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

Urban Excursions: Finding Adventure In The Big City

A brisk autumn breeze scattered crimson maple leaves that fluttered from trees lining a pond glittering in the morning sun as my friend Bob Graham and I loped along a narrow path the other morning.

My Friend The Log Splitter: Leaf Blowers Notwithstanding, Not All Machines Are Evil

After my overwhelming victory last year in a rake vs. leafblower contest I hoped I’d heard the last of those infernal, noisy, polluting contraptions — but while out for a run the other day, savoring the fall foliage, a familiar whine as...

Welcome To Steve's Lumberjack Camp

Good morning! I hope you all had a good night’s sleep, enjoyed the griddle cakes and are eager to work off those calories.

At Nayaug Canoe And Kayak Race, A Win Is A Win Is A Win — Sort Of

Race starts are notoriously adventurous — jackrabbits at the line itching to shove and elbow their way into the lead; clueless slowpokes poised for pileups; nerve-jangled competitors, fueled by surging adrenaline, chattering...

Rocks In My Head, Part 37,482

Descending New Hampshire’s Mount Washington in a blizzard some time ago, a friend and I briefly strayed from the ice-encrusted Lion Head Trail – not all that surprising considering wind-whipped snow reduced our visibility to...

Hey, Unless Your Head Is Made Of Cement, Wear A Bike Helmet!

Last Saturday was glorious, perhaps the last sunny, warm day of the season, so a couple friends and I set out for a 50-plus-mile ride on Rhode Island’s magnificent East Bay Bike Path, one of my favorite places to pedal.

How to freeze your - - - off in four easy steps

I know you’ll find this rather shocking, but all those white things in the new picture of me aren’t really snowflakes – they’re feathers from an old pillow, which we thought would be a clever way to illustrate a...

Hey, Unless Your Head Is Made Of Cement, Wear A Bike Helmet!

Last Saturday was glorious, perhaps the last sunny, warm day of the season, so a couple friends and I set out for a 50-plus-mile ride on Rhode Island’s magnificent East Bay Bike Path, one of my favorite places to pedal.

Forget San Juan Capistrano – If You Want to See Hundreds of Thousands of Swallows, Check Out the Lower Connecticut River

Like the first snowflakes of an approaching blizzard, a small flurry of tiny birds flitted across the slow-moving water of the Connecticut River earlier this week, just as the sun began to dip below the western bank in Old Saybrook.

Celebrating the Spirit of Johnny Kelley, as We Dedicate a Statue in His Memory

Participating in weekly runs with legendary marathon champion Johnny Kelley back in the 1970s was a lot like attending a religious service.

Pink Gloves Save The Day At The Josh Billings RunAground Triathlon

Paddling a tandem kayak in the second leg of the Josh Billings RunAground Triathlon in the Berkshires of Massachusetts is a lot like competing in a combined NASCAR, Formula One and Demolition Derby race, what with every manner of vessel...

A Three-peat Victory, Redemption and Inspiration at Norwalk’s Lighthouse to Lighthouse Race

As Ian Frenkel and I stealthily steered our 22-foot tandem kayak toward Greens Ledge Lighthouse on Long Island Sound off Norwalk Saturday, we closed in on our good friend and arch rival Phil Warner, who was racing in his 24-foot two-man...

The Elegance (and Pain) of a White Mountain Presidential Traverse

Most hikers traipsing among New Hampshire’s White Mountains consider peaks in the Presidential Range – Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Washington, Monroe, Eisenhower – a worthy day hike, and many break up ascents of the more...