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Blowing the forecast

Dee Hall

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Yesterday, six of us paddled out of Manchester Harbor under the pretense of letting a newly-trained trip leader lead us less-new trip leaders on a practice run, a tradition called lead-the-leaders. Normally, there would have been more than one new trip leader, but it was a holiday weekend.

We had chosen Manchester after much debate over e-mail, due to it's south-east facing beaches and a forecast for Northwest winds of 15-20 knots with gusts to 30. In the morning, I checked the Marine forecast before loading up the car. What I saw for outside Boston Harbor was Northwest winds of 15-20 knots and no mention of gusts. Inside Boston Harbor there was a small craft advisory for gusts to 30. It also mentioned that the wind would be stronger "near shore". There was no mention of wind on www.weather.com.

It was breezy and as a result chilly at the put-in. As we paddled out of the harbor, the wind was coming straight up the harbor at us which seemed more southwesterly than northwesterly. We stayed near the coast while we paddled into Salem Sound and had the wind almost directly in our faces. It was stiff and I decided to drop some skeg to prevent weathercocking.

As we reached West Beach we got some shelter from the wind and milled about aimlessly for a while until John suggested we paddle out to Great Misery. The trip out was fun in beam seas, and I even had to brace once because of a sudden gust. As we came around the west side of the island we decided to make a pit stop on Little Misery to avoid paying $3 for what was to be a short-lived visit. At the top of the hill, the gusts were enough to put one off-balance briefly. We hung around for a bit, and when we started to get a bit chilly, we headed back down to the boats. It was decided that paddling downwind would be too short a trip, so we headed west towards Beverly's Gold Coast.

As we left Cocktail Cove, our progress slowed to a crawl. The group split into two pods of three. We were surrounded by whitecaps and spray. There were gusts that seem to leave us standing still. There was talk (when we could be heard) of whether or not it was more than 20 knots. Since we were headed directly into the wind, sweeps and skegs were not neaded. The first group took over an hour to go the mile and a half to Allen Head. The second group took another 15-20 minutes.

On the beach, in the shelter of the point and rocks, it was warm and calm. Lunch was pleasant, and as we sat there we noticed the whitecaps subsiding somewhat. There was more discussion about how windy it really was and what each of us had seen forecasted. Our paddle back was much faster, although the group split into three pods of two as some when in search of chop to surf and others hugged shore to avoid the rear-quartering seas.

After I got home, I checked the wind histories at Eastern Point, Stellwagen, and Boston Buoy. At Eastern Point, the wind peaked at 30 knots sustained with gusts to 39 knots as we were paddling between Misery and lunch. As predicted, the wind was less intense at the buoys. Judging by the sea state at the time, we have estimated Beaufort Force between 5 and 6 where we were (17-27 knots). We were still getting significant shelter from the land even though we would not have guessed that at the time.

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