I can feel that the bout with dehydration is over. Strength and clear thinking seems to be restored this morning. However, my nice feelings spun into fear within minutes of seeing my neighbors heading out on the water to make the trip back to Cow Island, where Rippleffect is located. For those of you just joining me, I’ve been enjoying the company of ten kayaks worth of kids and three kayaks of adults. Two of the adults are parents, one with a young child paddling a tandem kayak. Last but now worrisome, Scott and Emily.
My heart is pounding as I watch the scene unfold before me. Thirteen kayaks heading out on seas they have no business being out on. VHF radio weather report as of ten thirty am broadcasted the following, “Rain in the morning into the mid-afternoon with possible thunder showers. Small craft advisory from Port Clyde to Cape Elizabeth. Winds 17 knots with gusts to 21 knots, Seas 5-7 feet every 7 seconds.” It is eleven twenty. What in the world are they doing?
[17 to 21 knots is = to 19 to 24 mph. A knot is speed according to the nautical mile, 6,076 feet.]
I move to the shore to keep watch, VHF radio in hand ready to call out a Mayday, “In need of Immediate Assistance” to the Coast Guard. So far they were in relatively “calm” water, being that they were still in what I would call a Cliff Island Buffer Zone. I watch the group spread out as they struggle against the wind and the tide of which the top of High Tide is an hour away. The sky is awash in a pale gray while a low stratus front approaches from the west. The sea is a dirty darkish tan topped with thin strands of white, making it difficult for me to spot several of the kayaks, especially the two stragglers whose crafts are a dark blue.
The entire group becomes one long serpentine line. I lose sight of each one in the low troughs between the short-lived swells but not at once. I count them from front to back and then the last third two or three times over before going back to the front of the group. The only reason I haven’t called the Coast Guard yet is that there are two sizable lobster boats nearby. One is in the harbor with men on board and the other is out where the group is going, beyond all buffer zones. It is truly at sea and all but the top of its cabin disappears between the swells and constantly breaking waves out there. However, I will make the call if they approach Green Can 24 which is the point of no return from Cliff Island’s Buffer zone. They were heading right for it. Thankfully, the group turned around with time to spare.
I still remain on watch, counting kayaks over and over until they are in truly safe waters. My heart still pounds as I make a dash for their camp and the landing zone within Cocktail Cove. One by one each kayak rolls in with its paddler on board. None of them have spray skirts. The kids are in shorts and t-shirts, soaking wet and laughing, while hauling their crafts up on the island. They had a blast! The leaders file in last. Scott is in full dry gear and wearing a skirt. He also has a VHF radio in his life jacket pocket. What?
I have no intention of embarrassing Scott so I wait until the kids are out of earshot. The question of why he took the group out is posed quietly and with respect. His answer, “to see what it was like.” I gently point my VHF radio at the one tucked in his vest saying, “That’s what this is for.” I leave things with that and walk back to my camp. Now that I’m relaxed, I need to pee!
That bit of relief done, I crawl inside my tent, grab my journal and begin writing out a list. The finished product reads the weather and conditions of the sea as reported by the VHF prior to the group’s departure. Followed by visual aids that also could have made for an easy understanding of “seeing what it is like” without leaving the island.
Buoys lying flat on the water – direction and strength of tidal current.
Wall of stratus clouds heavy with moisture approaching from west and already over the water.
The Lobster boat bobbing up and down like a small toy, falling nearly out of sight in the troughs between swells far larger than what is between Jewell and Cliff Islands. (It’s always at least five times worse than views from within protected islands.)
Last is the weather report via VHF, written in detail.
The kids noisily walk by still happy and laughing with Emily in tow. This my cue. I walk over to their camp where I find the couple drinking coffee and Scott standing on his high shoreline ground looking out over the water. Scott, do you mind if I offer some advice? YES, please do. He says this in an eager tone, ready and willing to learn from his mistakes. I had torn the list from my journal and handed it to him. We went over it slowly item by item. I ask Scott if he realizes the danger he put himself and the kids in. A sober yes is his answer. And then, he fires away with more questions and I become more and more impressed with this young man. His ego is not bruised. He is not embarrassed. He understands and wants to learn all he can. Remarkable. Ten minutes later the stratus clouds arrive unloading a drenching downpour. My cue to run ‘home’.
The green dots on Jewel Island represent our camps. Mine is inland by the wharf and their’s is near the cove. The red line represents route outbound. The blue line is route back. The green circle near the turning point of the routes is around Green Can 24. The two Black “X” are the location of the Lobster Boats.
“It takes just one wave to capsize a boat, and one more to take it down.”
― Federico Chini, The Sea Of Forgotten Memories
The sea cares not for mankind,
nor the “unsinkable” ships we build.
Posted on March 14, 2015, in Casco Bay, Jewell Island, Maine, Kayaking, Maine Coast, Solo Journeys, Twenty One Days at Sea, Weather and tagged Atlantic Ocean, Sea Kayaking, weather. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.