Past experience has shown me that Plum Island takes its vacation for the month of August, packing its wind and icy whitecap breakers and greenhead flies, and departing for parts unknown. I was looking forward to long sandy beaches and sand bars, sunny warmth, calm meditative paddling, the calls of plovers and terns.
I pulled into Pavilion Beach to the sight of dark clouds overhead, flags and tree branches waving madly in the chill wind, and breakers in a line across the mouth of the Sound. For the first time that I can recall, waves were breaking on Pavilion Beach. "Plum Island," I called, "what about your vacation?"
"I heard you were coming so I stuck around," Plum Island responded.
"But... the weather app... look, right here is the sun icon!"
"The weather man does not tell me what to do," Plum Island sneered, lowering his dark cloud cover ominously.
Grinding my teeth, I pulled the boat off the car and got dressed in several layers topped by my toasty tuilik. The tide was going out, the cold north wind was blowing in. It was... interesting....
My first plan was to cross over to the Crane Beach side and head out of the sound along that shore. By the time I got to Crane Beach, though, Plum Island was stirring up some swell and tugging on me with its tidal flow to go farther out to the surf. Now, it's true that I don't learn quickly, and Plum Island has taken advantage of that fact before, to cause me much trouble. But this time I'd gotten the message: Don't mess with Plum Island. It is fickle and unpredictable, and I was there alone.
Turning back, I paddled up a tributary to the sound. What can I say, it was pretty dull. I mean, marsh grass is lovely, but I was hoping for a little more of an ocean experience. Plum Island smiled and beckoned. So I left the Crane Beach side and headed directly into the wind to cross to Plum Island. Dora the Explorer (my kayak) does well straight into wind, so we made good time and arrived at the island. And there's no point in arriving at the island if you aren't going to go to the end of it and have a look at the other side.
The other side was chaos. Plum Island was having a crazy summer party, taking up the whole ocean with madly dancing, drunken waves. The tidal flow reached for my boat to invite me in. I declined the invitation. Those parties have ended in helicopter-rescue hangovers for some (not me!). Back into the Sound, denied the simple pleasure of a leisurely paddle out on the ocean, I sulked and muttered at birds, and dug out a snack from the hatch. There was nothing for it but to ferry back across the fast-ebbing channel and call it a day.
Two hours of wind and swell and current was not a bad workout, and Plum Island did offer me a few rides on small waves to help me move against the tide. But it's pretty clear who won this round. Plum Island, we will meet again.