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Newcastle circumnavigation


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Jeff M. and I met at Odiorne Sunday with the intention of launching out toward Rye and returning the same route into Little Harbor on the flood tide. When we reached Jaffrey Point we decided instead to paddle north the Piscataqua up to Fort Point. The water was calm and running a bit in our favor and we headed west toward Pierce’s Island. Having a snack on the west side of Pierce’s we noticed the current running at a good clip. We decided to go back around and enter the Piscataqua to return; the thought being that it would at least be more interesting. The time was between 2:00 and 2:30PM and the current was close to max which is about 2.3K but in places as much as 3K. We encountered standing chop, tide races and boils that made it “interesting” but the current with a moderate east wind was impeding good forward progress. At that point we were only at the southern tip of Pierce’s which lines up with Henderson Point on Seavey Island such that the river is as narrow as the Memorial Bridge which predicts 2.8K at flood. We turned south and went under the Shapleigh Island Bridge and paddled the rest of the way south into little harbor and back to the put-in. The current still against us felt more comfortable. Had we continued east until reaching Fort Point on the northern tip of Newcastle the current would have diminished to half and would have been easy. (The river widens considerably at that point.) The upper Piscataqua Harbor at Flood or Ebb can be daunting. I have no idea what the current projections are for the Seavey Island back channel. Does anyone have a reference for that? The back channel is the narrowest passage in the upper harbor and the current can be strong as well.

Sorry about spending so much time on a little trip less than 9 miles on a relatively calm day in protected waters but it’s always useful to know how current and topography interact. If the wind was gusting at 20K we would have had to turn around and go back to the west side of Pierce’s and have a miserable slog down to Little Harbor. My conclusions are that Portsmouth Harbor is a place to plan for carefully and unless it's a mild day to stick to the plan. This was a mild day and by going against the current turned a gentle paddle into an energetic one.

This link shows the route:


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The back channel flows almost as fast as the main river more so at the narrow spots. Just play the eddies against it. The fastest is near the gate 1 bridge to the shipyard.

So you saw it on the flood? Better on the spring ebb.....and more fun when the boat wakes flow through the boils. Beware....

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