Cape Henlopen Paddlers News

Paddling Delaware and the eastern shore of Maryland and Virginia

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Fall Winter 01, May 01, June 01 and July/August 01  back to main page

These are a little old, we are working on the new one, maybe.  Scroll down for updates on the canal dredging.  It will happen.  Perhaps as early as November 04.   A fine use of tax payers money. There is no science, nor are there any engineers, nor anyone familiar with the tidal flows through the Canal, that supports the theory that this will help the flushing of the Little Assawoman Bay.  It may increase flows through the Loop Canal and the Salt Pond, but that was discounted by a Pennsylvania  Engineering firm. 

2001 Fall/winter newsletter - news from the beachy side!

         1.      Assawoman Canal Dredging not a joke, by Sallie Callanen 

2.     Delmarva Paddlers Retreat.

3.     While you were Sleeping

4.     Paddle for Cancer

4.     One year of Cape Henlopen Paddlers

5.     A note from the editor

update 1/17/04 see the Sierra Club site at for more background

update 4/2/04  there is to be a final hearing set later this month on the canal dredging.  The Sierra Club continues it's valiant efforts to save this remote area.  But the Army Corp has reissued the permits and it appears to be a fate complet

update 8/20/04 Permits are complete, all that's left is to begin the work.  Paddle it now as it will only be a short time till the serenity will change, perhaps forever.

A note on the Assawoman Canal, after 20 years of trying it would appear that the state will shortly dredge it deeper.  It is a serene paddle with a beautiful canopy of trees, and currently too shallow for power boats in two spots.   Now's the time to paddle it, there is strong political pressure to start this project soon. This has been a political issue.  And clearly it is for the convenience of powerboaters.  DNREC News - Rescheduled Environmental Appeals Board Hearing on Assawoman Canal Dredging Set for April 13 and 27

update 8/05    The local senators, Hocker and Bunting, have taken a backdoor route to get this done.. The State Legislature has approved the dredging and it looks like a done deal to happen beginning late September 05.  See Assawoman Awareness Paddle

Assawoman Canal dredging not a joke

By Sallie Callanen, Chairperson

Sierra Club, Southern Delaware Group, Ocean View, Delaware

 Both the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the National Marine Fisheries Service have raised significant environmental issues concerning dredging of the Assawoman Canal. A local newspaper would like its readers to believe that only “misguided environmentalists” question DNREC’s dredging plan.

 Contrary to recent newspaper reports, the Assawoman Canal was not constructed more than 100 years ago as a link in the Intracoastal Waterway to Florida, but rather to expedite moving local farm produce to markets in small vessels. The proposed federal Delmarva Intracoastal Waterway project, extending from Lewes to Cape Charles, Va., was de-authorized by Public Law: 97-128 signed by President Reagan in December 1981.

 Delaware's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control refused to seek an Environmental Impact Statement for dredging of the Assawoman Canal, as recommended in 1986 by its Division of Water Resources. Rather than first obtaining federal approval for dredging the Assawoman Canal, the state spent millions of dollars constructing raised bridges. This imprudent action should not now be heralded as justification for dredging.

 DNREC is responsible for issuing environmental dredging permits to itself and, at the same time, justifying the operation of state-owned dredges at an annual cost of $900,000. This dual responsibility creates an inherent conflict of interest.

 Public records indicate that pressure was brought to bear within DNREC in favor of permit approval for dredging the Assawoman Canal as the result of political considerations.

 DNREC evidently could not afford a thorough hydrodynamic analysis of the canal using computer flow model technology of either the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or the University of Delaware's College of Marine Studies. That the cost of this critically important effort exceeded DNREC's budget doesn't diminish the need for an accurate flow-flushing analysis that also examines potentials for flooding, self-scouring and shoreline erosion.

 No evidence accepted by the scientific community supports claims that dredging of the Assawoman Canal will significantly increase flushing of South Bethany's dead-end lagoons.

 Political and societal debate should be based on sound science. Scientific data that has been influenced by political considerations is worthless.

 That tree stumps are visible in the bottom of the Assawoman Canal at low tide is the result not of "silting in" but of the greater volume of water exchange between the ocean and the bays on each tide cycle due to self-scouring of Indian River Inlet. The volume of water flowing through the inlet roughly tripled from 1939 to 1969 and almost doubled from 1969 to 1988.

