Saturday, June 28, 2014

Returning to Newcastle

On Friday morning I had a few hours to myself and decided to go paddle the loop around Newcastle, a classic route I often paddled years ago that mixes up river, coast and tidal backchannel.  Conditions were near perfect with light wind, abundant sunshine, no boat traffic, very little swell and a flooding tide.

For this trip I packed full standup paddling kit into one bag consisting of 14' race inflatable, 3-piece paddle, leash, PFD, paddling clothing, VHF, water dromedary & drybag.  With a quick inflate of the board, I was on the water by 8:15am, just as the sun was getting high enough to provide some warmth.  I rode the eddies downriver, but upcurrent, since the tidal influence on the Piscataqua River is stronger than the natural current of the river.  Making my way to the Northeast corner of the island, I crossed past the Portsmouth Harbor Light, a station that dates back to 1771 and is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

After stopping for a photo, I ferried across the river mouth into the wind over to the Maine side for a quick stop at Wood Island and a closer look at the structure, which seemed to be in the same condition I remembered it in from 10 years ago.  Run down, but beautiful in the perfect light of the day and the bluebird background.  Another few minutes south put me in the lee behind Whaleback Light, a station dating back to 1820 situated atop the rocks of Whaleback Reef.  Back in the day we used to rush out to the point during big winter storms and watch the waves exploding most the way up this 50ft structure.  It was always an impressive display at how mighty the ocean could be and made you puff your chest up a bit.  Those were fun times living on the coast.  As I write this a memory just popped into my head of taking the old 4runner along the coast roads, swerving to avoid lobster traps in the street and driving under the spray of breaking waves on the sea wall.  Those days of 'stormchasing' were some of the most exciting times living at the beach and were usually followed by cold, blue sky days and large, frigid New England surf.

I continued to reminisce on my way back through Little Harbor, the back channel and along the Portsmouth decks.  Nice look back into paddling days of old!

looking upriver to the Maine side of the river

the view from Pierce Island where I learned to paddle

Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse

Whaleback Light

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