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Bonnie's Gift...


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Unlike Charley, she came through Florida asking for a little respect but not demanding it. She was a little harbinger of Nature's message of who is in control, while Charley has proven to be the exclamation mark, the hammer.

After visiting Florida, she came up the coast, dropping generous amounts of water. She swelled the streams but did not flood them. She passed through Boston during the night while I slept. The ground was soaked this morning when I woke. While the sun was breaking through on the east, Bonnie was trailing her gray and lavender skirt to the north.

Bonnie traveled just inland of the coast but her breath stirred and caressed the Atlantic. The Atlantic responded with its gentle undulations. This morning the bouys bore witness, telling of 4' plus swells moving languidly in 8-9 second intervals. Despite my sleepiness, I hastily drank some coffee and then loaded up the car with my equipment and surf boat. I had an appointment (with myself) and Bonnie at Rockport. I wanted to hit the road by 5:30 AM. I did though just a tad bit later than the goal. There really was no rush. I rushed just the same in anticipation.

At this time in the morning, on a weekend, the traffic is very light. Today was no different. Yet, the traffic lights were blinking yellow, red and green in their pretimed sequence. Despite my urge to do otherwise, I forced myself to follow the rules.

I was on the highway soon enough. The traffic was light here too. I headed north though the city and found my way to 128 east. Towards Rockport/Cape Ann. The drive was a blurr though I did note, as I headed east, the rising sun and how it kissed the wetness of the road. The moisture transformed into lazy, wispy plumes which wound their way through the evergreen trees.

I was pleased to find the traffic still light when I arrived to the outskirts of Rockport. Some people and cars were beginning to stir. But not much. I drove down some side streets. Suddenly the houses and trees gave way to a view of the ocean. I pulled left onto a barely noticeable side street. Right after passing a little knoll and a house on it, the vista opened to the Atlantic. I pulled to the side of the road, into one of the few, unrestricted parking spots in this otherwise very posted town where residents are concerned about the "controlling" the amount of visitors and cars drawn to the ocean's edge.

I got out of the car, stretched and walked to the water's edge. The sun was up but still relatively low in the distant horizon. There was barely a breeze, making the strengthening rays of the sun that much obvious. It was going to be a nice day. Alone I stood, looking out into the distance to see what the sun had revealed -- the lingering caresses of Bonnie made visible by the undulating swells. Bonnie was almost gone but she was clearly not forgotten. The crashing surf sang her praises and clashing stones gave deep claps of agreement.

I geared up and got my boat down to the beach. With a little fumbling -- not too much (and with no one to see) -- I managed to get clear of the crashing waves and headed south towards the neighboring beach with expectation. This other beach has a more gently sloped, white sand bottom, hopefully a little more forgiving than stone lined shore that I was leaving.

When I rounded a point, I let out an audible exhale, a grasp perhaps... Before me, I saw humpback waves moving line after line moving onto the beach. The only indications of something less than benign were the thundering sounds of crashing surf and rising spray. I sat outside the break zone and took in the scene. Finally, gathering myself, I inched forward and jumped in front of a steepening wave moving towards the shore. Somewhere along the way the whole wave collapsed. I was riding a wall of foam. Once the the wave released me from its dying grasp, I turned and looked out to from where I had come. The waves were not particularly big, 3-4' and occaisonally a 5'. However, as they moved in, the waves steepened considerably, curling from top to bottom, and finally collapsing onto themselves, transformed into a moving walls of foam. The waves were pretty much closing all at once. Not ideal but I came to play. And play I did. I battled my way out several times and rode back in...

Sitting on the inside of the break zone, I noted that I need to get myself back into better shape. I was definitely feeling a bit winded from going in and out of the break zone. Looking around, I saw what seemed like a flat spot further down the shoreline. I headed for it and found, upon reaching it, a very noticeable rip current that was draining all the water brought onto the beach my the crashing waves. Where the rip went out, the waves barely broke. However, on each side of the rip, the waves seem to maintain a rolling break rather than closing out all at once. It made sense because the rip was creating an opposing force to the waves. The waves had to move around or through this force, slowing down where it met this force, thus creating a rolling break. This was the "sweet spot." Here I can get out without taking a punishment each and every time. Out there, I could ride to the right or to the left, in front of "power pocket" of the rolling break, depending on which side of the rip I chose to catch a wave.

Groovin' and stokin' alone on the waves in harmony with Bonnie's caresses, the time melted away. As I rode and rode, the sun got higher and higher. My solo dances with the waves were now being witnessed by walkers and joggers. Soon a family showed up with their beach towels, balls and styrofoam surf boards. The lifeguard then made his appearance. Reluctantly I admitted my time was up. Despite wanting to hang on, it was time to let it go. So I did and headed back around the point to my car...

