My paddling partner Tom and I ventured out to the west side of Roanoke Island to paddle the Croatan Sound. We launched out of the town of Manteo in a small tranquil canal where we saw many nutria on the banks and a stray snake slithering around the water. After about a 1/4 mile of serenity and calm water paddling through the tree sheltered canal, we made it out to the open waters of the Croatan Sound where we could see the construction crew building the new 7 mile bridge in the distance. There were no boats around for miles and the sky was cloudy, gray and foreboding. The westerly winds were fierce on the sound and created some large swells which kept trying to pummel my kayak into the shore.
I had a difficult time keeping my Perception Eclipse balanced and under control with the large following swells. It was a constant struggle to stay balanced with the following and often confused seas churning in every direction like a washing machine. A few times I came very close to capsizing. Tom appeared to have more control over his Hobie Pursuit sit on top. With these conditions and the immediate threat of a thunderstorm, however, we knew it was going to be impossible and unwise to continue on our 2- 3 mile northward course to the North Carolina Aquarium so we decided to abort our mission and just try to stay focused on getting back safely to our takeout. Although I was intensely focused on keeping my boat upright throughout this trip, I still got to see a few Black Pelican squawking on some pilings.
We landed on a deserted beach before we paddled back into the canal to take a breather and plan out the best way for making it back to the canal safely. The beach would have been more relaxing if I knew I didn't have to fight the larger than normal swells and fear of capsizing on the return trip. Although I had my doubts about making it back to the canal without capsizing, we followed the plan we discussed and did make it back safely. I was in no mood to practice my first wet exit in these rough waters.
The moderate to difficult rating on this trip was largely a result of the fierce winds, and confused seas. Under more favorable conditions, this should be a fairly easy trip.
Guide to Sea Kayaking i
n North Carolina: The Best Day Trips and Tours from Currituck to Cape Fear by Pam Malec. Globe Pequot Press.