Thursday, August 2, 2012

Crossing the Potomac in Big Red

On Sunday I had signed up to go kayaking with a  group and see the lotus flowers which would be in full bloom in Indian Head, MD, and were apparently the biggest stretch of these flowers on the east side of the States. There were two kayaking groups out to view the blooms, one which was putting in at Indian Head and would then paddle around the immediate area, but it would take me 2 hours to drive there. About 18 folks had signed up for this paddle. The second group was starting from Leesylvania Park and then crossing the Potomac River to reach the creek where the other group would be. This would mean an hour's drive from my house and there were 6 of us going. I was a little, or actually very much, concerned about this paddle. No recreational kayaks were allowed, I didn't consider Big Red to be a recreational boat, he was a touring boat. The crossing was also longer than the last Potomac crossing I'd done 4 years ago in my smaller boat. I'd struggled to keep up with the others then and wondered how I'd fare this time. But surely having a longer boat would help.
I got there early and eagerly met the rest of the group.
 They all had 17ft sea kayaks and stacks of equipment, I felt extremely unprepared. I had a skirt to keep the water out, a whistle and flashlight and of course my PFD. They had pumps, spare paddles, rope, flotation pads, compasses, GPS, radios and pretty much everything except a generator. Oh well. We set off from the beach and headed towards a line in the distance which was Maryland. It was pretty tough going, the water soon became choppy and my boat seemed to deal no better than my Perception on my last trip.
There was no chance of taking photos once we'd got going. I took the one above where the water was calm but then had to keep paddling to maintain my speed, I had my work cut out keeping in a straight line. We managed to cross without a break and got to the other side of the river in about an hour which was pretty good going, keeping a speed up of 3.5 mph. Entering the Mattawoman Creek we continued paddling and met up with the other group who seemed quite impressed with our crossing. But then they gave us the disappointing news that the lotus flowers had finished blooming. No pretty yellow flowers anywhere, not a single splash of color, just lots of crispy brown heads among the green leaves. What a downer. But we paddled around for a bit and chatted until the other group decided to go down to the Potomac and then back.
 We headed further inland until we reached Mattingly Avenue Park where we got out to stretch our legs and eat lunch.
I don't think we even had an hour's rest before we decided to put in again and start the journey back across the Potomac. We'd noticed a few dark clouds and there were some storm warnings so wanting to play it safe we got going.
As we left the creek a large black cloud loomed over us and we prayed it wouldn't be joined by others. Our return journey wasn't as power driven as our first crossing but we still kept going at the same speed as before, and still not stopping for a rest. There were quite a few speed boats around causing large wakes that we rolled over. We were shocked when we saw one particularly large boat heading at speed directly towards us. He showed no sign of slowing which was alarming us. I gave the arm signal for him to slow down which he then did and his crew stormed past us, all glaring at us as though we had no right to be there. James then told us the tale of a guy in a kayak in the Everglades who had a jon boat fly past him causing such a wave that it drenched him completely. The jon boat then turned around, came back and created a wake which then tipped the guy out of his kayak. Amazingly he turned again to return once more but this time the guy in the kayak had managed to recover himself, grab his kayak and pull out a gun. As the jon boat came past for the 3rd time, the kayak guy shot him dead. We don't know the outcome of the story but we wished we could have told it to Sunny Jim on his big cruiser who ploughed past us.
The golden beach of Leesylvania Park never looked so inviting as it did that afternoon. We'd left an empty strip of sand in the morning but now it was crowded with families, swimming and sunbathing along with jet skies and sail boats. I could barely haul myself out of my boat. Randi described it best when she said she had 'arms like noodles' Poor Deke had torn a rotator cuff and was in considerable pain. We helped each other load up our boats and then gratefully sunk into soft car seats, turning up the AC to soothe the sun burn. We'd paddled 14 miles, quite an exercise, but I was now exhausted. But I still managed to grab a photo of an old beat up car in the boat yard as I left to go home.

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