Buzzard's Bay Bonanza
Monument Beach to Squeteague Harbor
June 22, 2008
By Nelson Pidgeon
Paddlers: Nelson, Ron, and Chris
Most days the conditions we paddle in are relatively benign, at least they have been for me. You hear lots of how the weather can change quickly leaving you little or no time to find shelter. Again, I've never experienced anything other than a little rain in my four seasons of paddling and even that was expected based on the weather forecast. But every so often the conditions outweigh the forecast and you usually return from your paddle with an exciting tale to tell. It's these paddles that settle into your memory and stay awhile. Sunday the 22nd was one of those days.
Some indecision with trip ideas lead to a last minute posting of a Buzzard's Bay trip from the Monument Beach area in Bourne to Squeteague Harbor. Squeteague is a quaint little harbor nestled deep in the belly of Megansett Harbor in North Falmouth. The day turned out to be chock full of adventure, from textured conditions and a daring rescue at sea, to thunder, lightening and pelting rain, to raptors, crawling things and large beasts on the shore. There was a little something to tantalize the mind, body and soul... a truly memorable adventure.
I picked up Ron at our usual Route 3 location then headed south under the careful guidance of the British woman who was being held captive inside my Garmin Nuvi. The weather forecast for Buzzard's Bay was 10-15 mph winds from the South with 2 to 3 foot seas and the possibility of showers in the afternoon.
The put in at the end of Rose Ln. in Bourne is a great place to launch; it's quiet, scenic and has plenty of parking. We were early but as usual, Chris was already there and dressed. We made quick work of getting ready and were on the water before noon. Pointing our bows towards Wings Neck the forecast as predicted was confirmed. We had a moderate wind and an occasional blast of sea spray in our faces. The paddle towards Wings Neck was a bit of a slog but we'd rather have it on the way out rather than on the way back. At Wings Neck we were exposed to more fetch and refracting waves off the point. The swells were coming from the SW (no surprise there) and averaged one to two feet with an occasional white horse here and there. The paddling was definitely not boring and everyone seemed to be enjoying the ride, especially Ron.
Crossing Red Brook Harbor from Wings Neck to Scraggy Neck the conditions picked up some. Larger swells, more often and from numerous directions added to the excitement of the ride. We were all anticipating our exhilarating return back to the put in. Passing Scraggy Neck got even more confused and by now we were looking forward to a little less slog and a little more slide. We turned into Megansett Harbor and immediately felt the increase in speed. We weren't able to get any great rides but it was a nice change of pace (literally). Since the opening to Squeteague Harbor was not obvious we grouped up to check the chart while being entertained by a kite surfer who would occasionally get airborne. Once we knew where we were headed we rode a few more waved deeper into the harbor then turned for Squeteague.
Squeteague Harbor is separated from Megansett Harbor by a long thin arm of land that extends from the back end of Scraggy Neck and Cataumet. Just outside the entrance to Squeteague was the Megansett Yacht Club that was alive with people enjoying the beautiful afternoon. As we rounded the narrow point into Squeteague an old stone bridge caught our eye. We had to recheck our position to confirm that we were still in Massachusetts because it was starting to look a lot like Scotland. We posed in front of the bridge for a few pictures then picked out a spot to have lunch. Ron looked at the south eastern sky and said, “That doesn't look good.” Dark ominous clouds had begun to move in and were hovering over the yacht club but appeared to be moving quickly. We continued on to our lunch spot.
As we neared the shore I notice the sand appeared to be moving. I jumped out of the boat see what it was and found the small beach alive with hundreds of tiny fiddler crabs. The sand sank beneath every step and there were just as many quarter size holes in the beach as there were crabs. We entertained ourselves with the spectacle until the crabs were out of site. The storm grew closer and darker with an occasional far off rumble of thunder. After picking out a spot to sit and getting comfortable with our lunch the rain came with a vengeance. The drops were so big I thought it was hail. Flashes of lightening and rumbles of thunder continued for about fifteen minutes as we watched the storm pass. Although our lunches and bodies were now soggy we were all happy that the storm came when it did and we didn't have to deal with it on the water.
