Morning, Day 2 - all packed up & ready in the parking lot of the Mill Creek Manor Day's Inn in Rockville Center. This is why the Commodore driving the trailer was so key - otherwise we would've been pitching tents in Paddy McGee's parking lot. Hardly the most poetical of campgrounds. Instead, here we are all spiffy & showered, well rested & VERY well fed. Seriously, if you ever find yourself in Rockville Center with a pack of starving barbarians, go find Dino's. Yum. OK, off to our launch!
Back on the beach in Island Park, putting back in right where we got out. G. & Dr. A. first in!
There's the vice commodore being launched by his son. Fishermen wait patiently to get their spot back from the lunatics.
More boats heading for the water. Slippery rocky launch, but we were all careful & made it work. The lady in the parking lot is the V.C.'s wife & she was the other half of our ground support - she brought their minivan to Island Park to get all of us to Rockville Center, and then she came out & met us at Smith Point & that was how we all got back to Canarsie. We're all very grateful to her as well. Thanks, L!
Heading on down Reynolds Channel. Off in the background, it's already looking a lot less urban & a lot more like the salt marshes we'll be paddling for the next 2 days - but if I turned around I think you'd see a golf course, and further back, a high school. It was funny passing the high school - there was a sports event going on somewhere, with the requisite referees' whistles, which sound an awful lot like the whistles we all had. I'd figured it out pretty quickly but it was still very odd.
Daymark #19. Those 2 little lumps on the horizon are actually interesting, I'm heading over to take a picture. This one doesn't quite come out - just a little dark, plus Optio does better on closeups than distances - but I tend to take pictures of aids to navigation for 2 reasons. The obvious one is that I like the way they look. The less obvious one is that I can then look at a chart & know exactly where I was.
ugly link but let's see what happens - http://mapserver.maptech.com/homepage/index.cfm?lat=40.5980646281&lon=-73.6108350888&scale=20000&zoom=50&type=0&icon=0&searchscope=dom&CFID=12037886&CFTOKEN=12898589&scriptfile=http://mapserver.maptech.com/homepage/index.cfm&latlontype=DMS
Here's a better picture of what had caught my eye in the last picture. Squatter's shacks - if they are like the ones we saw before the bridge, these are no longer legal, but old ones are grandfathered in as long as they remain in the same family. I wonder how long these have been here, and what sort of memories the families who are lucky enough to have them must have. Has to be the best way to spend a summer.
OK, we'll try to be good! Although it's going to be trying for Dr. A and our QCC speed demon M, who tend to dwindle in the distance on a regular basis. I was just glad I wasn't the slowest - I was worried when the other Romany paddler suddenly bought a share in a Nordkapp & suddenly I was the only 16 footer in the gang. Managed to uphold my reputation as being able to keep up, though.
Here we are across from Point Lookout. This town has the most classic-looking fishing fleet I saw anywhere along the way. There must have been some little skiff rental places too - we saw whole families out running around in little outboard boats marked "Scotty's" and "Tom's". This is definitely both a boater's playground and a boater's workplace. It was gray, but warm, and even with the threat of rain, there were boaters everywhere, enjoying the tail end of summer.
And there goes the Super Hawk - they probably headed out before daylight, fished all morning & are on their way home now. We are just west of Jones Inlet so there's access for both kinds of commercial fishing vessels to get to open water. Also means things are about to get busy for us as we tighten up to negotiate the big intersection we'll be crossing. I know that our Paddling Chef took a picture or two in Jones Inlet, but mostly that's not the best place to be lollygagging & we kept moving.
One last picture here, though, as a flock of a hundred black skimmers sweep by, yelping to one another. I love watching black skimmers fish & I think I'll always remember one night it was so quiet on Jamaica Bay that I could hear their beaks hissing through the water. I've never seen as many as we saw in Jones Inlet, though - enormous flocks. Paddling Chef also knows a thing or two about birds, loves these guys & was pointing out the differences between the larger, clearly marked adults and the smaller, less striking juveniles. Beautiful sight.
Another type of wildlife that I couldn't believe the amount of were jellyfish of all sizes. We stopped for a breather on a beach after making it through the Jones Inlet area. This beach was also occupied by a family with a motorboat, which included a very nice lady with a lovely chocolate lab who came over to see what we were up to. When she heard, she wanted to know if we needed anything - cold drinks, food - we were fine, but it was awfully nice of her to offer.
Off again, chasing cormorants. Skittish birds. I love watching them sit & dry their wings after they've been fishing. Must not be much fun being a cormorant in the rain.
And it is starting to rain.
And more rain. Warm, though. I don't mind rain at all as long as it's not really cold. Slush is my least favorite thing in which to paddle - but this rain, I didn't even need a jacket.
