laura paddles delmarva

Circumnavigating 650+ miles of Delmarva's shorelines

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Romancoke to Matapeake

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:

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Hacksneck to Broadway Landing

(paddled May 17 – forgot to publish the post until today, July 19)

The Chesapeake Bay is finally above 60 degrees F so I felt comfortable logging some miles for the first time in 2021. I did paddle once already this season on Nassawango Creek with my sister a few weeks ago, but this was the first official trip for the blog this year.

And today was ANOTHER FIRST. It was the first time I hit the water since landing some contract work that actually PAYS ME to go kayaking and write about it! On March 1 of this year, I landed a sweet side-hustle doing some marketing for Virginia Water Trails. The contract is a year long and I’ll be running their facebook, instagram, writing blog posts, and a few other odds and ends. I still can’t quite believe I’ve turned my hobby/passion into a legit source of income (not legit enough to leave my job with Delaware, hah)!

And WOW what an adventure this trip was for my first blog-worthy paddle! I started my day by leaving the house at 6 a.m. and arriving at Hacksneck Landing (a place only suitable for launching car-top vessels) by 7:30. The weather was absolutely perfect. Clear skies, 60 degrees, and calm winds.

Right as I was about to launch, this sweet dog came to wish me farewell! Hacksneck Landing is right adjacent to a working waterfront area and I believe the dog belonged to the watermen there.

The tide was definitely on the lower side, although I never actually look at any tide charts before planning this trip. And since the tide was low, it was fun to explore some of the exposed shoals in this area, something you don’t see in other areas of the Chesapeake. There were tons of sandy beaches to explore along the coast of the mainland, and there were also some sand bars and sandy islands to explore, not far from the mainland. Check out some of my views:

As if the scenery around me wasn’t enough to keep me happy, as I approached the mouth of Pungoteague Creek, a pretty sweet thing happened. DOLPHINS. Like a whole pod of them. As I was heading north, I started to spot them coming in from the west. Not a ton of them, but probably… 2-3 dozen? As I got closer, I started hearing them come up for air all around me! The wind was pretty calm so it was really easy to hear them. The only other time I’ve been THAT close to dolphins was on our honeymoon in Edisto, SC. One of them breached the surface only 10-15 feet from my kayak! But dang it’s hard to get photos or video of dolphins; you just never know where they’re going to come up for air next. And it was interesting as they seemed to split up a little bit. About half of them headed eastward, and another headed north, and at one point there were dolphins on all sides of me! It was so freakin’ cool!!!

Once I passed the pod and came down off my high from that whole experience, I decided to take a slight detour and paddle a narrow creek that is a recommended water trail on the Virginia Water Trails website. As soon as I entered the creek, a HUGE oyster farm and working waterfront came into view. This operation was enormous! Bigger than anything I’d ever seen while on the water before! I briefly spoke to one of the guys working and he explained the difference between the two types of oyster cages they have. One was the typical “cage” that I’ve seen before, but the other was a network of black, floating, plastic contraptions. He said oysters were growing inside, but the the black plastic material keeps the worms from getting into the oysters. He said worms have destroyed up to 15% of their harvest in previous years. Then he explained that some of the oysters were going to straight to local restaurants, and other were going to wholesale. Very cool. I’m so glad I stopped to ask. I typically would’ve been too shy to bother them, but I’ve learned a lot about aquaculture and the oyster industry in Virginia lately, so I couldn’t NOT ask!

Once I got out of the creek and turned north, the wind was coming at me out of the northwest (could’ve sworn the forecast said ESE – why does this ALWAYS happen to me?). I paddled by more and more sandy beaches, and finally took a turn east to get to Broadway Landing. The cove in front of the landing was large and VERY shallow. I did have to get out twice to haul my kayak over a mudflat. Once I got on land, the sun was high and the view was beautiful.

Now you’re probably wondering how I got back to my car, 8.5 miles later. Typically I would have brought my bike and did the whole drop off kayak, switcharoo to the bike crap, but not this time! I recently heard about a new local business on the shore called “Wave Riders”. They’re like a private version of door dash and uber. So the day before I reserved a shuttle to come pick me up! Jahiem arrived right on time, helped me load my kayak on top of his car, and drove me the 16 miles back to my car in Hacksneck – and saved me from biking 15 miles! I’ll definitely be using them again for future paddling trips!

And as always, here’s the path I took: