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Steaming cockpits, 01/19/03

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On a cold Sunday morning, a very cold Sunday morning, three of us searched for a snow free put-in around Kittery. Alex and I had met a dozing Jim Fessenden at 9am at the Portsmouth Circle and found our first put-in to be unploughed. So we headed to Captain Simeon’s, only to find that the ramp there had been ploughed onto.

We decided to brave it and slid the boats, the two Capellas and Jim’s new Explorer, over the mounds of snow to the water. As we ferried gear to the boats and put on clothing, a photographer asked if he could take pictures of us launching – he could, with the caveat that he wouldn’t photograph anyone if they went in. Jinxed!! In an attempt to ‘dock-launch’ off two feet of ice and snow my boat flipped and I went in. I’m sure I heard a shutter snap, at least twice.

After the slight mishap, we were off. Conditions were perfect for a winter paddle. The wind was less than ten knots and the sea was calmer than we’d seen it in weeks. Houses and lights in Portsmouth harbor were shrouded in sea-smoke that froze on the shoreline trees turning them ghostly white. A great day for that photographer.

We exited the harbor and headed North. The snow covered shoreline had black margins showing the tide lines, the water was crystal clear and for once we didn’t have to worry about any 4 foot breaking chop. After ~4miles we pulled on to Seapoint beach to let Jim adjust his foot pegs. We rested, empty cockpits steamed in the cool clear winter air with a half-hearted yellow sun smothered by a grey sky. To avoid getting chilled we headed back out and set up a decent pace to warm rapidly cooled hands.

Approaching York’s Harbor beach we decided that with time restrictions and imminently low blood sugars, a landing was in order and then a turn around. An easy landing was made, hot tea, sugary food and straight back out. It was now feeling too cold to sit still. There was a consensus of opinion that everyone’s blood-glucose was in good enough order to make the return at a ‘more decent’ pace and we dug in. The wind was now in our faces and our numbed cheeks. Water on the rear-decks froze and covered gear in an opaque icy skin, spare paddles grew icicle teeth and soft ice marked the waterlines on the bows. I told you it was cold. Our pace kept us warm and no one complained of any bits or pieces that were uncomfortable or about to drop off.

We arrived back at Captain Simeon’s, where the diners in the restaurant found it difficult not to stare at the three ‘kayakcicles’ arriving at the launch. We chipped off the hatches to get our gear out and got packed away. A beautiful day for a paddle, yet we had the ocean to ourselves?! Total distance = 15miles.

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