A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Kayaking with Bill

August 25, 2009
Emilie Phillips

Bill would be the hurricane that passed offshore this weekend.

The hurricane was forecast to cause some big swells, six to fifteen feet depending on where you looked. The surf skis are designed to surf that sort of big swell, so we thought we would take our tandem out and try since it has a fast hull too. We chose a put in at a protected harbor on the lee side of Cape Ann. This gave us the option of paddling east to the tip for bigger waves, or west into Ipswitch Bay for smaller waves. It also put us not too far from some beaches that have good breaking wave surf in smaller swells.

Well, it looks like the forecast was a little high. We still got to see some pretty good rolling waves crashing into the rocks. We did not go near those. We headed straight out into the ocean and then tried surfing back in. The waves looked big enough to surf, but each time we would paddle hard, get up a bunch of speed on the front side of the wave, and then fall off the back. We were definitely getting some speed from the waves, but we were not staying on them. Supposedly surf skis can catch up to a swell, ride down the front and then catch up to the next one.

Given that resounding failure, we decided to go try the breaking waves. We debated whether to paddle eight miles to Essex Bay / the southern end of Crane beach or to get back in the car and drive farther north where bigger waves were forecast. I eyeballed the waves and decided that paddling over would be good enough.

Some whiles later of bobbing up and down on a gorgeous sunny day, we got there.

The waves were plenty big enough. Tyson wanted to try some of the smaller non-breaking waves first. But with how fast all the waves were going, we could not catch those. So then we tried for the breaking waves. They were fast and fun and big enough so that my bow was not plunging. It was actually pretty easy to control the boat on them. The gps put our max speed on the waves at 17 mph. The boat was controllable enough that at one point we tried having Tyson rudder and me take pictures. The pictures did not come out too well. We surfed the waves into the mouth of the bay and then headed for the beach. We had to time the landing between waves, and even then, there was a strong rip current flowing in alongside the beach.

We had lunch and chatted with folks there. The tide was higher than normal swamping the beach. Some folks in powered boats were out in the waves. The surfers were not able to swim out through the rip, and the couple of recreational kayaks were not even trying. That left the waves all to us.

After lunch, out we went to try some more. Paddling out I tried to take a bunch of video. I do not know if we would have been better off if I had not as there was one particularly large wave that we plunged into. I dropped the camera and grabbed my paddle, but I did not manage to tuck, so I got hammered back over the back deck. Tyson recollects that we made it out the otherside. I do not recollect making it as far as being able to breath again, but that could be all the water that was jammed up my nose. Then the wave grabbed hold of our back end and Tyson’s paddle and we went over. I could not remember which way we went over which is part of our convention for which way to roll. So I just set up on my strong side. I waited and waited for Tyson to initiate the roll, and finally I tried just rolling on my own. The roll did not work but I got a breath of air (those two statements are highly correlated). Then I was supposed to switch sides since the roll failed, but I could not remember how to do my offside (obvious spot for improvement), so I set up onside again. This time I heard Tyson yell something about rolling, so I did, and this time got some help.

The mistery of how Tyson could be yelling while under water was solved when I found him swimming beside the boat. Apparently he bailed before the first roll attempt. We contemplated having me paddle the boat out of the waves with him hanging on, but after a couple waves rolled over us, we abandoned that idea. Then Tyson decided to just try climbing back into the boat since it was mostly under water despite the extra floatation I put in it. That worked. I guess I never turned the camera off when I dropped it because it actually got a tiny bit of video of him putting his spray skirt on as it bounced along in the water. Then we paddled our submarine out to calmer water. Looking at the gps trace afterwards, it would have been shorter to paddle back to shore, but it did not look it at the time.

Once we got all the water pumped out of the boat, it was 3:30 and we figured we needed to head home.

Back at the launch we ran into some other NSPNers, Rick and Christopher. They had also been surfing, but at the mouth of the Anisquam. Christopher was nice enough to let us try his Pintail. It seemed a bit big, but otherwise fine enough. It did have a nice round bottom for easy turning and less stability. Again, though a flatwater test.

Photos and video from the trip.