Monday, May 30, 2005

05/30/2005 – Fairhope Yacht Club

Launch: Fairhope Yacht Club (Volanta Street). Route: South to the Grand Hotel, turn around, to Fly Creek, and back. Distance: 13.1 miles. Average Speed: 3.1 mph. Time: Approx 4.5 hrs. Pace: Leisurely to heart thumping sprints. Weather: Predicted thunderstorms. Small Craft Advisory. Winds 20+ mph. I opted for a trip on Mobile Bay since Dauphin Island still doesn’t have a protected launch on the south side. I started this trip knowing I would be soaked by the time it was over.

(1) Above left. Started out in fairly calm conditions in the early morning, but the clouds to the south indicated rain was in the near future. Fairhope public pier is in the background, lights still on due to morning darkness. (2) Above right. Usually when there are strong winds predicted from the south, or southwest, the waves can get nice and choppy along the Eastern shore of Mobile Bay – perfect for wave surfing, which is what I wanted to do today. The minute I got to the south side of Fairhope Pier, the winds started picking up and the rains began. It wasn’t long before the whitecaps started forming. Yes, this was good for kayaking, but not good for taking photos. I stayed close to shore because conditions looked much worse further offshore – weather radio was talking 35-50 mph winds in some of the storms. So, why, you ask, am I fool enough to go out in this weather? Good question. Storms never stopped me from going out and playing when I was a kid, so why let storms dampen (pardon the pun) my fun now?

Actually, kayaking is a physical activity, like bicycling (especially if you have a pedal kayak). If you try to ride a bicycle up a steep hill and you are not in shape, you get off and walk – there is no choice – and it is no biggie. You do not see many experienced bicyclists walking up hills though. What about kayaking? At what wind speed does forward progress in the kayak come to a halt? Is it 25 mph, 30 mph, 35 mph, or what? With no forward movement, a rudder is useless and you are left to the will of the waves, wind and current, forced to tack like a sailboat to get to your destination. What kind of waves does it take to cause me concern, cause me to brace, or cause me to turn over? Can I go out and work the wind and waves to get experienced and stronger? Yes. The answers to the important questions concerning wind, waves, and current vary from person to person, vary depending on what kayak is being used, and also vary from location to location. When conditions are appropriate, I like to go out and test my limits while playing.

Conditions off the end of Point Clear were superb for surfing waves. Lots of nice 3 foot waves rolling along at a perfect speed. Trouble was, they were a bit steep and breaking. Feeling like it was only a matter of time before a wave flipped me, I proceed north to more tolerant waves. I rode wave after wave for the next hour until totally exhausted. It was heart thumping fun and the Hobie Outback handled the waves like a champ. The wind suddenly changed directions and the nice formed waves turned into confused seas. The fun was over - time to go inland.

(3) Above left. Went up into Fly Creek into some protected waters where the wind was so still compared to where I had just come from, it was eerie. Saw this sailboat with leaning masts. (4) Above right. Further upstream, there was a downed Magnolia tree putting forth a nice bloom next to the water.

(5) Above left. What is a trip into Fly Creek without seeing the Mighty Ducks. There are seven babies, but not so little any more, sitting on this damaged pier. (6) Above right. Only seconds after taking the photo of the babies, Mighty Ducks (Mom & Pop) came swooping in squawking all kind of obscenities at me to divert attention from their babies. It worked. Today was a good kayaking day. Got a workout and some relaxing time on the still waters, too.

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