Another interesting thing I noticed while at our lunch spot. A couple of hawk-like birds were hovering over the water, eyes down and with quick short flaps to help keep them in the same spot. I was hoping to see them dive bomb into the sea and ascend with their lunch wriggling in their talons but it never happened. I knew these birds weren't hawks or Osprey, their wing structure was different but still looked familiar to me. I knew it was some sort of raptor but I would have to confirm it in the bird book when I got home. I saw these birds again near the put in on our return trip this time two of them flew by with fish and it was funny to watch them every so often stop flying for a second while their whole body shuddered. Sort of like when a chill goes through your body. I wasn't sure whether the wiggling fish was giving them the chills or if this was a quick way to dig their talons a little deeper into the fish. Whatever the case is, it was fun to watch. Based on what I could find online and in the Field Guide to North American Birds, the only thing that seems to fit what I saw was was a Golden Eagle. I'm not sure if this is correct so if anyone knows the birds of this area and has a better idea of what it might be, please post it on the forum.
With lunch now over and the fiddler crabs slowly returning to their holes we shoved off for our return trip. We checked in with each other to make sure we were all comfortable with the return route and began to punch our way through the waves of the Megansett Harbor and back into Buzzard's Bay where the swells had increased along with the number of breaking waves. This is where the fun began, although it may not have been fun for everyone. We passed Scraggy Neck with a careful eye to our left for that unexpected rogue wave. When we hit Red Brook Harbor Chris headed in and Ron and I followed and regrouped. Chris suggested we paddle into the harbor a bit more before making our next crossing towards Wings Neck, which we did. Once we started the crossing Chris seemed to be heading more NW than north. Ron was headed in the same direction and not far behind him. I continued on my course across the harbor while keeping any eye open for the others. Everyone seemed to be doing fine but the conditions definitely looked bigger where Ron and Chris were. About half way across I looked over and saw the red bottom of Chris' boat and then I saw Chris. I was just about scream a congratulatory yell when I saw the bottom of Chris' boat again and then Chris' head next to it. Ron was there quickly and I pounded my way through the waves to where they were (This was pretty exciting, I thought to myself). When I got there they were trying to maneuver Chris' boat for a T- rescue. We were parallel to the surf and Ron suggested I raft up with him on the surf side for a little more stability which seemed like a good idea. I supported Ron's boat as he emptied the water from Chris'. We put his boat bow to stern with Ron's and Ron and I stabilized Chris' boat while he got back in. We had all this done in about five minutes. In the process, half of Ron's spare paddle came off the deck. I went and grabbed it while Ron helped Chris get situated. We checked in with Chris and he was doing well but we took a few minutes for everyone to gain their composure. I think Chris wanted to ensure that all the water was out of his boat so he suggested we find a place to land in the harbor to check and empty if necessary.
We found a small beach on the southern side of Wings Neck where Ron and Chris landed to get resituated while I stayed off shore to save a little gelcoat. I sat and watched while the swells picked me up and put me down again. A nice size fish floated by me belly up and while I was trying to determine what type it was I found myself getting pushed dangerously close to the rocks. Back in safer water I looked to see what Chris and Ron were up to. They were busying themselves with something in Chris' cockpit totally unaware that a gigantic beast was heading there way. I tried to give them a heads up but they couldn't hear me. Eventually they turned and saw an enormous hairy mass of gray heading toward them followed by a petite young blonde woman. I believe the huge beast was actually an Irish Wolfhound but I'm telling you this thing was massive. From my vantage point he was almost as big as the women was tall. I did my best to take a picture but the conditions made it difficult to get a clean shot and there's nothing else in the shot to help reference the size to. Here's an image that might help.
With Ron and Chris back on the water we continued our course around Wings Neck and back to the put in. We had just passed the lighthouse and were staying fairly close to shore while watching for rocks when Chris realized he liked his boat better with the water in it. Actually, what I think happened was he passed over a rock on a swell but came back down on the rock and teetered over. He was on his side but couldn't get enough leverage to get upright and bailed out. There was a small beach twenty yards away that we regrouped on before making the last leg back to the put in.
We'd finally made it to the part of the day we were looking forward to. We were finally headed in a direction that would have the swells and wind almost directly behind us and we could play all the way back. But wait…. where had all the swells gone, what happened to the wind? Wouldn't you know it… the conditions subsided just when we wanted them most. We still got an occasionally lift here and there to provide a little fun but the big stuff we had hoped would carry us back was gone. Oh well… there's always Padanaram.
(Hey… my spell checker didn't like Padanaram and when I put the mouse over it, it suggested paranormal… that's funny)
Great trip boys! Chris don't let it get you down… you have more tenacity than most of the people in this group. In fact, although the nickname “Shultz” fits you well, Jordan and I agree that “Timex” fits you even better.