Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Paddling at Two MPH

Pasco's Parks and Rec Director Rick Buckman

A recent planned day-paddle turned out to be both breathtaking and productive. Launching kayaks just south of Aripeka, on Filman’s Bayou the day’s route would take us down Pasco County’s shoreline marking waypoints and points of interest with a global positioning system (GPS). The intent of the trip was to put eyes on the scenic parts of our coastline and record the information to put in a blueways brochure. Paddlers visiting Pasco could use it to navigate the pristine coastline in a modern fashion.

With our own laminated maps and paddles in hand the modern day Lewis and Clark (Buckman and Caum) set out to cover as much coastline as we could before becoming worn out or blown in. The wind did get the better part of us later in the trip.
One of the amazing things about kayaking or paddle boarding is life moves along at a pace where you can enjoy the sights and sounds around you. Being on the water doing 40 miles an hour is thrilling, but at two miles an hour, it puts things into a different perspective. As our ancestors explored the coast and rivers of the New World from paddle driven craft, they had an insight into the “real” experience.
This paddle was the same kind of experience for us, except for the hand held Garmin GPS. Paddling this piece of the Nature Coast is the “real” Florida coastline. The area from Filman’s Bayou to Sea Pines Channel and down to Hudson Beach was great for viewing bottom dwellers, rays, shovel-nosed sharks, horseshoe crabs, and large variety of baitfish. We left the bayou on a low slack tide, so we figured we would have to walk across a couple of the spits and we did. We hit No Name Channel ninety minutes after we set out. That put us 4.38 miles into the paddle. We determined the time and the coordinates. 
We pulled onto Hudson Beach to stretch at Robert Strickland Memorial Park. This stop was right at two hours into the paddle and had we left at 10 a.m. (instead of 8 a.m.) we could have walked into Sam’s for lunch before re-launching. Day paddlers take note, after a two-hour paddle, a break for refreshments and two more hours would be a perfect paddling day.
Just shy of seven miles into the trip, we headed to mark Signal Cove Channel.  After that, we came to the north border to Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park, at N28 degrees 20.567 minutes/West 082 degrees, 43.100 minutes, just a 38-minute paddle from Hudson Beach.  We then proceeded to mark each of the fresh water exits from the park that are navigable from the Gulf.  These will be key features on the blueways brochure once we get it into production.
We continued down the coast, jotting down waypoints on the maps on our laps. Four hours into the adventure, we hit the entrance to Salt Springs Bayou the main water entrance point to the pristine park. The coordinates for the mouth of the entrance are North 28 degrees 17.600 minutes/West 082 degrees 44.182 minutes. The mouth of the entrance, six miles from Hudson Beach, is dotted with oysters beds, so do not attempt this on a low or extreme low tide. Paddling into the park is easiest if you have an incoming tide.
For the remainder of the endeavor we worked our way down to Brasher Park in Port Richey (N28 degrees, 17.166 minutes/West 082 degrees, 44.182 minutes) to stop for the day. The wind had picked up from the northwest and was making it difficult to stay offshore and on course. Brasher Park has an easy launch and take-out point and it’s just a mile from the entrance to the Salt Springs.
Over the course of the day, we paddled more than four hours  (we were on the water for 5 hours and 22 minutes total), covered 12.5 miles of coastline at an average speed of 2.2 miles per hour.
Next trip for the dynamic duo: The remaining eight miles of the Pasco coastline and more information for our blueways brochure.