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Level II to the Ocean


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Six participants unloaded boats at Granite Pier in Rockport and we watched for Adam to paddle in from -- what else? -- fishing. After introductions and a gear check, we headed straight out into Sandy Bay. Why mess around at the shore? This trip was about the ocean!

Sandy Bay is protected to the east by a mostly submerged breakwater. The water was pretty flat with only a mild breeze so Plan A was to paddle the couple of miles straight across the Bay and see if we could find something more interesting outside the breakwater. Right away one important lesson was learned: even if you want to practice paddling without your rudder (which is an critical skill to develop) you need to make sure your rudder is ready to deploy if needed. Rudder cables may need to be adjusted (easy enough on water and all that was required in this case) or replaced. Paddlers with skegs should check that the skeg deploys immediately after launching. Sand or rocks can clog the box.

Plan A became a bit boring so we switched to Plan B and headed SE toward Gap Head. This required a channel crossing, which we did as a tight group as weekend boaters were plentiful and many were heading into Rockport Harbor. A couple of participants lead us across the channel from Gap Head to Straightsmouth Island, treating it as a channel crossing because of boat traffic hazards. Along the north shore of Straightsmouth Adam pointed out hidden landing spots and the more adventurous of the group practiced riding the surge in and landing on seaweed-covered rocks. If you are going to paddle in the ocean, ideal landing spots may not always be available.

Next was a cool spot to practice riding the surge in and out. All participated this time.

At the NE-most point of Straightsmouth we found what we were looking for: mild ocean swells, steepening in some places, breaking over the point. Each paddler took a pass, paddling out through the little breakers. We stayed in the area off the point to practice critical ocean paddling skills in the small (1-2') waves and light (5-8 kt) breeze: turning our boats 360 degrees in both directions, paddling out then back in with a following sea, pumping some water into our boats so we could practice pumping out a boat while sitting broached to the waves, sprayskirt off.

Adam and I were a bit disappointed that no one capsized. Fortunately one participant wanted to practice wet exits and another volunteered to do a T-rescue. Gee, on the ocean the boats don't stay put while you stow your paddle before grabbing the bow like they do in a pool. And that draw stroke is a lot more work when you have to move your boat into the wind and waves. This was a real inspiration for a lot more skills practice, especially for those just hanging out and observing. Actually, there is always lots to observe on the ocean: like the fact that while a rescue is in progress the wind can blow the whole group into a shipping channel.

Another good thing to notice: landmarks as you paddle out. We split into 2 pods and Adam and I became participants, with our now-ocean ready group taking over the lead role to get us back to the put in. The enthusiastic pods took slightly different routes but arrived home at almost the same time.

This trip was a lot of fun for all. Sunday evening turned out to be a good time for this type of trip: a bit less boat traffic to worry about and a nice way to end the weekend. We'll probably do another.

Liz N.

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