My introduction to paddling came from Andy, an associate from work who I am proud to call friend. Oh, I'd be paddling before, but I'd never really considered it something to pursue. Andy told me about his sea kayak (an EasyRider Eskimo). He told me stories about paddling on Lake George (NY) and on Puget Sound (WA).
In 1996, after a long agonizing decision, I decided to purchase a canoe. The main reason for a canoe over a sea kayak was so I could paddle with my family. I bought an Old Town Penobscot 16 from North Cove Outfitters. This was a compromise between tracking, speed, and weight. A previous lesson had taught me the importance of an investment that I could handle by myself. I am able to lift my canoe by myself, but it is relatively long for good tracking and speed.
Later the same year, thanks to a lot of overtime, I was able to purchase a sea kayak. I purchased a Necky Looksha IV (plastic), also from North Cove Outfitters. Again this was a compromise. The plastic is relatively inexpensive and very durable (great for a beginner).
Since my original purchases I've done a lot of canoeing and sea kayaking. I intend on occaisionally updating this page with stories of my adventures.
We were on vacation at a little cottage just off the beach. We brought along my kayak in hopes of getting a little light paddling along the beach and in the surf. On a day earlier in this week my older son and I lugged the boat to and from the beach, but quickly decided that such a long portage (~.25 mi) should be done with a dolly. So before the 25th we found a local store which carried them and purchased one. On the 25th we loaded everything into the kayak, attached it to the dolly, and I had no problem hauling it all to the beach.
I paddled first. I launched in the surf, <1' breakers. I paddled around a little, practicing and shaking off the rust from such a long time out of the boat (but more recent than the next most recent story). After me, my older son took a turn in the kayak. This was only his second time in the boat (the first being just a few days earlier). At one point I called him in and while I stood talking to him abruptly capsized him to ensure he was OK with a wet exit (which I had taught and he had practiced on the first day). Then he resumed his practice. My wife also took a brief try, but had a lot of trouble figuring out to steer the kayak. After one long loop she was done.
|I can be seen here, shortly after arriving at the beach, with the kayak on it's dolly. This turned out to be a tremendous aid in portaging to/from the beach. And while paddling, the dolly disassembled (wheels removed) to store in the aft compartment. The only trouble was with portaging over soft and dry sand, whereon the wheels sank and it was tougher to pull.|
|Here I am practicing carving a turn. I used to be able to do these better. Must practice, practice, practice.|
|Emmet is enjoying his new-found paddling skills.|
I met Andy at his house and led him to a launch site I'd recently scouted. The ramp is at a state maintained site in the Barn Island Wildlife Sanctuary. We rigged and launched from the grassy area just north of the launch. We explored the estuary briefly before heading southeast toward Barn Island. From Barn Island we decided to head directly to Napatree Beach while we were fresh and follow the long shore route back later.
A mild breeze directly in our face slowed our pace. As we got closer we pondered some posts in the water which from a distance resembled seals. We were disappointed to discover what they really were. A coastal defense fort also caught our eye and we decided to explore it when reached the point.
When we got to Napatree Point we saw a sea kayak on the shore. There we met the owner, Jeff. Apparently he'd been playing in the surf (which was quite large in the shallows of the western side of the point) when he'd overturned. He had struggled several times to get back in his boat, but eventually had to release the boat and swim to shore. He said he'd been there recovering for nearly an hour. His kayak had eventually drifted to shore where he recovered it. He was noticeably shaken from his adventure.
We talked for quite awhile about kayaking and related topics. Then I led the way as we headed around the point and then inland to explore the fort. The fort was impressive, but badly run down. There are supports that once held large guns. There are also numerous rooms and passageways. The usage for the rooms is generally difficult to guess, but a few special purpose rooms were easily identifiable. I think I located a bathroom (minus all the fixtures) and a kitchen (minus all the fixtures). Most of the doorways had heavy rusty frames which must have once held heavy lockable doors. Ignoring the graffiti and the state of disrepair, it was quite impressive.
Back at the boats we (Andy, Jeff, and I) launched. I launched first and tried to standby in case Jeff needed help (he was still a little foggy and was having trouble since he'd lost his glasses). After Jeff and Andy launched I decided to play in the surf a little. I headed a little closer to the point to catch one of the two foot waves. I only rode one, but after nearly dumping I'd had my fill. Andy indicated we should head back (Jeff wasn't up to playing in the surf). We found that even the small surf was fun to play in, which was on our way. Jeff had another minor spill (knee deep water).
We hugged the coast back to Watch Hill Cove. We stopped in the mouth of the cove to empty the last of the water from Jeff's boat. We then relaunched and headed across the mouth of Watch Hill, Foster, and Potter Coves. The wind had shifted and picked up strength and was now a strong gusty wind directly in our face (again). After crossing the mouth of the Pawcatuck River Jeff proceeded along up the river while we rounded Pawcatuck Point. Because of the wind we remained close to the shore. I angled for the lee of Barn Island, Andy following close behind.
