Kayaking Around Montauk Point, and Dolphins!

A group from Sebago is doing a five-year circumnavigation of Long Island. I missed the first year of the paddle, but joined last year (write up here), and by the end of last year's leg of trip, the group had made it from our clubhouse in Brooklyn out to Georgica beach in East Hampton (where I used to hang out back in the late 1980's while working for Bran Ferren).  We ended up losing a day last year due to severe weather, so the plan this year was to try and make it from East Hampton around Montauk point and up to Orient Point (see draggable/zoomable Google map here).  I always thought covering that distance in three days was pretty ambitious, especially with September weather and since this leg covered the crux of the trip--rounding the completely exposed Montauk point.  In addition, this is the most beautiful part of Long Island, and the part that was most interesting to really look at and experience.

The weather was looking a bit iffy for this year, (geeky weather discussion prior to our departure here), but the forecast was for things to improve over the course of the weekend, so we went for it. I headed out from the club on Thursday afternoon in the early group with our excellent and indispensable ground crew chief John:

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We set up camp at Hither Hills state park, and then, exhausted and hungry, headed out and stumbled upon a very nice dinner at the Surfside Inn.  As predicted, the winds built and built over night (apparently gusts over 30MPH), and my whole tent was flexing and shaking.  When we woke up, the ocean looked like this:

Bonnie has some great video here too.  Paddling 20+ miles on the ocean was not really an option that day, so we thought we might be able to sneak in behind the south fork and paddle from Montauk harbor over towards Shelter Island.  But that stretch of water looked (and sounded) like this:

The waves looked manageable, but the winds out of the east were just crazy strong, and I certainly didn't feel comfortable heading out with a group of nine into those kind of conditions. And so, that left us with only one choice: BOWLING!

And, later, great food, courtesy of our chef and trip leader Steve:

The group stayed in good spirits despite the relentless wind and rain, and the next morning, things had improved dramatically. The ocean was still a bit churny, so we jumped ahead in our circumnav route and did the paddle from Montauk harbor:

over to Cedar Point near Shelter Island:

This was a beautiful paddle, and I was hanging out in the back taking in the scenery and taking a bunch of photos.  We crossed a sandbar south of Gardiner's Island:

And paddled along cliffs:

Right up along the shore, playing in the rocks, and then by an old light house:

By the end of the 21.6 mile trip, things had calmed down quite a bit:

We had a nice lobster dinner at the campground that night, and then the next morning the surf was much better. But we decided, due to the tide situation, that we would put in at Montauk harbor once again, and paddle clockwise around the point.  This had the benefit of getting around the point (about which I had always been nervous) while we were all still fresh. 

Low tide at the point was at 8:30am, so we put in at 8am.  Of course, so did every other fishing boat, and between the wind, tides, and wakes, the water around the harbor entrance was a bit crazy. I didn't get any video but I snapped a couple quick photos:

When the sun occasionally poked in, it was beautiful:

And we made it around the point!

The next stretch, with crossing swells, was a bit difficult for me, but after pumping water out of my boat (every time a wave washes across my deck a little goes inside) we landed on a very nice beach for lunch:

Heading out:

Right after I shut this video off, a set of big waves came in, capsizing one of our group.  But otherwise, the conditions were excellent:

We passed Montauk town, and I thought I saw a fin up in front of me, and it was!  Two schools of dolphin were fishing right around us. It was mesmerizing, they swam along with us for probably 20 minutes.

The dolphin eventually chased their fish somewhere else, and then, gradually, the wind shifted from the north to the southwest (in our faces), and got quite a bit stronger.  Our progress (especially mine) was slowing, and after about 17 miles we made it back around to Hither Hills, our campground.  There, a couple group members were having back pain and decided to make up the remaining distance to East Hampton at some other time.  I was feeling pretty crappy myself, but I really wanted to complete the south fork part of the trip and was willing to keep pushing on, albeit slowly.  We rafted up and I jumped overboard to stretch out (ironically, it's my legs that kill me on these long trips--being crammed into that cockpit for long periods just kills me).  At 20 miles, with 9-10 still to go (we lost mileage rafting up) we did the calculations and realized that we would not be able to get back to East Hampton before sunset. And surf landing in the dark is not something I would want to attempt.  We were right at the eastern end of Napeague State park at that point, where there were still roads and some beach access, so we decided to call it a day at that point.

We also conveniently pulled out right near the famous Lobster Roll, so we had dinner there and headed back, and it took me a couple days to get everything dried out.

Personally, I'm not disappointed that we didn't make it all the way back to East Hampton, since that means I have yet another excuse to go there and paddle in the ocean. We completed the most difficult part of the trip, and, most of all, had a good time.  So maybe it will take six years to get around--who cares?

Thanks once again to Steve for leading, and special thanks to our indispensable ground crew of John, Linda, and Cody! 

Many more geo-tagged photos here.