Monday September 24 – Day of Risk

John, Nancy and I were up early – John had to attend a bank meeting at 7:30 and I wanted to get an early start.  The kayak had been mostly packed Sunday, so after a few things put away, I was ready to go.  Nancy took some photos that she would mail to Grace.  As I left, I noticed the wind was picking up, even though the creek outside their house was calm.  As I came out of Antipoison Creek, the wind was much stronger than what I was anticipating.  I paddled across Little Bay and through a short cut in Fleets Island that brought me out to the Rappahannock River. Even though I was only a few hundred yards away from the northern shore of the river, the waves were 1 foot high.  This was not what I was expecting.  I continued to paddle west to Mosquito Point, that juts out into the river.  I decided to check out the bridge far to the west, and try to determine if that would be a better alternative.  When I saw how long the bridge was, and saw large whitecaps on the waves passing under that structure, I knew that would not be a better alternative.  I was uncertain how to proceed.  Then a message crossed my mind – “I will see you though to the other side”.  I knew this was a spiritual message from our Lord, and it repeated itself several times.  With little in the way of alternatives at this point, I turned the kayak to the south to the first flashing red buoy.  The distance was about 2.6 standard miles across.  As I proceeded with the freshening wind at my back, I tried to figure out what direction to head towards.  As I reached the first buoy, large swells came into the mix from the Bay to the east.  At the same time, for whatever reason, there appeared irregular large waves heading down the river coming at me from my right.  So I realized with increasing concern that I would have to deal with 3 different wave patterns.  The most consistent were the ever increasing waves from the wind at my back, so I decided to head downwind, following their lead, and focusing my efforts on the other waves.

Before trying to explain what it was like, it is useful to have some understanding of the characteristics of a kayak.  Each paddle stroke will push the kayak to the opposite direction.  When a wave comes behind you at an angle, you will find the kayak moving in the opposite direction, going into the wave but leaning outward.  In order to gain stability, Katie has a skeg, which acts as a dagger board, coming down from the stern (rear) of the kayak.  You can use a paddle blade as a brace, either using the back of the blade to glide over the water (as long as you are moving forward!), or you can pull your paddle through the water at an angle so that it ends up pushing you up as well as powering you forward.  As these waves approach, the kayak wants to tip in various directions, and with my weight and the heavy load, it would normally capsize.  It is up to me and using these various paddle strokes to prevent that capsize.  There were very few boats around in case that happened, so the worst would be that I would have to use my emergency phone to send a distress signal. So let me see if this gives you an idea what it was like for almost 40 minutes.

The kayak is moving forward on the front of a wind wave.  A large wave comes from my left and lifts the kayak up.  I lean into the wave, attempting to counteract the tendency for the kayak to lean to the right.  I use a left power stroke to straighten out the kayak.  The boat gains some velocity, when I see an even larger wave coming from my right. I use a back bracing stroke on my left to get ready for the impact.  A combination of waves from both sides lifts the kayak a couple of feet, giving you the impression of being shot upwards.  At that point, the kayak is very unstable – the skeg is likely out of the water. I try to use a power stroke on the right to get more stability.  There is so much instability, I abandon that power stroke to use a left bracing stroke, and the two waves move on.  I straighten out our direction, so that we are again moving with the wind waves.  What I have described takes just a few seconds, and is repeated hundreds of times during the crossing.

The far shore comes more clearly in view.  I am 1/4 there, then 1/3, then 1/2, then 2/3, and then 3/4.  My brain is no longer thinking – I am on total automatic response.  The whole time I am saying the Rosary, going through two of them, praying out load while experiencing one of the most frightening moments of my life.  I thought several times that I had promised Grace and other friends not to take these kinds of risks, and here I was, with no alternative but to get through it.  As I got closer to the shore, my right leg gives a hint of a charley horse.  My right arm is aching from the exertion.  500 yards away, and I see that I am in shallower water, and with the wind at my back, if I capsize here, I can swim ashore.  Upon reaching the other side of the river, I find a small beach out of the wind, and get out of the boat.  I am totally exhausted from the physical, mental, and emotional effort, and overwhelmed with thanksgiving, for getting across that river.  I spent some time thanking God to having helped me through that experience.  It felt like a graduate course in kayaking.  But the day was not over – it was only beginning.

