On My Way: Adventure on the water

Kayaking from East Chop to West Chop.


On a recent sweltering Saturday, my cousin Anne and I set out in our kayaks across the waters of the Lagoon.

I was in a 30-plus-year-old approximately 17-foot Aquaterra sea kayak — a heavy beast of an ocean-going boat with a rudder and pointed ends. My cousin was in a much shorter LL Bean aptly named Manatee. We launched at the Hines Point town beach.

Anne headed out before me. By the time I was on my way she was passing the dock some distance up the beach. Her paddles went through the air like a windmill.

My kayak, while heavy on land, was faster in the water with its narrow beam and two pointed ends. I worked my paddles. I enjoyed the light breeze and being out on the water and I soon caught up.

Other folks were out. A friendly red-haired woman in a group of three coming at us not too far off the shoreline gave us a cheery “hi.” We wished each other well.

We passed a group of aquaculture buoys not far off of the actual point of Hines Point. We took our kayaks across the expanse of the Lagoon. The peacefulness of the waters of the Lagoon was as profound as the empty horizons of the ocean.

No sea rolled through the protected waters, only a ripple played on the surface. We floated in our little crafts.

We came to the drawbridge. I chose one of the multiple channels. I paddled in with the tiniest lump in my throat. I went through the middle of the channel. Soon I was midway.

Some current flowed. The water was dark under the bottom of the drawbridge high overhead. Concrete supporting structures were to either side. In no time, I was out the other side.

Families were on the beach next to the bridge. Kids were playing in the water. Moms stood watching. Beach umbrellas were in the sand. It was a perfect beach day.

We paddled up past the rock jetty and turned in the direction of East Chop. I stopped and let my kayak drift, waiting for Anne in her slower boat. We conferred when she arrived.

We decided to cross from the East Chop side to the West Chop side. (I have wanted to make this crossing since I started kayaking at the beginning of the summer.)

The conditions were perfect for an inaugural crossing. There was no sea to speak of and the winds were light. Also I took a look. The steamship boats — an important factor — were nowhere in sight.

We cruised along at top speeds. Neither of us could believe how fast we were going. Some current must have been in our favor. We were going much faster with less effort than we had in the Lagoon.

We were not long arriving to the main lanes of traffic in and out of Vineyard Haven Harbor. A few small motor boats drove by, each making a small wake. We put our shoulders in and dug for the opposite shore.

The short first time passage between the two chops was thrilling.

My bow bounced and crashed over the waves thrown up by the motor boats. My hull rolled with the little swells. My little boat seemed to absorb the nuance of every passing thing. I was as close to the water as one could be. The kayak pitched and yawed in a pleasant manner.

I felt alive.

We came to the safety of the mooring field of outer Vineyard Haven Harbor. I stopped once inside for a moment to have a drink. It was a hot day and I needed water.

A paddle boarder crossed in front of me.

Anne and I linked back up. We paddled towards the shore. We went through the small channel between the beach and the breakwater. We paddled into the crowded inner Vineyard Haven Harbor mooring field.

We chatted.

The sun was overhead in a blue sky. The water was calm inside the breakwater. Sailboats of different types and sizes and a few motor boats swung on their moorings.

We wended our way. We came to the edge of the mooring field. I looked for traffic. The steamship slips were empty. No boats were incoming.

We crossed back over the much shorter distance of the inner harbor to the Lagoon. We paddled through the anchorage just beyond Packer’s barge docks. I passed by the aluminum motorboat with a set of sharp toothy jaws painted on its bow.

We went up the beach to the drawbridge.

As I came out the other side of the drawbridge channel, I saw another kayaker in the distance. Someone else out on a great day I thought. Then I looked for Anne. Then I realized. That was Anne.

How did she get so far ahead?

We laughed when I caught up. She had chosen the nearest channel under the bridge and I had chosen one on the far side. We made our way back across the waters of the Lagoon to Hines Point.

I went to work on the home stretch. I dug my paddles and pulled hard at the water. I was going at a good pace. I liked the exertion. My shoulders and arms burned and I fought for oxygen.

I passed the crescent-shaped beach that reached into the water. I went over the sandbar. I turned towards the shore and pointed for the Hines Point town beach. I passed the house on stilts nearly taken by the water.

I was there. I made my last few strokes. My kayak drifted over the rocky bottom. The bow skidded up onto the sand beach.

I sat a moment. The short expedition was complete. We had crossed the waters of the Lagoon and navigated the drawbridge channels. We had transited from East Chop to West Chop — albeit some distance in from the bluffs. We had tacked through the Vineyard Haven Harbor mooring fields.

I was rejuvenated and invigorated. I had the high of a workout and the good vibe of the water. Mind and body were free of the unwanted debris of life.

I threw my paddle up onto the beach. I put my hands on the kayak sides and pushed down to stand. I climbed out. I pulled the kayak out of the water. I looked over.

Anne glided in with a smile.