The Kayak Chronicles

by Darren Caffery

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LITTLE EGG HARBOR - GREAT BAY - TUCKERTON, NJ

Sunday August 13, 2000

Paddling diehards from the Jersey Shore Sea Kayak Association for this trip included myself and Tom in our Hobie Pursuit SOTs, and Eric, Dale and Ken in their recreational closed cockpit sea kayaks.  After some scrambling around and getting our gear together, we ultimately found our way down Great Bay Blvd. off Rt. 9 and launched at Little Sheepshead Creek portion of the Great Bay Wildlife management Area. Skies were partly cloudy and the greenhead flies began to attack the minute our vehicle doors opened. We sprayed ourselves with lots of DEET which seemed to control them and once we were on the water, they seemed to disappear.  A few mosquitoes and greenheads certainly weren't going to keep us from paddling the area.

We agreed our paddling route would be a circumnavigation of the old Cannery and Seven Islands to Little Sheepshead Creek and then a circuitous route back to our take out. After paddling a couple of hours, we stopped at the bridge to have some lunch, and it was then our relaxing trip turned into a test of our endurance and persistence.  We already knew we were paddling with unfavorable tides but we figured, "we're young and in good shape, we'll be fine".  As we exited the narrow estuary on our route back to the put in, we ventured into a more open area of the Great Bay.

Paddling this small section with the tides flowing against us was brutal. Between the unfavorable tidal current and high winds, we were brought to a virtual standstill even while we dug our paddled hard into the water.  Paddling our hardest, we still only gained a short distance, yet we needed to persist if we were going to make it to the take out before the storms.  The ominous clouds grew larger and the sky darker as we paddled furiously. There was no resting with this current and wind.  A momentary rest of the paddle would result in a loss of several yards and then we would never have made it back to the take out before the storm arrived.  We anxiously paddled towards the estuary that would take us out of the open bay area and back into the safety of more sheltered and protected waters.  We just could not seem to reach it fast enough.   We all paddled very hard, digging deep to propel our vessels forward without losing velocity, and grunting loudly from muscles which were fast becoming like rubber.

My transcendental paddling techniques allowed me to persevere the fierce elements of Mother Nature that demand her respect.  It is intense periods of paddling in elements like these which test our strength of body, mind and spirit.  Although we paddled very hard for only 30 continuous minutes, it felt more like 2 hours.  We fought Mother Nature's intensity for quite a while until we were finally relieved to see our inlet.  One by one we entered the safety of the inlet estuary, sighed in relief and rested our arms, minds and paddles without fear we were going to be blown backward. Once we were out of the open water, we were able to paddle an easy relaxing pace.  It was such a relief as we were all pretty worn out from the previous 30 minutes of intensive paddling.  We could see our take out area in the distance but we knew we still had some distance to paddle.

Deciding to explore what he thought might be a more direct and quicker route to the take out, Eric separated from the rest of us. He was soon stopped and severely delayed in a maze of dead end tidal estuaries. Although he had to  backtrack a few times he was always within sight of the take out area.  He arrived back at the take out about 35 minutes after the rest of us.  So much for shortcuts!  We all had our gear loaded before the storm hit and we all were safely on our way home from what turned out to be a very rigorous and intense paddle trip. As we drove home, the thunder roared loudly and we watched bolts of lightning illuminate the darkened summer sky. I was very grateful to be off the water!

Needless to say, I slept like a baby that night.  .... Just another day in the Tao of Paddling!

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