Tuesday morning, I awoke to another clear, sunny day. I packed up, thanking the Lord for having given me another good camp location, watching over me as I slept, and for giving me all of his blessings that I have received on this voyage so far. My mind reflected on how John O. and his wife Nancy had come into my life, truly as an “angel”, there to help me get through what challenges lay before me. A good example, is the conversation that John and I had last Saturday while I was staying with them. We were talking about how I did not want to kayak around Hampton Roads, across the James River. According to the Water Guide, “this hugh harbor is home to vessels of all kinds: commercial, military, foreign and recreational. Not for the faint of heart, this nautical freeway can become a free-for-all…” Hampton Roads is also home to the world’s largest naval base, a major shipbuilder and several great commercial ports. The busy port cities of Norfolk, Hampton, Newport News, Virginia Beach and Portsmouth generate an amazing amount of traffic, with a large bay to have to cross. John agreed and we decided to arrange for road transportation through this area. John had made some calls over the weekend, but would not know anything definitive until Monday afternoon, so last night, he confirmed that a moving company, The Other Moving Company, would be willing to take me sometime on Thursday from the York River Yacht Haven, not too far from the bridge going across the York River, to Portsmouth VA which is located around mile 0 at the ICW, for $120. That meant that I had to paddle around 45 miles this Tuesday, Wednesday, and if necessary, Thursday morning. During the paddle on Tuesday, he confirmed the details of the contact at the moving company, Brian H., and requested that I call him later to arrange for the actual pickup. So I knew what I needed to do. I finished my breakfast and looked out over the calm water in front of me, but the strong southerly wind told me that this was going to be another tough day, as I had to paddle around 12 miles almost straight south.
The initial hour was not too bad, as I was still in the protected waters of the Milford Haven. The breeze from the south freshened, and I knew that when I re-entered the Chesapeake Bay, I would get pounded. At the end of the string of small barrier islands to the east, I was back out in the Bay, the strong wind in my face, and the waves coming straight at me. It felt like a very slow pace, but I could see I was making some progress, but at the cost of a lot of effort. Each paddle stroke had to be a power stroke, with occasional bracing. It was approximately 12 miles to the point at which the Mobjack Bay would start, at which time I would start heading almost in the opposite direction, northwest. I took advantage of every nook and cranny along the coast, looking for any space that gave me a break from the strong winds and waves. What a slog!!! I just kept going, saying the Rosary, and thinking about this huge Bay. I had totally underestimated what an effort this would take. I was unprepared for these normal weather conditions on the Bay. Kayakers stay in cute upper reaches of nice creeks and rivers, not what I was trying to do. I said out loud, “Bay, you win, I lose. You are just too much for me!!!” Occasionally, tears would well up in my eyes as I thought about where I was, and what I was attempting to do. Doubts entered my mind. What is someone almost 66 doing out here??? I took rests when I could, trying to keep my arms and legs, and particularly my back, loose. I asked Mother Earth, why was she making this so difficult? Shortly thereafter, as I approached Potato Neck, I noticed that the height of the waves had dropped down to 1 foot. This immediately made the paddling easier, even if the wind kept up its pace. I looked to my left, and saw the reason- – the waves were breaking on shallow sand bars out in the distance. I crossed Horn Harbor to a protected beach in front of some small houses and RV’s, and took my lunch break. After some peanut butter on pita bread, an apple and a V-8, I lay down to stretch my back.
After 15 minutes, we were back paddling, across one more cove and then on to the southern point. I saw my first pelican earlier that morning, but when I arrived at the point sand bar that went out into the Bay on my left, there were whole flocks of many birds, including pelicans. I took a picture of Katie with the birds in the background. It was 1:45 PM, and this was definitely a turning point. I started up the other side of this peninsula, and now the wind was coming from behind me on my left, together with the waves, and while much easier, I still had to keep my wits about me. Even though this whole area was very shallow, I dropped the skeg halfway down to improve Katie’s stability and we moved up the west coast of Mobjack Bay. I could see in the far distance trees bordering this large bay. There are four rivers to cross, the first one being the East River. Given the direction of the wind and waves, I expected to have to paddle well up that river, until I found a safe place to cross, but half way there, I took the chance and successfully crossed, using my increasingly capable kayak strokes. Over the channel I pointed the kayak so that I was parallel to the direction of the waves, which is easier than going into them. As I reached shallower water, and knew that I could stand, I headed south west to finish the crossing.
As this had been a long day, and a hard one, I decided to find a camp around 4 PM, and saw a tiney beach with some trees located a small distance behind. I secured Katie, and went to check it out. There were high bushes surrounding the beach, which I had to literally crash through. Much of this material was dead, so I broke enough to generate a small path through to the trees. There I found a perfect location to hang up my tent, on two cedar trees. I went back to get what I needed, and pulled Katie up to the higher waterline, as the moon has been getting more full, affecting the level of high tide. After a nice dinner of noodles and tuna fish, I called Brian at the moving company to confirm the arrangements, no answer so left a message on his machine. I then called John to update him. A quick call to Grace, and then as the sun went down, giving me another beautiful sunset, I retired to my tent. There, I gave thanks for all my blessings (in spite of brother wind, who has not been nice), and watched the wind strengthen and whip up the boughs of the cedar trees above me until a worried sleep finally came over me. My last thoughts of the day were about the sound of the waves crashing on the exposed beach. I gave the day a 2, due to having to slog through most of the day, but really, I had made good progress – around 22 miles.