Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Gentlemen's Trip, 2016

Once again it was time for the annual Gentlemen's Trip, paddle in and out while base camping and dubbing around in boats daily.  This years venue was Aziscohos Lake in Rangeley, Maine a place some of us had been before and a couple hadn't.  Every year the players change and this year we had an excellent group.  Scottb from NH, KayakKen from Florida, Riverstrider from Rhode Island, Johnny from Nuda, New York, Andy from New Jersey, and me from NH. The one thing this meant was there was a very interesting collection of boats but we'll get into that a little later.

September 21, 2016
On Wednesday we met at Black Brook Cove campground were we camped for the night hoping for an early take off in case of winds.   There were some libations and soon after we fell one by one, long day of work for some and then driving and just plain driving for many hours for others.

September 22, 2016
 We got a reasonably early start and it was truly amazing to see enough gear per person stuffed into kayaks.  KayakKen forebade his moniker and brought a canoe that he could double blade.  After all the stuffing of boats and gear with a lot of grunting and swearing going on we were all loaded.  I did have to put one soft cooler on the deck.  One by one we took off and headed onto the lake.  It was an absolutely beautiful day, good sun, warm temps, just a whisper of a breeze.  Our destination was seven miles up the lake to Lincoln Brook campsite.

Looking Up the Lake
                                            A few of us on the water enjoying the day.



KayakKen, Johnny and Scottb

Now for some reason Andy hung back, I think it was forgotten gear.  It took a bit of hard paddlin' for him to catch up.  We stopped for a break on the shore to wait for him.

We eventually made it to the site after a lilydipping kind of paddle in, just enjoying the day.  In short order tents were set up, food was being broken out, lines were being strung for a tarp as rain was expected the next day.  It took a bit of scrounging to find firewood but we always seem to make out in that department and soon had a blaze going.  The rest of the evening was spent spinning yarns around the fire and eating food until one was stuffed...ok me!

I opted for the tent platform

Andy setting up his home

Scott rigging the tarp line

Andy and his friend Sailor Jerry

A cheery fire on the first evening!

As the sunset we had a beautiful view across the narrows of the lake.  The clouds and sun mix made for some very pleasant sights.  I do love coming to these places for just these reasons.

It seems every trip I am the last one in to the campsite and the first one to fade off and with no surprise to the others I kept true to tradition.

September 23, 2016

Woke up to rain, just what was forecast so no surprise there.  Now here's why I wanted to kick myself in the arse several times.  During the previous evening I kept wandering down to my boat with every intention of flipping it to keep the rain out but do I do it?  Well of course not and upon inspection I have a good six inches of water in the arse end of the boat.  With the help of one of the boys we got it drained out enough to call it good for the paddle up the lake to Bosebuck Cabins for lunch and beers.  Umm, a hot meal on a damp day.  Five of us paddled the six and half or so miles up the lake in the sometimes heavy rain and then mist into a light but persistent headwind.  I was glad to see the camp as we rounded a point.

Now let me tell you I was looking forward to some hot chow, a burger with the works was what was rattling around my brain  but one look at the menu and it was like getting a kick where ya don't want it.  Cold sandwiches.  Ham and cheese, tuna, egg salad and of course one I can't recall.  I was really let down.  We all ordered anyway but there was disappointment going round the table.  The final insult came when I ordered another beer only to be told there is a limit of two.  Humm.  Don't think I'll be back there anytime soon.

Now, I mentioned that we paddled the six plus miles up to the luncheon deal and was hoping, no praying that headwind would still be with us on the way back because now it's a tailwind and I had been counting on that for a sail back to my tent.  For once the weather gods looked down on me and said OK, poor bastard was denied a hot lunch and another beer we'll let him have this.

I got out into the main current and set up my sail.  If you could have seen my face when the first breath of wind caught the sail you'd be smiling as well.  For the next hour or so the only time I paddled was when I was catching a chill.  I was making about four and a half miles an hour or so.  It may seem like an odd reason but times like these is what makes me want to come back time and again.
Making Headway.  Photo taken by Scott Bolser
 Back at camp it was more food cooked, more firewood found and piled on, more tales around the fire and of course a few libations.  I should mention the fire we had, which lasted the entire weekend.  With Scottb along there is no such thing as small firewood.  Find a log and burn it down is his motto and that's exactly what we did. 

Big Honking Sticks

And yes, I was the first man down.  Sailing brought my mood right around and I'm sure there was a smile on my face while I slept.

September 24, 2016

Woke up to a nice foggy morning something I except on the lakes and valleys I paddle on.   We all took our time fuzting around with this and that.  I do have to say that in this crew there are some early risers so things got going mighty early.  Of course that gets ya nothing but waiting around for the fog to burn off.  So in that time it was nice for me anyway to just relax, find a place and look around at my new view.  I believe I had some company on that.  A hot cup of joe was my companion.

The lake was calm for a bit.  Just long enough for the three paddlers to go out.  I was just to lazy and was happy about that later.  They crossed the lake and then soon after the wind picked up.  Not slowly, you could watch it coming down the lake moving the surface  of the water.  In no time the winds were cranking and rough waters were rising up.  Somehow those three paddlers made it back by crossing the lake in breaking waves.

Scottb and Johnny heading out

Andy catching up

Crossing back over in the rough

While the boys were out playing I wandered around a bit looking for more wood and to see what was around.  The woods are thick and wet.  Most of the wood has punk in it or is moss covered and walking in the shadows is interesting.  I came across a lot of mushrooms in a lot of colors.

