Talk about feeling small when you stand beside the ocean (yes, it’s a line from “I Hope You Dance,” by Lee Ann Womack). Last weekend’s big windstorm turned the Atlantic into raging sea meringue with peaks 24 or more feet tall charging ashore in suicidal fashion. Sustained winds of 40 mph from the west-southwest sheared off the wave tops, spewing a haze into the air.
At Schoodic Point the agitated mountains met rocky cliffs, charging at times into the air in explosive bursts lasting five or more seconds as white walls of water were transported hundreds of feet by the winds. Every ledge 9 miles east to Petit Manan Island was engulfed in froth as the giant waves bulldozed their way past, pushed by winds gusting to 55 mph.
On shore, walking was difficult. Those who defied the blasts at the parking lot at Schoodic while trying to get pictures of the raging surf looked unsteady on their feet – like bar patrons at closing time. Spray doused onlookers even in the upper parking lot. People who did get out of their cars didn’t remain outside for long. Winds knocked people around and shook their cars.
Saturday into Sunday’s wind broke off dozens of trees and limbs along the shore drive turning the loop road into a greenway. Hundreds of vehicle-bound gawkers slowly snaked their way along the one-way road, stopping whenever an ocean vista opened up to marvel at the angry sea.
Navigational buoys rose up on the peaks of waves like sky-bound ICBMs only to disappear seconds later into the trough between waves. Mark and Turtle islands looked at times like they would disappear under white shrouds. Little Moose Island did its best to withstand the onslaught. At times, though, sections disappeared under sea foam blankets. Arey Cove was entirely white, its centerpiece a moving tower that reared up and curled over in thunderous crashes.
Yes, you feel really small when you stand beside the angry ocean. It’s humbling, and this wasn’t even a storm of major proportions.
After an hour or so of being humbled, my wife and I decided to check out Blueberry Hill and the short hike up The Anvil. Getting out of the car was a challenge, and I had to hold onto the tailgate window to keep it from being ripped into the air as I grabbed my pack and jacket from the back.
The trail up The Anvil showed some erosion from Saturday’s deluges, and here and there a tree tilted overhead, but otherwise the short hike proved to be just the ticket for the day and the weather. From atop the view out over Arey Cove to the southwest and Schoodic Harbor to the east was fantastic, even if one had to hang onto a tree or two to stand up in the gusts.
We didn’t spend long atop The Anvil, but I made a mental note to come back and hike over to Schoodic Head, maybe when there’s some snow on the ground. There’s something special about being near the ocean and snowshoeing. We’ve walked Petit Manan Point and Great Wass Island in the winter and both were fantastic.
The drive back up Schoodic to Wonsqueak provided vista after vista of the roiling ocean. By the time we got back to Winter Harbor, we decided food was a priority and stopped at the market in town for sandwich makings. Then we headed to Grindstone Neck and parked at the southern tip to watch the gulls play in the surf and the waves wrap around and lick at the southern end of Mark Island.
With just minutes remaining in the day, we scooted back over to Schoodic to watch the orange sun get extinguished in the maelstrom.
If it were not for the fact that the winds had been so destructive and people were left without power for so long, I’d say I couldn’t wait for the next big windstorm so I can plan a return to Schoodic and watch the surf. But I know there’ll be another opportunity and I can wait.
Seasonal gear cleanup
When I was playing in the wind and spray at Schoodic Sunday, I put on one of my paddling jackets. It has a hood and provided wind and spray protection as I marveled at the breaking waves. It kept the salt spray at bay. My only regret was that I didn’t put on one of the several pair of spray pants I had in the back of my car.
Getting wet with salt water proved a good reminder to me to think about cleaning up my kayaking gear and boats for the winter. My plans are to get as much as possible cleaned up and stored for the winter before it gets too cold to do it comfortably and before I’ve stored the hose for the winter.
Besides, doing maintenance, cleaning, and repair of gear now means I’ll be able to grab it and go next time a paddling opportunity arises.
There’s a good summary of gear care on the NRS Web site, along with suggestions of boat and equipment care products. I’ll borrow some from them and some from my experience with gear over the past 10 or more years and try to pass along some relevant tips. Here we go.
If your boat is inflatable, NRS says to clean and dry it, apply 303 Protectant and store the boat partially inflated and off the floor and away from rodents looking for a nesting place for the winter. If you don’t have enough room to store the boat partially inflated, NRS says, roll it loosely to try to prevent sharp creases.
