Monday, May 18, 2015

Almost Circumnavigation of Grape Island

Everything was pointing toward Plum Island Sound on Sunday the 17th, and I followed the pointers towards the sea.  I've only been blogging about a few of my kayak trips lately, but this was one I should mention.

I've had my Wilderness Systems Pungo 14 (named Ruby) since late last summer, and I'd been dying to really get her out and go through her paces.  The tide was right, the wind was forecast to be perfect (more on that), and it was a beautiful, sunny mid-Spring day, well before most boats hit the water.

We drove out to Great Neck, Ipswich, arriving just after 10AM.  The fog was drifting in from the ocean and shrouded everything mysteriously.  I knew that Plum Island was over there however, and started up quickly, right across the mouth of the Sound, letting the ripping incoming tide toss us around and force us to the North.

Rounded the point with the (most recently) abandoned house on that Eastern shore, and the tide was perfect an hour before change-over for me to attempt a circumnavigation of Grape Island.  There were the largest ospreys I've ever seen (including one flying close overhead with a fish), cormorants, gulls, ducks, swifts, and eventually a few snowy egrets and white herons.  There were acres and acres and acres of salt marsh just starting to swell with grass.  I wandered in and out among the sunken hummocks of mud and thought I had picked the right path to get around.

Grape Island was beautiful with sudden massive bushes of lilacs, thick stands of maple and pine, and the muddy-rocky shoreline you'll see on a tidal island in the Northeast.  Unfortunately, it was swamped with invasive bittersweet, and even the tallest pines were draped in it.

Couldn't make it all the way around and so backed up to my starting point and got swept in the last bits of the incoming tide up the Western side of Plum Island.  I was paddling away and Ruby was cruising, going faster and faster with the strengthening Southeast wind.  This was perhaps going to be a problem: the forecast had been for "5-7 knots from the Northwest, becoming calm by afternoon."  What we experienced was totally the opposite.

Ruby and I eventually turned about when the maintenance barns for Parker River Refuge came into sight, and headed directly back for Grape Island, cutting across the winding channel and almost directly into the stiffening wind.  Only a handful of boats were out that sunny Sunday, and we all knew how to be courteous to each other.  Ruby sure showed her pace here, as we just ate up that distance and kept true to the line, backed by the steadily increasing outbound tide.

Paused for a short snack stop at the Northern end of Grape Island, and then drifted the few miles back to the beach at Great Neck, pushed by the powerful tide.  It was a little more than 3 hours in all, but I could have stayed out there for a while, what a beautiful day and what a great kayak!

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