Saturday, September 06, 2008

Storm Paddle

Remember how I said I was planning on "coocooning" today? Nice quiet day at home, a little housework, maybe putting together a big pot of something yummy to simmer on the stove for hours, then curling up on the futon couch with a good book while the rain poured down & the trees outside my window danced in the wind?

Didn't quite happen that way!

Earlier in the week, the Saturday marine forecast called for tropical storm conditions during the day on Saturday, but over the week, Hanna's arrival time got pushed back to the afternoon. Instead of an entire day of winds gusting to 40kts, we ended up with a rather moderate morning forecast, with the force of the storm beginning to be felt in the mid-afternoon, not reaching maximum force until late at night.

Combine that with the fact that the air & water temperatures are both very warm right now, and the winds were coming from SE & therefore onshore in the vicinity of the Paerdegat Basin, and what you get is actually perfect conditions for a couple of reasonably experienced paddlers who trust each other to go out & push themselves a bit,so when John H. (the other tower in the sunken Klepper rescue, and a very capable paddler who's joining us next week in the paddle to Montauk) sent out an email saying "Anybody want to go out?" I changed my plans without a second thought.

We both liked the same plan - go out in the morning, paddle while the wind built, stay close to the basin & head for home when anybody either got tired or started feeling like conditions were getting beyond them.

We tentatively discussed arriving at the club at 10 am, but when we talked at 8 am this morning to finalize, it was hot & sticky without a breath of wind. After consulting the forecast, which showed things picking up around mid-afternoon - we moved our plan to him picking me up at noon, being on the water sometime before 1. Worked out perfectly. Here was what it looked like at the dock as we launched:

John & I weren't the only ones with this idea, either - Joe G. was there (he's training for the Mayor's Cup) and E., another club member who'd had a similar plan, only even more conservative since he was on his own & actually had a much farther drive than John. E. launched before us, joined us on the water when we got out & then did head back when the rain started.

John & I headed out past Mill Basin & on towards Floyd Bennett Field until the first squall hit us, at which point I suggested that we might want to head back & just be a little closer to home - the winds had picked up very abruptly, and although it did turn out to be a squall & passed quickly, it was hard to tell, there in the middle of it, whether that was going to be the case or if this was just the beginning of deterioting conditions. It's a long walk back to the basin from Floyd Bennett Field in the rain.

BTW, not that they'll ever read this, but soggy hats off to the fishermen who were actually fishing today! No, no, not the launch-ramp guys sitting snug in their cars, but the guys who were out there in it. That's some REAL fishermen!

John agreed that getting back on the Paerdegat side of Mill Basin was a good idea.

Joe G. reappeared about this time - he'd lauched a little bit after we did, passed us in the basin & vanished into the distance, as is his wont. John mused at one point an hour later or so "I wonder where Joe is now", I said "Sandy Hook". Never did find out how far he got but he's the guy who writes all the canoe magazine articles about surfski races all over the world & is a pretty elite racer himself & he was just having a blast. Gave us a cheery shaka sign as he shot past (I JUST missed it!).

We'd noticed this sailboat when we first set out. We ended up doing a couple of big loops out into the bay & back towards the basin to get some surfing fun (OMG, did I get some great rides, the Romany was so happy, I think it thought it had been sent back to it's native Wales). Since we were paddling out that way anyways, we decided to paddle on out & ask if he had any Grey Poupon. He did not, but it was fun saying hi anyways, and we'd been terribly curious. Turns out he's out of Atlantic Highlands & whatever his usual anchorage arrangements were, he felt better about riding the storm out at anchor here in our more sheltered bay.

We were both feeling like we'd had enough fun at this point, and things did seem to be picking up, so we headed on back to the dock. More great surfing going back. A big Harbor Police boat went by with the lights flashing - we were afraid they were coming over to yell at us but they must have been responding to an actual call for help, they didn't pay the least bit of attention to us.

We made it back to the Paerdegat fine. Perfect timing - just as we rounded the corner coming into the dock, the fit hit the shan! How bad was it? I'd put TQ's camera (in a waterproof shoot-through envelope) down on my spraydeck - and it started to blow away!

And if that blast didn't convince us we'd made the right call - Joe G's appearance moments behind us confirmed it!

It was tons of fun, though, and I'm so glad somebody else was up for this!

John's got a lot more pictures & even some video of the day over on Control Geek - he rigged up his camera on a little tripod on his front deck, which worked out well!

Pretty blustery out there now as I wrap this up close to midnight, and it's rained a lot, but it hasn't sounded like it's been too terrible. Here's hoping that the Prayer of the Puffins was heeded!

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