Saturday, July 24, 2010

beyond the bow. . .

Trip Thirty
Polecat Bay and Mobile Bay
July 24th

Today's trip was something we had planned to do, decided not to do, then planned again.

We had planned to go kayaking in the afternoon, so we started out in the morning to finish all our errands before then. Some of those errands took us to the Eastern Shore and as we crossed the Bay way we took special note of the condition of the water we intended to be floating upon in a few hours. Especially concerning was the effect of Tropical Storm Bonnie. Although not headed toward us, these storms are usually large enough to have far reaching thunderstorms.

As we looked out across the water, it was as slick as glass and the skies clear of any threat of rain. Hopeful of a fine time kayaking later, we traveled from store to store completing our rounds, one of which was to try on some wet-suits. We hope to insulate ourselves against the chilly water and continuing our kayaking into the winter. We had kayaking on our mind all day long. That is, until lunch.

As we reached our lunch destination, we noticed the skies had turned a foreboding gray. Before our food arrived the rain started pouring down. It continued as we traveled home, across the very bridge we had crossed before. I had to raise my voice so Glen could hear me over the rain when I asked him if he thought we would go kayaking that afternoon. We both laughed as we knew the question as a joke.

Once home, though, the rain stopped. Within a few hours, the gray clouds blew away and the skies were finally clear. We took advantage of the time we had and loaded the boats into the car.

We put in at a new place we had noticed on our trek across the Bay way. Off the Causeway, we put into Polecat Bay, where the Tensaw River empties into Mobile Bay. Our intent was to cross under the Bay way to the USS Alabama nestled on the shore of Mobile Bay.

As we entered the bay, we encountered some of the booms placed to contain the oil from the BP oil spill. Only there was no oil. There was no sheen of oil on the water, no oil on the booms, no oil on the buoys in the bay and no oil in the water I cupped in my hands. It was as if the oil had disappeared.

At one point one of the booms was partially submerged, about the width of our kayaks. Glen took that opportunity to cross over the boom to the water closer to the battleship. Our little eight foot boots looked tiny next to the 680 foot battleship.

We paddled further down parallel to the shore until we realized we had a good bit of water between us and the put-in and not as much sunlight. To the west, the sun was already beginning to descend and paint the tips of the gray-blue clouds (perhaps to match the battleship) a bright white. To our east, the clouds had parted to reveal a white, full moon.

We headed back with purpose toward the battleship. Not only did we have to go back to the put-in, we had to find that submerged part of the boom as well. Looking up at the battleship, I could see some of the last visitors to that great vessel walking down the gangplank. A young boy stood at the railing watching us and I stopped paddling for a second to wave at him.

We came parallel to the battleship and found the breach in the boom. By this time, the young boy, along with his mother, had walked around the deck and were standing on the side toward us. We had to line our kayaks perpendicular to the breach in the boom to be able to fit through. I found it much easier, too, if I paddled up a good deal of speed before I tried to go over the obstacle. I reached it first, so I lined up and paddled fast to make sure I made it over. As I passed over the boom into the bigger bay area, I could hear the young boy cheering for me, then I heard his mother shushing him to be quiet. I loved hearing him cheer and knowing someone had enjoyed watching our little adventure.

Paddling back to the put-in and the river, we were against the current with the wind in our faces and the light was dwindling. I had lagged behind a little and since I know Glen always feels uncomfortable when he can't see me, I picked up the pace to catch up. It was shortly after that I saw it.

It was quick, just a flash in the western sky, the single thing that causes me more concern on the water than any alligator. . .lightening. I told Glen what I had seen and we both put our paddles in high gear. Looking up, I saw the gray clouds that had formed just overhead. Being on the water while holding a metal paddle during a sudden thunderstorm is never where I want to be. We both paddled hard and fast, which was more difficult going against the current. I could feel the sweat running down my face and my back.

We passed a boat house and I knew the put-in was close, but I wasn't sure how close. Did we have to go past that boat up there, too? No, suddenly the put-in was right before us, we had reached it much faster than I had anticipated. We were both sweaty and tired as we pulled the boats in out of the water. A quick dip in the water would have felt nice, but we weren't about to take a chance at that!

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