, and yet the water moves around the rocks in its muscular, purposeful way. We slowly explored the channels and slots, letting the water push us around, and then moved on.

Our next stop was a small cove on Outer Brewster Island. Here there were many seabirds and a view to the north. We sheltered next to a basalt cliff in a sliver of shade from the blasting sun, eating our lunch and watching the birds and looking out at the distant islands. It was perfect in every way. Thankfully, we did not have to buy the island to experience this.

From here we threaded our way back to Deer Island Winthrop via Middle Brewster and Calf and then the channel crossings again. On the way back from Calf, two large seals began to follow me as I paddled behind the others (I think they were gray seals, because they looked big and had those elephantine faces). It was a bit spooky and they were very close by, breathing heavily. The breathing would stop and I would feel some relief before suddenly they would surface again, Ricardo and Joyce excitedly pointing behind me at my pursuers. I sped up in the hope that they would pay more attention to one of the other paddlers, or just give up.

Our final leg around Deer Island's tip was actually a little choppy as a south wind was building a bit, interacting with the flood. It wasn't a lot of wind, except in comparison to the calm of the rest of the day. We landed at Winthrop after nearly 14 nm of paddling, tired and satisfied. Thank you Ricardo and Joyce for a wonderful day on the water!

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Yes I did make it to Graves! and it was a wonderful day to paddle indeed with good company. Thank  you Joe for organizing this. BTW, the seals did follow him ,all the way from near Calf Island, across the Broad Sound South Channel and almost to the North Channel. At times very close. I believe it was Joe's boat sex appeal. 

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