Lunchtime - we stop on a beach in the Tobay Beach Bird and Game Sanctuary. I was really starting to notice that there were an awful lot of monarch butterflies - didn't get any pictures on Day 2, but enjoyed watching them fly past. After lunch, we did a little chart & GPS consultation & finalized our route for the rest of the day. We had plenty of charts & GPS's - next time I think I'm taking my own chart, there's just something I like about following along & I think I was driving the chartholders nuts with my "Can I see? Can I see?". Pure curiousity, that's all.
After lunch the sun came back out. Nice surprise!
Enjoy that sunshine while it lasts, folks. Mwahahahahaaaa!
Check the photo location map here. See the Robert Moses Causeway bridge up in the upper right-hand corner? Well, at this point, so could we. But in just a little while - right when we were heading into Captree State Park, which we were cutting through rather than going the long way around - things got a little more interesting!
The fog rolled in incredibly fast. We all got very interested in our compasses. I asked to see the chart again (really got to bring my own next time). M. had a GPS. Very strange paddling into a place you don't know when you can't really see it. It never got much worse than this, though, and we were following a well-defined channel which was VERY clearly marked for the bigger boats as there were flats all around. We stayed just outside & at the thickest, as we approached one buoy, another would just be becoming visible - so we were never truly flying by instrument. Close enough to be exciting, though. Interesting test of the group - up until now, we'd been pretty loose - here, we seriously had to tighten up. There was a little tension, but on the whole we did what we needed to.
Another place I wish I could spend a summer. OK - I'm not positive how much YOU can play with the location map but I was able to pinpoint this QUITE well using the satellite image - take a look if you can, it's pretty neat!
Now this was pretty funny. Please take a look at the photo location. The main channel here runs on the other side of the little unnamed island beside Seganus Thatch. That's well dredged & there's good water for bigger boats from shore to shore. On this side, there are shallows going quite a way out from the island; we're still traveling in less than fab visibility as you can see, so G. made the sensible suggestion of going around this side & leaving the main channel to the bigger boats. Not sure exactly why, but there was some concern over this plan. In the end analysis, though, I think that the "concern" was mostly because these two just got it into their heads that it would be extremely funny to go ask for directions at the GAS STATION! C'mon, I thought that was against the Guy Rules. Anyways, the rest of us did manage to dissuade them - pointing out that you could see the tops of the bigger cabin cruisers & fishing boats travelling along the other side of the island convinced 'em we'd be OK.
Yes. It's a Shell station. What did you expect?
Finally passing the bridge we'd been looking for in the fog all along. That's the Robert Moses Causeway & I think we were all happy to see it. We'd had to proceed quite a bit more cautiously because of the fog, and it was starting to feel like we'd never find it - and it was a significant landmark because it meant we were approaching the Fire Island Inlet - which meant we were almost done for the day. But we were still going to have to cross the inlet. It's less than a mile wide, but we were still in pretty thick fog, and by this time, well, we didn't have all that much daylight left. We paused here to pull out our lights. S McA had already been using the airhorn he'd brought. He'd been a little embarrassed thinking it was overkill...nope.
Blurry, yes, but here's the only photograph from my first blind crossing. Again, mostly so I could pinpoint location on a chart. We'd originally planned an oblique crossing towards Kismet, but with the fog & the current we decided that due south would be better - that would both cut down on the amount of time we'd spend out with the big boats (we did see some, fortunately all travelling at prudent speeds so plenty of time to make some noise & be seen), plus as you can see here, the current was strong & a southerly heading would overcorrect for that & the wind which were moving us quickly to the east. That way we knew we'd need to go east when we hit Fire Island, even if the fog got worse. Worked fine!
Fire Island, ho! Yes, we made it with a little daylight to spare. Now it's eastbound & a little more paddling to Kismet. The odd thing was that the scariest moment of the entire trip happened before we'd even begun the crossing - just as we were passing a quay at the point coming out of the Captree area, we heard a motorboat coming fast beyond the COMPLETELY BLIND TURN. The kids on the quay, who'd been waving at us, could see him long before he could see us or vice versa - they started waving at him & screaming "Kayaks! There's kayaks!", but I doubt he could hear them. He came ripping tight around the corner at full throttle - fortunately there's enough room for him to slow down & he yells at us as he goes by "Careful, there's a lot of crazies out here!" Yeah, thanks for the warning. Fortunately he was the only boat we saw out there that was acting anything less than cautious. We still stuck close to each other (and Stevie's air horn) during the crossing.
