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Started at Deep Bottom Park. The wind was close to 20 MPH so there was a little chop. Before I had gone more than 100 yards, saw the first eagle of the day. My expectations for seeing an eagle had already been met. Before I reached Hopewell some 18 miles later, I would see at least a dozen. It was difficult to count correctly since they would fly across in one direction, and a few minutes later you would see an eagle flying back. Not sure if it was the same one on the return trip or another.
As I continued on, the wind speed increased and the chop got between 18” and 2’. For the most part the wind was coming over my right shoulder, so I did not have to battle it directly very often, except where the James River changed direction for a mile or so. Only saw one other boat the entire trip. It was a large flat bottom boat with several fishermen trying their luck. For an area so close to Richmond, I was surprised how many miles of shoreline I passed with no houses. Saw two deer drinking and eating the leaves from a small tree that had blown down at the shoreline. Got within 50 yards, before they decided that was close enough and made their exit back into the underbrush.
Because of the noise of the wind, later I would find out there were gusts over 40 MPH, I was concerned that one of the tugs I had seen along the shore, pushing barges would come up behind me. I would not be able to hear them and they would not see me. I stayed out of the channel. Going around one bend I saw that the water near the shore had virtually no chop, compared to that further out. I attributed it to protection from the trees along the shore. After I tried moving through it and discovered that I had run aground in the mud I realized that the water was too shallow for any real agitation. I got out and started to pull using my bow rope. Probably walked over a half mile in mud reaching mid calf. I was glad I had sneakers on. Flip-flop type footwear would have stuck to the bottom and been lost the first few steps.
Saw an Osprey nest on a Coast Guard Aids to Navigation buoy. Even though it was well out of my way, I went across and got within 100 feet before the Osprey left the next the hovered about that far behind the nest till I made my rapid withdraw. Saw 6 or 8 Osprey, but that was the closest I had gotten to any. Saw many varieties ducks and gulls, most of which were just bouncing nicely in the current as I went by. Even with the wind it was a great opportunity to see many birds, although most of them were of the larger variety.
About a mile before Hopewell the river really opens up. It is close to a half mile across. Since I was meeting my pick up partner at the Marina, I had to work my way across the entire half mile. At this point the wind and water were giving my kayak a good test. I had to agree with comments I had read in the kayak product reviews, that the Mariner really shines in rough water.
When I got to the Marina the person in charge was strongly suggesting that no one take his or her motor boat out, because of the rough conditions. While I had made it, I was 1 hour and 40 minutes later than I anticipated. In 20 minutes the Marina had planned to send a search party out looking for me. While it would have been somewhat embarrassing, I knew my friend would not let my failure to appear go on very long before doing something about it. If I had, had a serious problem it would have been very comforting to know that before very long help would be coming. Always let someone know your route and what time you should be back.
I am living in North Carolina and had never been on this section of the James River before. I would highly recommend it if you enjoy bird watching.
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