“Indian Summer” hit New England just in time this year to provide me with a proper 27th birthday paddle! A solid sheet of ice had covered Billington Sea for the past few weeks but a thick morning fog announced that its breakup was just around the corner. Sure enough, by the afternoon the quagmire ice had mostly dissolved leaving open water and a few, thin ice fields to play in. Finally, a chance for the “pool party” that I had dreamed of since I was a little boy!!!
When Alex and I arrived at the docks we found Doug relaxing in his Wee Lassie Canoe just off of the shoreline with a huge smile across his face. It was clear that Doug was happy to see the open water and you could tell that this foray was long overdue! We grabbed a pair of Necky Manitou 13s (including my favorite green #14) from the rental racks and hit the water to him.
Alex decided to try his luck at seal-launching from a carpeted ramp which was pulled up to about 3ft above the water. I wish I had taken a video! The stern of his kayak caught on the end of the ramp, the kayak tipped past 90 degrees, and I was sure that he was going into the frosty drink. It took the most epic high brace that I’ve ever been witness to but somehow Alex managed to avoid disaster and coasted off onto the pond. I decided to make a more conservative launch…
The wind and current had pushed the remaining ice chips down into the cove and piled them up into two small ice fields. We bee-lined it for the closest field and hit it at ramming speed! Paddling through the ice chips was a unique sensory experience described best by Alex’s metaphor of “parting a sea of potato chips!” Our paddles slipped along until they caught on a clump of chunks. The ice crunched and crackled as it slid under the hull. Thankfully, enough water seeped up between the cracks to keep our kayaks afloat on this giant-sized smoothie to lead us back to open water!
My 27th birthday was memorable for a lot of reasons but this quick trip out on Billington was definitely the icing on the cake. After all, it’s not every year that I get to go for a paddle on my birthday with great friends!