I have to admit I didn't expect a lot of our short jaunt on Belfast Bay. I just wanted to get out on salt water and be able to turn back easily if the wind was too rough. But shortly after we headed out Sunday morning, we heard the rhythmic clattering of the Belle Fast.
Belle Fast is a Cornish pilot gig; 32 feet long, crew of 6. It was apparent from the cadence, that this was the race team; keeping their beat with a fierce "huh" before each pull. As they flew by us the coxswain advised them: "One minute more."
Another "ugh" and they were past. It’s always impressive to see those boats in action.
Later, while we loaded our kayaks on the roof, we chatted with one of the oarsman. It was a bit of a mutual admiration society, he hoped one day to attempt more adventurous kayaking, we told him about our attempt to participate in ComeBoating.
Belfast has two race teams that practice year 'round. In the summer, they open rowing positions on the pilot gigs to interested community members. There's a sign-up sheet by their shed. We'd thought about signing up, but the evening paddles are filled weeks in advance. He suggested we sign up as a stand-by, because if there are enough additional people, they will run a second boat.
The second sight was toward the turnaround point. I'd set the outlet of the Little River as a goal. The wind was warm, but paddling straight into the sun was wearing. Approaching near low tide, Little River was hosting a vast collection of gulls; great black-backed, herring, ring-billed and laughing gulls. As we paddled closer distant puffs of white birds rose, dispersed, and settled on the tidal flats again.
|Laughing gulls in winter plumage|
Our third sight was not on the water, but wandering through town. Somewhere Belfast found a set of vintage Christmas Decorations, and put them up. Some of the decorations are amazingly well-preserved, and I'm sure the little Santas were adorable when they used to peek around light poles. But the light poles have changed, and now the little fellows just dangle on high. And a few of the Santas, especially the one in front of the Co-op, are quite worn, their suits bleached to orange, their faces and hats to white. The end result: well check for yourself:
Paddle Summary: Launched 9:30AM, Finish 11:15AM. Launch: beach beside the town ramp. Much of the nearby parking is filled with docks. Low about 11:30AM. 5.8 miles.