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Monday, January 07, 2002

!!!!!!!!!!MONTHLY MEETING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The next club meeting will be Tuesday, January 8, 2002, at 7:00, at the Fairhope Yacht Club. Bob will present a program about his Okefenokee Swamp trip.


Paddle Report: Gene Boothe's "Last Sunset" Paddle
Monday, December 31, 2001, off the beach at Fairhope Yacht Club

I have been doing this paddle for a couple of years. The idea is to paddle into the sunset on New Year’s Eve, and then paddle back. Just a nice little paddle, no big deal. Each year has been different, but special in its own way - always pleasant, and sometimes spectacular.

One possible misconception to dispel is that this is not a cold, miserable paddle fit only for the daring. Put warm clothes on, protect them with some type of waterproof outer shell (top and bottom), hat, perhaps gloves, and a spray skirt, and you are all set. I have always been warm as toast and not at all uncomfortable.

We met at the FYC beach around 4:30 on New Year’s Eve to put-in for the 5:08 sunset. There were Sandy and Tom Hearn, Harriet King, Jane Agee and a family friend Brian, my wife Carolyn and I. Right away, we could tell that this paddle was not going to be in the spectacular category. The sky was heavily overcast, the temperature somewhat chilly with the wind initially rather light, but increasing, out of the northwest. The waves were not much of a problem. The tide was a bit low and we had to slant a little downhill to get the kayaks in the water. An alternative to paddling the open bay was to paddle down the adjoining Fly Creek, in case the weather/waves became uncomfortable. In case the weather turned bad, there was always the gazebo on shore.

I could have shared a little more information on the beach prior to push-off. My idea was to paddle a short ways offshore, watch the sunset in good company, toast the end of one year and the beginning of a new one, then paddle in. I just assumed that everyone knew the plan.

I was around the last one to get off the beach. We grouped momentarily about 25 yards off the shore. Just as I was about to tell everyone of what I thought was a wonderful spot to view the sunset from, the group scattered, picking out their own spot. Carolyn thought it would be a better paddle if we headed north along the shore. As it was suddenly getting a little too rough for a recreational kayak, Tom and Sandy headed for the Fly Creek vantage point. I am not sure where the others went as they started to fade from view.

Given that this was short paddle in a small area, in fairly shallow water close to shore, I was comfortable with the idea of each paddler being free to follow their own bow to the spot they choose for this occasion. However, the others evidently didn’t know that I had the champagne (if that is what you can call Cooks – one saves the more expensive stuff until after the waves).

I was wearing only a mini skirt, not a full skirt (cockpit cover), so I had a little room in the cockpit to keep stuff. The best place I could find to keep the champagne bottle was wedged between my legs.

Anyway, I chose to lie abeam (sideways) to the northwest waves, which were by now becoming small rollers. This pointed my bow directly into what there was of the sunset in the southeast. I was far enough off shore so as not to hear any shore/people sounds, but shallow enough to wade back, just in case. This was very pleasant. The wind was whispering its own tune, pelicans were silhouetted against the sky, the waves soothing. I couldn’t imagine a better farewell salute to an old friend and the anticipation of a new one. The sunset became more of the sky just getting darker, rather than a radiant fade, but I was at peace with the world and found what I was looking for.

After the second or third toast, I decided that it might be good to stay at peace with my wife and went looking for her. The wind and waves had carried me about a quarter on a mile down the beach, south of the club. Both were starting to build and there wasn’t much twilight left. As I passed the entrance to Fly Creek, no paddlers were in sight. I was alone in the twilight and didn’t know whether the others had rounded the bend in the creek by Fly Creek Cafe by now, or had paddled north along the shore of the bay.

Out on the darkening northwest horizon of the bay toward Mobile, were two small dots that I took to possibly be small outboards or even jet skies. From my vantagepoint, they appeared to be rather stationary, more-or-less bobbing around in the same place. I paddled off in their direction to check to see if they needed help, and met Harriet and Brian returning from Goodness only knows where. Harriet taught me a lesson I won’t soon forget. Never turn broadside and wait for someone who is surfing down what were now large waves, to offer them a cup of champagne. We finally did share a toast, but it was like pouring the cup to someone while we were both riding galloping horses. Part of the adventure.

We made it safely into the club harbor in Fly Creek and I quickly took out on a floating platform so as to assist the others. However, they decided on more adventure, not assistance, and paddled back out into the night. So, I toasted the adventurers, the night wind – which was the only one keeping me company at the time, and anything else I could think of. I am not sure exactly how long it was before the group reassembled, but everyone was safe & sound, and seemed to have had a good time. I know that I did.

Part Two of the story was the get together at my house. However, this is for another time. I will say that good company made for a special time and I liked that very much. Gene


The intention of these reports is not to strive for excellence in literature. Rather, they are to pass along some information about where to go, what you may see if you go there, and other stuff paddlers might want to know if they go there. Hopefully, someone on other paddles will not be intimidated about writing and share information about their paddle with the rest of us. A side benefit is that these reports will make interesting reading for those who like this kind of stuff, but couldn’t make this trip.

So don't be shy! Please send us paddle reports!