North 393 to Cessna Landing

by Nick
(Santa Rosa Beach, FL)

Just after sunrise; 6:05 am on the Choctawhatchee Bay

Just after sunrise; 6:05 am on the Choctawhatchee Bay

Just after sunrise; 6:05 am on the Choctawhatchee Bay
Native Watercraft Ultimate 14.5
They didn't seem to mind me coming by.
From a distance I would have sworn that this was a big heron.

Up early this morning but still not quite early enough to see the sun come up. There was absolutely no wind at 6:00am so I put in at the north end of county road 393 and parked the truck on the side of the road.

I don’t think I have ever said that I paddle a Native Watercraft Ultimate 14 1/2. She was my Father’s Day present in 2006. Well, actually I bought her in Wilmington, NC but she was a present from my wife, Pam.

I got this particular boat for several reasons. It is very stable, very tough and it is convertible from a single to a double in under 10 minutes. This allows me to take Pam along when she wants to go but also to be able to paddle by myself whenever I want. The guide who sold her to me said that he stands up most of the time he is guiding groups, which was enough to make Pam feel safe (she doesn't like tipping over).

The tough bit has been demonstrated twice. The first time was when Rachael, my youngest daughter, and I tried to get through the marsh in North Carolina way to early on the tide. We ended up thigh-deep in mud and dragging the kayak over oyster beds. These were the first scratches. The second time was when Pam and I were coming back from Hewitt Bayou in 2008 and I didn’t tie the kayak down well enough on the top of the truck. The next thing we knew, the kayak was sliding along the pavement of US 98 at about 55 mph right beside us. These were the second scratches.

So anyway, back to this morning, with a beautiful sunrise and dead calm conditions on the Choctawhatchee Bay I set off heading to the west along the shore, past North Church Road and the houses along Whisper Lane. That is generally a sheltered piece of water anyway and this morning was no exception. I slipped under several docks as the water was pretty low and tried hard not to disturb the resting gulls. However, the Herons were, as usual, very skittish and despite seeing several I was not able to get a picture. At one point I was certain that a bird as big as a heron was standing on a stump and I tried really hard to be quiet and sneak up on him, but when I got close I found I wasn’t as stealthy as I thought, as he turned out to be part of the tree stump.

Having paddled out to the point, with the low water I figured entry into the canals and lakes in the marsh was going to be difficult. I decided that if I carried on around and landed at Cessna Park that I would a) get in a really good bit of exercise and b) I would not have to go back the way I had come.

So that is what I did. I paddled really hard back down the bayou and then left the kayak by the new dock, took the paddle with me and walked home, got out the bike, peddled to the truck and went back to Cessna to retrieve the kayak. The whole adventure took about two and a half hours and I got a really good workout. The really fun thing was that when I got the bike I made sure the hot tub was ready and so after cleaning the kayak (she needed it badly) I took a well earned 20 minute soak. Nothing like it after a hard paddle!

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