Kayaking The Great South Bay/Fire Island (Part II) and Jones Beach Island

As I wrote earlier, I'm part of a group which is doing a multi-year circumnavigation of Long Island.  I missed Year 1 of the trip, and have been working through the parts I missed.  On Thursday, August 11th, I made up the remaining part of the route along the north side of Fire Island:


The weather was great--warm and dry, and I had the headwind on the way out, which led to a tail wind coming back.  I put in after high tide, and stopped for my first break at a cool little island:

Here's the same little channel on the way back near low tide:

I talked to this commercial clammer on the way out:

He was still at it when I paddled back, some six hours later!  Very nice guy, he was very interested in clamming sustainably.

I made it to Barrett Beach/Talisman, my target!

There was a commercial fisherman offshore:

The out and back paddle was about 22 miles.

This past Wednesday, John W and I paddled the distance from Captree State Park back to Jones Beach Field 10 (both are legal kayak launch spots, although we had to argue this point at the Captree entrance gate):

We timed the tides pretty well but had some surprisingly strong flood current at this bridge near Captree:

Passed by some cool summer houses accessible only by boat:

I got as close as I could to the Jones Beach Theatre, where Journey was playing (I saw Journey in 1978) (that's a chain in the foreground):

It was a great day overall, and a little navigation error coming back from the bay where the theatre was (see the loop in the GPS track) put the mileage at about 19 miles.

More photos here and here.

Makeup Paddling Around Long Island

For the last three years, I've been part of a group from Sebago Canoe club which is undertaking a multi-year circumnavigation of Long Island.  Last year, I had to quit a day early due to my shoulder hurting from recent surgery; I made up 1/2 of that trip last September with our excellent ground crew leader John W. This year, on July 25, John and I made up the rest of that trip with another bike-kayak biathalon, this time between Wading River and Mt. Sinai:

We started in the shadow of the defunct Shoreham Nuclear plant, which was first brought online in the late 80's (when I was living on the East End of Long Island), but shut down shortly thereafter:

It got a bit rainy, but we planned the currents well and made good time...

And, hungry after the 10 mile paddle and hilly 12 or so mile bike ride, we stumbled into an amazingly good homemade dinner at "The Pizza Pie" in Wading River.

I joined the around LI group on its second year, so I also have several days of paddling from the first year to make up. I was hoping to do some of it last year, but my shoulder surgery got in the way.  But yesterday, I started whittling away at it, this time solo, since none of my paddling partners were available.  I put in at Captree State Park (where I've paddled before), and headed east, along the north side of Fire Island:

There are strong currents by Captree due to the nearby Fire Island inlet, and so I studied the tides pretty carefully and timed it to get about a 3 mph push east.  The conditions were great, but the power boat traffic in that area is pretty intense, and I was immediately confronted with a parade of fishing party boats coming out of Captree. Fortunately, much of the Great South Bay is very shallow, so the boats tend to stick to the channels, so I stayed to the north on the way out.  My path is a bit jagged due to the channel crossings, which were sort of like running across a busy highway (see video below).

I was getting tired, but with 4 miles left showing on the GPS, I pushed to my chosen target, about 1/2 way down Fire Island: Barrett Beach.  This is a beautiful spot, accessible only by boat or by a long walk  from one of the surrounding communities.   On the bay side are picnic tables:

A quick walk across the dunes (this is apparently the thinnest part of Fire Island) brings you to the ocean:

I jumped in the ocean, and had lunch while drying off.  I headed back towards Captree, and along the way stopped by the Sunken Forrest, which apparently had its dock destroyed at some point.  It was high tide, and there wasn't really any place to leave my boat, so I pushed on.  I passed by Ocean Beach, where my father spent his summers, and stopped to check out the Appalachian Mountain Club's cabin in Atlantique. I've been an AMC member for probably 20 years, but had never made it out to this really nice facility. 

I pushed on into the sun, and had a bit of a nerve-wracking crossing back to Captree, with so many power boats and big fishing boats whizzing through the channel, and the chop increasing with the current.  But I made it back safe, and in  the end, it was about a 24 mile trip.  Here's a little video of clips that I shot along the way:

(Note: Somehow this video got an unintended anamorphic stretch--no time to fix it at the moment).

I hope to make up the remaining distance across the eastern part of Fire Island soon...

The Mattituck-Shoreham Biathalon

As I detailed here, last weekend I was part of a group paddling around Long Island, but I had to bail out on the last because of my shoulder surgery.  I wanted to make up at least some of the distance this year, so I suggested a trip to John W, our tireless ground crew chief, who for the trip has only been able to see the Long Island shoreline from land. We concocted a kayaking and biking plan so that we could do the trip with just one car. 

We drove out, dropped my bike at our takeout spot near Shoreham, and then drove to Mattituck and put in there. We paddled about 17.5 miles back to Shoreham and landed in the middle of a wedding party in formal wear (the second time I've done that this season--the last time was on the east river).  Then on the bike I raced the sunset back to Mattituck, which was about 20 miles by road.  I picked up the car, and then drove back to Shoreham to pick up John W. 

This all made for the strangest GPS track I've ever had (biking and kayaking only shown):

The paddle was fun, I even managed to scrape a whole lot of gel coat off the bottom of my boat in a little rock garden:

More photos here.

Kayaking Around Orient Point

This is the third year I've paddled with a group from Sebago Canoe Club, circumnavigating Long Island, one weekend per year.  Last year, we paddled around Montauk Point (and saw dolphins!), ending near Cedar Point Park on the south fork. The year before, we started at Smith Point and made it through the Shinnecock canal and along the ocean. 

This year, due to the logistics of moving cars from the south fork to the north fork, the plan was to skip ahead a bit and put in near Orient Point, and come back individually later to make up the missed segment.  However, on Friday morning, we awoke to a forecast of north winds gusting to 20 knots, meaning that we would have had strong winds from our right as we made it along the shore. This wasn't really a safety issue, as the winds were onshore and the water was very warm, but it would have made for a miserable slog and--most importantly--not much fun.  So, we made the decision to instead start back at Cedar Point and paddle north into the wind in the (relatively) more protected Gardiner's Bay. We still had really choppy conditions, and through all the big chop I couldn't take my hand off the paddle to get any photos except when it calmed down a bit:


With the new plan we got to Orient Point as the current was ripping through, and we decided to call it a day. Several members of the group went out and played in the rip, as I watched jealously from the shore (I'm recovering from shoulder surgery and didn't want to take any chances).

The next morning, we launched at the low tide, and conditions at the point were much calmer.

Rounding the point, though, as the tide started coming in and again with strong north winds, we got some 3-5' (my guess--I was looking up at the tops of some of the swells from the trough and my head sits about 3' above the waterline) confused seas, probably the most technical paddling of the entire trip so far.  I shot this video and the pictures below in some of the easier parts (Note, I rested the camera on the deck which was at an angle--when the horizon looks flat I'm edging a lot to the right. Also note my water bag compressing due to the G forces at the bottom of the waves):

I made it through fine (actually, it was fun), but there were several capsizes. The group handled the rescues (including a beach landing) really well, and I got to practice my Wilderness First Aid hypothermia assessment training with the multi-capsize victim. After regrouping, we put in again, and the winds and tide eventually died down--and it became like a completely different day, with just beautiful, easy paddling.

We stopped for lunch right when the tide was ripping into Goldsmith's Inlet (I didn't get any photos) and we got to play around in that, which was really fun.  And right when I finished my lunch, an ice cream truck showed up!  We paddled on, next to the beautiful coast line, making it to Mattituck inlet.

I had rotator cuff repair surgery this spring, and wasn't able to even start paddling at all until mid July. And by the end of this long 24 mile day of paddling, my shoulder was pretty sore--Stevie, an expert instructor in the group actually could tell my shoulder was hurting just by watching me paddle.

Knowing that the group was set on making big mileage on the last day, I decided to bail out, and feeling the pain in my shoulder yesterday morning, I knew that I had made the right decision. But I was sad to lose that day with the group, which made it nearly to Port Jefferson.  Driving home along the shore, I caught the group from two different beaches, but they were so far off shore that you can't even make them out in the photos unless you zoom into the raw photo:

Here's approximate tracks of the first two days:


Many more pictures here, and I'm sure Bonnie will have a write up soon.  I'll post better GPS tracks when I get them (I lent my GPS's to the group for the last leg).

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:


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.