The Kayak Chronicles ©
by Darren Caffery
Atlantic City Bridge to Bridge Swim & Kayak Support
Saturday August 3rd, 2002
After making our way through some heavy summer traffic on the Garden State Parkway and the Atlantic City Expressway, Jersey Shore Sea Kayak Association member, Elaine Zompolas and I still managed to meet at the public launch in Atlantic City by just a little after 1 pm.
We launched on schedule at 1:30 pm at the Atlantic City public boat ramp on Albany Ave. - Rt 40/322, admiring the very nice Atlantic City High School rowing club boathouse across the waterway. Temps were in the high 80's with humidity that made it feel like high 90's. There was also very little wind. We made a very short paddle under the Albany Ave Bridge and a quick pit stop at the Wonderbar where we practiced exiting our kayaks on their small floating dock before making a pit stop. It was there that the race coordinator, Sid Cassidy, was getting the swim registration tent ready and some locals were enjoying food and cold drinks on the patio bar on the intracoastal waterway. After our quick stop we launched back into the intracoastal waterway and paddled north, slowly making our way in the waters alongside the Atlantic City Expressway and all its billboards. After riding some mild boat chop we realized it was about 2:15 so we decided to make our way back to the public launch to meet JSSKA member Tim Yahn who had agreed to guide us on a local paddle before the Bridge to Bridge Event.
Before we ever got back to the launch we saw a kayaker heading toward us in a blue Prijon Calabria and it was Tim. We turned around and started our circumnavigation of Ventnor and Chelsea Heights. Since Tim grew up around this area, he knew the area well and was a great guide. There were lots of jumping snappers in the waters and I was also surprised to see some very large turtle heads popping out of the water in the intracoastal waterway near Ventnor Heights. We kept a steady and relaxing pace. On our paddle with the backdrop of the Atlantic City casinos in the background we also passed alongside a few natural areas and some very nice homes on the canal. After we completed our 6 mile circuit of Chelsea and Ventnor Heights we landed back at the WonderBar at about 4 pm and decided to grab a few ice cold drinks at the patio bar until the Bridge to Bridge event at 5. Ahhh, the ice cold drinks on the patio bar hit the spot after paddling on this hot summer day at the Jersey Shore.
At about 4:45 and after their paddle down in Cape May, Barb Ewing and Dan F arrived in their kayaks at the WonderBar to help out with the Bridge to Bridge Swim Event. A few minutes later Chuck Eberson also arrived to help out. At 5 pm we received very brief instructions for our kayak support role in the Bridge to Bridge Swim. About 200 swimmers were registered for the event which lead swimmers on a 3 mile round trip course from the Albany Ave Bridge to the Dorset Ave Bridge. A one way course for children was also part of the event.
Our role as kayakers for the swim was to basically serve as 'sheep herders', helping the swimmers stay on course and alerting them to dangers such as submerged pilings in the water. This was sometimes challenging as the swimmers get so into focus that they pay little attention to where they are headed. Some also appeared to get disoriented as their energy levels waned. We used whistles, banging our hulls, yelling and banging the water to get their attention if we needed to and sometimes they still didn't hear us. It was really amazing however, to see the swimmers ranging in ages from teens to 70's complete the course.
After the event was over, I stayed at the Wonder Bar which was now very, very crowded while the rest of the group opted for a less crowded 'after-paddle' venue.
Thanks to Elaine, Tim, Barb, Chuck and Dan for assisting with the kayak support and special thanks to Tim Yahn for guiding Elaine and I on a 6 mile circuit around Chelsea and Ventnor Heights and providing great paddling company for the day.
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