I have news. Like big news. I bought a new kayak! I wasn’t even seriously looking for one, but as I jumped on the facebook marketplace in search of a kiddie kayak for Patrick, I just stumbled across this beautiful Perception Solé. This model has been discontinued, and the kayak itself is 20 years old, but the previous owner kept it in incredible condition. It’s 2 feet longer than my trusty Necky Looksha, and it came with a rudder, skirt, and carbon fiber paddle. It was totally meant to be, because I was able to paddle my friend Kim’s Solé on Tuesday evening to be sure I liked it, and then it just so happened that Coastal Kayak in Fenwick, was offering a touring kayak course yesterday. Mitch, the owner and trainer, let me join in just for the wet exit and self-rescue training. This is something I learned how to do back in 2007 in New Zealand, but I hadn’t done a self-rescue since, so it was great to brush up and make sure I could still do it, in the unlikely, but possible, situation that I should capsize while paddling alone.
New kayak, check. Training in new kayak, check. So today it was time to log some miles in the new boat. And I decided to go big or go home: 13.25 miles logged today. I honestly can’t tell you the last time I paddled that far. Last fall I did some 11-12 mile stretches, but that was it.
I started my day at 5 a.m. and drove all the way to Kent Island. After 2 hours in the car, I stopped at Matapeake Park to unload my kayak before heading down to Romancoke with my bike. The Chesapeake was choppy. The wind was definitely stronger than predicted. I stood on the shoreline hemming and hawing over what to do. Not only was the wind more than expected, it was also WNW and slamming into the bulkhead at Matapeake, creating a sloshy mess of a current to deal with. I almost backed out, but something in me nudged me to drop off my bike instead, and launch at Romancoke Pier (instead of the opposite). So I did.
As I was locking up my bike, a man that worked for the county came by to tell me I had to pay to park. I explained what I was doing, and that I was about to leave anyway, and that I’d pay the fee when I parked down at Romancoke. He still didn’t quite understand the logistics of my trip, and told me to park in the overflow parking area a half mile away. No, dude. I need my bike close to the boat ramp. He still seemed confused, but wrapped up the conversation by making sure I locked my bike up (yes).
I then drove down to the Romancoke Pier, paid the parking fee, and launched my kayak. Being on the east side of Kent Island, the waters were pretty calm, since the wind was from the northwest. The first 4 miles flew by, but the whole time I was stressing over the choppy waters on the west side of the island, and at about the 4.5-mile mark, I’d be rounding the tip of the island and heading out into the Chesapeake. I was mentally preparing myself for the possibility of turning around and heading back to Romancoke if it was too windy and choppy, but I soooo didn’t want to do that. I would feel so defeated.
As my new kayak cut through the first little waves, it was actually kinda fun! I felt totally in control, despite paddling the tippy-est kayak I’ve ever owned. And even though the waves were coming at an awkward, annoying angle, it was totally doable. After about a mile though, it was getting old. There was a small little cove that was slightly out of the wind that I ducked into to check my GeoTracker app. I still had 8 more miles. EIGHT more miles of this choppy crap?! Although I felt exhausted, I knew my new kayak could do it. I made my way back out of the cove and back into the bay and to my surprise, it was like someone turned the fan down. The wind was dying out right before my eyes.
It still wasn’t calm enough to stop to take photos, but the water was way more manageable and enjoyable to paddle. The variety of houses along the shoreline was interesting. Everything from tiny, run-down ranchers to massive mansions with manicured lawns. On the other side of me was another interesting sight – ships! Although anchored, this was the closest I’ve been to giant ships since I started this journey 9 years ago.
The final 2 miles was a bit of a struggle. My arms were getting tired and my HANDS actually hurt from gripping the paddle. Not sure if it was just because this was the longest paddle I’ve done yet this season, or if I had a death grip on the paddle, but some of my fingers are still sore as I write this post!
Pulling up to the boat ramp I felt pretty accomplished. From a 2 hour drive and nearly backing out, to fighting the chop in a brand new kayak, I not only felt accomplished physically for finishing over 13 miles, but I also felt accomplished for listening to my intuition. Had I not listened to that nudge, I would have either turned around and drove the 2 hours back home, or I would have started my paddle directly in choppy waters and would have been miserable from the get-go. Oh, and another thing to feel accomplished about? Despite fighting the wind and chop, I logged my fastest speed yet – 3.9 mph! (it doesn’t sound fast, hah)
My trip wrapped up with a 6 mile bike ride on the Kent Island South Trail, and a stop at Rise Up in Cambridge.
Here’s the path I took today: