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Tuesday, July 10, 2001

Gene writes us as follows:

Mobile Bay Canoe and Kayak Club Report of Past Paddles

This is an attempt to pass along some information about the paddles/activities that members of our club have participated in. The object is to share some of our experiences with others who probably like knowing this kind of stuff. No one can go on all the paddles. Also, hopefully, others may gain enough knowledge to learn where to go and what to expect if they want to do the paddle on their own sometime.

Although we would like to provide a literary experience, realize that Bruce is out of the area at this time. Anyone is welcome to tell about the paddles they participate in. Don't worry about writing skill, we will be interested and hopefully others will become more familiar with the paddling opportunities in the area.

Fortunately for us, Sherilyn came forward and reported on two paddles the club recently scheduled. Incredibly, she wrote them the same night as the paddles. Thanks for the superb job! Unfortunately, but believably, she gave them to the club procrastination committee chairperson to send out the first thing the next day, or as soon as I had time to do it.

The plan was for Sherilyn to write about the 4th of July Fireworks paddle and I would write about the activities that preceded it. So, I will go first.

4th of July Activities at FYC

The Fairhope Yacht Club (FYC) graciously invited us to join them at their club for their 4th of July family day activities. We were particularly encouraged to join the paddle race they have been having the past several years, which has recently been renamed the "kayak" race. We appreciate the hospitality.

Granny Dees, the FYC chair coordinating the day's activities, also a MBCAKC member, scheduled the kayak race for 10:30 - anticipating that the weather conditions would be the most favorable for us at that time. She asked the procrastination chair to head this event.

Upon arriving at the beach at 10:28, I made decision to delay the start of the race until everyone had time to get ready. A slight drizzle was ending and others were just arriving too.

I believe that there were 9 paddle craft participating in the event. Most of the boats were touring kayaks.

Steve christened the nearly completed wood kayak he is building, with a vintage bottle of (as I recall) Miller Lite. This is the only time that I can remember not feeling it to be a shame to see beer spilled. It was a beauty. So was Steve's kayak - and fast too. He hopes to have the seat completed soon. I let him wear my mini-skirt during the race. He said that it helped him a lot and made him feel more comfortable during the race. Obviously, you know that a short spray skirt for a kayak is often referred to as a mini-skirt, don't you?

Tom Fink left his 23' tandem on top of his car for now and chose, instead, a rocket. Boy, was he fast! Mike was fast also. He took his young daughter along for a ride in his wood, single seat, touring kayak. She sat in the back hatch, facing backward where she could keep a better eye on me, and most of the rest of the fleet.

Dave rigged his sailboard for paddling and gave chase. Paul loaded, and I mean loaded, his war canoe with a bunch of young warriors. The sailboard and canoe were given a head start. The rest of us sat in our kayaks, at the water-line on the beach until the starting signal, then we were off.

It was a real contest for some of us, up until that time. Taking advantage of local knowledge, and the ability to decide upon the rules, I started on the end of the beach nearest the first mark. I was once so close to Tom that I bumped into him. Then I decided to take time to lower my rudder to help me steer better. That was the beginning of the end for me. I still had enough position to maneuver in front of some boats (was it Ron and Fritz? - it was such a blur of excitement) and slow them down temporarily. Reality began to sink in and hope of an honorable finish faded as we rounded the Government Mark. That is where Ron and Fritz used the sling-shot effect to shoot past me.

The length of the race course, from the beach - to the Government Mark - and back to the beach, doesn't seem like all that long of a distance until you think about sprinting it. Did I say that Tom was fast? He shifted into a higher gear on the second half of the course, with Mike in hot pursuit. The outcome of the race would have been much more closely contested had Mike paddled solo. For some reason, he did not want to heel over as much as he normally would have done to make a tight turn rounding the mark. He was also making constant boat righting adjustments as his sightseer turned first one was, then another in order to see better. Mike was 2nd on the beach, after Tom, and was awarded first place for tandem. I wasn't close enough to the pack by that time to tell whether Ron or Fritz came in next. Larry and I did beat the sailboard and boat load of children though, especially after the canoe had to return for a dropped paddle. That was a lot of people.

