Sunday, January 14, 2007

Weekend kayakery

Mother Nature can be a bitch when she wants to be. Which is all the damn time.

I've spent two days on kayak trips with mixed results.


Saturday morning I started out nice and early for the Gulf, opting to try out the waters at Gulf Shores. Forecasts called for two to four-foot seas, I had no problem with that last weekend. This time, however, I couldn't make it more than fifty yards offshore. The surf was horrific. A full 100-plus yards of surging breakers and foam along the waterline. If I had had time to don my sprayskirt on the breakers I could have made it past, but no-go, with water surging over my bow until I had to pull ashore with water up over my lap inside the kayak.

Discretion being the better part of valor, I tipped out the water and packed it in, setting off to look for a sheltered launch point on the Baldwin County side of the coast. Perdido pass was also a non-starter, owing to a making tide, more heavy surf, and a rather large number of oblivious fools on Sea-Doos and in powerboats. Once again, it was too unsafe to justify pressing on.

By the time I made it down the shoreline to the bay ferry, hoping to take a crack at Dauphin Island, there was only an hour of daylight remaining, so I had to settle for the scenic drive down the coast, the spectacular, sunny, 70-plus degree weather, and the rather bumpy half-hour ferry ride to DI.


Once again, a beautiful day beckoned. Off to Dauphin Island I went, hoping the shelter of the breakwater at Billy Goat Hole (yes, that's the name of the public boat ramp by Fort Gaines) would permit me to launch dryly and with my sprayskirt in place. I made it off without a hitch, until I hit the current off the eastern tip of DI (incoming tide again). Didn't make much southing, but I had a lot of fun negotiating the four to five-foot seas, going for good wave crests and that roller-coaster feeling instead of distance. Once that got tiresome, I pulled to the landward side of the island and its much tamer water. Things calmed enough for me to beach and break out the camera:
I hiked along the top of a massive, steep dune on a sandbar near the ferry pier. You can gain an idea of the scale of this thing from the tiny, needle-like speck of my beached kayak far below. At this distance it's hard to see all the trash strewn on this beach. discarded beer and soda bottles mostly, with a few odds and ends tossed in for good measure (plastic deck chairs, lumber, food wrappers, etc.)

There was also a rather large amount of driftwood. Next time I'm out I'm going to start gathering, driftwood will burn great in the brazier in my back yard.

It was slightly hazy, but I could still pick out Fort Morgan on the other side of the bay. It's about three miles. When I get a day out with calmer seas, I'm going to make the paddle across, and then down to the Sand Island lighthouse. Let's see what sort of trouble I get myself into tomorrow.

Getting back to the breakwater, I poked around a little by the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, and came across a seagull which had become badly tangled in fishing line (pinning both wings and wrapped around its neck). Good thing I had my Leatherman in my PFD. I cut the worst of the snags away, but couldn't get the line from around the gull's neck. So I held the pliers in front of its beak until it snapped at it and held on to the jaws long enough for me to pull off the rest of the line by hand. It was gratifying to see the gull wing off, clearly irritated but in good shape. Spending so much time on the water, it's tempting to change my major to Marine Biology. The wetlands here, and their fragile hold on life, fascinate me and draw me back to the water on an almost daily basis.


steve said...

A stream, a lake, the sea; all seem to draw out our sense of adventure and our connections to nature. Your Kayak may have lot to do with this new attitude of yours.
From "Moby Dick", 1st paragraph;
"I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off - then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball."

Citizen H said...

Well quoted, well quoted! That's exactly what it's about. Keeping myself in check.