Last night was the longest night of the year. The Winter Solstice occurred at about 12:30 am. That meant sunrise would also be the latest of the year, and I could paddle out to enjoy it without having to get up too early. It also helped that both my kayak and body of water on which I’d be paddling were only about 100 ft away from my bed.
…but backing up a bit…
We arrived at Amy’s house in Fort Pierce earlier this week. In addition to luggage, my electronic gizmos, and Christmas presents, we had strapped the tandem kayak to the top of the car. While the weather down here is spectacular – hovering in the 80s during the day – paddling conditions have not been ideal. It’s been breezy and very choppy out on the Indian River.
I tried a couple of solo trips. On one a large sea turtle came up next to me and kept me company for awhile.
Normally I can watch fish and other sea life out in the flats near the mangroves. Unfortunately, with the choppy water it was hard to see anything. I decided to explore the canal on the other side of Amy’s street where it would be sheltered from the wind.
At one time there had been a mobile home community across the street from Amy’s house. The twin hammers of Hurricanes Jean and Ivan several years ago wiped out the community. All that remains are a few abandoned docks and crumbling sea walls. It’s a bit of a spooky place. There was one new addition – a sunken boat that hadn’t been there the last time I was here.
My tandem trip with Laura turned into near disaster as we almost swamped in the choppy waters. The boat took on lots of water. We managed to make it into the spooky canal just so we could paddle a little bit, but we quickly returned home.
So, with that paddling history in mind, I wasn’t sure how this morning’s paddle would go. I knew I could at least get out to where I could watch the sun rise. As it turned out, conditions were perfect. There was no wind, and the water both in Amy’s canal and out in the main channel were almost glassy.
I paddled out a bit, then turned south, keeping to the west of the main shipping channel. There was almost no boat traffic out this early. Only one pontoon boat with fishermen were out on the water.
I continued south until I was across from one of the spoil islands. At this point the shipping channel narrows a bit, and I feel more comfortable crossing. Crossing the channel can be a bit like trying to cross I-95. You have to make sure the way is completely clear then dash from one channel marker to the other.
Even though there was no boat traffic, I don’t take these things for granted. I was glad to be safely across on the east side of the channel, closer to the spoil islands.
Sunrise was at 7:08. While the actual sunrise was obscured by North Hutchinson Island and a bank of clouds over the ocean, I was still able to watch the clouds overhead brighten and change color.
I’ve discovered a couple of things about this tandem kayak. It’s not long enough to be comfortable as a tandem. Laura and I kept clanging paddles, and it didn’t have enough buoyancy for both of us, especially in rough water. As a solo boat it’s comfortable and relatively quick. However, it doesn’t track straight, and keeps doing “Crazy Ivans”. I found myself turning out of position as I tried to take photos of the sunrise.
I paddled on over to the closer spoil island. Normally these would have someone camping on them. I found this one occupied by vultures.
I paddled to the east side of the island and landed for a minute or two on the beach. I quickly discovered why no one was camping. Monster mosquitoes quickly drove me back to my boat.
I turned north, staying to the eastern side of the spoil islands. I continued up to the island directly across from Amy’s canal.
There were folks camping here, so I didn’t land. I rounded the island on the north end, then made a leisurely turn back toward home.
As I was dashing back across the main channel, I noticed a large dark form churning in the channel. I didn’t see any fins, so it must have been a manatee, rather than dolphins. The manatee, or whatever it as wanted to stay in the channel, which was the last place I wanted to be. I continued on home, enjoying the still, flat water. By the time I got back, the breeze was already picking up, so I think I was able to take advantage of the best conditions of the day.