The Kayak Chronicles

by Darren Caffery

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BARNEGAT BAY:

BERKELEY ISLAND COUNTY PARK  TO BARNEGAT LIGHT

August 18, 2002

A perfect size group of Jersey Shore Sea Kayak Association  members launched from Berkeley Island County Park in Bayville NJ into the Barnegat Bay at 9 am. The group included our guide Carl White, myself, Patrick Ford, Bob Arthur, Jeff Cooper and Joe Messier. There was a remote chance of t-storms later in the day being reported on the marine weather station and nothing in the sky that looked immediately threatening. A mild wind was from the south and provided mild relief from the summer heat as we paddled a south easterly course across the bay and rode the ebbing tide along the shore of Island Beach State Park almost 9 miles to the Sedge Islands and ultimately to the Barnegat Inlet. The paddle to the Sedge Islands was mostly uneventful aside from some small boat wakes and a short drag near the Sedge Islands due to low water. Bob Arthur, who agreed to play guinea pig, found a small channel with enough water to pass thru however we were already done dragging our boats back to sufficient water levels.

As we rounded the Sedge Islands into the Barnegat Inlet, the fun water began. There were plenty of powerboats and associated wakes and they provided a bumpy but fun ride to our lunch break. Larger wakes went over our beams and we paddled through somewhat confusing waters but soon made our way to an opening in a dilapidated bulkhead on the southernmost portion of Island Beach State Park. We ultimately landed at about 11:30, on a nice white sandy beach, directly across the inlet from the Barnegat Lighthouse, also known as "Ole Barney".

At our lunch stop, we ate on the bulkhead and watched the powerboat traffic entering and exiting the busy inlet. We all all agreed Ole Barney is leaning a bit to the west. After lunch we toured the beach area where Carl White recounted some historical information about a changing Barnegat Inlet, pointing out the areas of the old channel, shifting dunes and blundered Army Corp of Engineer projects. Jeff was very inquisitive, asking many questions along the way, all of which Carl appeared happy to answer. During our lunch break, I got a chance to play with the digital camera and shot a few pictures.

 

Shortly after 12 noon we launched back into the inlet and rode a choppier and more confused flooding tide back into the bay. We watched a few osprey and some playful brown pelicans in the Sedge Islands and as powerboats rushed in and out of the inlet, our kayaks were like wild bucking broncos on the short stretch from the inlet around the sedge. I hated for the fun water to end but as we rounded the sedges the water calmed and we set a northerly course through the Barnegat Bay and back to Berkeley Island County Park. The calm water only lasted a few miles. As we traveled farther towards the center of the bay, the chop became heavier and the swells a bit bigger and somewhat confused. Back to riding the bronco! Although we didn't do much surfing, for the next few miles we bucked up and down on 'lumpy and bumpy water', almost all the way back to Berkeley Island Park. As we approached Cedar Creek and Berkeley Island County Park, we noticed there was a powerboat race going on there. The shore of Berkeley Island near our takeout was filled with onlookers which I can best describe as "Nascar-esque", all watching the small and annoyingly loud powerboats racing back and forth on a small stretch of Cedar Creek. So much for the peace and tranquility of kayaking!

We landed at 2:45 pm after 17.2 miles and a great day of paddling on the bay. Interestingly, my body did not want to end such a great paddle as for a good 10 minutes after I landed, I still felt like I was on the lumps and bumps of the Barnegat Bay. The only other time I had that sensation was after crossing the Delaware Bay last year. It was almost like an extended trip without the paddling!

Thanks to Carl White for guiding us on this very popular summer kayaking circuit...and to Mother Nature for waiting until our kayaks were loaded before dumping the rain.

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