Trip Report : Summer Beach Cruise,
West Haven Boat Ramp to
Oyster River Point and back.
Kayak: West River 180
7/12/09 2PM - 5pm aprox.
Winds: South West 4 - 8 knots
Seas: to one foot
Water Visibility: 2'-3', green
Total Distance: 10+ miles
This was a good day for a paddle. I had tossed the idea around the last two days, but I'm glad I waited out the seas that were anything from 1 1/2'
to over 2' with a 12' trough length. I draw the line at 1 1/2 as the corrective strokes end up sacrificing too much forward speed, to say nothing of
the pain of continually digging the kayak out of a broach. Today was much better with good nothing really hitting a foot, and what did or went over a
foot was so low in frequency it was never bothersome. Like I said, this was a good day to paddle - great summer temps, low humidity light winds and
plenty of sunshine. Great day to go beach cruising!!!
Been too long...
I should mention this is my first paddle in two years. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea last fall and its been corrected since. Anyone who even knows
anyone who's got it - and worse still - untreated, knows just how debilitating it can be.Kayaking was utterly out of the question under those circumstances.
The goal when you have severe sleep apnea isnt to find extra curicular acvtivities to do, but to even make it through the day at all.
So I put myself in the kayak at the West Haven Boat Ramp and I'm immediately alarmed at my utter inability to keep the hull at rest in the light 6" chop I
had launched into. It pulled to the right , it pulled to the left - it never wanted to sit still. And it pulled with a certainty. It was like a kayak on
caffeine. Like I said it was alarming - I dont know how I ever enjoyed a ride inthis kayak ever with almost zero initial stabilty. I paddled about a quarter
mile from the ramp and rested along side the sandy peninsual next to me. This had to be dealt with - I had serious ideas about turning back entirely and calling
it a day, much as I couldnt believe I was even contemplating it.
Deck Bag Demons...
As it turns out , my kayak doesnt like virtually one gallon of drinking water in the deck bag. It added way too much momentum to the kayaks already twitchy
behavior. It abbreviated every pitch and yaw with a heave to port or straboard that as mentioned was no way to paddle. The solution was to keep two of the
three bottles between my legs on the keel line and only one bottle in the deck bag. Wow what a difference. I was still uneasy but I cast off once again and
headed onward!! My reflexes had to get up to speed again to get in my "groove" b ut this now was my old kayak again.
Sandy Point Preserve...
New Haven Harbor is generally the shape of an upside down funnel. Specifically I am midway along the left side paddling "down" and slightly "out" toward the
center as I make my way along the peninsual called Sandy Point. Its the only "projection of sorts on the west side that takes you toward centra New Haven
Harbor. I love these raw sandy duned strips of undeveloped tidal land. Long swaying sea grass "blows" underneath me as algae covered rocks are seen as well
interpsersed among this waving aquatic "meadow" that is virtually hugging Sandy Point s coastline. Moving along at about 4mph out toward its tip which is a
good half mile long, I see the common signage noting the piping plover nesting grounds. Long strings, in some cases blown down with the accompanying sticks
that hold them up. I like the look, it has become the familiar site of untampered shoreline.
I round the peninsulas "sandy point and am heading back along the "left side of the upside down funnel heading southwest". I' glad to see that the wind on the
other side of the peninsula is about the same as the other side that isn't always the case at all. It can be so different sometimes depending on wind direction
and convection. Basically though - its 6 to 12" chop and with varied irregular frequency. Looking at the water droplets on the wood deck, I tilt my polarized
sunglass up to see how different the wet surface looks with out the aid of these glasses. The simple nod up is enough to jerk my kayak to one side in a
passing jolt of imbalance. Its that tippy - even lifting my head to high.
Of Archery and Paddling...
By this point my deltoids - the muscles mostly comprising the shoulders, should have been doing their lactic acid burn by now but it was eerily "OK". Thats
odd - that never happens - the shoulders are the first thing to burn - its part of my warm upon any kayak trip - waking this muscles into action. Not
today though - and quite frankly? Not on the entire trip. I gave it pause for thought s I paddled still shakey from not paddling for two years as I
rounded the very sandy and beachy Sandy Point. I narrow it down to archery. I like to shoot maybe 25 to 50 shots a day, fairly infrequently at times.
Who knew it had the side benefit of toning kayak muscles?
"Under The Boardwalk, down by the sea, on a blanket..."
