Grandchildren and family who want to try kayaking resulted in additions to our kayak fleet this year. An Ocean Kayak Venus 11 Sit On Top and Cascadia Tandem, both from LLBean, joined our Wilderness System Tarpon 160is.
Advertised as a woman’s kayak easily loaded onto car racks the Venus 11 weighs 44 pounds. While it may be light enough to load, the length and width makes it awkward. At 5 ft. 3 inches I found it impossible to get a good grip to pick up the Venus. A kayak cart would have made loading quite manageable. Unfortunately, due to it’s short length the Venus widens quickly at the stern and wouldn’t fit into our standard cart. I’m debating whether to spend $100 to purchase a wider cart. Taller kayakers with longer arms could easily load this kayak individually.
Outside of the disappointment in loading difficulty everyone who has tried this kayak finds it fun. It’s light and glides quickly. For those use to paddling a longer kayak it doesn’t glide as straight. But it is perfectly usable for a full day trip.
A front hatch kit is available (purchased from Austin Kayak) and was easily installed following the detailed directions. Be aware it will take at least 2 sets of hands to install the neoprene cover the first time, and several times following until it stretches. The hatch kit gives the Venus some in hull storage. Use dry bags both here and in the small hatch in front of the paddler. They both tend to leak. All in all a good investment for what we wanted since it was purchased from LLBean on a 20% off weekend.
Our second addition was a Cascadia Tandem also from LLBean on 20% off. We refer to these two kayaks as Baby and the Beast. The Cascadia weighs 74 pounds. If you’re going to transport this kayak be sure you have the ability to lift and load. After several experiments we found the Thule Slide and Glide to be the best way to transport the Beast.
Following recent surgery my kayaking was limited to riding in the front of the tandem. I love it. The seat is comfortable, and sits in deep enough for an incredibly dry ride. This kayak has the flexibility to be used both as a tandem or a single. Both ways work well with the Cascadia.
Kayaking Assateaque National Seashore never fails to produce an abundance of wildlife. Anyone can see one of the wild ponies in the parking lots foraging for food. Kayakers see the wild ponies in their more natural environment along the shoreline, and in the shadows of the wooded areas.
Assateaque National Seashore, and Assateaque State Park, are located just south of Ocean City, MD off highway 611. Summer weekends often produce a line of cars several miles long waiting at the entrance to the national park. Plan appropriately and arrive before 10 a.m. to avoid this backup.
Ferry Landing provides the best launch spot. Heading south one quickly leaves the crowds behind, even on a summer weekend. Few power boats enter this area due to the shallow water.
Slowly paddling the shoreline, entering guts and coves is the best way to explore Assateaque. In mid-August our trip produced pony sightings with cattle egrets, great egrets, a flock of white and glossy Ibis, and shore birds galore. This area is a treat for anyone wishing to take their time and view birds.
For those interested in longer paddles there are several paddle in campsites maintained by the park service along the shoreline approximately 2, 5 and 7 miles south of Ferry Land. In the summer bugs will be a significant challenge to anyone camping along the shore.
For a different trip one can turn north from Ferry Landing, go under the bridge to the island and explore the sandy beaches in the state park. This area provides an abundance of shorebirds, however boat traffic north of the bridge is significant on summer weekends.
The Worchester County boat ramp at Taylors Landing just outside Girdle Tree MD is currently closed to the public. It appears a complete rebuilt of the launch ramp is underway. Lots of heavy equipment was on site. This is one of our favorite launch sites and we were disappointed this morning to find this closure. It is possible to access most of this area from George’s Landing about 3 miles to the south. Hopefully this work will be completed before we store our kayaks for the winter.
A new home base opens up new kayaking locations for Maryland Kayaker. Venturing just inches south of the Maryland/Virginia border brings one to Pitts Creek off the Pocomoke River. The launch site features a small parking area on a bend of the Pocomoke. Kayaking north about half mile finds the entrance to Pitts Creek.
This area features a nice blend of marsh and hardwood forests next to the creek. Paddling upstream during high tide meant few wadding birds were spotted. On the return trip at lower tide the birds are more obvious. Pitts Creek winds back and forth for a number of miles and offers as much kayaking as one wishes.
On a day in early June we paddled about five miles upstream with the usual bald eagle spotting. Nearly to the end of our paddle we spotted an eagle’s nest on the western shore. This also looks like a nice area to take a dip on a hot summer day.
A nice restful paddle one needs only watch the wind and boats while on the Pocomoke.
