Wednesday, August 31, 2011

08/31/2011 - Mobile Bay Xing

Launch: East end of Dauphin Island
Launch Cost: Free
Destination: Cross Mobile Bay from Fort Gaines to Fort Morgan, then south to the Sand Island Lighthouse, then to Sand Island, and then back to the launch site. I was going to lead this trip on Labor Day weekend but due to the forecast of tropical seas (8-10 foot swells), I chose to do it today due to the ideal conditions.
Distance: 17 miles (round trip).
Trip Rating: Difficult due to distance. Dangerous due to location: Open Water, Big Fetch, Possible strong current, wind and big waves.
Time Pedaling: 5 hours
Weather: Sunny and warm - 85 degrees. Winds out of the east 5 mph increasing to 15 mph in the afternoon. Crossed at Low tide. Current 0.5 to 1.5 mph. Waves increasing to 1-2 feet.
GPS Track: To view or download the GPS track of this trip, Click Here.

Header image - Sunrise near the Double Oil Rig between Dauphin Island and Fort Morgan.

Smoke from the recent Audubon Park bird sanctuary forest fire lingers on the ground near the beach.

Sunrise off Dauphin Island. Note the change in the water surface from waves to slick in this photo. The waters off the East end of Dauphin Island are subject to higher waves due to wind and current interaction. This area can get rough.

The shipping channel has to be crossed to get to Fort Morgan and these ships move fast.

Photo taken from the Fort Morgan beach. A hazardous cargo ship sits anchored in a designated area.

Over a dozen people were removing a lot of tar balls related to the BP oil spill from the beach on the Fort Morgan peninsula. I did not see many tar balls on Sand Island.

The workers scoop up tar balls in a net. The tar balls were about the size of a quarter. I fear that the heavy pounding that the beaches here are about to get will result in even more tar balls.

The trip from Fort Morgan south to the Light House went quick thanks to the aid of current. A crack in the light house running from top to bottom can be seen in the brick. Might as well visit it before it collapses in a storm.

Many of the pipe valves on this rig were rusting. A salt water environment will eventually consume these oil rigs if they are not maintained and I understand many oil rigs are not maintained anymore.

The trip from the Light House to the southeast tip of Sand Island was uneventful and I had the luxury of a tail wind. Sand Island is a bird watcher's paradise. 

The trip from Sand Island back to the Launch Site was more fun because winds picked up to 15 mph and the wave height increased to about 2 feet. I got soaked from waves like this but it felt good.

If any of you are thinking about paddling in the Dauphin Island, Fort Morgan, and Sand Island triangle, I urge you to plan your trip well with respect to wind and tide forecasts. I timed this trip today to cross at Low tide and prayed the morning wind forecast of low winds would be accurate, which thankfully it was. Off the East end of Dauphin Island, the current/wind/water depth interaction causes bigger waves and today I crossed that while it was calm (see photo 2). Same with the Sand Island Shoal (shallow sand bar), and the Dixey Bar. The waves off the West end of Fort Morgan can get ridiculously bouncy due to wind interacting with strong current and deep water. You may find the waters calm for most of the crossing only to see standing waves for the last half mile of the 4 mile crossing. Turn around quickly if you find yourself in challenging conditions that are out of your comfort zone. You can find marine maps like this online - Click Here.

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