Kayakers circumnavigate Martha’s Vineyard in record time

Tucker Lindquist, Dana Gaines, and John Karoff were tired but happy after they completed their trip around the Island. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Three intrepid kayakers enjoyed the first day of fall with a circumnavigation of Martha’s Vineyard that began just before sunrise Saturday and ended just before sunset on the same day.

Dana Gaines of Edgartown, John Karoff of Milton, andTucker Lindquist of Ipswich completed the 55-mile trip in 11 hours. Their route through Nantucket Sound, Vineyard Sound and the Atlantic Ocean provided a unique vantage point from which to view some of the Island’s most scenic points.

The men began their trip at Eel Pond in Edgartown. Dana Gaines provided the following description of the route and conditions.

“There was a brisk north wind at 5 am, more like 10-15 miles per hour than the 5-10 forecast. We delayed our start until 5:50 am and had choppy seas on the port bow for the first leg to Cape Poge, but once around that corner we enjoyed a tailwind, following seas and a fair current down East Beach to Wasque Point.

“The wind died down to no more than 5 knots after that, so we took the straight shot offshore to Squibnocket in benign sea conditions, and it only got better from there.

“We rounded Gay Head and landed at Dogfish Bar for lunch at 12:20 pm, just as the sun came out, wind shifted light southwest and the current began to flood up Vineyard Sound. We had everything in our favor once back on the water at 1 pm, and we enjoyed an idyllic paddle up to West Chop, passing there around 3:45 pm. We rounded East Chop just as the tide began to turn against us, so the pace slowed somewhat for the last 6 miles and we reached Eel Pond at exactly 5:30 pm.

“With the lunch break subtracted, our GPS paddling time was 11:04, average speed 5.0 mph, and total distance exactly 55 miles. We certainly could have done it faster, but we took plenty of breaks for photo opportunities and sightseeing.”

Mr. Gaines said that as far as he knows, they were not the first but were the fastest. David Duarte of Vineyard Haven paddled around the Island in the 90s, he said.

Mr. Gaines said he initially envisioned the trip as a solo effort in a racing kayak in under 10 hours. “I began thinking about this four years ago, after I’d switched full time from rowing to kayaking — from facing backwards to turning around and actually seeing where I was going,” he told The Times.

When work got in the way of training, he decided to make it a more leisurely trip with two friends he knew from the racing circuit. Despite that change in plans, Mr. Gaines didn’t set off without proper planning or training.

“I trained by breaking the distance up into three segments and covering them on different weekends when the tides were right, marking all the waypoints en route,” he said. “John and Tucker did a 35-mile trip around Cape Ann on the north shore. So we’d all done a fair amount of distance in preparation.”

Mr. Gaines said the kayak provides a unique perspective. “It’s definitely beautiful to see the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, particularly the north shore, which of course is far more varied than the south, from the sea-level perspective and relatively slow pace that kayaks provide, and nothing can possibly compare with the Gay Head Cliffs from right offshore.

“The south shore is admittedly boring and unfortunately the high ground off Windy Gates and Squibnocket were shrouded in fog as we approached on the offshore line (2.5 miles off at the maximum), so we couldn’t really see much until we were at Squibnocket proper. From there on, the scenery only became more dramatic passing Zacks Cliffs and then Gay Head.”

At times the current was ripping the trio along. “The GPS was routinely showing 7-plus mph when I knew our actual paddling speed was between 5 and 5-1/2,” Mr. Gaines said. “My paddling partners were particularly impressed by the natural beauty and relative lack of development along the north shore between Menemsha and West Chop.”

After passing East Chop the men enjoyed a light southwest wind on the starboard bow for the final line straight down to Edgartown. “For the first day of fall, we could not have asked for more summer-like conditions,” Mr. Gaines said.