Paddle Across the Bay 1998

I continued to kayak throughout the winter of 1997/98 as usual. For the most part, the winter paddles consisted of six-mile trips from home to the Cape May Canal and back. Occasionally I paddled in Cape Island Creek or other inland waters as well.

On Monday, June 1, I stopped at Joe Link's home to talk with him about kayaking. Joe is a well-known runner in these parts. He runs a daily ten-mile route, competes in many races, and has completed fifty-seven marathons. Joe had just purchased a sea kayak and was beginning to train in his usual energetic manner. I told Joe that I planned to paddle across the Delaware Bay sometime in August. He retorted that he bought his kayak for just that purpose! We agreed to do some joint training paddles both for fun and to prepare for the paddle across the bay. The next day I paddled around the island. The trip was windy and a bit rough and took five and a half hours. On June 11, I kayaked to Dias Creek, a round trip of twelve and a half miles. On June 15, Joe and I had our first joint paddle up to Dias Creek. We went all the way up to the Route 47 bridge before turning around. We battled a strong South wind all of the way home. This was about a fifteen mile round trip.

For a long time I have wanted to kayak to Jake's Landing on the Dennis Creek. I easily talked Joe into the event. By means of measurements on a chart of the bay and my GPS, I estimated the distance from home to Jake's Landing to be thirteen miles. On June 27, Joe and I started up bay with a 10-15 mph west wind and 2-3 foot waves that became 3-4 foot waves. We stopped at Goshen Creek for a GPS reading. We were jumped by swarms of greenhead flies. Luckily I brought some Off so we were able to protect ourselves. Dennis Creek was a mile to the north. We relaunched into the waves and headed up bay. There is a large white lighted marker at the huge mouth of the creek. Because of a flawed map that I had looked at, we made a wrong turn and, after a few miles of paddling and turning, we ended up at Route 47 near mile marker 15.5 (the Jake's Landing turnoff is at mile marker 20.5). We called Maria Link on my cell phone and she picked us up in their truck.

On Thursday, July 16, I did a "twofer." In the morning I went out for a kayak paddle down bay. I wore a PFD with my new submersible radio attached. It was interesting listening to the traffic. At the concrete ship I encountered some dolphins, a rowboat, two other kayaks, and "Big Red", the whale-watcher. A parasail boat was operating off of the canal mouth. I paddled to the second jetty at Cape May Point and turned around. Fish were jumping all over the place. In the afternoon, I paddled up bay to Green Creek. Although the bay was clear, I could tell from the radio that fog had settled in on the canal, harbor, and point.

One of my wilder ideas for a kayak paddle was to go to the East Point Lighthouse at the mouth of the Maurice River. Nothing is too wild for Joe, so on July 19, Joe and I headed up bay at the beginning of the flood tide. Around Del Haven we saw a bunch of Manta Rays splashing and swimming at the surface of some very shallow water. They were quite near to us. When we got near Bidwell's Creek the water became rougher and stayed pretty rough the rest of the way. We paused a few times for a drink of water but didn't land anywhere the whole trip. The terrain from Dennis Creek to East Creek is beautiful and pristine. Farther up there are broken and abandoned houses and trailers - very ugly. Thompson's Beach has some inhabited dwellings and one newly built house. We finally arrived at East Point after almost five hours of paddling. We paddled nineteen miles at an average speed of four miles per hour. My phone was at the edge of a cell but I walked around amidst the greenheads until we could call Maria for a pickup.

On July 30, Joe and I paddled around the island. It was a lovely trip with flat water, well-timed currents, and some dolphins in the ocean. We completed the 21 mile trip in 4.5 hours. We felt ready! I had trained with lots of shorter kayak paddles, including an 11 mile round-trip paddle to Pierce's Points on August 20.

On Friday, August 21 we made our final plans for the paddle across the bay. Brian Batdorf, a Pennsylvania high-school junior who summers in Wildwood Crest would bring his kayak to the ferry terminal to meet the Jeep. The kayaks would all go over by ferry. Alex, Phil, Katie, and Bill all arrived to support the effort.

Sunday, August 23 was the big day. Did I sleep at all? My alarm went off at 4:30 AM. I showered, dressed, had a cup of coffee and two granola bars, and headed for the marina in the RAV. I bought ice and opened the boat. Phil, Katie, Maria, and her friend Marianne got on the boat. We picked up Bill at the gas dock and were off up the canal at about 6:20 AM. Meanwhile, Cathy and Alex picked up Joe in the Jeep and went to the ferry terminal. They met Brian and loaded his kayak on top of the other two. On the boat, we had the lights on since it was still a bit dark. To my great relief, when we got to the canal mouth, we could see about three miles through the fog, and could see the MV Cape May heading across the bay. We quickly caught up and followed in her wake into Breakwater Harbor. We headed for Lewes town beach. I swam in from about 100 yards out. A few minutes later, Cathy, Joe, Brian, and Alex arrived in the Jeep. Joe accidentally released a bungee cord that cut Cathy's forehead. I dried myself and lathered up with sunscreen and got ready to go. We launched at 8:16 AM. We went to the left of the icebreakers and then headed on a course of 50 degrees. We maintained the course as we drifted north with the flood tide. As we began to drift south, we aimed at our house until we spotted the North Cape May water tower in the haze. Joe and I battled the current into Whaler's Cove for a 4.5 hour total time. Brian and Anaerobic arrived about 15 minutes later. Joe's neighbor Jim and his wife Sue formed a welcoming committee of two. Perfect crossing!

In the days followed the crossing, I designed a commemorative tee-shirt and had the Flying Fish Studio produce thirteen of them. I gave a tee-shirt to each of the participants and also to Katie's husband, Tom, who supported the effort from Virginia.

William G. McArthur
January 8, 1999