If your kayak has a rigid hull, give it a good cleaning with soapy water and rinse it off. Pay particular attention to your deck lines and bungees to be sure they are intact, not frayed. Now’s a good time to replace the defective ones. If you do, use reflective deck line for an added measure of safety when paddling in low-light situations. Retro-reflective tape patches placed on either side of the bow and stern and on your paddles are also something to consider while you’re in the maintenance mode and your hull is clean.
Polyethylene hulls could use a good application of 303 Protectant before being stored away. It’s good to fasten your hatch covers and put on a cockpit cover to keep out the multi-legged critters. Some folks say the best way to store a kayak is on end, in a corner. I don’t have a facility tall enough for that, and besides, I’d need at least three corners.
The next best way to store a kayak is to hang your boat by webbing straps with the boat turned on its side. The wider the strap the better, and space the straps so they’ll be close to the area of your bulkheads.
Don’t hang your boat by the end toggles. You might find next spring that you’re the proud owner of a banana boat. If you have to store the boat on a rack, put foam cushioning on the rack and space the arms of the rack so that they are under the bulkheads where there’ll be more support. Poly boats can “oil can” (dent) if stored improperly. Don’t fill your boat with other junk.
If your rack is outdoors, cover it or your boat securely with a tarp, and be sure hatches and cockpit cover are in place (critters need shelter and what better place than your boat’s innards). And make sure the rack is in a place where snow won’t fall from a roof or overhang down onto your boat -ditto for tree branches.
Give your paddles a cleaning, too. If your paddle is a take-apart (two or more pieces), wipe the ferrule(s) and check the locking mechanism. Metal springs may have rusted a bit. Fine steel wool and some household oil will revive them.
For paddle clothing, check the care tag and cleaning instructions. Breathable items should be hand washed. Something like ReviveX Fabric Cleaner may be needed to remove dirt or stains. There are also products that will help revive the durable waterproof coating on some fabrics. It’s best to use a product that your garment maker recommends so you’re not voiding warrantees or ruining your expensive equipment.
If you use a wetsuit or other neoprene gear, wash it with Wetsuit Shampoo by Aquaseal or something like it. If you happen to have forgotten to wash out your neoprene booties, try this stuff or MiraZyme Gear Deodorizer, a blend of 10 enzymes, microbes, and other organics that kill odor. If these don’t work and you can’t kill the funkiness, try the nearest landfill and give them a decent burial. Make a note to yourself that when you buy replacements, you’ll rinse them out thoroughly after every use in the future.
A drysuit presents several cleaning opportunities since it usually is made from a breathable, waterproof material; has latex neck, wrist, and ankle gaskets, and has a waterproof zipper. Clean the material as per manufacturer’s recommendations, wipe the gaskets with 303 Protectant, and use a product such as Zip Care Zipper Cleaner and Lubricant. This stuff is supposed to be good on all metal zippers, including those on waterproof bags, tents and backpacks, gear bags, and more.
Your spray skirt could fall into several material categories. Neoprene spray decks, nylon or breathable tunnels, total neoprene, or all nylon are how most are made. A good rinsing after every use will go a long way in keeping this key piece of equipment serviceable. Make sure it’s dry when you store it away for the season. Should it not be dry, mildew just might be your companion, and no one I know likes it.
The most important piece of gear you have is your lifejacket. They don’t last forever. Check the zipper for wear and look for frayed or torn fabric. You can’t repair it. Replace it. If everything looks fine, give it an application of 303 Protectant. (This stuff acts as a sunscreen, among other things, to help minimize fabric deterioration from the sun.)
Finally, go over all your safety gear. First aid kits may need to be restocked, throw and tow ropes should be sound, water filters may need a new element, coolers may need a good cleaning as do all your hydration toys. Use a dilute bleach solution of a tablespoon of unscented chlorine bleach in a gallon of water to disinfect and then air dry them.
And finally, gather your camping gear for a seasonal assessment. If you plan on late fall or winter camping, set that equipment aside in the active pile. The lighter summer tent and equipment should be given the once over and stored in a dry place. As for the winter stuff, set aside a few hours when you can clean it, lubricate it, test it, and make sure it’s all in good working order. You don’t want to be caught in a cold-weather scenario with a stove that won’t light, a sleeping pad and bag that won’t keep you warm, or a tent with broken poles.
Jeff Strout’s column on outdoor recreation is published each Saturday. He can be reached at 990-8202 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.