After sometime I finally got up and went out for some exploration of where I landed the night before. I knew there was a historic lighthouse to see. The one that helped to guide me across the Maurice Cove.
|East Point Lighthouse|
I traveled along way to see a plaque which resembles the one I walk past everyday at my home, Schaumboch's Tavern.
Some cool facts about the lighthouse. Built in 1849 and was originally a lamp that burned whale oil.
I then ventured to see what I could see. My first pelagic species! A Northern gannet reasonably close to shore diving into the surf. I have only had the pleasure of viewing this species a handful of times but their strong flight and plunging always impress.
Several shorebirds, 11 dunlin? with one other paler species accompanying them; 2 cardinals; 2 harriers, one female and one juvenile; a handful of distant ducks?
I have phone service so I make a call or two. Again, the conditions are not optimal for paddling, but they are expected to only get worse. This had now become a race, a race against the opponent of nature. The one opponent that I know better than to challenge.
I then venture in to see my hosts. I was camped outside their home. Rita and Richard St. Aubyn. Rita was not too sure about me the night before. I don't blame her, in my space suit and saying I have come ashore out of the darkness of the Bay by paddling. When I approached their door I at least took off my garbage bagged hands. I was told by the Mathis prior that this seemed really bizarre.
Let me explain. It is cold and wet out. I am wearing gore-tex mountaineering gloves. These are designed for cold weather dealing with ice and snow. They are only water resistant and these constant wet conditions eventually got my gloves soaked through. So, one evening I spent sometime drying them out and then created a waterproof barrier with a garbage bag and duct tape. Yes, I had a full roll of duct tape and I threw 2-3 garbage bags into one of my dry bags prior to departure. Experience and time afield have taught me that there are a few items that are good to have along on extended trips. These are two of those items. It worked very well, but from the outsider, I am sure, looked a little strange.
Richard and Rita have a fantastic view of the Bay from their living room window. I spent sometime showing them the website and talking about Hawk Mountain. I also looked up weather and got some input from my hosts, which was my best source for that spot. It was very windy most of the day, winds were from the south. Great a headwind! They mentioned this time of year they are always from the south, and it is always windy. More great news. The long term weather forecast called for rain and wind and then in the block of Tuesday and Wednesday, just big print across both days, WINDY! After some more chatting, and their input on the Bay's conditions, I decide that I am going for it. I change out batteries in my running lights and put on my headlamp. Now, I am aware conditions are not great, but I also realize it will be the best I will get.
This a photo of me taking a photo of Richard taking my photo of departing. With my camera and gloved hands wrapped in garbage bags while in a moving canoe, you get the point. Trust me, he is there. Conditions improved at launch time and generally improve during the evening hours when there is less atmospheric turbulence, thus less water turbulence. But I am still heading for an adventure that tests my nerve.
|Here is proof Richard was on his deck, he sent me this photo. Thanks Richard!|
Now launching a loaded canoe into some sort of surf is challenging. The idea is to limit the amount of water that collects in the craft. Water is heavy (8.3 lbs per gallon) and creates instability in the vessel. So when launching into surf you need to push the boat out straight so it cuts the incoming waves and then try to jump in and paddle/push out to get beyond the breaking waves. I have sponges that allow me to remove water from my boat, this works best at shore and is very difficult to do when afloat, you can reach into some of the points that the water collects.
I have the spray deck cover which helps a lot. But the cockpit is wide open and when I am not in it with the skirt component fastened around my waist, this is where the water enters.
I am launched and heading on a bearing towards Reeds Beach. It is an hour prior to dark and I am waiting for lights of distant shores to help guide me. As I mentioned earlier it is now a race.
I had very recent thoughts of making a sort of helmet cam with a hole in a hat and duct tape, but I did not have the time, so I attempted prior to dark to hook a camera into my headlamp and film some paddling out into open water. I reviewed later to discover I only filmed a clouded over sky, you only hear the paddling, oops, it was pointing up, not out.
As darkness once again overtakes the Bay, lights on the far horizon begin to show up. I am looking for the brightest lights of Cape May and the lighthouse (about 20 miles away). At full dark I can make them out and change course.
I AM DOING IT ALL TONIGHT!
This is my best chance for a completion by the 15th. I will get there, stage the boat somewhere close, and paddle/wade/walk it to the finish. I have some sore and tired muscles, Kathy from the Morning Call asked me about training, you know what, that would have been a good idea. Where were you earlier Kathy! But I am feeling one more big night and it is over. Remember, I also have a slight headwind (5 or so mph). This causes a slight chop/roll to the water. The water does not have whitecaps, just swells. What this means is every couple minutes I go over one that is high enough that the boats crests it popping up and over with a slight drop of the bow back down with a tiny slap. The wild thing about this is I don't know when to expect it, because I can't see, the water is just a black void all around me.
About an hour and a half into the evening it begins to rain, I put on my rain hood. All is still OK for a time. Then in about another hour the rain picks up to a squall and I lose all sight of any lights on shore. At first I think, I will see them in a minute, no big deal. But after about five minutes I begin to get a little nervous.
Here it is, I play it safe. I know that the shoreline is to my left. I turn course again and head towards shore, I have my compass available so that I can keep a straight course and I know that by heading immediately left I have a great big amount of land to hit, not just a point that if too far right, miss and paddle out to sea! Yikes!
There it is, the deciding factor that prevented me from paddling a canoe to Cape May by the 15th. That moment when I lost sight of all lights several miles off shore. Now in about ten more minutes lights started to show through the rain again. Then at some point I got another glimpse of Cape May and the lighthouse, But at this time, I had enough, and even by saying I had enough still meant another two plus hours of straight paddling towards the brightest light on shore in the most immediate direction I had towards land. It still felt like a long way till I could stand up and straighten my legs. Land never seemed so important to me.
At a little before 9pm I pull up on the shore of Rutgers oyster research facility. Again, the brightest light from out on the water. What a rush wandering up on shore of somewhere? Where am I kind of feeling? And that is what I did when coming over the high tide bank and approached a young gentleman and woman in front of a facility. "Where am I?" It turns out he was a seasonal employee of the facility and was provided housing on site in a type of dormitory. Thank you to this individual because I was tired, very tired. And was getting cold. And was feeling quite cramped from kneeling for the past 5 or so hours in canoe with no rest, in other words, I really felt old right then and there. He had helped me drag my vessel and store it behind the dormitory. Then gave me directions to a campground/trailer park just in front of their entrance. It was out of season so I just picked a small spot in between vacant trailers and set up.
That was the evening, set up the tent in the rain, ate some dinner, jotted down some notes, and bed.