 The depth of the inlet has increased from 15 feet to 100 feet; as a result, high tides in the bays are higher and low tides are lower. Low-tide water levels in Indian River Bay are 12 inches lower than 50 years ago.

 Increased flushing action, providing the "dilution solution to pollution," is the primary cause of shallower water in the canal at low tide, and prevents it from becoming “a mosquito-festering stagnant body of water,” as mistakenly claimed.

 Exceptionally shallow water at the Del. 26 bridge is reportedly the result of failure to remove sediment deposited in the canal during bridge construction.

 If DNREC initiates a plan to create a navigable channel through Little Assawoman Bay, which has never been dredged, and the Assawoman Canal, the department should present its entire proposal for public review and comment. The direct, secondary and cumulative environmental impacts of large-scale dredging projects on water quality and benthos, fish and wildlife resources cannot be determined when such projects are implemented in a piecemeal manner.

 The consulting firm of professional engineers, architects, and planners DNREC's Division of Parks and Recreation hired to develop a master plan for the Assawoman Canal State Park concluded that increased motor boat usage would introduce pollutants and increase water turbidity and bank erosion and that the long narrow shape of the canal may reduce the rapid dispersion of pollutants.

 DNREC's draft master plan calls for construction of extensive bike trails along the badly eroding banks of the canal, removal of private docks, and acquisition and redevelopment of the Harbor View Marina. This virtually secret 1995 plan estimated to cost in excess of $2,000,000 was declared to have "no official status" last January.

 The public has continuously been kept in the dark about numerous issues and impacts related to the proposed Assawoman Canal State Park development and dredging plan, including use of the Fresh Pond State Park as a dredge spoil disposal site – a precedent setting action.

UPDATE     A note on the Assawoman Canal, after 20 years of trying it would appear that the state will shortly dredge it deeper.  It is a serene paddle with a beautiful canopy of trees, and currently too shallow for power boats.   Now's the time to paddle it, once the state secures Army Corp approval, it will be years before it regains it's current splendor.  Army Corp approval is considered to be  rubber stamp.  There is strong political pressure to start this project soon.  

Delmarva Paddlers Retreat 2001

UPDATE; see also Delmarva Paddlers Retreat 2002  *****(2005 Retreat Info)*****

 The Delmarva Paddlers Retreat 12+1 was again held this year.  What is it?  Well first off it's not affiliated with the Delmarva Message Board, it's much older.  Charlie and Cindy Cole started it 13 years ago while they still ran Millpond Paddler; it has no affiliation with the Delmarva Paddlers message board.   Always held the first week of October, at Camp Arrowhead on the Rehoboth Bay, it has become a Delmarva tradition.  This year the Retreat was an all Greenland traditional paddling event. That’s not to say people paddling Euro Blades (plastic composite blades on a metal or fiberglass shaft frequently feathered) couldn’t participate, or that they wouldn’t benefit from the instruction.  They could, and did, it’s just that the instruction was geared to the Greenland style of paddling, and that requires at least a sea kayak and is most easily accomplished with a narrow, usually wooden, un-feathered Greenland Style paddle.  What is the Greenland style?  Short answer, it is an emulation of the paddling techniques developed primarily by the Inuits.   They relied upon their skin kayaks for survival and over thousands of years they developed very effective methods of paddling and self-rescues.  They had to, these boats were used to hunt and trade and a successful hunt would be for naught if the hunter couldn’t return.  Some thirty plus methods of rolling the kayak must be perfected to qualify for the Greenland Paddle Championships held each year in Greenland.  These include rolls holding onto bricks and one best described as the straightjacket roll.  All designed to emulate conditions a paddler might encounter alone while hunting and injured in less than chamber of commerce conditions.  Ray Killen has much more at his Katabasis site.