The above line is from the music that greeted me as I made my way along one of West Havens most well known spot - a retro looking burger joint called CHICKS.
Sandy Point is now totally behind me and the shoreline is that of residential connecticut and varying beaches. In essence, getty after getty after getty
off into the distance. All totalled, it's accurately around a dozen getty/piers which sets the tone for how far I'll keep off the shore. That, and the people
lines for fish.
But back to Chicks...
They give parking to anyone who wants beach access and of course this also makes for a wonderful traffic flow through the doors of their
business. Motorcycles are a major thing here too as it is a great stop off for them as well. Roller bladers go skating back and fourth across the street
as do bicyclists and joggers. The whole atmosphere of Chicks is just dynamite. The beach isnt exactly "stellar" the sands are often silty and this clouds
the water strongly at low tides, but you dont care so badly since everything else is going so strong in its favor. I keep paddling by CHICKS listening to
the song the DJ is putting out and wonder seriously how many people even KNOW what a real BOARDWALK is. Today it seems, even paved sidewalks that line a
beach get the name and its not even close to what one really is.
After Chicks, the my cadence set in and the miles began to stack. At times I kept wondering how nice it will be to sail this craft as the outrigger
assembly is nearly complete and then I'll really begin to see some serious mileage. Still, there is so much virtue in paddling ones way and the lift
one gets from endorphins through exercise. Still, I'm looking forward to the outrigger not making this such a twitchy ride as well.
Beach after beach passed. I soon looked for a less crowded one just to pull in and rest a few minutes. It wasnt easy, many of the beaches had lifeguards and seemed
]well populated. Ultimatley I found my crescent beach with lesser folk numbers and I relaxed. It was terrific to just let my hands drag in the cool
water as my kayak drifted to shore. Again it was strange - not the muscles bothering me but my hands. After refuleing on water I slowly turned about and
continud the beach tour and still, many beaches lay ahead. All too were packed with Sunday bathers. I began to see the dynamite advantage in doing this tour
in rain with so fewer people keeping me so far off to sea - by 200 hundred yards or so. It was still terrific, but its best when I can skim really close to the
shores as well. I brought my dance back into action and the crescent beaches came and went as did the different piers as well. A lot of the piers were actually
really terrifically made too. I paddled on until many of the sandy beaches were behind me.
A change of venue...
The homes which followed the long stretch of beaches gave the shoreline a feel that I didnt appreciate much. Concrete foundations facing the sea with iron
pole hand railings that guard the water from the nice well painted Connecticut houses is also taking something away from the coastline that is so very much
what a coastline is supposed to be about. I know why it's done - Ive even been in some of the homes over the years, and its downright gorgeous from
their perspective too. Still, give me the raw "piping plover protected beach" any day and sandy dunes with scrub over concrete with steel hand rails.
My goal at this point is apparent . There is a distant point far ahead of me that is the last point to be seen and the beyond that - forever long island
sound. Rounding that point however would bring me to Charles Island. Also ahead of me are half a dozen jetskiers running about. I've never passed or have ben passed
by a jetski that gave a wake worth fretting over , but still the half dozeon or so in one spot seemed like it would be trouble. In the end however it was
nothing of the sort.
I'm passing the Twin Rocks now. All light grey white, rugged and cut and stained with the high tide line and so much seaweed and barnacles, Im a little sad
Im seeing them only now. They jutt tremedously out of the water and make for a true marine motif and normally I'd have gone right down the middle between
the twins - inspected it out - seen some cormorants, but Im nearing my turn around point and I'm conserving energy - I've got miles to go back when I reach
my point not to far up ahead. I see them fine from where I am. The waves are building a little out here as we are getting closer to the all out
unprotected long island sound. There are breakwaters off to my left - one with a fine lighthouse, but you cant go miles out of the harbor and not see a
change in the wave height.Its all in fun and still, nothing to brace a paddle over.
Coming up still further to my turn around point, I am passing home after home after home of concrete foundations meeting the sea, many with concrete piers.
All lovely homes with their back lawns all underwater consisting of dense sea grass swaths interspersed with large submerged rocks. Im about 75' off there
piers and its making for a changle from the dozen or so piers and gettys and sandy crescent beaches. The land rises steeply to my right at there foundation
s and goes up rather abruptly.
