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Monday, March 29, 2004

Maple Slough Paddle
March 28, 2004
by Harriet K. Ingraham

We gathered at River Doc's at 1 p.m. on this glorious Sunday afternoon. The wind was brisk, never letting up, but to our backs on the first leg of the trip. There were 8 boats, including our newest young paddler, Master Logan, son of Brad (sorry Brad, I forgot your last name). Logan had, in most of our eyes, the easiest of paddles - sitting bow in their tandem. Of course, given that he had just run the Azalea Trail Run for the first time the day before, he deserved a little break. And, he did paddle a good bit. Great to have you both along.

The Red Maples were past prime, but still beautiful. The water lilies are beginning to blossom, giving us a taste of what our delta will be in a few short weeks - and green……. as far as the eye could see, beautiful green with blue skies and a few puffy clouds feathering the horizon. We had to break through several dams of grass beds on the way up, and to our delighted dismay (I know, this makes no sense - but it was fun crab-walking our boats through this, with the aid of a pull line from Bob) they had blown back together on the return down.

We decided to go back the long way and take a paddle through Savages Ditch. Was much more like a canal this time, with the water quite high and the spring growth just beginning. Spotted several black ducks, and the usual array of our flying friends. To see everything coming alive after winter was refreshing.

At 8.6 miles, a very nice paddle. Got back to River Doc's shortly before 5 and dined at Ed's Shed, on the deck to the setting sun.

A lovely day, too bad you missed it - the sun, water and wind combination could have healed anyone's spirit on this day.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Paddle Report: Magnolia River
March 27, 2004
by Brint Adams

Steve & Terry, Randy, Wendy (a first-timer) and Linda & I set out from the Rock St. access and first headed upriver on a beautiful, warm, sun-drenched, spring morning. The dogwoods, azaleas of all colors and wisteria were all in full bloom. After exploring as far as we could go, we came back and turned up the small creek leading to the springs, where we found more azaleas and a large stand of bamboo.

We then headed downstream and began to see all of the varied waterfowl typical to the area from the many Cormorants to a few osprey, pelicans, cranes, egrets and ducks.

We turned around down towards the entrance to Weeks Bay and returned to the put-in point. Afterwards, we had a fabulous lunch, a block away, at Jesse's.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Paddle Report: Whiskey Ditch
March 24, 2004
by Brint Adams

Julie, George, Linda and I met at Riverdoc's and headed east at 4:35 PM into a brisk easterly breeze. Once we made it to the protection of the ditch entrance, the paddling was easier, as we faced the setting sun. Whiskey Ditch is quickly greening up, as we saw several Spider Lilies starting to bloom. The tide was up, so we made it back into the lake, where we relaxed with liquid refreshments as the sun settled behind a few clouds on the horizon. We paddled by several gators and saw a wide variety of waterfowl. The one thing we didn't see nor missed this time, were any sign of airboats or shotguns.

Following our return, most went to Cousin Vinnie's in downtown Daphne, for fine food, drink and conversation.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Paddle Report: Fishing Paddle
March 20, 2003
by Larry Mickelsen

Went Saterday at around 0700, from Mayday Park. There were four kayaks in the water counting mine; they were all strangers. The fishing was real slow. I caught one trout about 14" long and released it. (It fell off the hook when I pulled it out of the water.) Saw three geese, and a outstanding morning. The weather was outstanding, no wind, it was not hot(just right). You couldn't have asked for a better day. You should have been there.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Paddle Report: Self-Rescue While Sea Kayaking
by Tony Kramer

Here is a good story about how just a little instruction can go a long way. And how panic can be your worst enemy in a critical situation.


On January 3rd. I led a trip to Sand Island Lighthouse for Jason Farrel, his freind Vern and Brint Adams. While navigating to the Lighthouse in a thick fog bank, Vern began to get sea sick. There was no horizon for him to focus on and his condition got to the point that he became weak and nauseous causing him to capsize several times. I soon realized that both Jason and Vern had been previously mis-informed on how to perform assisted rescues and re-entries back into their kayaks. After doing several assisted rescues on Vern and then on Jason, when he got dumped by the surf, they began to get the hang of it.

