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
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
correctivestrokes 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 do 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. 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.
IT was so bad I wondered about turning back and calling it a day. It was that bad!!!
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
muchmomentum to the kayaks already twitchy behavior. It abbreviated every pitch and yaw with a heave to port or
straboardthat 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!!
Sandy Point Preserve...
I'm basically kayaking the western shores of New Haven Harbor. Picture an upside down martini glass and I am on
the "left" side of the glass paddling southwest having just left the West Haven Boat Ramp. Despite the metro area
of the city of new haven behind me, all that lay ahead is raw piping plover enviro to nice new englad homes on the
water kind of thing.
For now I am making my way along Sandy Point - this is the "raw" part where it is basically a peninsula of sand,
slight dune, dune grass and low scrub. Underneath me as I plod along its north shore is billowing stretches of sea
grass. All in all, its the minimal part of the route the rest is more developed and thats a shame - I can paddle
miles of this kind of stuff. Sign after sign stating something to the eefect of "keep back this is piping plover
territory" adorns the interior of the peninsula all strung together with longlong string and intermittent posts. I
love the saturation of sunlight on the bleached out sands and the sway of the dune grass in the breeze - this is
all about salt water and the elements meeting dry land and I love it. The only down side is the fisherman [which
honestly i cant fault] keep me having to make a good 100 or so feet of clearance from the shore often. This kind
of thing makes me yern for a good downpour all day on a monday - just for the solitude of it.
I round the peninsulas "sandy point and am heading back along the "left side of the martini glass 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...
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. Archery - thats it! Shooting up to 50 arrows a day at times
conditioned my shoulders already - and for that matter - my back too!! Like I'm telling you - my shoulders needed
no break in period. This is a first! Wow - what an unexpected benefit of archery - its primo cross training!!!
With the beautiful Sandy Point Peninsula behind me, I open up my shore cruise from a distance of 100' to about 200
yards give or take. I'm heaidng into the prime beach areas. Anything with a lifeguard chair to me is prime. What
makes the need for the 200 yards however isnt the lifeguards - indeed, they dont seem to care about jetskis ramping
up onto the sands of the beach even - but the long gettys and piers that abreviate the entire western shore of the
harbor beaches. To dip in and out is almost too nutty as they arent THAT far apart.
"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. I love 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 skimming 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. Floridians dont. They make a sidewalk - concrete that goes on for miles and miles
along their eastern seaboard flanked with some really really cool shops and eateries and art shows - it rocks. But
a concrete sidewalk doth not make a boardwalk. I grew up by boardwalks in rockaway and coney island and other new
york area metro beaches - they are made of wood boards and they are elevated above the sandy beach , behind them is
the parking lot. Underneath the boardwalk - when your feet are burning are the coolest sands on the planet -
heavily striped with shadows and dark with cool air - under the boardwalk was a cool place to be. Such as it was,
my "boardwalk days" were when I was in the single digit ages... I wonder if they even let you under there anymore.
Other songs play but by that point they muffle away behind me. Chicks was wise to face the speakers AWAY from the
residential area I am swinging by now...
From here, the beaches all opened up.. roughly a dozen getties and piers break up a chain of sunny sandy beaches
many with lifeguards and populated quite well this sunny sunday with people. Chciks was actually a good kick off
to the vistas that followed. If I had my druthers, I'd have been 100 feet offshore, but it was practical in any
sense. Much better on weekday rainydays. More surpring than the getties were how developed and long a lot of the
piers were. The 200 yards was often a necessity. I always tried to give ample berth to the lines but even still,
especially with a surfcaster with a 10' pole, i had to retreat farther out still. Some of the most interesting
part of the beaches was what broke them up = beside the piers and getties there were park like areas with benches
and well layed out shrubbery aqnd trees. I prefer the raw look of a preserve, but there they did well also. I
whiled away miles all said and done of beach after beach after beach. Each differnt in its own way with its own
number of people. For rest stops, I would choose the least crowded.
New England Home Fronts...
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 knwo 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.
At this point I'm looking to relax a little. My cadence has kicked in to be sure. The kayak is no longer flippy
and true to its form ever, it glides like the wind. Its like it WANTS to go fast. Finding a place to land
though... not so easy... I have beaches spralled out in front of me left and right and it looks like I have the
pick of the day, but the fact is its a sunday and they are crowded. I dont want to land next to some kids sand
castle, nor under someones umbrella. After paddling on a little more I find a small getty - complete with
fisherman and son, and I bring my kayak alongside - giving careful berth to the lines and gently glide into the
sand allowing my kayak to rest. I drop my hands in the water. The coolness is soothing to my hand muscles and
fingers. I havent been holding the paddle properly. After two years - I frankly dont care either. My back is
still not sore, neither my shoulders. I drink from my deck bag that has sesnibly, one bottle only and thats good
too. I just keep still, the little wavelets of the protected area allowing my twitchy kayak to rest as well. I
ponder gettingout of the yak altogether, but without a chair and umbrella [next time] its not a great way to go -
plus i'd want a more secluded beach.
I back out and keep onward...
My goal at this point is apparent . There is a distant point far ahead of me that is the last point to be seen
andthe 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 frolicking about. I dont like them genrally and i think its the fact that
they dont actually operate those craft with any practical application like getting from point a to point b. Infact
it would appear that there are no points at all. I know - its fun. I'd have more fun however actually getting to
a destination. The para-sail-boarding is another case in point. I think the sea kayak in a very real way is
everything that they EXACTLY are not. They are slow - way slow by comparison. You dont beat mother nature into
submission, you work with her, sea kayaks generally travel very straight lines comparitively - and they are all
about being practical. It's interesting how a persons craft can act as extension of their personality. I'm sure
they are all womderful people - I just prefer straight lines, they prefer cork screw circles.
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 just 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 foundations and goes up rather abruptly.
Finally, Im passing Oyster River Point, I pass 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... the seas were now getting a little tooth in their texture and whats more
they were favoring my direction back to the pier I left. Isnt THAT serendipity. I turned my kayak around - ever
the TITANIC of turning craft sweep strokes on one side, stern rudder on the other, balancing one with the other.
And I'm off.
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 rest again beside a rocky getty, complete with firsherman. This time I go full bore, right into the sand at a
full paddles cadence speed. A gentle CHHHHUUUFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF is heard as my kayak comes to a soft but certain
stop. 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 try to straighten my posture, but I keep falling into a slump as I plod along. I
remind myself to straighten up and be more aggresive in paddling. The water actually releases me from the shore as
I am relaxing there, drinking and soaking my tired hands.
As it turns out - the ride back seems so much longer than the ride out. Beach hopping really must have numbed me
out as I never realized I did allll this mileage. I use a tall condo building as a refrence point. Locals will
know it as the one next to the EXCELLENT seafood eatery Stowes. For the life of me I cant understand why the heck
it is taking so long to make progress on it. It's now that I am seeing the full bite of my chew. Again, losing
myself in a string of a dozen gettied and piered crescent beaches numbed me to a degree of the amount of time and
distance that had gone by. I'd find out how off I was when I got back.
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 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.
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. Finally having the yak on my roof and leaving, I have a few words with the parking
attendant whom I chatted with earlier. "Wow" I say "Must have been gone a full two hours". She looked at me
startled : "Oh you were gone ATLEAST two hours - ATLEAST" . I thought she was going a little overboard, but then I
looked at the clock on the dashboard 5PM. I was gone a full three hours. I guessed I traveled 6-7 miles, I
actually covered over 10. When you're enjoying a good paddle, time and distance fly.
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