So here's where the story starts to turn a bit and it all had to do with the wind.  It did one simple thing, it picked up.  It went from mild to humm, this is interesting, to oh wow, this isn't very good.  It stayed with us for the entire night and into the next day, our back to take out day.  Hmmm. Due to my more then earlier then usual fade to sleep I was up early several times one of them being to check on the boats due to the wind.  It never let off all night long.  Finally got back to sleep for a bit.

September 25, 2016

When I woke up the wind was still cranking and it didn't take long for the boys to roust themselves although it was still dark.  I got a pot of coffee going, someone got the fire going back up again while we waited for first dim light to start breaking down and loading.  We got on the lake at 7ish and good Gawd there was a lull, still windy but not killer wind.  That would change and quickly.  We rounded the first point/narrowing of the lake and started towards the next point and all got into a group and then took off again.  We ended up in groups of two for the paddle out.  Andy and Riverstrider were fast and soon they were almost out of sight, Johnny and I seemed to stick together and then KayakKen and Scottb were in the rear.  Now here's where things got really interesting.

Riverstrider and Andy head to the middle of the lake
 I guess I need to back up the tale for a second.  We all had been checking the weather forecast for a while and Sunday was supposed to have winds of ten to fifteen miles per hour.  Quite doable and I was actually looking forward to sailing out.

In a lull between gusts

As we took off the winds started picking up coming from the NW so it was quartering somewhat.  It was already fairly stiff but now it started cranking!  As the wind grew so did the waves and that is where things got fairly dicey for me and Johnny.  I can't say a word about the rest of the boys but since Johnny and I were sticking close together and close to shore I can speak about our time.

The waves were close together and getting big and both of us were getting pushed around a lot.  Now my boat is totally rudder dependent meaning if it isn't in the water I'm spinning and need to really push hard with my paddle to keep straight and there were several times where my rudder was out of the water.  I also was scared to death of submarining the bow of the boat as well as having waves break over the stern of the boat.  The spray skirt I have this boat isn't made to keep rollers and breaking waves out, rain yes!  It's a huge cockpit since it is a converted tandem into a solo.  Adreneline was flowing like a keg tap left open.

We were headed into another narrow part of the lake and Johnny and I got blasted by a long gust of wind which we later found out was around twenty-five miles an hour and I heard a yell.  Johnny was getting twisted and in a long boat in these short waves and winds was having trouble getting turned.  In the meantime a short series of waves picked me up and once again my rudder was out of the water and I was at the top of the wave.  The wind hit me so hard the paddle almost got pulled out of my hands.  I dug in and corrected to a straight line and I couldn't believe how fast I slide off that wave.  I was scared outta my freaking mind but here was were something bad happened to me.  With all the grunting I was doing in correction strokes something in my back popped, I mean literally popped!  The pain came.  I was already swearing but added a bunch of new words.  I made the point and there was an eddie of sorts out of the waves and wind with a narrow beach.  I somehow managed to pull in and literally with rubber trembling legs I got out, hell I thought I was going to fall down.  My back was singing like the choir and waited for Johnny thinking I'd see his upside down hull getting blown down.

To me it seems like an hour but it was only a couple of moments and he rounded the bend and pulled in.  He was as spooked as I was.  We decided to wait there for KayakKen and Scottb.  I was really concerned for Ken in his canoe in these winds and waves.  We waited and waited and waited.  I didn't have a watch but I'm betting it was forty minutes or more when they finally rounded the point.  Looking out into the narrows the waves seemed to me to be growing even more.  We finally all took off again and kept to the coves as best we could but with the quartering wind it was hard to not have waves break against the hull or try to drive the hull into shore. 

A calm moment.  Pic by Scott Bolser.
Johnny and KayakKen kept close to shore, Scottb headed out fairly far but not the middle of the lake, and I kept in between them. 

Johnny pulled in

Doesn't look like much from here but it's pretty big
In this manner we came towards the end of the lake but the wind kept up with some calm moments and then all of a sudden white knuckle gusts kicking the hell outta ya.  I swore when I saw the channel for the takeout it was almost a religious moment!  I was never so happy.  I waited there for Johnny to make sure he didn't overshoot it but he saw me cut in and knew we were there.  It was a great sensation to get out of that boat at the ramp.

Now I've done some crazy arsed stuff in the past spent the night in an eighteen foot flood, run whitewater that was way out of my league in a rec boat, sailed my canoe on the ocean in stuff that was way out of my comfort level but for some reason this event creeped me out in a major way, I haven't felt this unsafe in a long while.   And remember that pop in my back, well, pulled muscles yet again causing pain up to my shoulder blade and down into my leg.  It'll be a bit before I paddle again.

Here's a couple of links to videos I had to put on YouTube



So in the end we all made it out OK.  No carnage, some delays, some pretty good scares for some of us.  Out of the six of us three really liked the waves and wind and three didn't prefer it.  If the boys want to tell their part of the tale that's up to them.  All in all it was a great time and I'd do it all over again but that last day was a real gut wrencher! 


  1. Doug said it perfectly here. We made it out OK but I was way to scared for too long. At least in a class 3 rapid it ends in a few minutes or so. The paddle out was 3 hrs. I am not going near rough water soon.

  2. Well written Doug! I think we will always remember this trip, some of us for different reasons. I'll remember the fine surfing I did with those high winds. John's paddle across the lake parallel to the wave action and Scott and I following to make sure That John makes it across. I paddled slightly upwind to get upwind of John and that was a haul. As soon as John got across, I told him to turn downwind and just make headway, the waves will push him along.
    The paddle out was one I'll long remember, surfing along with little effort and hitting speeds of 8.4 mph. I waited for Chuck to catch up at one point and we paddled in together. By the time everyone else had come in, I had loaded my boat, showered and changed my clothes. On the paddle out, I did founder a few times, and getting turned back around in that wind and a fully loaded boat took some effort on my part.