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Let me give a very brief history first. My name is Craig (Cajun), and my bud is Larry (Tank). We are both ARMY, and while in Afghanistan, Larry and I talked about kayaking so much that when we got home Tank got himself a kayak (Pungo 110). We promptly made plans to do an over night paddle down the James after he had taken his basic lessons. After his lessons (During which he had so much fun) he went out and bought a 17 foot boat. After he got this boat we decided do take a day trip in the Back Bay to test his new boat and skills before our trip this up-coming weekend. By the way I have a Perception Antigua 12 footer with a skeg, and have had her for five years now. If you are wondering he is taking the Pungo 110 on the river trip!
We put in at a little landing on the West side of Back Bay, not sure what it is called but it was at the end of Mill Landing Road in Pongo, Va. @ N36°38.044' / W75°59.540'. We paddled east into a slight easterly wind for 1.8 miles to a little piece of land (marsh) no bigger than a house. This was our first way point, I had planed the route to go southeast from here but we decided to work it backwards. So if you want to take this trip the way that I had originally intended it to be, just reverses the cords. So after paddling for almost two miles into the wind with eight to ten inch waves at our front we decided to navigate the route in reverse, a mistake on our part as you will see.
Now our next way point way at the mouth of a cut through an island in the bay, a distance of .75 miles @ N36°38.084' / W75°56.954'. This led us into the calmer waters that we were seeking. We then preceded further inland (northeast) to our next waypoint of N36°38.063' / W75°56.658' at a distance of .27 miles. This is where we started to realize that the maps that we had were not dead on.
So I will say this here and now, if you are going to paddle the islands be prepared to look for your way around. What I mean is that the land mass in the bay changes so cuts can come and go. After I got back I looked it up on Google Earth and it was on point, a learning moment for us.
So back to the trip, we then paddled to our next way point N36°38.063' / W75°56.658', .27 miles east. The wind was still blowing and picking up a bit but the waters here were like glass. We took a few minutes to pull side-by-side and talk while enjoying a quick snack and a drink of water. I also at this point adjusted my foot pegs as I was getting a hot spot on my left foot. Another example of not planning ahead, my bad!
After ten minutes we took off southeast to our next waypoint of N36°37.877' / W75°56.536', .24 miles. Nothing eventful, but calm paddling waters, oh yea a few fish were jumping in front of our boats, with one or two hitting the bottom I think they were mullets but I am not sure. The water here was about three to four feet deep. After a turn to the east to our next waypoint N36°37.826' / W75°56.001', .50 miles, we noticed our first sign of trouble. The wind had shifted from east to northeast, no big deal at this point but it was on our minds.
We then proceeded northeast to our next way point N36°37.912' / W75°55.684', .31 miles on the backside (eastern side nearer the ocean) of the island that we were exploring. Here was the first real sign of trouble; the water went from paddle deep (getting a full paddle stroke) to about 10 inches deep. 90% of the time we were pushing off the bottom instead of paddling. As we approached our waypoint, and turned south, we could see whitecaps (two feet) break in front of us. We decided to “go for it” as we both had talked about practicing rescues.
Long story short, we made it pass the “killer breakers” back into deep water and turned south and a little to the west going to our next waypoint N36°37.573' / W75°55.739', .39 miles. We had the wind to our back and the waves behind us, smooth sailing right? So we thought! We could see at the next waypoint there was an island that had trees on it, we talked back and forth about stopping there for lunch. It had to be dry to grow oak trees right, well we decided to keep on going.
We turned southwest and headed to our next waypoint N36°37.492' / W75°56.268', .50 miles. This was the calmest waters that we paddled in the morning. Turning southwest we went to the next waypoint N36°37.276' / W75°56.300', .25 miles. Nothing major here, although it did get a little shallow, I would guess about 20 to 24 inches.
We then turn northwest and start heading back to the put-in point at N36°38.044' / W75°59.540', at 3.12 miles. About ¾’s of a mile into the trip back is when we started saying “Oh S@*T”. At some point the wind had shifted from a slight northeast wind to a fairly strong wing from the north.
We now had on our return trip, a strong wind blowing across our starboard bow, with 10-14 inch waves off the starboard. This was alright as we bobbed up and down for a while.
Then we hit the “Big Stuff”, we are now paddling west. Somewhere around 1 ½ miles into the paddle back the wind is off our starboard and not blocked by any land mass. At this point we have 18 to 24 inch waves hitting up from our starboard to aft-starboard, talk about a ride! 2 miles of roll-a-coaster ride we were loving it and hating it at the same time. We made it to our point and picked up in time for lunch.
We had our lunch then peddled a short inland creek; 1 mile both ways. I will be happy to do paddle this again if anyone wants do to it.
YakCatcher Rod Holder
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