A Tale of Two WeekendsBy
From “It was the worst of winds”, to “There wasn’t a wisp of wind!” You couldn’t plan two more opposite paddles from one weekend to the next if you wanted. But the first two December weekends of 2016 gave us exactly that.
On Saturday the 3rd I found myself over at Oak Beach with 6 other NACK paddlers plus a friend & his guest down from CT for the day. Plan was to find some mild surf to try out Chris K’s new boat & get in one last hurrah at Democrat Pt. before resigning ourselves to more tame winter paddling interspersed with some warm, soul renewing pool sessions.
Mother Nature scoffed at our plans.
Instead of surf, we ended up with 25-27kn crosswinds (gusting 30-33) & a flood current in the inlet to add to the challenge of getting over to Sore Thumb Beach. For a few spots there it really just seemed like being on a treadmill to nowhere.
Finally tucking around & in the cove @Sore Thumb we beached it & went up on dunes to look across at Demo. Absolutely nothing was happening on the outside so we chose not to waste any effort crossing the inlet & then having to fight a crazy headwind back. We took what meager lemons the conditions gave us & played the best as we could in them. Chris in the latest addition to the NACK fleet managed to squeeze out the ‘run of the day’ on a barely perceptible wave. Rest of us had our moments too but there really wasn’t much to pick from. The new Sterling Progression got a try out from about half of us & really performed well in conditions. (just that these weren’t the conditions we came out for!) Our lunch break was a battle just trying to find a somewhat protected spot away from the horizontal head to toe sandblasting. It really was relentlessly unforgiving.
A few of the group had seen enough & headed back together, watching them paddle back into the wind it seemed like they were never going to ever get back across the bay! The remaining 6 decided to just go explore further south & west around the point. We were rewarded with much bigger & better wind waves but the EXTREMELY difficult turns at the end of our runs coupled with a headlong slog dead into the 25+ knots kind of tipped that work-to-reward ratio into negative territory in short order.
After about a half dozen (or less) goes at it we all grouped up tightly again & headed back to our launch point. Once there, some of us practiced rolling & were surprised at how fast the ice cream headaches came after just a few dousings in the 51°degree waters. All in all was a good time. Getting nine paddlers out in December was satisfying all in itself after struggling some times to even get a half dozen of us together ‘in season’!
Article here is getting longer than I thought so let me just quickly say this past Sunday, the 11th was a totally different experience. Water in bay was now 41° with launch time air at 33° (up from an overnight 24° that left three of us with a bit of an ice covering at the boat ramp to paddle thru).
But once out onto the bay we had a bright sun & incredibly calm flat water. I mean we could literally see the reflection of the Robt. Moses Bridge in the waters below from 3 miles away.
The flocks of shorebirds taking off right in front of us were also very cool. & having no annoying power boaters polluting the vhf airwaves with their “5-by-5 captain!” gibberish gave a nice peaceful feeling to the day.
Paddling west past Indian island we met up with Mike, a friend of the club from the dinghy shop who now made it a foursome.
Though the calm was increasingly disturbed & now was regularly punctuated by the pop-pop-pop of a surprising number of duck hunters out in the marsh islands! (& one group off in the distance hunting off the bow of their boat at anchor). Was a little unnerving I’ll say. ‘Specially one spot as we left Gilgo & were passing the last island before the final long diagonal crossing home. A whole flock of decoys was set up right there off the east side of the island. We managed to get the hunter’s attention to alert him to our presence (he seemed more concerned about us possibly paddling through his decoy field !).
So we went extra far east to give a wide berth & let him get back to business. Trip ended up being a respectable 10 miles.
I will say even though it was great outing, I DO miss those Summer paddling days that are just mere memories now. Especially so when I arrived home to that frozen garden hose that I was hoping would be ready for a quick washdown of my boat & winter gear! (more pics here) and a short video here
Thanks here to Paul for planning & leading us Sunday & to Troy for showing up (& providing plenty of post-paddle hot chocolate) & as I’m not a solo paddler in any season I’m glad you guys aren’t hibernating. 🙂 Happy Holidays to all & see you’s back on water 1.1.17 or the week later in the pool. -Alan