|The eastern shore of Virginia still looks like the rest of Virginia used to look 50 years ago. Only small incursions are appearing along the main roads up the thin peninsula of this separated portion of Virginia. Still dominated by agriculture and the seafood industry, the economy runs at a slower pace than the hectic bustle of the rest of the states that share this chunk of land between the waters of the lower Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
The launch site is a packed sand beach next to a fish packing house. We quickly set up our kayaks and left the beach to the hum of only a few mosquitos. Paddling west down the shallow creek, we passed out of the twisted channel of the inlet. A 2 foot well from the strong northwest winds of the now passed front was bulging up on the really shallow bars at the inlet and some steep three footers were running cross each other providing some really quick but short rides back off the outside bar. We played around in the junk until it began to get dark.
A group of nine kayak friends assembled at the boyhood home of one of our long time friends, Harding Wescott. The home is located on the broad main street of Nassawadox. The street is lined with good sized homes from another era, backed up to corn and soy bean fields. Once off the US 13 highway that speeds traffic down the length of the peninsula, the quiet of the small town returns quickly.
About half of us arrived late in the afternoon of a Thursday before a cooler than usual weekend. The last of a front from Canada was passing through. A big thunder cloud built up as we finished unloading our vehicles and prepping our equipment. Short and violent with wind, rain and lightning, the dark clouds soon rolled on to the southeast. Clearing could be seen to the northwest as we drove out to the ramp on Nassawadox Creek just to the west of the town.
As we paddled back to the launch, the wind dropped completely and the underlit clouds of the front cast a slick silvery sheen over the water. We paddled through the very shallow water, running aground here and there as we wandered out of the channel.
The next morning we headed south on US 13 to the very end of the Virginia peninsula. Just before the Bay Bridge Tunnel, there is a Wildlife Management Are, the Eastern Shore National Refuge where there is a small but well utilized launch site. The site was busy with several kayak fishermen getting into the small marsh creek leading away from the shoreline launch. Soon a couple other kayakers appeared and added to the plastic jam.
We got back to the launch site as darkness started to get deeper. It night was still now - not even the slightest wind ripple disturbed the water. Taking no chances that the mosquitos would soon follow the no-see-ums that were accumulating on legs and arms, we got our boats up on the car and drove the short distance back to the house. The rest of our group arrived around 10:00 P.M. after a four hour drive from Baltimore.
We were soon away, paddling down the small grass lined creek. The creek ends on the west side of a canal for larger boats that cuts through the marsh from the bay to the north to a channel that passes under US 13 and into the Chesapeake Bay on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel system. it provides a short cut for private and commercial boats transiting the Virginia barrier Island into the Chesapeake.
We paddled across the open bay between Smith Island and Fisherman's Island. There was a light breeze from the southwest blowing at our backs. We used it to ride the small waves across the shallow bay, eventually arriving at the beach on the southern end of Smith Island. We were looking for surf. There wasn't much this day, but we caught a few smalls ones with some spirited paddling. After mucking about for an hour or so we headed into the beach for lunch.
We paddled over to the bar and found some sloppy rollers coming in from cross directions and spilling/curling to about three feet as they came into the bar and then died on the deep water on the other side. With several attempts i got a few decent rides and one good side surf. But the day was pretty calm. After about an hour of paddling in and out of the break zone and one rescue after one capsize, we all assembled for a paddled back to the tip of Smith Island for a short break. From there we headed back to the canal whose beginning was very difficult to see against the low marsh covered banks of the background that looked exactly like the foreground. Although we passed a little past the entrance, we soon regained the launch site. All the other kayak vehicles were gone and we were the last ones there.
On the beach the biting deer flies were in full hunt, so some of the time was spent actually standing in the water to avoid them. They soon drove back to the kayaks with a thought to do a little more surfing at the beach and then go look for some better action on the inlet bar now that the tide had gone down some. Whenever I leave a beach I always go through a little check to make sure that I haven't left anything on the beach. i seem to have forgotten something important this time!
We headed back to house to clean up and then we were off to the Mexican restaurant in Exemore. We also stopped at the Food Lion supermarket for some supplies for the next couple days.
The next morning we headed up the road past Exemore looking for the road to Wachapreague. We went right by it and didn't recognize we were too far until we passed the next intersection. So we drove about 5 miles past before turning back. i had been to Wachapreague in the spring, but I didn't recognize it coming from the other direction. There is a sign indicating the turn when coming south but nothing when going north. Things were straightened out quickly. We parked near the free ramp in Wachapreague and unloaded the boats.
We stopped on the beach on the southern end of Cedar Key which now has been split into two separate islands as a thin part of the island has washed out. The island is so new it does not have a separate name. The few houses on the island are perched high on stilts and are being washed away. One is already abandoned and it is looking grim for the others.
The channel out to Wachapreague Inlet is well marked and fairly short, just 4.5 miles. It twist around a lot though, and the water is shallow except in the boat channel. There were many boats using the channel and wakes were frequent. Unfortunately the tide was completely wrong for going out in the morning and coming back in the afternoon . The current would oppose us the whole time in both directions. But it wasn't bad, so we were out at the inlet in a little under two hours.
We spent some time playing about in the waves but they were small and badly formed and the surfing wasn't great. Matt headed down to the cross train wave tumult and Mike and I followed. We played about in the clapotis over the extremely shallow sand bar. Action without danger made it a fun experience.
There is a high dune on the southern end and a wide beach as the sand is swept down toward the inlet. The inlet is kept open by the strong tidal flow through the deep inlet to the shallow but extensive lagoons that are found behind all the barrier islands. The beach is littered with clam shells, mostly big ones and broken bits of big ones.
We stopped for lunch here. Some of my dune dummy buddies climbed up for a good view, not the best of ecological practice. I took a walk out on the wide beach and looked over to the sand bar on the north side of the inlet. Some small waves were rolling in from the northeast and there was some cross wave tumult on the east end of the bar. it looked interesting, so we decided to go over and see what it was like.
I assembled some video from the two days of small surf and made this little vignette on YouTube.com.
After fooling around in the surf slop at the ocean side end of the little sand bar we stopped on the inland end for a rest before heading back the way we came. in two hours we were back to Wachapreague with our boats loaded on the cars. Returning to Nassawadox for showers and clean clothes we returned to Exemore for more Mexican food. While not the only restaurant around, our host thought it was really the only good one in the are. There is a full compliment of the usual fast food places like McDonalds.
The next day most left early for the return trip to Baltimore. Rick Harding and I went back to Nassawadox Creek for a short paddle. This day was so different than the Thursday afternoon paddle that started our weekend. The sun was out, the sky was a bright blue and little puffy clouds hung in the air. The as yet undeveloped banks of the coast sported nice large white sand beaches. it was really a nice paddle to end a very good weekend trip.