A Fitting Farewell in Fishers Island Sound

At last, a warm, sunny day last Saturday brought a slew of kayakers to one of the best launch sites in Connecticut, Noank’s Esker Point Beach, where five of us branched off from a pack of paddlers and steered toward my favorite destination, Fishers Island — only a few miles offshore as the crow flies but somewhat longer allowing for our intentionally meandering route.

The water was mill-pond flat, the wind light, the tide near slack, and the powerboat traffic virtually absent — in short, perfect conditions for mindless drifting rather than white-knuckle power-stroking.

Joining me were Phil Warner and Ian Frenkel, longtime racers and friendly rivals; Day colleague Jenna Cho, who does most of her adventuring on terra firma but also enjoys maritime outings; and my son, Tom, who is always game for anything that will take him to the mountains, the open road or the open water.

We decided to head to Fishers because Tom, who was in town only for a few weeks to visit family and to run the Boston Marathon, wanted to get out on salt water one last time before embarking on a circuitous journey that would take him by bus to New Mexico to pick up his car, then by auto to Utah to meet friends for a week or so of wilderness mountaineering on some of that state’s highest peaks, followed by a drive to Minnesota to begin work as a kayak guide.

Our sojourn on the Sound would be a fitting farewell not only to Tom but also to seals that swim here from the Gulf of Maine and the Maritime Provinces during winter. By now most already have migrated back north, but I hoped to spot a few stragglers.

Sure enough, we hadn’t paddled more than a mile or so, just south of Ram Island, when eagle-eyed Phil cried, “There’s one at 10 o’clock!”

A shiny head bobbed above the surface for a nanosecond before ducking back under. Thirty seconds later, the seal reappeared for an instant about 100 yards behind us. Another 10 seconds and it came up only about 10 yards away.

“They’re curious,” I said.

We continued paddling toward Hungry Point near the northeast tip of Fishers, where in mid-winter I’ve observed more than 100 harbor seals and an occasional hooded or gray seal hauled on the rocks at low tide. On this balmy day, though, the rocks were barren save for a stray cormorant.

Every so often, though, a harbor seal or two surfaced to check us out.

Tempting as it was to linger we continued paddling. It’s against federal law to get closer than 50 yards to seals – not that they would let you. Though curious they’re also shy.

Another good reason to avoid approaching seals is that they have razor-sharp teeth.

Anyway, we kept our distance before surfing ashore to savor snacks and to soak up some sun – a rare experience during this soggy, chilly spring.

All too soon it was time to steer back to Noank. Happily, a light breeze picked up from the southeast and the tide approached the end of the flood, so we enjoyed a proverbial fair wind and following sea all the way to Esker Point.

Not far from shore a seal popped up one more time – possibly the final one I’ll see in the wild until next winter, and certainly Tom’s last, unless the marine mammals somehow managed to make their way to Lake Superior or the Boundary Waters.

Bon voyage, seals; bon voyage, Tom. Enjoy your summers in northern waters.

 

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments

MORE BLOGS

Who Needs Clean Air and Pure Water? Bring Back Unrestricted Strip Mining, DDT and Toxic Waste Dumps to Make America Great Again

The main problem with President Donald Trump’s efforts to boost the economy by eliminating oppressive environmental regulations is that they don’t go far enough.

The Good Book Has It Backwards: To Every Season, There Is More Than One Thing

Forget about what Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says (and Pete Seeger sang) about "To everything there is a season.' As far as I’m concerned, it’s always the right time for fun and adventure.

Kayaking Over the Falls on the Salmon River

The thunder of tumbling water roared as I gripped my paddle the other day, waiting my turn to plunge over a 4-foot drop at a broken dam on the Salmon River in East Hampton.

Home Is Where the Hut Is (Warning: Don't Read Part of This if You Have a Weak Stomach)

Embarking on a winter expedition to Mount Katahdin a few years ago, I hooked up with a few casual acquaintances accompanied by other climbers I only met just as we began the long drive from southeastern Connecticut to northern Maine.

Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing in New Hampshire's White Mountains, Part I: A Voice in the Wilderness Saves the Day

While snowshoeing on a tamped-down section of the Ethan Pond Trail in New Hampshire’s White Mountains the other day, our group approached an untrammeled stretch of the Zeacliff Trail that descended into a ravine below frozen-over Whitehall...

Who Doesn't Love a Blizzard? (OK, Maybe a Few Softies and Killjoys)

I know there’s a good chance I’ll be eating these words when I’m shoveling, shoveling, shoveling, or huddled with a candle next to the wood stove while melting snow for drinking water after the power has been knocked out for...

Destructive Deer, Bugs, Vines and Snow: It's Always Something

In a "perfect" world – i.e., one in which all living creatures and meteorological phenomena benefited human comfort and bowed to our supremacy – there would be no need for deer fences, bird netting, herbicides,...

Prime Time for Eagle-Watching by Kayak on the Connecticut River

While kayaking just north of Lyme’s Hamburg Cove on the Connecticut River the other day, Robin Francis, Phil Warner and I watched a wildlife drama unfolding above us.

In Waning Winter, An 'Above Par' Snow-Kayaking Adventure

With snow cover stubbornly lingering and whitewater kayaking season still more than a month away, what’s an impatient paddler to do? Easy: Snow-kayaking.

What Snow and Ice? The Maple Sap Is Running!

Every year about this time, after having spent the past few months shoveling tons of snow from the driveway, lugging tons of firewood from the shed, getting out of bed dozens of times at 3 a.m. to stoke the stove, hauling countless buckets of...

Finally! A Worthy Snowstorm -- Maybe Even a Bombogenesis!

Just when we winter worshipers had resigned ourselves to another snowless season, and only a day after the temperature climbed ridiculously into the 60s, our prayers have been answered not just by an ordinary storm but by a meteorological...

Animal Tracks in the Snow: They All Tell a Story

If you thought most forest animals hibernated in winter, or at least slept through the night, take a stroll through the woods the morning after a snowfall.

What Does the Fox Say? Yip-yip-yip! Chance Encounters With Creatures Great and Small

While I lugged logs from the woodshed the other morning a yip-yip-yip! pierced the still air. First reaction: Did the neighbors get a dog? No, they were out of town for a few days. Yip-yip-yip!