I am a grandmother paddling alone over 2,500 miles from Maine to Guatemala. Along the way I will be:
- telling the story of the children who live in the Guatemala City garbage dump community
- honoring their entrepreneurial mothers
- talking about the success of the Safe Passage model school and
- raising funds for additional grades for the school.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Paddle Day 33: Winds, Waves and First Surfing Adventure

Early morning interview with WTNH
A restless night.  Waking up every hour or so to check the weather.  Debating whether to risk kayaking in the winds and seas kicked up by the constant winds and high gusts.
But the current would be with me the entire day.  The winds were from behind.  So I decided to risk it.

Set out with a bit of fear.  Departing on days like this are like jumping off a cliff.  I don't know what the day will bring.  I'm not sure I am up to it.  But I decided to launch anyway.

The early morning departure was made more interesting by the WTNH crew doing a predawn interview. (See the story at: http://wtnh.com/2014/09/09/paddling-her-way-to-central-america/).  The reporter was all dapper in a suit and tie.  Then when it came time to launch the kayak off the dock, it was all hands on deck, with both cameraman and reporter helping to lift the heavily loaded kayak.  I thanked the reporter, especially, for doing it in a suit.  "That's the Connecticut way," he quipped.

The cameraman provided his powerful lights, and the reporter took a snapshot of me and my hosts.  Such good sports - all of them!
Al, Deb and Tricia: Tie, neoprene and fleece - what a group!
The winds and waves turned Long Island Sound from the calm protected waters I mentioned in previous posts into an exciting, nerve wracking adventure land.  Crossing New Haven Harbor was the usual weaving between ships and boats, while at the same time being pushed around by the breaking waves from the wind.  Once across, hugging the shore was not an option, just like out on the exposed coast.  I had to stay far enough off the shore to stay out of the surf.  It's wasn't very big surf, but it doesn't take much to tumble a kayak.

After three hours there was finally a spot to rest from the constant dancing with the waves.  Behind a small island, I used the time to drink an energy milk mix to keep me going for the next three hours and to relax for a minute from the mental exertion of trying to find the best path through the waves.

Now I was in the bay before the entrance to my landing spot on the river in Stratford.  I tried be close to shore to check out the surf.  It's hard to see from the backside, as it always looks calmer than it does when viewed from shore.  But I could tell that a surf landing was not an option.  The bay was shallow with sandbars blocking a direct entry into the river.  I could instead go back out around the breakwater and go in using the dredged channel.  But going that long distance was not very enticing.  I kept trying to find a surf free spot over the sandbar.  I could only catch a glimpse when I was on the top of a wave.  I had to keep remembering which spots had surf and then try to super impose all of my glimpses into a total picture.  Looked like one narrow area with no surf.   This was a full moon tide, made even higher by the east winds pushing more water into Long Island Sound.  It was near high tide.  If it was ever possible to get over the sand bar now was the time.  I decided to take the short cut.  I should have know better - short cuts in waves and currents are seldom a good idea.  Maybe I was just too tired to make the best decision.

I cleared my deck of charts and electronics, and made sure the two quick release loops on my spray skirt were free.  If I did get flipped by the surf, I'd need to pop the spray skirt and make a quick wet exist for the kayak.  I debated donning my helmet, but it really didn't look too bad in there.

My selected spot was the best for minimizing the surf, as it was much higher on either side of me.  When a wave came behind me I would back paddle so that it didn't pick be up.  I was almost through when... Oh no! I'm surfing!  Oh no! I'm broaching!  It seemed like time stood still. despite the fact I was flying along at great speed.   I played out possible scenarios - a) keep getting turned sideways and flip over or b) straighten the kayak and continue surfing.  Plan B!  I threw out a low brace to counteract the broach.  Oh yes!  It worked and I surfed right over the sandbar.  After the fact it was exciting.  During the moment, not so much.

I checked the GPS and found I have reached 9.1 mph while I was surfing - another personal best for this kayak.   And the longest day yet on this trip. 20.3 miles.  Going into and out of NYC will be even longer and even dicier.  But at least I will have other kayakers joining me.

Great hosts here in Stratford who are taking such good care of me and helping me to get out the message about the children at Safe Passage.  It's a real treat to meet Mac and Phoebe!

Paddle Day: 33                                                          Date: Sept. 9, 2014
Start: Bradford                                                          End: Startford
Distance: 20.3 miles                                                  Total distance: 381.58 miles
Max speed:  9.1 mph                                                 Moving ave.: 4.1 mph
Kayak storage:  Brewer Stratford Marina                     Hosts: Mac and Phoebe Leask

1 comment:

  1. This landing sounded a little rougher than desired...stay safe, Deb! Kathy :o)