Tuesday, July 18, 2017

New Water

With light winds I headed to a big river that is well exposed to the sea, a river that I'd not yet paddled.

I set out upstream from a site under the high freeway bridge.  This is industrial water and it has been for a couple hundred years.  Benedict Arnold headed an invasion up this river with the British during the Revolution.  Since then and before ships have been built and sailed from this port.

What appears to be a regatta of 26 footers out in mid channel turns out to be cadets from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.  At first I thought they might be high school students, but they are changing crews by driving an inflatable up to a moving sailboat and boarding without stopping....cadets for sure.  They don't mind me as I stay close to shore and pass under their very long pier.

Next comes a set of drydocks and floating workshops.  There were a good number of these in Seattle and I always enjoyed being around the workboats.  I tend to view my canoe as a workboat.  It certainly gets the use and although I am careful, it does not get coddled.  Anyway, these docks, with patches of forests and sparse houses are in a more interesting situation than those in Seattle, which were hemmed in by new office buildings, condominiums, pleasure boat marinas.  I wonder how long it will be before Seattle no longer has workboats.

I am surprised to see that this stretch of river does not have a fully developed shoreline.

Across the river is the USS Nautilus, the first operational nuclear submarine.  It reached the North Pole beneath the Arctic icepack in 1958, when I was about 4 months old.  Immediately upstream of the Nautilus is the New London Naval Sub Base.  I stay on the opposite shore knowing that if I get too close I will be met by a patrol boat (I was warned off once at the sub decommissioning station in Bremerton).  And, right on cue a patrol boat appears to shadow a hovercraft water taxi that is driving by.  The patrol boat chief is particularly skilled in using body language to encourage boats to keep their distance.  They never hail or wave at anyone.  I watch him escort several different boats.  There are several subs at dock, but they are hard to spot.  They aren't very tall and visually almost melt into the background of Navy Base buildings.  Their profile is much smaller than that of the Nautilus.

USS Nautilus
I explore a few inlets on the west side and when I return to the river I see the patrol boat tear off full speed down river.  There is a red and white runabout that has strayed too close to the Nautilus.  The patrol boat performs an awesomely tight and fast turn between the runabout and the sub...it is an "I can do anything you can do and I can do it better, faster and with guns" maneuver.  The runabout retreats out to mid channel, and then just to prove that he is a complete moron, he speeds upstream.  The patrol boat matches speed. It stops when the runabout stops, it goes when the runabout goes.  The patrol boat reminds me of a cutting horse in a rodeo.  The runabout driver reminds me of a halfwit range cow in a rodeo. There is only one difference between this escort and that of all of the other boats...a sailor has manned the bow machine gun...an exclamation point added to the body language.

Where - Thames River, New London, CT.

1 comment:

Tammy said...

Wow, what an adventure!
I bet it was exciting to see the 'showdown', lol.

Here in SE Ga, we have Kings Bay Naval Base in St. Mary's,
and my MIL tells about watching the subs being escorted in
by armed boats. I want to go see that, someday.
Happy Paddling!