The Kayak Chronicles ©
by Darren Caffery
Paddling the Outer Banks of North Carolina
Roanoke Sound Sunset Paddle
Friday May 24, 2002
This was the last day of our week of paddling in the OBX. While Bob Smith had returned to New Jersey earlier in the day, Tom, Ray and I had planned to paddle a little later in the afternoon, through the sunset and into the night. It was the warmest day we had since we arrived in the OBX. Temps were now in the 80’s and about where they should be for this time of the year. Ray spent some time with his wife on the beach earlier in the day while Tom and I attended a kayak demo event at the local Kitty Hawk Sports outpost. Since they were located directly on the Roanoke Sound, I figured this would be a great time to demo the fiberglass Perception Eclipse I’d been interested in. The demo event was not very crowded at all and I was able to demo the Eclipse right on the sound. The Perception rep and I actually paddled about an hour around Big Penguin Island and I really got a good feel for the boat. I loved it from only the first few paddle strokes as it glided so smoothly across the choppy Roanoke Sound. This was the first time I realized fiberglass handles so much better than plastic! Anyway, I liked the feel and handling of the boat but I didn’t buy it. I just wasn't ready to spend the extra cash and I wasn't really sure I was ready for a fiberglass boat either. In my previous crash with the bridge piling only a few days before, I realized that with a fiberglass boat, I would have had a gaping hole in the side of my hull! I think I'll stick to my plastic, rugged and durable plastic kayak for now.
After the demo, Tom and I decided to kayak in the location we had planned to meet Ray later in the day. We put in at a public launch on the sound in Nags Head and fought some wind and chop over to Big Penguin Island where we landed on the beach amidst a flocks of gulls, pelicans and host of other shore birds. After exploring the uninhabited island which really wasn’t so big, I found a quiet spot and laid myself to rest in the beautiful hot summer sun. Tom got a kite surfing lesson from some local guy, after he helped the guy untangle his lines. Meanwhile, I roasted in the sun.
At around 5:45 pm, from the island we were at, we could see Ray's truck pulling up to the launch site in the distance. Tom and I left the island and paddled over to meet Ray for our sunset paddle. The winds had kicked up significantly and after my relaxing siesta with the pelicans on this quiet island, I was disturbed that mother nature would throw such resistance into our last night of paddling. The combination of fighting the high winds and the thought of our last paddle started to make me very irritable. When we got over to meet Ray, we made our plan to paddle out in the sound under the small connector bridge that connects the OBX barrier island to Pond Island.
The launch site was real shallow from the water blowing out of the sound for the past few hours. Tom and Ray were already in the sound and I was in slow motion. The winds kicked up more and I had a hard time launching as my boat kept blowing into the shore and back into the very shallow areas. This did nothing to improve my mood, and to make matters worse, as I used my paddle to push off I heard a loud snap!@@##@. I know pushing off with your paddle is a stupid thing to do and in the height of frustration, we do stupid things. I definitely was not in my Tao of Paddling Zone! Good thing the winds were howling loud because Ray and Tom would have heard a lot more than the snap, as I spewed off a continuous tirade of profanity that only George Carlin could match. I finally got myself into the deeper part of the sound, and while paddling along side of Tom, some heavy wind blew our boats together and my stern hit his stern, catching my rudder on his line and tangling our boats together. I immediately pulled off my spray skirt, continued a louder tirade of profanity, and then hopped into the very shallow water to untangle my kayak. Ray looked bewildered seeing and HEARING a side of me he hadn’t ever heard before. I untangled the kayak, assessed my paddle, (no visible damage and still working properly) and hopped back in the boat. After securing my spray skirt and getting settled in my boat again, I looked out at the clear and beautiful dark blue OBX sky. In the moment, I realized much of my frustration was about nearing the end of such a great week of kayaking. I didn't want it to end but I took a deep breath. “Ahhhh… ok, I’m better now,” I laughed, and Ray politely told the operator on his cell phone to cancel the rubber room that he had reserved for me just minutes before.
After recovery from my mental meltdown, we continued our paddle south of the bridge. We paddled out towards Headquarter Island as the sun seemed to slowly go down over the OBX and the Roanoke Sound. After a few miles of paddling through the wind, we took shelter in a small creek before we began our journey back to our takeout. We cruised back with the wind behind us, surfing waves and riding the current. As we approached the bridge, the sun appeared to be going down faster over Roanoke Island. Some homes on Pond Island actually prevented a full view of the sunset, so I raced to get under the bridge to the open vista where I could then have a beautiful view of the setting sun. I made it under the bridge just as the bottom tip of the sun touched the horizon and began to disappear. Ray and Tom soon followed and as the sun went down beyond Roanoke Island, the sky turned into a vivid palette of orange and purple and fuscia. I had never really seen fuscia like I did this night. The winds also died down somewhat and we just floated and enjoyed the peaceful sunset of our last night of paddling in the OBX. What a way to end the week. As it got dark, we had the light of the almost full moon to guide us back and we paddled in the moonbeam on our course back to the takeout. Conveniently, the site had public facilities so we were able to clean ourselves up, change our clothes and get ready for dinner. We ended up at the NY Pizza Pub which was only a few miles away, but it was already 10:30 pm. After we were seated, the hostess told us that it was late and that they were only serving pizza. We told her that wasn’t a problem as long as they were still serving beer too! After a few pints of Bass Ale, a Hawaiian pizza with pineapple and ham, and another with grilled chicken and pesto, we capped off our last night on the OBX. We were the last ones to leave the pub and it wasn’t even 12 midnight on the start of Memorial Day Weekend. It was a great way to end our weeklong paddling adventure in the OBX!
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