Volume XI, Issue 18 ~ May 1-7, 2003

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The Year of the Turtle | Chesapeake Touring

Chesapeake Touring: Kayaking Glides into the Bay
Update: Volume I, No. 1, April 1993
by Bill Lambrecht

Inching from shore, escaping land. Slicing through shimmering waters. So smooth, so swift.

Gliding in a sea kayak toward Big Tooth Beach, named for the fossils it gives up. Strapped by a spray skirt into this sturdy fiberglass vessel, an extension of the body. A great big floating rear end.

Paddling in deeper water now with a duck’s-eye view of the Bay past parfait-layered cliffs, mauve and gray. Digging with the paddle in cold, cold water to a steady, hot beat, racing a tern.

Sure enough, Mr. Eagle up there is eyeing me from his personal locust. I’d better slow up, drift for a bit, watch Mr. Eagle watch me.

Welcome to the world of sea kayaking.

As sure as that eagle will lift to soar, kayaking is about to soar as a new sport on the Chesapeake Bay.

Kayaking suits the ’90s. For the environment, kayaks are about as low-impact as it gets, provided care is taken around beaches and wetlands. No gas, only suntan oil and not much noise except splashes and breathing.

Kayaking offers all the sweat and conditioning that a fitness-seeker needs. Or the sedentary sea kayaker can poke along and gaze in unfiltered wonderment.

“It’s clean, it’s green and its growing,” said Ron Casterline, who operates Annapolis Coastal Kayaking.

Update: A decade later, kayaking continues inching its way into Chesapeake Country. Aspiring enterprises like Casterline’s have faded, and other have glided in. In half a decade, Amphibious Horizons, with its paddling concession at Quiet Waters Park, has established itself as the place to get started. Just opened in Chesapeake Beach, Bay Paddlers offers oufitting and instruction.

You can outfit yourself with a boat and equipment at any outdoors store, or you can buy a kit and build your own from Chesapeake Light Craft. So many kayaks hanging round that you wonder whatever happened to canoes.

New designs and rudder innovations have lent remarkable speed and maneuverability. Sea kayaks are much quicker than canoes, and more stable, thanks in part to the paddler’s lower gravity. And unlike most boats, a kayak is truly worn, not sat in or on, which makes for wondrously participatory outings.

“Every mood and movement of the sea is transmitted through the hull of the kayak to the paddler’s nervous system. In this way, a union is built up between the kayaker and the sea,” wrote Derek Hutchinson, a prominent British kayaker.

As Casterline put it: “It’s the most intimate way to be involved with the Bay.”

Update: But on many days in many waters, you can still be the only boat gliding around.

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Last updated May 1, 2003 @ 2:57am