I paddled through the rough waves and wind coming from my left as I pushed 2 miles to Stingray Point.  There I turned southwest into a great calm.  It was as if the wind and waves had disappeared.  I decided to treat myself to a nice lunch in Deltaville, coming up on my right.  I arrived at a marina, and decided to check out the possibilities.  I tied Katie next to some dinghies where the mud was easy to walk on, and went to the office, where an older gentleman stated that I would have to pay $11 to use any of their facilities, including the use of a bicycle that I would need to get to a restaurant.  I explained what I was doing, and gave him my card, and after a brief conversation, Tom N. nicely waived the fee.  So off I was again on a bike, happily going to lunch.  When I got back, I went to tell Tom that I had returned the bike, and he said he had something for me.  He gave me a copy of a book of poems that he had published about grandfatherhood, and the sea.  He briefly shared with me his life story and growing up in Michigan.  He worked two days a week at the marina, and he called it the best retirement job in the world.  He shook my hand, and genuinely wished me Godspeed.  And with that, I was off to resume the journey.  Next up was the much smaller Piankatank River, but which is still a mile across at the south end of Stove Point.  There I faced the similar weather conditions as that morning, but with smaller, more manageable challenges.  I could not believe I was going through this again, but I approached this challenge with more determination and confidence, albeit that I was more tired.  I continued south until I entered Milford Haven, a piece of water like a river just south of Gwynn Island.  IJohn, Nancy and I were up early – John had to attend a bank meeting at 7:30 and I wanted to get an early start.  The kayak had been mostly packed Sunday, so after a few things put away, I was ready to go.  Nancy took some photos that she would mail to Grace.  As I left, I noticed the wind was picking up, even though the creek outside their house was calm.  As I came out of Antipoison Creek, the wind was much stronger than what I was anticipating.  I paddled across Little Bay and through a short cut in Fleets Island that brought me out to the Rappahannock River. Even though I was only a few hundred yards away from the northern shore of the river, the waves were 1 foot high.  This was not what I was expecting.  I continued to paddle west to Mosquito Point, that juts out into the river.  I decided to check out the bridge far to the west, and try to determine if that would be a better alternative.  When I saw how long the bridge was, and saw large whitecaps on the waves passing under that structure, I knew that would not be a better alternative.  I was uncertain how to proceed.  Then a message crossed my mind – “I will see you though to the other side”.  I knew this was a spiritual message from our Lord, and it repeated itself several times.  With little in the way of alternatives at this point, I turned the kayak to the south to the first flashing red buoy.  The distance was about 2.6 standard miles across.  As I proceeded with the freshening wind at my back, I tried to figure out what direction to head towards.  As I reached the first buoy, large swells came into the mix from the Bay to the east.  At the same time, for whatever reason, there appeared irregular large waves heading down the river coming at me from my right.  So I realized with increasing concern that I would have to deal with 3 different wave patterns.  The most consistent were the ever increasing waves from the wind at my back, so I decided to head downwind, following their lead, and focusing my efforts on the other waves.

Before trying to explain what it was like, it is useful to have some understanding of the characteristics of a kayak.  Each paddle stroke will push the kayak to the opposite direction.  When a wave comes behind you at an angle, you will find the kayak moving in the opposite direction, going into the wave but leaning outward.  In order to gain stability, Katie has a skeg, which acts as a dagger board, coming down from the stern (rear) of the kayak.  You can use a paddle blade as a brace, either using the back of the blade to glide over the water (as long as you are moving forward!), or you can pull your paddle through the water at an angle so that it ends up pushing you up as well as powering you forward.  As these waves approach, the kayak wants to tip in various directions, and with my weight and the heavy load, it would normally capsize.  It is up to me and using these various paddle strokes to prevent that capsize.  There were very few boats around in case that happened, so the worst would be that I would have to use my emergency phone to send a distress signal. So let me see if this gives you an idea what it was like for almost 40 minutes.

The kayak is moving forward on the front of a wind wave.  A large wave comes from my left and lifts the kayak up.  I lean into the wave, attempting to counteract the tendency for the kayak to lean to the right.  I use a left power stroke to straighten out the kayak.  The boat gains some velocity, when I see an even larger wave coming from my right. I use a back bracing stroke on my left to get ready for the impact.  A combination of waves from both sides lifts the kayak a couple of feet, giving you the impression of being shot upwards.  At that point, the kayak is very unstable – the skeg is likely out of the water. I try to use a power stroke on the right to get more stability.  There is so much instability, I abandon that power stroke to use a left bracing stroke, and the two waves move on.  I straighten out our direction, so that we are again moving with the wind waves.  What I have described takes just a few seconds, and is repeated hundreds of times during the crossing.

