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Monomoy-Weather Fair or Foul

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Sandwich’d between two dreary and rainy days I was among four of the lucky paddlers to paddle about the Monomoys on 27 September. This was yet another day where the summer of 2003 has persisted well into September, beyond the official beginning of fall. I have several persons to whom I am now eternally grateful.

First, I want to thank the person who arrainged this “show-and-go” trip. Thanks to him we were treated to the hospitality of Chez Shelburne featuring an AM serenade by Ebby. In true “show-and-go” fashion, this person was not present at the put-in. Second, I want again to thank our hosts for providing hostel, food, and experience/companionship.

After a lazy morning we launched from Hardings Beach. As we carried boats and gear to the edge of the water a swimmer/sunbather had only one question. “Monomoy”? he said to which I nodded. Looking on the bay we could see little surf. The skies were practically cloudless and with the day promising to spend most of its time above 70 degrees the gently breeze was welcome.

We hugged the coast for a short while. Taking advantage of the high tide we headed down the west side of North Monomoy Island. The persistent shallows provided repeated viewings of small schools of bait fish among the vegetation. (It sucks to be a bait fish, but that’s another story.) Near the south end of the island we came across a group of AMC paddlers on a similar mission. Being nearly 30 in number we were happy they were headed in the opposite direction. Still, we stopped by to Chatham up. Their leader, He Who Wears No PFD, was among the friendliest of the group.

We retraced their path inland on a channel spanning the island and executed the first of several portages. Upon crossing the island we headed for the southern tip for a short break and encountered our first seals, though at a distance. After stretching and returning to our boats we crossed the space between the two Monomoys and inspected the “Rolling Hole”. Returning to the northern end of the south island we crossed to the seal habitat.

It would appear that the seals congregate at the edge of the channels. Today they were out in great numbers. Many tens of seals were soon all around our boats. Their curiosity drew them repeatedly near our boats. Given their propensity to submerging and traveling to the back of one’s boat, paddling backward afforded us all several face-to-face encounters at 10-20 feet. At one point, a large seal emerges between our boats, unaware of its proximity to us. When we made noises, it turned and loudly submerged, did it blush?

This is the sort of trip that prompted me to take up kayaking in earnest. The experience was certainly on a par with the small pod of Orcas that passed a similar distance to our 10 or so rafted boats in Johnstone Strait. The distance is not unduly challenging, but the frequent shallows and currents make for a deceptively taxing day of paddling. Don’t forget your contact tow or similar tool, portaging is much more comfortable when one is standing straight rather bending to hold the toggle.

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It seems that I am a true paddling weather optimist. By Monday morning, at the latest, I am checking various web sources of long term weather forecasts for the coming weekend. If I read something about high winds or rain, I assume a skeptical attitude about long term forecasts of New England weather. If I find conflicting forecasts, I choose the ones with more a more pleasant outlook, finding some sort of rationalization to it's probable accuracy.

The NOAA's long term marine forecast for Saturday shows up on Monday afternoon. As far as winds are concerned, I weigh the marine forecast more heavily than the sources meant for landlubbers. Naturally, the marine forecast is less detailed about clouds, rain, and temperatures. If you are on the ocean, you are going to be subjected to wet and cold. Live with it.

As the week progresses, I notice how the forecasts sometimes dramatically change, sometimes hourly. I usually try to isolate the front that is expected to cause such a dramatic change and start tracking it. I notice how one forecasting agency thinks that it is going to come through on Saturday afternoon while another thinks that it will come through on Sunday. If I am scheduled to paddle on Saturday, I choose the latter forecast as the more "accurate" one.

The last six months have involved a lot of predictions of thunderstorms or rain and wind for the weekend. I have watched them with extreme skepticism until Friday afternoon. My potential paddling partners often send e-mail or call with glum messages about these forecasts. I probably annoy them to no end with my cheery "well, yes, the Weather Channel says it's going to be wet and windy, but the NOAA site says 10-15 kts from the southeast, and the National Weather Service says partly cloudy." or "ok, but there is always a chance of thunderstorms in the summer. We'll watch the skies and head for shore if it starts to look threatening."

This summer my optimism panned out on every single weekend. I paddled every weekend from April until mid-September with only one cold and somewhat rainy trip. Note that I wanted to bag on this one, but my significant other was shocked that I would even consider wimping out, so we went. Also note that until Friday afternoon, the wind was forecasted to be 20+ kts, but the winds ended up being less than 10 knots.

This past Saturday was no exception. Some forecasts before Friday morning predicted rain and 20-30 knot winds. Two paddlers didn't share my optimism and decided that driving all the way to the Cape wouldn't be worth it. Since we hadn't been to Monomoy before, it was definitely worth the risk of bad weather for a chance to see this jewel of dunes, water, and marine wildlife. Personally, except for paddling once a week, we don't get out much, so I was also looking forward to spending the better part of a weekend with different scenery and pleasant company.

The morning dawned with some fog, but this cleared up by 9AM, and by the time we launched, the sky was nearly cloudless. The water in front of Hardings Beach was like rippled glass. I was so excited that I got my kayak packed and neoprene on in record time. Since the tide was about two hours to high, we would be able to paddle down the west side of North Monomoy instead of having to follow the boating channel. The day continued to be perfect with optimal paddling temperatures and little wind. The seals seemed to be enjoying it too with lots more acrobatic swimming and surfing that I usually see off of Cape Ann.

It may be that some NSPN paddlers are starting to like my predictions better than the professionals'. Recently, I got a cell phone call from a couple of paddlers on the MIT. They wanted to know when I thought the cold front was coming through. I was flattered while I talked to them, but later I realized that they probably called me because I was one of the club members that was most-likely-to-be-found-in-front-of-a-computer on a Friday afternoon. Either way, they got an optimistic prediction.

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Good for you, Wendy! And good to see a like-

minded individual when it comes to forecasting

the weather. I tend to rejoice inwardly (and

sometimes outwardly!) when the weekend predic-

tions are glum. Because they're usually wrong!!

Most everyone thinks I'm nuts when I do that.

However, as you say........

You know, this weekend is supposed to be crappy,

so, Yay!

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