The retreat has various classes scheduled throughout the three days to further ones abilities, regardless of your level of competence.  Rescues and rolling being heavily emphasized, as they should be.  There was also harpoon throwing competition, paddle making, camp food preparation and instruction on paddling the Greenland way by Greg Stamer, a Greenland Paddling Champion).  Saturday night is very special.  After another fine dinner, we retired to the meeting room and listened to Nanticoke singer and signer Patsy and Michelle Wright do a moving musical interpretation prayer.  Glenn Gauvry of the Ecological Research and Development Group gave a very interesting presentation on horseshoe crabs.  ( Dan Smith followed with one on the sex life of barnacles, and if you thought barnacles couldn’t be interesting, you’ve not had the benefit of having Dan do the presentation.  Tears of laugher, and now I can’t paddle past barnacles now without a tinge of envy.  Another lecture by Vernon Doucette on the history of kayaks and off the pool we went for kayak dressage.  Jenny Plummer and Cindy Cole (the current Greenland Paddling Champion in her division) defy gravity with slow, artistic rolling routines.  I just don’t know how some of the maneuvers are possible.  From there it’s to the beach for the campfire and sing-a-long, easily one of the enjoyable portions of the weekend.  Attended by just about participant, this year a special tribute to George Ellis was given.  Amazing Grace was sung as two iridescent skin boats paddled by illuminated from the inside.  Very fitting for a man who had done so much for the retreat.  The sing-a-long lasts well into the evening, with the lights of Dewey Beach as a backdrop and the stars as our ceiling and enough beer so of the voices sounded wonderful.  I was fortunate to be bunking in the lodge with many of the musicians.  Our sing-a-long lasted much later - worth every moment.

 Sunday brought the auction, a benefit that helps fund the event and the expenses of the Greenlanders who usually attend.  This year the Greenlanders felt understandably uncomfortable flying in, and we all understood.  The winds were blowing, the trip to Cape Henlopen was cancelled, but smaller tours were held around the local bay, and classes continued to be held.  I spent much of the afternoon capturing images of the remaining kayakers and talking to the new friends I’d met.  As I was loading my gear, my wife called to tell me the bombing of the Taliban had begun.  After three pleasant days away from the world news, back to reality.

 For more information on see the Official Greenland paddle site

While you were sleeping

Sunday November 18th 2001, the Leonid meteor shower; to view it I was planning on walking the dogs on the beach, but that changed with a Saturday afternoon call from the Maestro, Jim Grant,  “Want to take the boats out and see the shower from the Rehoboth Bay?”  Does a fish pee in the water?  We’ll do it!  Quickly load the kayak up: extra clothes, and a back up set, safety gear and lights.   So it was 4:00 am and we were launching from Haven Rd. Strap the coffee to the deck and we passed Burtons Island and out to the middle of the bay.  I’ve paddled at night before but never launched at night and certainly not a moonless night.  It took a few strokes to become comfortable with placing the blade into the unseen.  The inky black bay was calm; occasionally we could hear a fish jump.  Pitch black, still water, a jumping minnow sounds like an Orca.  No need to worry about Jetskis it was cold out.  Some of the meteors were already starting to fall.  “Jimmy, look over there!”  “Chris did you see that one?”  “Let’s go over to the island, maybe we can block out the lights of Massey’s Landing.”  A good call, now just the distant lights of Dewey Beach and a few from the Indian River Inlet Marina to guide us but not hurt our viewing.  First we rafted up and floated, but the outgoing tide would sweep us back into the lights from Massey's.  I remembered a small cove on the island out of the current so we paddled over and backed in.  The “show” seemed to be greatest over the ocean.  Well so we thought.  No it’s best in the south, heck no it’s better to the northeast. There was no way we could count the number of streaks, it was just overwhelming.  We beached our boats on a sandbar and leaned back on the rear decks, well as far as two middle-aged guys can lean anyway.  Boy just in time for the Big Show and it was worth it.  It seemed as though all of the shooting stars were originating from one point.  Indeed this is the reason for the name, Leonid, as they appear to be radiating from the constellation Leo. Big ones, little ones, long streaks, small bursts.  The word awesome is over used, but that’s exactly what it was.  How do particles, many no bigger than a grain of sand, put on such a spectacular performance?   They come from the comet Tempel-Tuttle’s dust trail, which the earth passes through every year and causes the shower, is most spectacular every 33 years or so.  These particular meteors are apparently some of the fast ones. They sure looked fast to us. 

  I’m sure we were not the only ones with a good view of the shower, but I doubt anyone had a more memorable time of it.  I’m sorry for those who didn’t see it, or some how slept through it.  I’ve heard comments about it being a fizzle, and not up to the hype. “I looked out the window and didn’t see much of anything.”  For once I’m glad I didn’t have my camera, I may have missed too much trying to “get the shot”, and I never would have captured the felling of moment.  There’s an old saying photographers have about how they may have obtained a certain image “f-8 and be there.”  That was never so true as it was on Sunday morning Nov 17th, you had to get up and “be there”.  Neither Jim nor myself believe that anyone could have witnessed this event on not believe there is a God.  It was mystical.