The far shore comes more clearly in view.  I am 1/4 there, then 1/3, then 1/2, then 2/3, and then 3/4.  My brain is no longer thinking – I am on total automatic response.  The whole time I am saying the Rosary, going through two of them, praying out load while experiencing one of the most frightening moments of my life.  I thought several times that I had promised Grace and other friends not to take these kinds of risks, and here I was, with no alternative but to get through it.  As I got closer to the shore, my right leg gives a hint of a charley horse.  My right arm is aching from the exertion.  500 yards away, and I see that I am in shallower water, and with the wind at my back, if I capsize here, I can swim ashore.  Upon reaching the other side of the river, I find a small beach out of the wind, and get out of the boat.  I am totally exhausted from the physical, mental, and emotional effort, and overwhelmed with thanksgiving, for getting across that river.  I spent some time thanking God to having helped me through that experience.  It felt like a graduate course in kayaking.  But the day was not over – it was only beginning.

I paddled through the rough waves and wind coming from my left as I pushed 2 miles to Stingray Point.  There I turned southwest into a great calm.  It was as if the wind and waves had disappeared.  I decided to treat myself to a nice lunch in Deltaville, coming up on my right.  I arrived at a marina, and decided to check out the possibilities.  I tied Katie next to some dinghies where the mud was easy to walk on, and went to the office, where an older gentleman stated that I would have to pay $11 to use any of their facilities, including the use of a bicycle that I would need to get to a restaurant.  I explained what I was doing, and gave him my card, and after a brief conversation, Tom N. nicely waived the fee.  So off I was again on a bike, happily going to lunch.  When I got back, I went to tell Tom that I had returned the bike, and he said he had something for me.  He gave me a copy of a book of poems that he had published about grandfatherhood, and the sea.  He briefly shared with me his life story and growing up in Michigan.  He worked two days a week at the marina, and he called it the best retirement job in the world.  He shook my hand, and genuinely wished me Godspeed.  And with that, I was off to resume the journey.  Next up was the much smaller Piankatank River, but which is still a mile across at the south end of Stove Point.  There I faced the similar weather conditions as that morning, but with smaller, more manageable challenges.  I could not believe I was going through this again, but I approached this challenge with more determination and confidence, albeit that I was more tired.  I continued south until I entered Milford Haven, a piece of water like a river just south of Gwynn Island.  IJohn, Nancy and I were up early – John had to attend a bank meeting at 7:30 and I wanted to get an early start.  The kayak had been mostly packed Sunday, so after a few things put away, I was ready to go.  Nancy took some photos that she would mail to Grace.  As I left, I noticed the wind was picking up, even though the creek outside their house was calm.  As I came out of Antipoison Creek, the wind was much stronger than what I was anticipating.  I paddled across Little Bay and through a short cut in Fleets Island that brought me out to the Rappahannock River. Even though I was only a few hundred yards away from the northern shore of the river, the waves were 1 foot high.  This was not what I was expecting.  I continued to paddle west to Mosquito Point, that juts out into the river.  I decided to check out the bridge far to the west, and try to determine if that would be a better alternative.  When I saw how long the bridge was, and saw large whitecaps on the waves passing under that structure, I knew that would not be a better alternative.  I was uncertain how to proceed.  Then a message crossed my mind – “I will see you though to the other side”.  I knew this was a spiritual message from our Lord, and it repeated itself several times.  With little in the way of alternatives at this point, I turned the kayak to the south to the first flashing red buoy.  The distance was about 2.6 standard miles across.  As I proceeded with the freshening wind at my back, I tried to figure out what direction to head towards.  As I reached the first buoy, large swells came into the mix from the Bay to the east.  At the same time, for whatever reason, there appeared irregular large waves heading down the river coming at me from my right.  So I realized with increasing concern that I would have to deal with 3 different wave patterns.  The most consistent were the ever increasing waves from the wind at my back, so I decided to head downwind, following their lead, and focusing my efforts on the other waves.

Before trying to explain what it was like, it is useful to have some understanding of the characteristics of a kayak.  Each paddle stroke will push the kayak to the opposite direction.  When a wave comes behind you at an angle, you will find the kayak moving in the opposite direction, going into the wave but leaning outward.  In order to gain stability, Katie has a skeg, which acts as a dagger board, coming down from the stern (rear) of the kayak.  You can use a paddle blade as a brace, either using the back of the blade to glide over the water (as long as you are moving forward!), or you can pull your paddle through the water at an angle so that it ends up pushing you up as well as powering you forward.  As these waves approach, the kayak wants to tip in various directions, and with my weight and the heavy load, it would normally capsize.  It is up to me and using these various paddle strokes to prevent that capsize.  There were very few boats around in case that happened, so the worst would be that I would have to use my emergency phone to send a distress signal. So let me see if this gives you an idea what it was like for almost 40 minutes.

