Yesterday, my friend Brian and I decided it was time to actually explore the oft-mentioned and ever-mysterious break at Braveboat river mouth. Oddly, it’s referred to as a river mouth break, but as far as I know the location itself is called Braveboat Harbor and from what I can tell - looking at maps and stuff - it’s not a named river. Whatever. I guess that small point of fact isn’t all that important, because the geography of the place functions as a river mouth break, with the wide ocean swell being forced through a narrowing channel, in theory dissipating and organizing what would otherwise be, on a big day, a merciless, battering beach break.
The Atlantic has been taunting us this week. Having sat in my car for three straight days at Long Sands longingly watching the ocean roar on, knowing it’d be futile to even attempt making it to the outside with my longboard, I was especially pumped pulling up to the upper parking lot at Seapoint Beach where our little out-of-bounds adventure would begin.
First, a short walk down Thaxter Road, followed by a jag into the woods behind the property lines and onto what seemed to be a trail left from the tracks of the erstwhile trollies that used to run vacationers up and down the lower Maine coast. After about a half mile, the trail opens up onto one of those picturesque estuarine vistas - in the ate fall, all tamped down, golden brown sea grass spotted with clear tidal pools, and in the distance stands of trees, their last, darkened leaves clinging on for dear life. And, of course, the “river,” full at this time of day (the break is supposedly best at high tide.)
From this point the break is still a half mile out and, as revealed through Brian’s binocular’s, clearly not the epic scene we were hoping for - definitely tidier than the monsters that were crashing at the gate of the mouth, the breaks looked pretty mushy and not well organized. Still, waves were tumbling through, the air was warm and the sky bright and sunny so we decided to head back to the car, suit up and make the a return trip with our boards.
Having spent my surfing life parking my car in lots or on side streets and either walking down sidewalks or short, well-trodden paths to the beach, there’s something dangerously cool about walking a trail in your wetsuit and booties, carrying your board under your arm, climbing under or over fallen trees and clearing brush with your free hand. And then winding up in a place where the only eyes (maybe) on you are those of a handful of birds that seem to keep a not-so-close watch over the land.
So, gloves on, leashes secured, we lean down from the mucky grass and onto our boards, paddling across a small inlet of water that’s been carved out, backtracking towards the ocean, glassy as a pond. A moment later we’re back on an island of seagrass. Matted down, multihued and parted in various directions, the seagrass this time of year always makes me feel like I’m walking around the top of some enormous fellow’s head.
Crossing this larger expanse of muck and grass we reach the river proper, put in again, and paddle towards the break, still a solid quarter mile away. At this point the water is pulsating gently from the reverberation of the waves, and we’re paddling both across the river and out towards the break. Getting closer we realize that there’s really no place to set up; the waves are breaking in myriad spots and in all directions, guided by an untrainable swell and what must be a multi-contoured floor. That, and the tide is still coming in, now directly in the path of both the swell and the tide, making it nearly impossible to maintain a position.
I paddle vigorously towards the mouth, trying to get as close to the first, largest series of waves that surge in. I think I may have stood up twice before realizing that trying to hold that spot would be more than my arms were willing to battle. I think Brian may have had understood the futility before me, because he picked a spot slightly aside the main current and not so close to the mouth. It wasn’t long before I drifted parallel to him.
Agreeing that perhaps this wasn’t the best time, tide-wise (the tide wouldn’t be turning to recede for at least another hour or so) we paddled half-heartedly into the current, but mostly just let ourselves drift backwards towards the old trolley pilings. I don’t think either of us caught a wave from that point on - off and on the water would surge up, wave-like, crest for momentarily, then collapse as the water below it deepened - and when we were within a few feet of the pilings we crossed back, paddling towards the spot we had put in.
I think both of us would give Braveboat another shot on a day when the beach break was impossible, definitely on a waning tide and, for me at least, definitely with a companion. There’s something about the camaraderie and the bearing witness that half dozen crows, a couple of cormorants and a stray hawk will never suffice.