Paddle for Cancer

 Coastal Kayaks sponsored a Paddle for Leukemia Sept 29th.  It’s always nice to paddle, even better for a good cause, so after we participated in the rescheduled 8 mile Market Street race, Roland and I decided to travel over to Fenwick Island and take an easy paddle for the cause.  For a donation CK would drop you off at a put in of your choice.  Roland had never been on the Assawoman Canal so we choose the Kent Street Bridge location.  The canal is part of a beautiful wildlife area that is threatened by dredging.  He wanted to know more about it.  Paddling north to the Rt. 24 Bridge we then turned around to paddle back to Fenwick.  A mere 6 miles and the tides and wind should be with us.  Easy right. Well not exactly, first there’s Roland’s definition of an easy paddle to contend with, then as we were nearing the end of the canal we could see white caps on the Little Assawoman Bay.  I zipped up my PFD and put on my skirt, a short sexy black number my wife bought for me and on we went.  We didn’t know that small craft warnings had been posted and the winds had grown to the 25+-knot range with high gusts.  We became aware that this might be a trying return paddle; I was fairly fatigued as it was from a day of fast paddling.  We came to the “narrows” were changing tides and the wind whipped up some pretty impressive standing waves for this shallow bay, we split apart as we went were our boats took us rather than fight for a precise direction.  I saw Roland turn out and head to the shelter of a small cove.  Yup he was putting is life vest on.  Back out, we joined up again and after a little trial and error we found the rhythm of the waves.  The fatigue went away, replaced with the kind of adrenaline you can only get when you’re on the verge of having too much fun.  We surfed for two miles back to Coastal Kayaks, arriving giddier than two kids at an amusement park.  The fund raising was successful, the paddle highly enjoyable and the cause certainly worth it.  And after two intense paddles that day, the beer was especially tasty.

 One year of Cape Henlopen Paddlers:

 One year ago Cape Henlopen Paddlers was launched rather quietly with the 2000 Rehoboth Beach Christmas Parade.  A simple float, consisting of a triple and a single CLC kayak on top of a Jeep Cherokee.  String some Christmas lights, fill the boats with kids and off we went.  But it started something and with the help of Mitch Mitchell of Coastal Kayaks and Beth Webb of Bay View Marina we soon had some 30 members, mostly e-mail based.  Larry Bliven had given me hell about not needing a club on the eastern shore at last November’s paddlers’ dinner, and how we didn’t another organization like CPA.  Point well taken and I agreed.  CHP would be an information source, a way of letting local paddlers know of local paddle events and as a method of organizing informal paddle events.  I had a list of people, whom I would e-mail any information that came my way, and but was looking for a way to host it on the web and was literally writing an e-mail to Larry, when he sent one to me announcing Delmarva Paddlers on yahoo.  We invited the CHP members to join, and merged the bases.  Most of the CHP members have stayed and now the combined group is 100+.  Not bad for a year and only six of those months have been web based.

 As a group we’ve paddled The James Farm, The Assawoman Wildlife area, The Broadkill River, the James Branch, Broad Creek, the Nanticoke and Wicomico Rivers.  Distance paddles were tried and completed.  We’ve participated in the Delmarva Race Circuit, and several well-organized standalone races, Wye Island, The Broadkill Canoe and Kayak race, and The Broad creek Blassst.  We’ve paddled for causes, the Rehoboth Bay Paddle, coastal cleanup, adopt a wetlands and the Leukemia Paddle.  We’ve paddled to learn skills at the St Joe’s pool sessions, at the skills seminar with Coastal kayaks and Delmarva Paddlers Retreat.  And best of all we’ve met new friends and paddled for the fun of it.

 Thanks Larry.   Thanks everyone.  Many nice paddles, many new friends, We are looking forward to next year.

From the editor:  Your comments, private or public, are always welcome.  An article of your favorite paddle trip is even more welcome.  This e-news is for your fun and enjoyment.  The boys in the photo below could tell you all about that. Happy paddling!


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