Sally Morgan was on the beach helping with finishes and awarding prizes. There was an American flag and balloon for every child, a first place prize for every category, as well as one for us "also participating." Guess why the trophy for the first female skipper was not awarded?

Back on the beach, we took advantage of the picnic tables, grills, shade trees, and good company to really enjoy the day. This was a lot of fun and we will hopefully be able to do it again next year.

Several of us took a short paddle to Rock Creek and then Red Bluff. Four boats departed the FYC beach early in the afternoon. There were enough waves to make it fun as we paddled north, about a mile downwind, to the sandbar jutting out a long way into the bay. It was fun not to race Tom, Ron and Fritz, but to enjoy their company as we took our time paddling. Janie, with a friend from Atlanta, accompanied us in a tandem Old Town kayak.

The mouth of Rock Creek is hidden behind a high, for this area, sand dune. You could pass right by it and never see it. We paddled through the breaking waves of the bar, for what looked like a beach landing north of the little peninsular. Right on the beach was the shallow channel of the creek, running south along the beach, behind head-high sand (from a kayak seat) dune. This channel changes often and the configuration of the opening into the creek may very well be a lot different by now. What we saw apparently resulted from the last heavy rain. We were able to paddle in without portaging. Be prepared to play "Guess-Where-You-Go" when you come. This would be a great place to just picnic on the beach sometime.

Rock Creek is a beautiful, quiet water paddle. There is a surprising large amount of aquatic vegetation on the banks, considering the number of homes lining, especially the south end, of the creek. It is best to come during high tide, as there are many shallows and some tree blow-down/stump obstruction. We were able to paddle for about a quarter of a mile east of the Hwy. 11 (Rock Cr.) bridge. The creek twisted and turned as it meandered through the woods and backyards, until finally narrowing too much by a small waterfall. The sandbar to the south of this spot rises up a densely wooded hill to Larry & Ann McDuff's home. A picnic table marks the spot. They have invited the club to paddle there sometime. This would make an even better picnic spot.

The water was cool, clean and refreshing and is a great place to take a dip. You may have to wade over, or under obstructions, at times to get there. However, lets put to rest the erroneous idea that you have to have a small kayak to get into such tight places. Tom and Ruth were in their 23 foot tandem kayak.

Janie had to paddle back early to get to another social event, before rejoining us on the fireworks paddle. From Rock Creek, we continued north on to Red Bluff. This is another very interesting place within a short distance of the FYC beach. The bluff was a prominent landmark on the early Spanish maps in the 1500s. When Tom and I paddled across the bay last year, the bluff was visible from the other side and we could use it as a navigational aide.

The bluff must rise somewhere around 100' above the beach There is a rustic house above, with a large attic window, somewhat reminiscent of a ship's steering wheel in design. There is another house, to the south, whose front end is almost not over the edge of the bluff. I understand that home insurance may be sky high in this area.

There is an interesting melody of colors and designs of the various stratum. This is a great place to explore. However, our stay was short, as the time was approaching for the main event of the day - the fireworks paddle. Gene

Fireworks Paddle

Hooray for the red, white and blue...and the other colors of kayaks out on the water on our auspicious Fourth of July. Gene counted 23 kayaks out at the Fairhope Pier sandbar celebrating the 4th! It was a beautiful sight.

It all began with a put-in at the Fairhope Yacht Club amidst a joyous crowd of people having a party with one another. I met old friends and new friends there! The sun was beginning to slide down the horizon. It was that dusky time of day when the world seems to put a cloak on itself and turn dark.

Everyone climbed into kayaks and paddled away from shore. Halfway to the 'big' pier a couple of kayakers turned over and one even took on water. Fortunately there were others around to assist. It was a reminder to me that yes, kayaks do turn over.

Tom Fink mentioned the importance of lifejackets and I was thinking how great it is that we all pull together and help one another. I have not tipped in a kayak before and I know I took notice and sat up a bit straighter after that. The waves were somewhat choppy and there was a slight breeze from the South.

