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Nahant to Marblehead 6-30-04


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Mike Hirsch and Mark Stephens put-in at the old MDC bathhouse on the Nahant Causeway this morning at 9:45 for a paddle to Marblehead Neck and Tinkers Island. With calm seas and very light breezes from the west, it was a warm paddle across Nahant Bay to our first target at Dread Ledge. It was near high tide, with virtually no swell, so the ledge was far from dreadful, and we decided the rock play would need to wait for later in the day. We headed northeast along the Swampscott shoreline past Off Rock, then across the bay to Ram Island, where we found a couple gaps and "holes" to paddle into and then try to extricate ourselves from without getting too beat up. Then over to Little Pig Rocks (nothing going on there) and then downwind to Flying Point at the southern tip of Marblehead Neck.

Paddled the outer rocky shoreline of Marblehead Neck for a bit, trying to get into more trouble. One slot in the rocks was perhaps 6-8 feet high, 20 feet deep and just wide enough for a kayak (not a paddle). Breaking surf was surging in and out of the slot, but it looked otherwise reasonably "safe" (at least, impossible to capsize in). Mark considered it, but while sitting and watching it, a big swell dropped the water out from under his boat and a breaking wave came rushing in behind him. Arms suddenly flailing, he backed out unscathed and decided to look for simpler pleasures. We headed over to Tinkers Island and beached for lunch just about noon. Chatting and relaxing in the warm June sun killed an hour, and we somewhat reluctantly left the beach for the return paddle.

We first headed counterclockwise around Tinkers Island. No sign of the 130 foot sea serpent that made this island famous almost 200 year ago. We found slightly larger swells and breakers at the southeast tip of the island, where Mark once again did his imitation of a cat running across a kitchen floor covered with marbles, limbs flying in all directions as breaking surf ripped his chart off the deck, dumped on his back, dumped in his face, side-surfed him against the rocks. This is exciting! Now get me out of here! We played a little more "follow the leader" or "thread the needle", then, once into calmer waters, Mark tried a wet scull - which unexpectedly turned into an attempted roll - which failed. Mike came to the rescue with an Eskimo bow presentation.

Headed back to Ram Island (nothing going on), then back to the rocky area of Phillips Point/Dread Ledge. More "Thread the Needle". A small, narrow slot with a 90 degree angle and openings at both ends had to be paddled through. We found a few more gaps to shoot, working the swells as best we could to get through without bottoming out, or being whacked by breaking surf. Mark started getting ticked off at Mike; every time he led the way through a turbulent, boiling, surging channel, getting whacked around and soaked, Mike would then smilingly glide through unscathed. "It's all in the timing," he smugly pronounced. Finally, on the last rock of the day, Mark went through perfectly, and Mike got pummeled. First he found himself helplessly hung up on a rock as the water sloshed out from under him. Then, whilst perched precariously on his pinnacle, a nice little breaker came in and gave him a fish-slap. That took the smugness out of him! No harm done, we headed back for Nahant, happy with our latest little adventures.

Took out at 3:15PM, in green slime soup near low tide. Long carry back to the parking lot, Mark opted to drag his kayak over the sand and green goop most of the way back, only to find after loading up that a good chunk of the gelcoat on his keel was sanded off by the apparently fine but sharp sand. (Time for some more repairs.)

14 miles total.

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