Friday, June 10, 2011

"Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one." - Dr. Seuss

My favorite beaches are usually off the beaten path. My parking spot is with the beach crowd but I usually end up walking a distance to get to the sand less traveled. That's where the best shells & sharks teeth are and it is noticeably quieter.  The families with small kids & teenagers throwing Frisbees, balls, & each other tend to stay close to the facilities. I have often  looked at some of the little sandbars & mangrove islands  out in the bay & wondered if I could talk my water-challenged hubby into at least a small pontoon boat.  The last time he motored a rental boat the hubs backed it into the dock receiving a nasty look from the rental guy. The other time we lost a propeller on a rock which was an extra $40 bucks on top of the boat rental.  We are not boat people.  

Lil Shorty has come to my rescue. My girlfriend Lil Shorty has loaned me her sit-on  kayak.  She loves to kayak but her work schedule & proximity to the water has put a kibosh on her paddling. She offered this kayak novice the use of her boat for awhile so I could try the sport out.  Come on, how hard can this be? I looked at a few web sites for info. After watching a video on flipping over I felt certain I could perform "the belly button maneuver". You have to roll the kayak back over, pull yourself up to your belly button, and flop yourself back in. Lil Shorty also brought the paddle & a seat so I just had to borrow a PFD.  Whunu? I always called it a life jacket but apparently cool boating folks refer to it as a personal floatation device or PFD. Well, I certainly want to personally float if I end up in the bay .  There was also  the matter of my camera so a waterproof dry box was purchased as well.  With my gear & the suggested snack & bottle of water I was off for my maiden voyage.
Comination PFD & fishing vest - look at all the pockets

Watertite dry box holds camera & cell phone
I'm at least pointed in the right direction

Most kayak websites suggest you tell someone where you will be paddling for safety reasons. I decided on Stump Pass because if my paddle plan failed with the Hubs hopefully one of the park rangers would notice my SUV still sitting in the parking lot at the end of the day & come looking for me. Parking  directly in front of the launch area to the calm intercoastal bay side of the park I unloaded all my gear.  After waving to Ranger Betty to insure she saw me although being kayak incognito with hat, sunglasses, PFD, & big sun shirt she probably wondered who the heck was waving wildly at her. 

 I climbed on top of the kayak & planted myself in the seat. I decided to paddle into the wind & close to the mangrove line until I got my kayak sensibilities going.  Happily, it turns out that I have a knack for this kayak thing.  I got my stroke going & my balance was kicking in. I made a 3 mile loop around the bay stopping at each sandbar & little island I had formally longed to check out.  I saw dolphins, sting rays, & tons of birds.  Floating in a secluded cove  & peering down into the turtle grass that was just teeming with fish & huge horse conchs I just let the wind push me along. 

I've been kayaking 3 times now.  I've found that I like early morning calm seas & light wind the best.  At fifty- cough cough any exercise I can get is a good thing. Although I'm not kayak racing  or marathons, the workout I am getting from just my mangrove meanderings has already stopped some underarm flappings. Paddling is a great upper body workout. So I'm going to keep paddling along & take advantage of a good thing as long as I can but who knows...maybe the Hubs would be interested in a two-seater kayak.

After you get a closer look one realizes why mangroves are so important to our coastal water systems. Birds in their branches & oysters at their base to filter the water. Their roots are an underwater baby fish nursery of all kinds.

So nice to pull under a mangrove & just watch the activity for a while

This fella went back where I found him at the base of the fallen tree

Sand bar at Stump Pass 

Locals call this area ski alley