Bioluminescent Paddle��.Every summer the water heats up and small sea creatures appear in the Banana and Indian Rivers on the Space Coast of Florida. (June through early October). Tiny dinoflagellates make the water light up with any movement (paddle stroke, boat wake, swimming fish). The best time is when the sky is darkest with a new moon. Given that some full moon paddles also see the faint lights when clouds block the moon light.
We met the Florida Sea Kayak Association (FSKA) Friday night at 7:30 pm at Kelly Park East. The wind was calm on the Banana River. It was almost flat. We launched 11 kayaks off the hand launch beach at 8pm and made our way into a beautiful sunset. The paddle proceeded through the Hwy 528 causeway bridge north across the flats to the Canaveral canal.
The canal is dark most nights perfect to viewing. It also provides a narrow corridor for groups that are not always used to night paddles. There is also some power boat traffic in the canal so vigilance is necessary. The whole canal is a slow speed Manatee zone so most people behave. Each kayak had 6� chem light sticks fastened to the bow and stern of the boats. This was to mark the boats primarily so we can keep track of each other in the dark. Florida law and the coast guard requires a white light that can be shined to prevent a collision in this class of boats. We also required each paddler to wear and approved PFD and carry the required whistle.
Sun down was officially 8:10 but it really didn�t get dark until 8:40. Then the light show started. Each stroke was met with a strange tear drop shaped glow around the paddle. The tear drops trailed astern in a trail. Light glows along the water lines of the boats. Startled fish swam off in light trails. Bigger fish gulped at smaller fish in neon visions. It was like a Disney animated movie playing out in the water. Occasionally a manatee or dolphin can be seen but not on this Friday trip.
The purpose of the trip is to see the light show. Speed was maybe 2 mph overall with 3 to 4 miles covered. We really didn�t keep track. We returned to the start point after 2 hours. It was dark but everybody were familiar with their boats and loading was easy.
The canal gets crowded with individuals and commercial operators during the summer. The bioluminescence can be seen most anywhere in the river where the water is salty, warm and dark. If you go keep a weather eye on the thunderstorms. Summer pattern is for storms to develop in the afternoon. Fortunately they usually seem to stay miles away over the interstate. However nobody tells thunder storms what to do and sometimes it rains and storms. But not this night.
Accommodations: Merrit Island is a long residential island between the Banana and Indian Rivers. The causway streaches from Cocoa to Cocoa Beach Florida. The primary businesses are space port and tourism. There are plenty of lodging and eating places.
Directions: From I-95 take the Hwy 528 exit. Proceed to Merit island and take the North Banana River Road exit. Turn right proceed a block and turn left into the hand launch parking lot. Don't go to the boat ramp.
Resources: The park closes at dusk. But like many places it is not enforced. There are no street lights in the parking lot or launch area. This is an easy paddle. But beginers need to be paired with and experienced paddler that can find their way in the dark. It is possible to be lost and be blown down wind considerable distance before you get to shore.
The Banana River is salt and fresh water. It is neither all sheltered or Ocean water. But can be quite exposed to wind and wave.
The light show in the water is often difficult to capture in photographs.
Flat/Sheltered Water, Open Water/Ocean
Number of Portages:
PFD, whistle and white light that can be shined to prevent collisions is required minimum safety gear. Tie chem lights to the kayak so the group can find each other. Kelly park is very popular site to see the biolumensence. . The crowds primarily congregate on a new moon. There is a high probability of getting lost or mixed up in another group. Going on a less prime day would be preferable.