Jason is a member of the West Florida Canoe and Kayak Club and it was because of his request and his story I put together the up-coming rescue clinic for April 3rd.

Here is his story: ** one thing to note - apperently Jason did not have a paddle float with him.**


Here's what happened on my trip in the Atlantic Ocean.

The instruction I got from you on Jan 3rd probably saved my life. As a result, I became calm and in control of the situation.
My brother stayed on shore because he has no kayak experience. I went out into the waves about 1/2 mile offshore where there were some waves breaking. I knew there was a sandbar there because you could see it. I broke many rules here. Went alone. Not properly suited. (no wetsuit) and so on...

I paddled out and realized that I probably had gone too far, and while turning around to head back the first wave flipped me. I have concluded that my skeg needs to be up during this based on a recent experience on Pensacola Beach where my skeg wouldnt lower because of sand trapped in it. When I flipped, I got out and started bailing the water out with my hand pump. Well that eventually broke. In the meantime my brother was on shore watching. He could see my boat, but he couldnt see me. He didnt know what to do. It was a desolate beach and probably another 3-4 miles to get to help. There were boaters but they couldnt see my flailing arms because of the high surf.

So I cried out to God for help in my desparation. I told God that I wasnt ready to die there in the cold water. I cried out to Him for help. He answered me.

I remembered Tony emptying the water out of the boat when Vern and I flipped our kayaks in Mobile Bay. He picked up he front of the boat while in his kayak, lifted the bow and all the water emptied instantly. If I had'nt been in chest deep water on the sand bar that would have been extremely difficult. Once the water was out, I flipped my boat back over and
remembered that in order to get back in my chest had to be on the deck of the boat so that my head was at the rear. My legs had to be able to slide into the cockpit from this position. A nearly impossible feat in the choppy conditions.

The Bible says that God is our helper and our strength. A very present help in the time of trouble. He answered my prayers.

I jumped, lifted my leg over the boat so that my chest and head were in the right position for my legs to slide in and I turned over!!!

It was amazing the feeling I felt when I was sitting in my boat at that time. I immediately started paddling to shore, and once I got there, talked with my brother and apologized to him for making a stupid trip out to the waves to surf. He also indicated to me that he didnt know what to do except pray. He did have my cell phone and some park ranger numbers he could have called but he didnt see me or my waving arms. All he saw was my boat. We then rowed back to our car. I started to get warmer on the trip back and felt 100% better once we were on dry ground again.

Tony, the lesson that needs to be learned is that when not properly prepared you may not be alive later to tell your story to your grandkids. Safety on the water is vital for survival!

Tony, I also want to thank you for the valuable training you gave me in January and that I was able to utilize those skills in the time of need.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Paddle Report: Upper Fish River
March 14, 2004
by Brint Adams

We met at the Baldwin County Wetlands Conservation Park on Keeney Drive E. located below the West end of the CR 32 bridge over Fish River. Carl, Tom, Linda and I headed up river on a warm, mostly cloudy morning with no breeze and glass-like water conditions. As we passed waterfront homes, we saw many colors from Azaleas, Camelias, Daffodils to wild Jasmine and Blackberry flowers along the banks. We explored the many tight turns around white sand beaches up Cowpen Creek and an unnamed hidden waterway a little further up the River on the left. We then then turned up Polecat Creek and followed it up as far as we could, well beyond the CR 9 bridge. The water was flowing fairly swiftly at the upper end and we gladly turned around and quickly floated back down, stopping for lunch at one of the many beaches along this traditional blackwater creek. There were fresh deer hoof prints along the beach. We saw several turtles out sunning as we returned back to the wetlands park.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Monet Paddle Report for February and March
“A Tale of Two Paddles”
by Matt Darring

It was the best of times, and then it just got better. The idea is to paddle the same area of the Mobile River Delta every month for a year, and experience how it changes. The first Monet paddle for 2004 was February 15. It was a challenging day for paddling. It was 40 degrees with a stiff 20 knot wind out of the north. We decided to stay out of the basin due to the wind and paddle Bay Minette Creek instead. So the five kayaks and one canoe took off. It was still a rather beautiful day. We saw bald eagles, beaver dams, and emerging plants along the creek and side streams. The benefit to the bitter conditions is that we had the place to ourselves.