Upon arrival at the Fairhope marina sandbar we heard the National Anthem being sung. Some of us stopped and listened. I noticed a sailboat adorned with a spinnaker designed like the American flag. I saw another sailboat with lights of red, white and blue. I don't normally feel patriotic, but I did at that moment. There is something special about hearing live music across the water. We listened to the Baldwin Pops play John Sousa's music as we waited for the magical moment.

Tom and his wife told us stories about their daughter in the Peace Corps in Africa and about canoeing down the Zambowie River near Victoria Falls. They saw crocodiles! He promised we would see alligators on the upcoming paddle at the end of the month!

At about 9:00PM the fireworks began. It was a beautiful sight overhead. Huge explosions of light careened upon us and faded into the night sky. We could hear each explosion twice as it kaboomed overhead and echoed from the nearby cliffs. Oh say, can you see...and the rockets red glare....Some kayakers stood in ankle deep water to view the sky. Several people floated nearby and others sat atop their kayaks on the sandbar.

Jane Agee (the hostess with the mostest) passed around cheese and crackers and some kind of yummy pate'. There were nuts (to eat and to hang out with!) Barbara Brown's grandson even caught a croaker near the sandbar.

I have been watching Fairhope's fireworks for many years now and I've never seen them like this! Gene came around and reminded everyone there wasn't just one show...Daphne's fireworks were going off and so were Mobile's! I heard Ooohs and Ahhhs... We were at an amazing vantage point.

When the grand finale ended, everyone turned on little red flashing lights and made it back to the Fairhope Yacht Club. We were sent off with a couple of extra firecrackers overhead that the firemen must have forgotten in the canister. It was a great trip. Thanks for planning it, Gene.

Okay, I wrote my part. Gene said he missed Bruce Zimmerman's synopses of the trips, so he and I decided to write this one. This one's for you to read, Bruce, until you can get back to write again. Gene is going to write about the kayak races at the F'hope Yacht Club that happened earlier in the day. Hope to see you all out there at the moonlight paddle tomorrow night! Sarah J, Robin D, Barbara and Liz you've got to start coming out on these paddles! They're fun! Sherilyn

July 5th - Full Moon Over the Apalachee

The water was virtually still when we put in at Eco Tours on the causeway near Blue Gill. I think there were eight or nine kayaks and one canoe. Right away, Harriet and Melanie spotted alligators! They were everywhere! All sizes! They looked really cool when people started shining their lights on them. Their eyes are an errie red in the light!

Bob picked a perfect night. We only saw a glimpse of the moon through the clouds -- but the sun going down was pretty in pink. Fritz pointed out beautiful Japanese Purple Hyacinths along the winding "S" curves as we headed toward the lake. Ron took photographs. Once inside the lake we sat and talked and Jane shared RIBS! You never know what is hidden in her kayak! They were delicious!

Little Gabriel was in the canoe with his Mom and dad and both Melanie and Fritz had animal crackers to offer him. He was thrilled. We paddled to a place I'll call Mosquito Island I think where the Tensaw and Appalacha Rivers meet the Blakely River (If I'm wrong about the names just remember I'm new at all this!) and rafted up for as long as we could stand. Fortunately we had cans of repellent and we used it.

Gene met us there and asked me to write again about the trip. How did I get this job? Some of us had an impromptu race across the river... Fritz couldn't be beat and Harriet kept eyeing my Tampico (back away from my new toy, Harriet!) I still couldn't beat her! Must be that new paddle she kept bragging about from Bob. I tried it out and it's extremely lightweight with huge paddles.

We all hightailed it back ashore and helped one another put up our kayaks. Everyone is always so kind and helpful! It was too late to go to Ed's Shed so we went to the Original Oyster House. We found a fake alligator in there and had fun posing -- putting our feet and legs in his mouth. Bob bought us pitchers of beer! Thanks Bob! We talked about whitewater rafting (go Melanie), fishing (hook 'em! Harriet) and saw Gene's photos of the firecrackers last night and of a past trip.

I'm going to California soon, but I'll be back and ready to paddle again. So somebody else is going to have to write stuff about the next trip. Come out with us sometime, Margaret D. You'd love this!
Sherilyn