Directions to launch site:
A GPS is useful to find this place at the end of Bell Rd. Southbound on US 13 turn left on Rt. 709 (1 1/2 miles south of MD/VA line). Stay on Rt. 709 which makes several turns. Eventually 709 becomes Pitts Creek Rd. Take a right onto Bell Rd. (Be sure and notice the house on the left!). The boat launch is at the end of Bell Rd. No facilities are located here. The closest are in New Church.
Calm before the waves
Kayaking around Miles Island in Chincoteague Bay is one of our favorites and featured in this blog before. The south side of Miles Island faces directly south and is always home to a good deal of choppy water. But a trip in late May featured quite a ride.
Launching from our usual spot at Taylors Landing, we began our trip around the island. The easterly side of the island changed considerably in the past year due to storms and erosion. Several new guts opened up and new ponds were created.
Reaching the southeast corner the presence of white caps caused a little concern. Taking a break on the marsh we looked across the south side of the island. Without a doubt the water was rough, however it seemed manageable. Initially we planed to turn the corner and kayak on a diagonal across the waves into the cove. However, upon facing west the obvious course became a direct paddle into the wind and waves from the west.
What a ride! With every third or fourth swell the resulting trough would send the nose of our tarpons under the next cresting wave. Once again the Wilderness System Tarpons proved their stability. There was no fear of capsizing, only of running out of arm strength. We’ll return again often as we know each trip in this area is different.
Near Snow Hill, MD exists several kayaking opportunities through cypress swamps. Maryland Department of Nature Resources developed trail maps for this area which can be found at http://www.dnr.state.md.us/boating/mdwatertrails/eastern_south.asp.
Byrd Park in Snow Hill is one of the best launch spots. Two boat ramps, restrooms, shaded picnic areas and playground equipment exist in the park. Leaving from Byrd Park kayak turn south on the Pocomoke River. Tidal flow and winds both have an affect on padding the Pocomoke so be prepared. Fishing boats tend to fly through the area. Staying out of the boat channel is a good practice.
Two miles south of Snow Hill the mouth of Nassawango Creek opens up on the right. Different from other paddling locations in this area both the Pocomoke and Nassawango Creek are bordered by hard wood forests to the shore line. Paddling close to shore one quickly realizes in times of high water a hardwood swamp often extends quite a distance into the forest. Further up Nassawango Creek Cypress trees become more predominant. While song birds are quite numerous in this area, very few water birds exist. The water is dark and limits their ability to fish.
This is a peaceful paddle passing just a few houses. Approximately two miles from the Pocomoke one kayaks under a bridge. A mile further upstream is a landing on the left which is part of Nature Conservancy lands. An orange sign on the tree is about the only way to spot the landing, and the water is deep to the shore so disembarking is a challenge. There are benches and some hiking trails in the area. Putting ashore here for a break is a good idea as there are few other spots.
In mid May on a high tide we were able to go another mile upstream pass the Nature Conservancy landing. Finding the best route through the water lilies became more challenging. Signs posted by the Pocomoke Canoe Company in the upper area do come in handy. At over 10 miles round trip this might for a relaxing paddle on this late spring day.
On a crisp breezy spring day Pikes Creek near Snow Hill, MD was our first kayaking trip of the season. Taylor’s Landing just outside Girdletree is the best put in for Pikes Creek.Taylor’s Landing is one of our favorite put in spots with several unique kayaking trips from this launch which is part of the E.A.Vaugh Wildlife Management area..
The water level was exceptional high on this day due to recent rains and a higher than normal tide.
To locate Pike’s Creek when leaving from Taylor’s Landing paddle around the first point on the right to the mouth of Scarborough Creek. On your left you will spot a straight canal which leads to Pike’s Creek. At the end of the canal turn right and follow the creek into a broad open area.
On this mid-spring day hydroskins and wind gear ensured safety from the cold water and chilly air. Bird watching was exceptional. Our first encounter was with a nesting pair of Canadian Geese. The female, obviously sitting on a nest, tried to hide in the weeds, while the male noisily attempted to lure in the opposite direction. We quickly moved past this area to respect their privacy.
As always there was the bald eagle sighting. Heron’s noisily flew away as we approached and snowy egrets seemed to be in abundance. At one point nearly a dozen could be counted in the marsh.
There is one home on the bank as you pass through a narrow gut and then a short open area before the creek becomes tangled in dead trees. As we neared the ending a Red Hawk flew in front of us loudly protesting our presence. It wasn’t until we noticed the rustling in the weeds we realized we interrupted his quest to make dinner of the very young goose lings hidden by their mother. Hopefully, the geese found safety.
To the end of Pike’s Creek and return to Taylor’s landing is a little over six miles. However, time spent exploring, and bird watching ensures this is a place we’ll visit again.