The Kayak Chronicles

by Darren Caffery

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Paddling the Outer Banks - Spring 2001

May 20 - May 26,  2001

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Roanoke Island & Croatan Sound

On Monday, my paddling buddy Tom and I  ventured out to the west side of Roanoke Island to paddle the Croatan Sound.  We launched out of the town of Manteo in a small tranquil canal where we saw a nutria on the bank and a stray snake slithering around the water.  After about a 1/4 mile of calm water paddling, we made it out to the open waters of the Croatan Sound where we could see the construction crew building the new 7 mile bridge in the distance.  There were no boats around for miles and the sky was gray and foreboding.  The westerly winds were fierce on the sound and created some large swells which kept trying to pummel my kayak into the shore.  I had a difficult time keeping my Perception Eclipse balanced and under control with the large following swells.  A few times I came very close to capsizing.  Tom appeared to have more control over his Hobie Pursuit sit on top.

     

Although I was intensely focused on keeping my boat upright, I still got to see a few Black Pelican squawking on some pilings.  As a result of the winds, the ominous sky and the forecast of thunderstorms, we decided to abort our paddle mission for the day which was to reach the North Carolina Aquarium about 2-3 miles north of where we were.  Although I had my doubts about making it back to the canal without capsizing, we did make it back safely.  I was in no mood to practice my first wet exit in these rough waters.

We landed on a deserted beach before we paddled back into the canal.  The beach would have been more relaxing if I knew I didn't have to fight the larger than normal swells and fear of capsizing on the return trip.

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Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge

On Wednesday, amidst a forecast of thundershowers, we had plans to paddle the Alligator River Wildlife Refuge with a guide from Kitty Hawk Sports.  At around 8 am, we arrived at the Kitty Hawk Sports outpost to meet our guide and the others who would join us on our trip. Ironically, our guide was a young guy named Tom Foti who had guided us on a previous paddling trip at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge last year.  Our trip also included a man and his two young sons and about 4 new trainee guides from Kitty Hawk Sports.  We all followed Tom and his van of new guide trainees and on our way up to the refuge, a huge thunderstorm pounded us with rain before we even got over the bridge into Manteo. Tom had pulled the van over in the pelting rain to give us an opportunity to bail out of the trip if we wanted to.  The man and his two kids did decide to bail out, but since Tom and his trainees were going out to the refuge anyway...rain or shine...we decided to proceed.  It was a wise move because less than 10 minutes later the rain stopped, the clouds moved out and the sun started to peek in and out of the clouds for the rest of the day.  After about a 35 minute ride, we launched at Milltail Creek and paddled the creek to Sawyer Lake for a large portion of the morning.

In addition to learning all about the wildlife, botany and history of the refuge, we got to see and hear a pileated woodpecker.  We also saw one lone alligator in Sawyer Lake which, like a submarine, kept submerging and surfacing less than 10 yards from our kayaks.  Unfortunately, my camera didn't have zoom lens.

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Bodie Island - Pamlico Sound

     

On Thursday we paddled the Pamlico Sound along Bodie Island, launching from the public ramps near Oregon Inlet and heading north towards the Bodie Island Lighthouse.  It was a beautiful day and we paddled most if it, taking short breaks for a snack or a drink on small bird breeding islands.  

 

On our paddle south we also landed on a small sandbar just north west of the Oregon Inlet bridge but were soon forced to leave as we watched it slowly disappear with a rising tide.

This is a piece of real estate I'm interested in buying on the Pamlico Sound.  It needs a little work as you can tell , but I like the location.  How far is it to the nearest Home Depot?

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Pamlico Sound - Clarks Bay from Salvo

On Friday we decided to head south on Rt. 12 with our kayaks past Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and into the less populated area of Hatteras Island called Salvo.  We made our way over to a well maintained public beach area with plenty of parking.  We launched from a beautiful white sand beach area into the Pamlico sound and paddled north a few miles before heading back south past our original launch site.  The areas we paddled were somewhat shallow in this part of the sound.  The sound was vast and maps indicated it was over 15 miles to the other side of the shore. Because the sound was so wide, it appeared as if we were paddling on the open sea.  In this area, we also observed some rather large jellyfish.  Surprisingly, there were virtually no boats around.

In our journey south, we spent quite a bit of time exploring a few small narrow  creeks and estuaries which were filled with wildlife.  In one quiet creek, we spotted a little blue heron and a few wading egrets.  The waters were loaded with jumping fish, blue claw crabs and small diamondback terrapin turtles and the shores of these little marshes were also loaded with fiddler crabs.  As we left the creeks and paddled farther south along the shore of the sound, the water was crystal clear and a little deeper along what seemed like miles of sedge. It was very sunny and about 85 degrees.  We were starting to get hot and ready to take a break however there were no beaches in sight to land at.  We continued to paddle, each mile hoping to find a beach...however there were none.  

   

After about 4 miles, we finally decided to simply land on an area of cleared muddy sedge where we drank some cool water , had lunch, watched some fish jumping out of the water and took a short rest .  After our break we paddled a mile or so south to No Ache Island before paddling back to our take out. This turned out to be the most exhilarating paddle of the week.

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