The kayak is moving forward on the front of a wind wave.  A large wave comes from my left and lifts the kayak up.  I lean into the wave, attempting to counteract the tendency for the kayak to lean to the right.  I use a left power stroke to straighten out the kayak.  The boat gains some velocity, when I see an even larger wave coming from my right. I use a back bracing stroke on my left to get ready for the impact.  A combination of waves from both sides lifts the kayak a couple of feet, giving you the impression of being shot upwards.  At that point, the kayak is very unstable – the skeg is likely out of the water. I try to use a power stroke on the right to get more stability.  There is so much instability, I abandon that power stroke to use a left bracing stroke, and the two waves move on.  I straighten out our direction, so that we are again moving with the wind waves.  What I have described takes just a few seconds, and is repeated hundreds of times during the crossing.

The far shore comes more clearly in view.  I am 1/4 there, then 1/3, then 1/2, then 2/3, and then 3/4.  My brain is no longer thinking – I am on total automatic response.  The whole time I am saying the Rosary, going through two of them, praying out load while experiencing one of the most frightening moments of my life.  I thought several times that I had promised Grace and other friends not to take these kinds of risks, and here I was, with no alternative but to get through it.  As I got closer to the shore, my right leg gives a hint of a charley horse.  My right arm is aching from the exertion.  500 yards away, and I see that I am in shallower water, and with the wind at my back, if I capsize here, I can swim ashore.  Upon reaching the other side of the river, I find a small beach out of the wind, and get out of the boat.  I am totally exhausted from the physical, mental, and emotional effort, and overwhelmed with thanksgiving, for getting across that river.  I spent some time thanking God to having helped me through that experience.  It felt like a graduate course in kayaking.  But the day was not over – it was only beginning.

I paddled through the rough waves and wind coming from my left as I pushed 2 miles to Stingray Point.  There I turned southwest into a great calm.  It was as if the wind and waves had disappeared.  I decided to treat myself to a nice lunch in Deltaville, coming up on my right.  I arrived at a marina, and decided to check out the possibilities.  I tied Katie next to some dinghies where the mud was easy to walk on, and went to the office, where an older gentleman stated that I would have to pay $11 to use any of their facilities, including the use of a bicycle that I would need to get to a restaurant.  I explained what I was doing, and gave him my card, and after a brief conversation, Tom N. nicely waived the fee.  So off I was again on a bike, happily going to lunch.  When I got back, I went to tell Tom that I had returned the bike, and he said he had something for me.  He gave me a copy of a book of poems that he had published about grandfatherhood, and the sea.  He briefly shared with me his life story and growing up in Michigan.  He worked two days a week at the marina, and he called it the best retirement job in the world.  He shook my hand, and genuinely wished me Godspeed.  And with that, I was off to resume the journey.  Next up was the much smaller Piankatank River, but which is still a mile across at the south end of Stove Point.  There I faced the similar weather conditions as that morning, but with smaller, more manageable challenges.  I could not believe I was going through this again, but I approached this challenge with more determination and confidence, albeit that I was more tired.  I continued south until I entered Milford Haven, a piece of water like a river just south of Gwynn Island.  II passed the Coast Guard Station and stopped for water at a boat storage facility next door, where two nice young men helped me fill up two bottles from a well on the side of the building.  A mile later, I found a good spot for camping out – a small beach with a woods behind it, away from any houses nearby.

I had paddled a total of 19.4 miles, using my best estimates measuring the chart, and have decided to rate this day a 2, due primarily to the scary crossing of the Rappahannock River.

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2 Responses to Monday September 24 – Day of Risk

  1. John says:

    Great saga. I am following you on Mapquest as best I can, continue to post names of nearby towns. The crossing you describe above was exhausting and I felt for you when you thought a charley horse was coming.

  2. Cecilia Wright says:

    Good Morning Fal,
    I would rate the 24th a 10. You lived through a gut wrentching ordeal. Maybe the idea of forging forward in rough weather could be a 2 but the day was definitely a ten.
    I was so releaved at the end of the comment that you were OK. It certainly will be a strengthening experience and I’m sure God was with you.
    I am going to read your entry to my students they will be mesmerized and I’ll send their comments.
    A few questions so far:
    What will you do if you see a shark? ( OK they are 11 yrs old)
    Have you passed a lot of big boats and does anyone come up beside you in a boat?
    Does your stuff ever dry out?
    Be safe and Godsped
    Cecilia

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