The last picture of the day - G. at the Fire Island Light. Lovely to see it flashing in the fog & he'd been looking forward to getting his picture taken in front of it all day - in fact I think he may have been figuring making sure we didn't miss the lighthouse into our rethinking of the crossing! Well, we just made it, 10 more minutes & I just don't think the Optio could've managed. Half an hour later, we were pulling into the beach at Kismet where we were met by a VERY happy Commodore - he was worried about his crew out there late in the fog & was so glad to see our lights come out of the dark. We'd rented a couple of apartments at Margarita Villa; not fancy, but hot showers, and beds for all, and our Paddling Chef leaped from his boat, dashed to the grill & produced an incredible steak dinner. Afterwards, there was a walk to the moonlit Atlantic. Who needs more luxury than that? OK, so there was that party that broke out when the neighbors came back at 2 a.m. - but I mostly slept through it.
Morning, Day 3. Here's the "main street" of Kismet, Fire Island - leads to the Atlantic side of the island, where a bunch of us had walked & admired the waves in the full moon for a while the night before. That's Margarita Villa in the foreground on the left - yes, with more fake palms! We'd had our wonderful steak dinner under the umbrella, it was a perfect night for outdoor dining. The local restaurant wasn't open yet when we woke up, and we wanted to get on the water before 9, so we just all dug into our lunch provisions - fruit, nuts, a few hard-boiled eggs, cheese, crackers, salami, sardines - plenty of food for a good morning's paddle. And just as well - the food here is all shipped in by ferry, so a can of soda from a vending machine was $2.50. Can't imagine what an omelette would cost, and this way we were on the water faster, with less to carry.
Last look back at the Fire Island Lighthouse. Notice the water's a little bumpier looking today?
Boats on the beach at Kismet. The forecast today had called for something like 10 knot winds. As that flag shows, it's really looking more like 15 gusting to 20, maybe more - lots of whitecaps out there. And from the north, too - what fun. We are heading west, so that means a nice beam wind & some weathercocking. People are talking skegs, rudders, and how it takes a brave person to admit they need a tow... My Romany has neither skeg nor rudder - handles very well in rough conditions but I was not entirely looking forward to spending the entire day holding my boat on edge, which is what it does sometimes need. Done it before, though, so I'm not really worried - it's just one of those things where the novelty wears off after the first couple of hours. But what a beautiful morning - seems like this was a little bit of a cold front coming through, but not a very cold cold front, and just look how bright everything looks. Nice.
Here's the gang less me - everybody's looking confident & ready to go!
Back in the saddle again. One last shot of G with the lighthouse! BTW the 2 black straps on the back of G's boat are a prototype strap on skeg that he made & is testing out today. I think I may be the only person without some sort of directional assistance. Oh well, I'll deal. (oops, adding later after a reminder at the end - I was not the only rudder or skegless boat - M.'s QCC also had no rudder. This made a significant difference for him).
Dr. A & I heading west. As it turned out, my worries about weathercocking were baseless - partly because of the fact that the Commodore had to get there by ferry. With L., the other half of our ground support, going back to Canarsie after the first night, and having found out that we wouldn't need pads & sleeping bags (having sort of by accident gotten 2 apartments instead of 1, but we were OK with that), we were all able to cut down our stuff quite a bit, and easily carry what was left in our hatches. With a little extra stuff in the boat, the wind had less to grab, the waterline was a little longer, and overall I was moving fine. Dr. A and M. had been our frontrunners for the trip - I was generally right up with them & I was happy to find that today was no exception. In fact I felt great - it's fun when every now and then your bow is tossing up a plume of spray.
ooooh, what a nice day it would have been for a sail, though. I hope the owners of this boat got out later. I was actually verbally abusing some people in a big ketch I saw a little later. They were motoring. "What's wrong with you people! Put your sails up! Why are you wasting gas with a boat like that and a day like this!" Of course they were over a mile away so they couldn't hear me or I might not have been quite as overt with my opinions!
Just look at that sky. Isn't that nice?
Here's the ferry terminal at Cherry Grove. People on the trip who'd spent some time on Fire Island said that the various little resort towns each had their own distinct character - Kismet was sort of artsy, Saltaire I think they said was a little more reserved - Cherry Grove was described as being flamboyant. The biggest rainbow flags, the schnazziest waterfront vacation homes - faaaabulous!
And this has to be the most fabulous place in the whole town. It's like a mini-Versailles. Turns out to be the Belvedere Guest House for Men and for all it looks like a giant Victorian folly, it was really built in 1957. Fun place to see, looming up among the shiny modern vacation villas.
And here's a more subdued little vacation home...nice. Right next door to the Belvedere, see the turrets?
The ferry at The Pines. Not very full today, but I can just imagine the place in the summertime. We were noticing lots of swans along in this area, good sized flocks - they must be gathering to head south.
