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(11/7/98 -- Keith Attenborough) Rockport to Dry Salvages and Beyond


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Well, survived another one. And think I saw my first actual 3 foot swell, and my second, and third, and fourth and.....

Nine folks met at Rockport Back Beach yesterday morning for the Show & Go. Weather radio was saying 12 to 15 KT winds with 2 to 4 foot seas, classifying this as an intermediate trip. Sky overcast, but according to WBZ, clearing down in Boston. Water temp around 50 degrees, air in the low forties.

After getting the boats lined up and loaded, did what will probably become a standard part of Show & Gos, a quick gear inventory. Goal is to have some idea of what's available to help the trip coordinator plan route and make decisions. This group was well equipped with two spare paddles, a first aid kit, two cell phones, two towing rigs, one exposure bag, in addition to personal gear like paddle floats and pumps. Everyone was in appropriate cold weather gear, a mix of dry and wet suits.

After launching, the group of nine seemed to naturally break into three groups of three each. From a SAB's (that's semi-advanced beginner) perspective they also seemed to fall into three categories -- the sane, the boderline and the "paddle faster, the guys with the nets are gaining on us". I understand from the more experienced paddlers that actually the conditions were pretty normal stuff and why was I getting so concerned....see definition of SAB above.

The paddle faster folks headed out towards the north of the breakwater at the mouth of Sandy Bay, while the other two groups headed to the south of the same breakwater (its over a mile long), staying closer to the Rockport shore. We were going to take a peek at the conditions further out, around Straithmore Island and then decide whether to go for Dry Salvages or stay more inshore. As we got closer to the Island, the sane group decided that staying in close and in Sandy Bay was the right thing to do, and that group of three headed back to play in the local waves. Good, solid decision -- one of the folks had a new boat they were still getting used to. Common sense to make a decision to change routes based on actual conditions is a rare and valuable commodity -- applause to all.

The borderline folks pressed ahead, and located a wide "V" of non-breaking waves heading straight toward Dry Salvage. After the SAB in the group (that's me - just call me nervous) checked to make sure someone had done deep water rescues in similar conditions, we headed out the last mile from the tip of Straithmore to our destination. Good breakers were showing from the ocean side of D.S. in both directions. Here's where we met those three footers (defined as not being able to see someone or thing on the other side). Not too many, but enough to notice. About halfway out, we spotted the paddle faster folks coming to us from the northwest. Met up just short of the islands, conferenced, then headed around north (clockwise). Looking for seals and seeing what it was like.

On the ocean side, Adam kept pointing behind me, with some urgency, I thought because I was about to get hit by a wave -- turned out he was pointing to some seals who were watching us. We sat for a bit on the outside, while maybe five seals keep an eye on us -- popping up to look, then disappearing, then popping up again. My first seal encounter on the East Coast -- kewl.

From Dry Salvages, it was the 2NM crossing to Thatcher, with its two lighthouses. Group got stretched out a little here, but maintained pretty good "buddy" pairings. Hoped to land there for a quick bite, but neither possible location was tenable, so pressed on to Milk Island. Chris sacrificed his boat to be the first ashore on the steep rocky "beach", then helped Adam, and in turn, they got Marjorie in. Roger, Leon and I went around the bend and managed to get in as well, me with a lot of help from Roger and Marjorie.

The first goal in eating lunch was to find some non-stained rocks to settle on (the birds are a might thick here). Everyone grabbed a bite to eat, chatted and relaxed in the beginnings of the sun breaking through the clouds. After about 30 minutes, it was time to pick the next destination and press on. Four folks decided to stay out a while longer, heading for a beach area near Land's End. I needed to get back, and Chris had things to do as well, so we decided to head back to Rockport.

Of course, first we had to launch. Couldn't see Adam and Chris since they were on the other side of the neck. Leon was first in from our group. The tide had come in, so there now was a very steep rock beach with in-coming waves altenately covering and exposing maybe two vertical feet of gravel. Leon waded his boat out to do a cowboy entry while afloat (straddle boat, drop butt into cockpit, pull in legs, all while fully afloat). I saw the end of the first attempt, which apparently includes a couple of added steps -- standing up and emptying the boat. On the second try, he nailed it -- got up, in and was ready to go. Truly impressive -- I am simply not that flexible. Roger was next, and would have been dry except for the lousy assistant he had (me). I let the boat get sideways to the waves, where it promptly knocked me down and dumped him. Second time, held it perpendicular, he got it, and we shoved him through the waves. Much better technique if you get into this situation -- do not get between the beach and the boat, waves are stronger than you are..

Then it was my turn. I decided to try a seal launch (my boat is older than theirs). Found some seaweed covering the rocks pretty close to where the water line was. Pointed the boat down hill, got in, fastened the skirt, and on the next wave, pushed off -- slide down the seaweed, over a few rocks and was launched. Worked great, felt like a short sled ride. Majorie did the same. It was a lot of fun. Checked the boat later, no scratches.

Chris and I headed back, in the lee shore, so calmer than the trip out. Cut between Strarthmore and Gap Head, past the admiring crowds at Rockport and home. Total distance, 8.3NM.

Good trip, learned some good stuff, built up more confidence -- it doesn't get much better than that.


With the wind out of the NW, the bulge in Cape

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