Launch: I drove to the Public Beach and didn’t like the idea of having to launch in crashing waves on the beach. Drove over to the Golf Course and didn’t like the idea of having to tote the kayak and gear so far to get to the beach, so I ended up launching beside the Ferry Dock (Billy Goat Hole). I don’t like that idea because the waters can get pretty nasty when going around the east end of Dauphin Island and you always have to fight current on the return. But, until they fix the end of the road that was wiped out by the hurricanes, there are not many options for easy access sheltered launch sites. Fee: Free. Route: Around the east end of Dauphin Island, then south into Pelican Bay. Distance: 21.5 miles. Average Speed: 2.9 mph. Time: Approx 7.5 hrs. Pace: Leisurely. Weather: Weak cold front had passed through Friday night. Sunny, low humidity, breezy in the early morning, then winds becoming calm.
(1) Above left. I was a bit concerned about going around the east end of the island during max tide flow, but the cold front had pushed the bay water out so the currents were left weak. Soon as I rounded the corner by the rock jetties a shrimp boat came into view. I chased it down and followed behind it for about an hour. There were about 4 dolphins having a feast and they often surfaced right next to me. (2) Above right. Finally, the shrimp boat captain cut the throttle on the big diesel engines and the crew began hauling in the nets. This act sent the birds into a frenzy. If you get in close to the action, make sure you wear a rain coat due to the big drops of white rain. Birds were diving into the water as close as 3 feet to the kayak.
(3) Above left. After the Bubba Gump excitement, I hoisted the sail and proceeded to practice sailing in relatively calm winds of 5-10 mph. Sailing adds a little more FUN to the activity of kayaking. If the wind dies down, the Outback can be paddled, or pedaled. (4) Above right. I’m a firm believer in visibility when around boating areas. You can always recognize me by the ORANGE flag seen on the kayak, as it sits on the beach in the northwest corner of Sand Island. Over the past year, Sand Island is slowly moving closer and closer to the pier. If you look closely, you can see waves breaking under the pier. Navigating on the outside of the fishing pier is going to be real dangerous for kayakers – and boaters. As Sand Island encroaches toward Dauphin Island, the water passing between the two islands flows faster. The appeal of Sand Island as a kayaking destination is strong, but let me emphasize again, the area by the Pier and south of the Public beaches can be treacherous.
(5) Above left. Black Skimmers are unusual birds. Their beaks look huge from a side view, but if you look at one straight on, you cannot see the razor thin beaks. They get food by flying along the surface of the water with their longer lower beak in the water scooping up fish sticks. If you spend a few minutes observing Skimmers, you’ll also notice that some of the birds in the flocks appear to be dead. There are two in this photo sprawled out on the sand. I don’t know why they lay down on the sand in such manner that it makes them look dead. Strange bird – you can’t even tell it has eyes. (6) Above right. The Dolphin seem attracted to the Hobie Outback. This group here is giving their nod of approval for the pedal boat that operates by FLIPPERS. At least a quarter of my time today was spent cruising with the Dolphin club.
(7) Above left. As I’m cruising along the north side of Sand Island, there was an area of turbulence in the water with no visible cause. Nearby, the water surface showed signs of current, but again, no reason why. In the midst of this was foamy water. As I passed through the foamy water, schools of what appeared to be catfish were on the surface of the water eating or breathing. They were almost within touch before going under. Hard to see the fish in the middle of this photo, but with polarized lenses, I was seeing them more distinctly. Also saw horseshoe crabs and stingrays. (8) Above right. Every time this fisherman cast his lure out into the water, his silly dog starting jumping up and down in the water and then swam after it. One time as the man brought in the lure, it had a 15 inch skipjack on the end of it, which of course, the dog had to inspect. Sand Island in the background.
(9) Above left. On the way back from Sand Island to Dauphin Island, the winds stopped and the seas slicked off. What a gorgeous day. The land on the left is the East end of Dauphin Island. This photo of the pelican was snapped about 1.5 miles off shore. (10) Above right. As I pulled up to the beach, four other kayakers in sit-on-top paddle kayaks were doing the same. They were young high school or college kids – two guys, two girls and they looked tired. One guy says, “How long did we rent those kayaks for?” Someone answers, “Four hours.” All but one girl got out of their kayaks, dragging butt. She slumped down and proceeded to soak up the sun. Someone says, “Well, what are we going to for the next three hours?” One hour in a kayak wore them out. There it was, slick water, beautiful kayaking conditions, and the rented kayaks sat there empty, except for the one being used by the sunbather. We all have different priorities…