We decided to explore the channel to the east of Barn Island. This was fairly sheltered from the wind. We paddled quietly enjoying the sounds of the birds. Continuing we rounded Barn Island and headed straight toward the ramp, beating against the wind the whole way.
We packed our things. Andy mentioned a visit to our favorite Indian Restaurant (as in India). I called my wife and arranged to meet her in Mystic with the boys. Then we all went to the restaurant and enjoyed a spicy sample of the cuisine of India. I had Chicken Curry, Emmet had Chicken Saag, Ryan had Chicken Korma, Liz had [Barbecue Shirmp] and Andy had Chicken Biryani. It was a nice end to a pleasant day of paddling.
Temperature was around 50°F. Andy and I got out of work at 1300. I headed home to load the kayak and gear, he headed to his house to do the same. After I was done loading I called him and we agreed to meet at the Great Island ramp. We discussed going to the Lieutenant River ramp, but I forgot and we wound up unloading at Great Island. I arrived before Andy and started unloading (I'd forgotten that we were going to just meet there. By the time Andy arrived I was nearly unpacked.
After setting up we launched and started exploring the estuary. Tide was nearly out, but not as low as we've seen. I selected a channel and started following it. I hoped it would eventually release elsewhere, but eventually it became so low I could go no further. Of course at that point it was too narrow to turn my 17' of sea kayak around. So I backed up for a little while. I found I spot I could turn around, but I had to get out of the boat. It was tricky, but I was able to lean on my paddle (sunk deeply in the mud). The end result was a boat full of mud. Andy had been able to float clear enough to turn around without landing, so was far ahead of me by the time I got back to the main channel.
Andy stopped to put on an anorak (he was cold). I kept going and beached on the backside of Griswold Point. I wanted to rinse the mud from in the inside and outside of the boat. After I landed I noticed that Andy was back underway and working his way toward me. By the time Andy arrived I was done with the housekeeping.
Andy beached as well and we explored the point on foot. We walked across to the Long Island Sound beach and on toward the point. Then we crossed back to the landward side and continued til we arrived at the point. We noted plenty of trash, rusty artifacts, and wildlife. After we poked around the point a little we headed back to the boats on the landward side of the point.
We launched and headed to the Connecticut River. We rounded Griswold Point and continued for a short while (a few hundred yards). Andy wanted to explore the Lieutenant River launch site, so we turned around and headed up the Connecticut River. We saw multiple pairs of Canadian Geese and a couple of pairs of Swans along the way. Many of the Osprey nests were occupied. We kept our distance so we disturbed the nesting fowl as much as possible.
Along the way we decided that light might not last all the way up to the Lieutenant and back. When we got to the Back River we turned back for the Great Island ramp. Near where the Connecticut and Back Rivers meet we spotted a nesting Swan. We crossed the river to avoid disturbing her. We landed and packed our boats and equipment. Then we headed to Pat's Kountry Kitchen for dinner.
After visiting North Cove to purchase a second canoe, we took both out for a family paddle. It was a very windy day, which caused severe problems for the less experienced paddlers. At first Emmet and I were in the new canoe while Liz and Ryan were in the second. As we started out with the wind there were few problems. As we got to the far end of the lake and attempted to turn around, we realized that the current arrangement wouldn't work well. We swapped and put Emmet with Liz and Ryan with myself, but that still didn't work well. Then Liz and I took the new while Emmet and Ryan took the old with a tow line from us to them. They primarily provided the push while the tow line just kept them on course. When we returned to the launch area, we all (except Liz) took a short swim. Then Emmet and Liz went out alone to do some practice. They would periodically drift by where Ryan and I were swimming and I would provide some coaching.
Warm sunny day, a few puffy clouds. Moderate to heavy breeze blowing down the river channel. Emmet had suggested a canoe trip, and so we (Liz, Emmet, Ryan, and I) headed out. I had to take the canoe out of the basement (where it had recently been placed due to tornadic activity). I cleaned it up and loaded it on the car. After a brief trip to the gas station, we headed to the closest launch site around (but one I hadn't used before). I'd scouted it out, and knew it would be a good spot.
We launched just above the dam, cautious to ensure we'd be able to avoid the dam. The river was extremely quiet, we didn't see another boat the whole trip. We did see a few of fisherman along the way. We explored the short leg of the Quinabog up to the first dam (a few hundred yards). The dam is fairly high, and the kids though it was very beautiful as the water cascaded down it's face. Then we continued up the Shetuckett. I wanted to get to the base of the Taftville Dam, but the current as we approached Route 169 were such that we were barely able to creep along. After 15 minutes of paddling as hard as we could, and only going a few dozen yards, we turned and headed back. The total trip I estimate at 4.1 miles. It is a very pleasant, and very quiet section of river, but with recent heavy rains, the current made progress going upriver moderately slow.
This page copyrighted by Chip Griffin. For problems or comments send email to: webmaster at chipg.com