Jamestown, January 23, 2006

Wayne suggested the idea. At first I was waffling. I had been out on Saturday and wasn't sure I wanted to drive all the way to Rhode Island, but I woke up to clear blue sky and almost no wind, so I decided it would be a lot more fun to paddle on the ocean than going to the Connyak pool session.

A big group showed up at the parking lot at Fort Wetherill. Dave, Doug, Kate, Beth, Pete and Donna, Phil, Tony, John, and Wayne were there and the conditions looked perfect. We headed right, going along the rocky cliffs to the west of the put-in. There was a slight swell making the water move in among the rocks. Those so inclined played around in the rocks, looking for passages that became available as the water surged in and out.

We followed the shore right down into Mackerel Cove and landed on the beach. Sometimes there is a little low surf to play on, but only one wave of any consequence came through. It just happened to be right as Donna and Kate were about to land and had pulled off their spray skirts. A little water in the cockpit, but nothing worse.

We carried the boats across the road to the water on the other side. People teamed up two to a boat making the carry a little easier. The portage is short enough that making a couple trips is no big deal. We then paddled north west over to Dutch Island. We all pulled up on a nice skimming-stone beach on the south east side of the island, nicely sheltered from the light north wind. Everyone sat down on the rocks for lunch well supplemented with a mulligatawny soup by Donna, pistachio nuts from John and Pete's famous chocolate chip cookies.

Lunch was followed by a brief stone skimming session, the we loaded up and headed south towards Beaver Tail. There was a slight wind at our backs and the tide was going our way so we made good time. The bay was filled with eider ducks. Eiders spook easily. We were still hundreds of yards away when the whole large flock panicked and took of into the wind. There are not many times in New England when you can still get a feel for what the pristine wilderness of America must have been like. These large flocks of eiders give a little taste of what it must have been like. The raft of birds covered a couple acres of water and whole mass rose at once. Unlike mallards and other small ducks that can jump into flight directly from the water, eiders are heavy and require a long running start. An acre of running ducks combine into a roaring wash of sound as they beat their way into the wind.

Once they gain flight they level off about 2 feet above the water in a line stretching to the horizon, just at kayak eye level. The corner of the flock that came our way banked and gained elevation to avoid flying directly over our boats. The flock headed out to the west where they landed in a barely visible line of white splashes.

We moved back in close to shore as the island became rocky again. Those so inclined again started looking for interesting paths through the rock gardens as we work our way south along the coast to the light house.

Just passed the lighthouse we saw a small flock of harlequin ducks trying to hide in a cleft in the sloping rock headland. Harlequin ducks are spectacularly color birds which for some reason only seem to be in this part of Rhode Island.

We continued around the point and then cut back across to Fort Wetherill. The weather stayed perfect, with low winds and temperatures in the low 40s. Everyone came in at their own pace after a beautiful day on the water.