I think in our life we have "perfect moments" if we are attuned and the inner voices drop away. A perfect moment: I was shooting across a steepening wave face. The sun shone through the wave, creating a translucent green wall. I could see the wall steepening and curling. On top, I could see the brilliant line of white foam giving hint of the wave's imminent collapse. Indeed the roar behind me told of the wave's moving break. Yet, next to me and in front, always, was this symetrically curled green wall, adorned with a shiny lace of white. There was no want, no fear, no goal... Just movement and flow. in rhythm with some unknown power.

Hard to describe "perfect moments." Words can not do these justice. Yet, such words are not needed perhaps. When we have these moments, our mind and body tell us so, in unity with a flow that is greater than us.


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I thought I’d get an early start too & head down to Westport. But NESurf & the beach web cams told of disappointing conditions that morning. So I bagged my plans for surf riding down south & started setting up for a tour somewhere north of Boston. Portsmouth is usually a good option and conditions favored a round trip to York Harbor via Chauncey Creek & Brave Boat Harbor.

I left in time to launch near high tide & cross the Piscatomac during slack water. Thinking the Hampton tolls would only be a brief delay; I passed by the Seabrook exit. That’s the last time I’ll do that on a weekend. The tide turned while I waited in traffic for three or four miles. As I set up next to the Wentworth Country Club a couple of locals told of how much fun landing there is at low tide. I’d need an alternate landing spot after a few hours.

A light wind helped on the way out of Little Harbor & the start of a large eddy pushed things northward along the eastern shore of New Castle Island. The current hadn’t picked up much as I crossed from Fort Point to Fisher Island & on into Chauncey Creek. Nearly a dozen cars with racks were parked along Seapoint Road where the stream passes under the road. By then it was almost two hours after the high tide & the water was getting really thin and muddy just north of the bridge. Then the passage narrowed to only a few feet and the murky current was now flowing along with me. I slowly picked my way along, unable to see into the water or over the mud bank. The glider needed a lot of bow-rudder getting through the hairpin turns in the marsh. Gradually the creek widened and a couple headed the other way passed by. I suggested they hurry.

There were a dozen or so kayaks just beyond the old railroad grade crossing Brave Boat Harbor. Mostly level 2 I’d guess… Some were falling out of their boats (roto-molded recreational sea kayak hybrids) while trying to land on the rocks. Others weren’t sure where they had launched. Finally one replied: “Oh, the bridge back there”. It was two hours after high tide and thankfully I wasn’t headed back up the channel that would soon impassable. Maybe they continued the long way clockwise on around Gerrish Island, against the river and back into Chauncey Creek. It too would be a shallow & sloppy mud trek when they arrived at the Seapoint Road culvert where the cars were parked.

Then Bonnie caught my eye, pounding away at the entrance to Brave Boat Harbor. I hadn’t seen anything notable on the way past New Castle and wasn’t expecting what was in front of me. The entire northern two-thirds of the harbor inlet was an endless series of steepening and long-running easterly swells that usually made it into the harbor without breaking. I don’t remember it looking like that the last time I paddled through there. Passage out through the deeper channel on the south side was easy with much smaller waves. Just outside of the entrance a power boat was towing an empty Pirouette back into the harbor. I don’t know what was up with that but it was the only indication I saw of anyone being there & trying to catch a wave. It’s too far for the board surfers to paddle. But its just perfect for kayaks… or so it looked to me. The waves didn’t give a hint of any subsurface rocks but without a helmet, I reluctantly passed them by.

Outside, The coast was alive with 2 or three foot swells, consistently breaking on the bedrock shoals. It was all distant swell with very little energy from the light offshore breeze. The surface action became confusing near the entrance to York Harbor where the York River was at full ebb. I turned about & headed south toward Gerrish Island. The waves were still running into Brave Boat Harbor, 3 hours & 20 minutes after high tide, as I passed the entrance. I’ve got to check that out on a quiet day at dead low tide to see if there are any submerged hazards because I’m definitely going to surf there sometime.

I traveled on past Fort Foster and Wood Island on the way to Fort Stark & Little Harbor. My launch site had become a garden of mussel clusters growing on a quicksand mudflat. I paddled on into Sagamore Creek, landed in a better spot next to a restaurant and walked back to the car. The round trip was about eighteen miles after 4 ½ hours.

Here’s an aerial image of the entrance to Brave Boat Harbor:


Switch to the topographic map & check out the bathymetric contours leading up to the inlet.

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