My last passage is by Oyster River Point, I go by the last vestige of rocks and home and look west and right there - what Ive been waiting for - Charles Island.
Isnt visible. Infact there is still another point up ahead. I wasnt expecting to land on the island - that was out of the question, but I atleast wanted to see
it from this new perspective. Instead another point blocks it, all lined with cement foundations and still more homes. As it turns out - that final point
I would have had to make to see the island was a full three miles away [GOOGLE EARTH@home]. I just couldnt add that onto my trip.
I still had five miles back. I pottered around a bit... what to do... I was so very shore for all the miles I covered it'd be right here - atleast visible.
I contemplated the idea of the last point, but it was just farther than i wanted to paddle and with no guaruntee of the island still. The sea around me began
to develop a little "tooth" and so I turned around and began heading back.
Serendipity Waves and the trip home...
An unexpected surprise was that the sea was with me. It was gentle, the wind wasnt even felt since I was now paddling with it, still the subtle pushesof the
following chop was a pleasurable relief now and again. Up ahead I am a little surprised at the depth of the troughs as they never seem so underneath me. As
it turn out, the "gift" of my serendipity is making countless sweep strokes on the port side as the water wants to "wave" me into the gettys and piers. Its
not an out of control thing, but it is persistent most of the way back. I take to holding the paddle far offcenter to counter the extra asymetrical push need
on the port side. Strangely, a coomon reoccuring theme on this way back is that tall conominium complex that seems to refuse any sign of my making headway on it.
Its this stubborn seeming lack of progress on this distant major landmark that is the thing that smacks home how easily I passed the miles on the way out.
Beach after beach and all that beautiful scenery... it all went by so smoothly. The paddle home though was the reality of the work that got me out here.
I rest again beside a rocky getty, complete with fisherman. I dont care that the sandy shore is coming up quick, i keep paddling full bore for the hell of it
until a soft but distinct CCHHHUUFFFFFFFFFFF. I relax then go about dipping my hands into the cool welcome saltwater. More than anything, its my hands that
seem to need the rest. I reflect on my paddling back and it bothers me that my posture is a slump thats almost unavoidable. My speeds ok, but my posture is a
lousy thing. I sit there and try to straighten my posture, but it never quite feels like I did when I started the trip and I know it'll undo as I begin again.
Sitting there having these technique "reflections" I notice the wavelets have released me from the grip it had on my "chuffed bow" and I smile lazily as I gently
float backwards in reverse - still cooling my tired hands. I drink well for the rest of the way back and come about , bow now pointing northeast - our way back home.
Change of perspectives...
The harbor and sound plod me along still and the many sweep strokes are still made with gratitude when I feel the "free" shove of a decent rolling swell
beneath me. The distances from shore are the same, as on the way out. Seemingly, half the jetskiers are gone and the suns a little lower. The wind has
picked up too. I'm finally pass that tall condo building that seemingly sat there forever, and Chicks Drive-in is once again blairing music across the
sands. It follows along with me as I make my way along the sandy peninsula again which is of course, Sandy Point. Fisherman still, and my distances kept
still. I'm so grateful when I finally turn the tip of the point and face the direction of my loading ramp waayy across the chop.
The final dash...
When I last round Sandy Point I have about 1000' of harbor before me and my goal ramp. Its waaayyyy across the building chop of which, the wind is now
blowing in my face. But at a thousand feet left - who cares. The water has a totally different look now. Where as it was green and saturated in bright
sun, it is now very dark between the wavelets and general head on chop due to a low sun. I can almost count each hundred yard tract of the last thousand feet.
I'm a little more tired than i gave myself credit.
When I finally make foot fall I feel the weight of my exertion as I climb out of the kayak. I have tired sea legs - legs are the muscles that are used
heavily actually - certainly calves. I wobble around a bit but feel terrific for the work out I got. I wanted a summers stretch of coastline and
for a local put-in, this little area actually provided a little of everything. It's really hard to find fault with it. My tiredness wasnt totally sapping
and infact, given the mileage I put on, I felt spry and light. The kayak was on the car sooner than I'd have thought and I was leaving the boat ramp area.
One last thing that makes evident the enjoyment I had was the passage of time and distance. I was SURE I was gone no longer than a couple of hours. I was gone
three. I figured I paddled 6 to 8 miles, I actually paddled a over ten. When your heart is where it belongs, time flies as do the miles.
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- Local Summer Beach Cruise