We reached the bridge at Bromley Road and stopped for a break. It should be mentioned that the leader of this trip didn’t think anybody would show up in these conditions, and that if they did they wouldn’t want to be out for long so he didn’t bring any food or water . . . that was a bad idea. So we floated back down the creek to the launch. At that point Bob and Tom and I headed over to the basin. We paddled around the entrance for a bit. Then Bob and I paddled up into the basin. The wind out of the north had slacked a bit, but it was still like doing push ups into the wind in order to paddle. Bob showed me some really neat places to visit in the basin. We found shell middens and little hide-aways tucked up underneath large, draping live oaks. It was a very enlightening and invigorating day of paddling that began with seven paddlers and whittled down to two.

The second Monet paddle was on March 7, 2004. The conditions could not have been more different. It was 60 degrees with calm winds when we launched, and 75 degrees with 10 mph winds when we came back. It was a bright, sunny day. I spent all day Saturday stoked about the trip. We took off from Buzbee’s at 8:15. We had 8 boats with 9 paddlers, all kayaks. We met up about 100 yards off from the launch and introduced ourselves and took off paddling. We rounded the corner into the basin, and took a side stream into a manmade ditch. This is the location of a cypress tree that I’m going to try to photograph on each paddle.

We then took the eastern pathway into the basin. There was a light breeze that developed as the fog burned off. We skirted up the eastern side at a casual pace. The hillside on the east was alive with color: the dark evergreens, the bright spring greens, and the stunning burgundies of the red maple blooms. We reached the northern end of the basin and took a break. We then paddled back down along the western edge of the basin, poking into grass lined creeks along the way. I got a particularly good treat when I got to see an alligator on shore for the first time. He launched himself into the water and slowly submerged after looking us over. He was a big boy, too, at about 12 feet. I was invigorated, because that was my first alligator in months. We then also saw a yearling alligator at about a foot and half long swimming across the creek.

The group then paddled across the basin to take a break under the oak trees. There we found pottery sherds on top of the shell midden. They were everywhere, and in all sorts of shapes. A couple of the paddlers on the trip were from Wisconsin and weren’t exactly sure what to think of alligators. So we assured them that alligators are similar to a lot of other animals in that they are most dangerous when provoked, used to being fed, or bothered during mating and rearing phases, and that in general they don’t pose a real threat.

We then paddled back across the basin to take the western channel out. We came across three more alligators. One was completely sacked out on shore, with only his tail showing. We took the opportunity to snap a few shots. Then one of the paddlers went against the conversation we had just had and decided to touch the alligator on the tail with a paddle. This startled the alligator which then launched off the bank, and submerging directly underneath two of the boats. Well, as they say, you can lead a horse to water . . . .

The group, now down to six boats, left the basin, paddled under the bridge, and then continued up Bay Minette Creek. We paddled up to the second stream on the right to check out a beaver dam. The dam didn’t have water flowing over it like last month, but it was full of golden club blooms. From our vantage point the flowers were right at eye level, so it was like lying down in a yellow garden. We then paddled back to the launch, completing the 9.5 mile paddle in 5 hours.

Some of my ideas for the upcoming Monet paddles would be to have guest speakers to talk about the botany and wildlife of the basin. I would also like to have a photo safari, where professional photographers would give tips on how to take nature photos. I also plan to have one moonlight paddle, and possibly a sunrise paddle. I also love wine and cheese paddles. If you have any other ideas that you think would work, I would love to hear them: