Saturday, December 6, 2008

Into the Wild

I paddled with three friends into the ocean on Thursday. It was my second trip out. It's funny how different it is from paddling in the marsh or on local creeks and rivers. I never feel out of my safety parameters on the other side of the barrier islands, but once you round the end of the jetty holding the inlet open, it's just another world out there. It makes me feel small and helpless, which is both scary and exciting, which is why I wanted to go out there in the first place. I've been keeping my eyes peeled for light wind days with little to no swell. The first time I went out (some 3 months ago) there wasn't much wind, but there was about a 3' swell registering at Frying Pan Shoals and the chop at the mouth of the inlet was pretty substantial. There's so much water moving in several different directions that even with the light wind and relatively small seas, the chop was big enough that my friend and I couldn't see each other at times if there was a wave between us. This most recent day looked promising, with a meager 1' @ 8 second S, and little wind predicted. So I gathered the troops and we met up for the paddle on the backside of WB. As soon as we hit the water it was evident that there was a lot more wind than I expected. We headed up to the inlet and hid behind the southern jetty wall on the paddle out. As soon as we rounded the end (roughly a half mile out) the wind was a major issue. The chop wasn't so large as last time, but there was a consistent 15-20 mph with gusts higher. had the max gust at 27. We headed south into the wind and saw northern gannets and pelicans diving for fish out ahead of us. I'm by far the least experienced paddler in my group, so I was grateful for the companionship and comfortable that we could handle whatever, but I felt on the edge of my skill level also. After about 30 mins of heading into the wind and chop we spun around and made our way back into the safety of the inlet. Following seas feel so much different than taking them in the bow, but I got used to it and even started to play a little and ride the swells. Afterwards we did a run through Hidden Creek to extend the paddle a little. It's amazing how diffent conditions can be with so little geographic seperation between two points. The ocean was a choppy windy mess; the marsh was perfectly glassy and clear. That's what I love about water, it changes all the time. More to come.

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