Long Island Kayak Circumnavigation: Day 9—High Water Beach

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

<— Previous: Day 8

Roanoke Point to Sunken Meadow State Park
28 nautical miles (32 land miles)

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(click on photos to expand them—they look a lot better when they’re BIGGER!)

Five AM: My second sunrise of the the trip.

I was awake and outside the bivvy sack… but cold! While New York City was experiencing a heat wave, out along the North Shore a cold front had zipped through, and my feet felt like ice.

“I know we need to get going, but we should at least make coffee,” Vlad said. What a great suggestion!

So we sipped coffee and watched the sun rise, leaning our backs against the rocks.

I felt something tickle one of my toes and looked down to see…

… a millipede slowly wending its way across my foot. I’m not particularly squeamish about insects, and this one didn’t look harmful (I later found out that millipedes, in general, don’t bite or sting—it’s the centipedes that do). So I merely picked it up with a stick and moved it to a spot on the rock where it could continue its progress.

We found a few more of the tickly critters in the next few minutes, as we took down the bivvy sacks and began packing the boats. (The results of our experiment? There’s no speed advantage to using bivvy sacks—two bivvy sacks are no faster to set up and tear down than one tent).

But it wasn’t until we were ready to to launch that we realized that the appropriate name for this campsite was, truly, Millipede Beach. Because when Vlad went to go put on his spray skirt, he uncovered a giant ball of them, gamely attempting to build a nest inside! He had a bit of work to do to ensure they were all safely deposited on the beach, as we didn’t plan to transport any millipedes home to New York City.

We set off from Millipede Beach around 7 AM, aiming to make it at least to Port Jefferson. If we could reach Port Jefferson, Vlad reasoned, we could make it home in two more days as planned.

Once again, it was a straight paddle west along high cliffs. But this morning we had the current with us thanks to our early start, and we made good progress.

We passed Port Jefferson in the early afternoon, and Vlad suggested we might make it all the way across Smithtown Bay to Eaton’s Neck or even Lloyd’s Neck before dark. So we set out down the middle of the Sound, paddling with all our might.

But almost immediately the favorable current deserted us, and soon it became clear that our goal was overly ambitious. So we turned south and aimed for the shore in the interior of Smithtown Bay. From the distance, it looked like a long stretch of sandy beach against low, tree-covered hills.

“We should be there in an hour or less,” Vlad said confidently. I didn’t even think it would be that long. But as one hour stretched into two, and then three, and the sun sank lower in the sky, we started to worry that we wouldn’t make it there before dark.

Once again, we landed just as the sun was setting. The good news? The beach was certainly camp-able, and it seemed to be remote enough that we wouldn’t be disturbed.

The bad news? The beach was very flat, and was not that high above the water, even just now, near low tide. And the weather report on the radio had predicted for tonight a high tide of at least eighteen inches above normal.




We investigated. Although it appeared that the water had recently come up fairly high on the beach, there was a slightly elevated strip of the beach that seemed to be powdery sand, untouched by water—even though the water had, a bit alarmingly, surrounded it on all sides. Plus, there was a row of pilings conveniently located along the strip—someplace to tie the boats to so they wouldn’t get carried off if the strip did, after all, flood.

Of course, we dubbed the beach “High Water Beach”.

We decided to risk it. As night fell, we pitched the tent and tied up the boats, making sure our gear was stowed safely inside. The tent was a little closer to the water than the boats, so the rising tide would wake us before it got to the boats. Of course, Vlad would go out and check on them periodically during the night, as he always did.

As I came back from washing the dishes, I got a bit of a shock: Flickering lights, and moving shapes. It took a moment to realize it was a half-dozen fishermen, wearing headlamps like ours, setting up their own tent a little ways away.

It was surprisingly nice to have company.

Next: Day 10 —>

34 responses to “Long Island Kayak Circumnavigation: Day 9—High Water Beach

  1. Glad to know that you guys landed just as the sun was setting and everything went fine the rest of the night.
    Oh mine, these gorgeous sunset pics!!!

    • Somehow we always managed to land just at sunset during this trip! Just in time for me to take my sunset pictures with something other than Johna in the foreground…

      You haven’t heard about the rest of the night yet… ;-)

  2. Great pictures . That one of Johna pullin the kayak into the sunset should be framed . Are you using the stock seats/back bands that came with your kayaks or have you done modifications ? Your putting in some serious time in those boats and wondering how your backs/but/legs hold up .

    • Johna Till Johnson

      HI Stephen,

      I’ll let Vlad speak for himself, but I haven’t modified the Avocet (other than replacing the first seat, which broke). Truthfully, the time in the boat was the pleasantest part of the whole trip–I was a little stiff after the first day but by this point perfectly happy.

      I think this is because both the Red Herring (Feathercraft Heron) and the Avocet have very comfortable seats/back support. I’ve been in other boats that aren’t so comfortable (particularly the ones lacking padded seats).

      We did manage to pretty much destroy our heels, but that was a function of the shoes, not the boats. As we describe in “Lessons Learned” (upcoming), we really weren’t wearing the right shoes for this trip. We kept getting them full of sand and pebbles on the beach, and then throughout the course of the trip they’d chew into our Achilles’ tendons. It took us days to recover from that part of the trip. (But, weirdly, they only hurt when we we were on land–they were fine in the boat).

    • The Feathercrafts are known for their seriously comfortable seats—presumably because the seats are soft and so conform to your body, but also because of good design. So no problem there at all!

  3. amazing as always! Liquid silver, across smithtown bay, and flaming sunset <3

  4. Good stuff, love the photos.

  5. Richert Manjarres

    Beautiful pictures. I particularly favor the ones with the sun and sky’s reflection on the water..

  6. Hi there! Just wanted to let you know that you have been nominated for the Super Sweet Blogging Award! http://mezzaphonicallyspeaking.wordpress.com/2012/09/10/super-sweet-blogging/

  7. Wow, you got some amazing shots on this one. Mad orange sunsets!

  8. You certainly get to see and photograph some amazing skies. I enjoyed your exciting trip. ;)

  9. Pingback: Long Island Kayak Circumnavigation: Day 10—Homeward Bound! | Wind Against Current

  10. Absolutely glorious sun-set pictures. Enjoying travelling with you from my old armchair.

  11. ….and I was just writing about skies — said ours out west (Colorado specifically ) are in my personal opinion the most beautiful. hmmmmm need to take that back??? Stunning photo’s

    • Actually, I think you are right—from what I’ve seen, the skies out west might be more consistently colorful. But we were very lucky in our sunsets (and sunrises) during this trip—see some of the other days as well…

  12. Wonderful pics!!!! You were really lucky…Even if sometimes the circumstances were a bit scary, at least you had a beautiful landscape around!!!
    Nice point the one about millipedes and centiperes..Even though I´m afraid I will not be able to stop and to take a closer look to something with feet that is going up to my leg…;)

    • Johna Till Johnson

      :-) :-). Yeah, well, my first instinct was to react abruptly. But then I figured, “Hmmm, I know ONE of these species is harmless, but I can’t remember which it is… let’s assume for the sake of sanity that it’s the one that’s meandering across my foot.”

  13. Lovely display of that freedom one finds on the water

  14. Pingback: Our 2013 Calendar | Wind Against Current

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