The Kayak Chronicles

by Darren Caffery



Saturday September 7, 2002

There were no pirates, sunken treasures, pillaging or plundering and there were no bottles of rum...but we still managed to have a good time!

We launched into the Intracoastal Waterway in Atlantic City in the early morning for the 10K for the USA race and swim support. After the race was over we made a stop at the Wonder Bar for some food and cold drinks, and then began our 15+ mile paddle to Skull Bay. Although we launched later than we expected, we finally started our journey to Skull Bay at about 2:30 pm.  I provided those who wanted to a shorter trip an optional route back to avoid the full 15+ miles and a possible landing after dark.

Elaine Zompolas, Joe Messier, Mark Whitt, Joy Hecht, Bill Metzgar, Rich Eng, Kathy and myself started out on the journey north through the intracoastal waterway paddling alongside the coast of Bader Field Airport into the Beach Thorofare and the waters of Shelter Isle. As we approached Shelter Island our crew dwindled; Bill decided to backtrack to the takeout while Rich and Kathy opted to return to the landing via the nearby west canal of the intracoastal waterway in Ventnor Heights.


As the rest of us continued, Joy made sexist remarks about men and their electronics equipment as I navigated using the coordinates and map on my GPS and as she studied the nautical chart laid out on the sleek shiny wood deck of her 19 ft Besty Bay.  The weather was sunny & hot and a slight headwind and lots of water kept us from overheating in the sun. In one area near Shelter Island, the water got a bit low and we ended up dragging a few feet back to the deeper water. No big deal. (see Joe Messier's pics. One pic makes Mark Whitt look like he's walking on the water across the bay)

After about 7.5 miles we made it into the entrance to Skull Bay. The bay was a small mostly enclosed body of calm water with a few narrow entrances. It is surrounded by the small town of Linwood and the Linwood Country Club on the western shore and also provides a wide vista of Atlantic City skyline to the Northeast. It was very peaceful and as we entered it, we took a break from paddling and absorbed the silence. Joy absorbed a bit more, and deciding it was time for her ceremonial swim, she exited her boat and plopped into the peaceful waters. Joe and I shot some pictures.


After a bit of floating on quiet Skull Bay we charted our course to exit and headed out near the Risley Channel, catching some fun currents and boat wakes as the tide rushed in from the nearby Great Egg Harbor Inlet. As we rounded Dune Island and paddled along side of the Pork Island Wildlife Management Area, we cruised with the tidal current at speeds of 7 and 8 miles per hour. It was an incredible ride and I really didn't realize how fast I was going until I checked the GPS and looked at the rapidly moving shoreline. As the sun began to set we made our way back towards Shelter Island and Jonas Island. After a few miles we took a landing break (except for Elaine, who was practicing staying in her boat for long periods in preparation for the Delaware Bay crossing) on small beach near the Viking Rowing club trailer near the entrance to the west canal of the intracoastal waterway. As the no see-ums attacked we quickly got back in our boats and headed north up the intracoastal as it began to get dark.


After 16.3 miles and at about 8:10 pm, we all landed safely. Total day paddling for those that paddled Skull Bay AND the 10k kayak support was over 22 miles. After loading the boats we trekked into the city to Los Amigos Mexican Cantina where we caught up with Bruce Jenkins, had some dinner and a couple of pitchers of frozen margaritas.

All in all, between the Mullica circuit on Sunday, the AC trips on Saturday, perfect weather, and all the great JSSKA paddling company, it was another one of those great paddling weekends that I just didn't want to end.



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