We stopped for lunch at Davis Park, where we had hopes of getting CHEESEBURGERS. Mmmm. Unfortunately the grill was already closed but I consoled myself with an ice-cream sandwich. 2 funny things happened here. Dr A was way out in front & didn't come back to join us for lunch - he just found his own beach & then met us when we went by, which was sort of what we figured would happen as we watched him dwindle to a speck & vanish. Sort of disconcerting, but he's a pretty independent type & we all knew that by now. M. was 2nd - I had been keeping pace with him. I was confused for a bit - his GPS was saying we had 20 minutes to go. I'd looked at the chart & thought we were almost ther. Turned out that Davis Park, like most Fire Island towns, stretches all the way across the island - we were on the inside shore & the GPS's programming was for the Atlantic side! M. figured it out when the GPS told him to turn right & keep paddling for 15 more minutes when 1 minute would bring him to shore.
There's a big marina at Davis Park, and there appeared to be some sort of big get-together. I just liked this name.
Neat thing about this beach - I had been trying to get a picture of a monarch before, because they were everywhere, migrating, but they don't sit still for long. I don't know if the parks service planted them intentionally, but there were a lot of bushes around here that the butterflies liked so much that they'd actually sit and let you take dozens of closeups while they dined.
This bush was right by our lunch beach, and there would be eight or nine butterflies on it at a time. It was also bordered partway around by poison ivy so I had to wait for the butterflies to land near me -
Vice-Commodore took the chance to catch up on sleep a bit. Margarita Villa was a nice place to stop, but Kismet has only 2 dining establishments - the Inn, and the Out (yes, really!). The Out appears to just be a lunch spot but the Inn is open later. Must've shut down around 2, and our neighbors came back & continued to party. I slept through most of it, but I think the guys in the other apartment got the worst of it. P. was pooped - and here was the perfect spot to nap.
Time to launch - the tide's been going out and our launch site is now an entertaining distance away! There goes G. -
Followed by Paddling Chef. He'd been feeling slow in the morning but a hearty lunch, some painkillers & some caffeine & sugar got him back to normal. The post-lunch plan was that we'd string out into groups intentionally - this had been happening anyways, and that way one group would arrive & would have made some progress towards loading on the trailer before the next wave arrived. Funny how the groups sorted themselves out - you'll see that at the finish. We had I think it was 8 miles to go; it was about 2 and we called the commodore with a conservative ETA of 5:30 - 6:00. Scaring your commodore once by underestimating your travel time is enough for one trip.
I didn't take a lot of pictures during the last leg - I got very focused on getting there. I actually had to remind myself that we were paddling along a wildlife refuge & that I should be paying attention & enjoying, not just racing for the barn. There was an air show going on near Smith Point - they wrapped up as we were approaching & here they got!
Here we are at Smith Point! We'd split into 3 groups & one singleton. The single was Dr. A - he was out in front, on a roll & G. & I (the next 2) watched as he tooled on past the appointed harbor & on under the bridge beyond - he just needed a little more! Here's the next 3 after that approaching - I., the Chef, and the Vice-Commodere. Being so early, the Commodore (who was meeting us here with the trailer) wasn't expecting us, so no pictures of me & G. coming in. I started sorting out my stuff for the trailer trip - then suddenly realized that I should be taking some pictures!
Looking the other way, here comes Dr. A back from his past-the-bridge exploration
Dr. A hits the beach! Oh, that pesky jetski, I tried to get it out of as many shots as I could but in this case there was no avoiding it.
And here come the next 3. I. had made a bet that she'd be on the beach by 4:45. I think it's 4:44 - look at her go!
Pileup on the beach, but they made it right when she said they would -
We did it!
Moving the boats off the beach - here comes our last pair, M & S. McA. OK - remember how I mentioned that M was the only other person without a rudder? Well, that ended up making his life interesting & offered an interesting demo of how much ballast & trim affect a kayak's performance in less-than-perfect conditions. He had been out in front for most of the trip, including all of the 3rd morning, he's in a fast QCC which he'd ballasted with sand for the morning wind. At lunchtime, with the wind easing, he lightened his load - but then it picked up again just enough to push him around & he had to work a lot harder. He made it though, of course.
Welcome to Smith Point!
Hail, hail, the gang's all here! Year 1 completed, no problem. Time for beer, dry clothes, and sorting things out for the drive back to Canarsie - not necessarily in that order, but all at some point.
Last boat on the beach - S's new Nordkapp (well, used, but new for him & I think he was happy with it). There's the bridge. Dr. A took himself a sneak preview, but hopefully we'll all be back here next year, when it's Montauk or bust! I hope we have weather half as nice - it just hurt to go to the office over the next few days in perfect paddling weather & think how nice it would've been to keep going - more to look forward to, though.
Checking in at home!
Here's a happy crew. Trailer loaded, ready to go, and we'll all be home in our own beds at a decent hour.
Smith Point Marina - says so right there! Can't wait for next year. Montauk Ho!