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We started our planned paddle around Brigantine Island on the beach at the north end of the Island right where the boardwalk ends. Our morning started interestingly enough with helping a pair of confused, obviously impaired women get there small SUV off the beach, it was funny, but delayed our start by a few minutes. Our plan was to paddle through the surf, to see the sunrise over the beach as we paddled south to the Absecon inlet between Atlantic City and Brigantine.
Arriving at the beach, it was obvious there would be no scenic sunrise; we were facing a 5' swell and heavy fog, very little visibility. We were determined to have our trip, so undaunted we launched through a messy little surf, not too bad, my paddle buddy Shawn did not manage the surf too well, so once we passed the breakers he had to bail a little, no big deal, he did get pretty wet though.
Ok, so it was interesting paddling with a 5' swell, not too difficult, but bigger than either of us had paddled in before. We stayed just about 500 yards off the beach and could barely see the loom of the land, it was pretty dense fog. We paddled for about 1.5 - 2 hours before seeing the jetty on the brig side of the Absecon inlet, it was a little intimidating, seeing all the breakers on the north side of the inlet. By this time, the tide had shifted, high tide was at 6:30 am, so the tide was running out pretty fast, with a 5' swell going in the opposite direction and the wind picking up to about 12-15mph, the conditions got our full attention.
As we approached the Jetty, we paddled about a 100 yards out to clear the jetty and any weird water around it. Right before we were going to head into the inlet, we ran into a huge school of Bunker churning the water, I was about 15 -20 yards to the east of Shawn on the edge of the frenzied bunker. Shawn was right in the middle of the action; he said the fish where within reach of his hand. The conditions where such that we really could not afford to stop or even pay too much attention to the fish, as we paddled through this we were both really surprised when a dolphin broke the surface about 5' from my kayak, I was startled. I could not believe what I was seeing, they look a lot bigger up close and personal then they do from the beach. In all, about 4-5 Dolphins where surfacing all around us as they hunted the bunker. The whole experience only lasted 2-3 minutes; we really had no choice but to keep paddling. It was awesome.
After this, we immediately heeded for the channel marker in the middle of the inlet, the water to the North side of the inlet was covered with breakers and white caps. The inlet presented a pretty challenging paddle, 5' swell following us, heavy current from the tide going out in our face, it really made for an interesting paddle. On one occasion, I was distracted by a passing sailboat and got turned a little sideways, I paid for it with a good soaking. The boat traffic in this inlet at 7am was surprising.
We paddled through the main channel to a small beach on the AC side to take a break and get something to eat. We ended up near the abandoned waterfront on the AC Inlet near the entrance to Gardner’s Basin. We rested about 15 minutes and then headed up the inlet towards the Brigantine Bridge. We paddled right past Trump Marina and Harrah’s and could not see them due to the fog, it was really thick. We eventually made our way to the bridge, I was surprised how strong the tide was moving out here, my experience in great bay and the little egg inlet did not prepare me for this current.
We paddled under the bridge, and then headed north in the bay. This is where our lack of knowledge of the bay really came to light. We paddled for a couple hours against a pretty steady current, enjoying the workout and small talk as usual. Our maps and my iPhone compass where really not sufficient to navigate through the myriad of waterways and bays we encountered behind Brigantine. We ended up missing our channel to the brigantine inlet back out to the ocean, so after about 5 hours of paddling, we headed for the back bay behind the beach where we parked. The portage up the marsh and into the road was only about 50', but it was stinky bay much for about the first 15 feet or so, Shawn looked like he was wallowing in the muck when we finally emerged out into the street. We surprised a woman washing her truck when we emerged from the reeds, covered in muck, carrying two 14" kayaks, dog tired, and a little disappointed with the end of our trip. She exclaimed, "Where the hell are you two coming from!" It was really rather funny. I washed up with the hose while Shawn went to get the truck.
If only I brought my wallet, and we had more time, there was a classic old time bar about half a block away, the Rod n Reel, it would have been a perfect ending to an awesome journey. An ice cold beer at 11am would have been just the right ending to this trip, as it was; we both had to get back to the real world and out responsibilities as husbands and parents. Great adventure.
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