Terry Ehrlich, editor and publisher of Taxidermy Today Magazine, contributed the following account of his very first voyages in his new W500 kayak:
I am 67 years old, and I have never owned a kayak before the W500.
Before receiving the kayak, I was advised to take it in shallow, flat water for my maiden voyage, and get some practice. That is GOOD advice! However, I was unable to get to shallow flat water, and my maiden launch took place on St. Helena Sound off Edisto Beach, South Carolina.
When I launched the water was relatively flat and shallow on the river side of the beach. All went well. It took only a moment or two to get a feel for the degree of stability I could expect. I even found that standing and paddling seemed more comfortable and efficient that riding the saddle and paddling. I felt like I was getting more power in the standing stance, but I did do more paddling and experimenting while riding saddle style.
The W500 tracked very well right from the start, but I found making sharp turns to be challenging.
But then I found myself in fast moving water… The tides on the river side as well as the creeks draining the ACE Basin moved water at an amazing clip while remaining deceptively flat. The sound turns into creeks, and ditches and even smaller drains – – all moving, not just in the channels, but the whole system is inundated with heavily moving water. Even the tiniest of fingers, no wider than a kayak can run 6 MPH and make a total fool of an inexperienced paddler…
The water was constantly moving at up to 6 miles/hr. in and out with practically no slack time at dead low or high tide.
Such flow dynamics can be used to good advantage, but if not understood and respected, it can get you into trouble and drain your energy.
I launched from the beach, and at two launching ramps on the Intracoastal waterway and at Edisto Marina. Even there, I was quickly swept into the fast current, and I found myself bouncing off pilings, trying to get out into clear water. It was an experience indeed! I wished for the still water of a lake or pond, but I had to deal with what I had…
I did it all – I got stuck on an oyster bank, and stuck in a mud bank with pluff mud that you would sink up to your thighs in. With a bit of shaking, bumping, rocking and cussing, I worked myself out of each situation. But I was struggling with the heavy, fast current. I had the sensation of moving ahead at a good rate of speed, but when I looked up and to the side as I stroked heavily along and saw the spartina grass on the bank not moving, and I realized I was not actually going forward at all, and it discouraged me.
Most of my motivation was to be able to fish from the W500 in the inshore waters of the creeks and marsh drainage ditches, but I found myself fighting the currents at every step of the way.
Now, I found no fault at all with the W500. It performed as it should, but the element we were riding in had its own way with us on that first voyage. I can now really appreciate the power of moving water!
Just when I was pretty much satisfied that I had had enough of moving seawater, I was sitting on the deck of the beach house looking out across St. Helena Sound and there arose a dark spot on the water about 50 yards across. I thought at first that it was a shadow from a cloud, but when the middle of it exploded in a sparkling shower of silvery forms and a huge tarpon launched out of the water like a cruise missile, I sat straight up! Fish erupted all through the school of mullet. I grabbed my fishing rod and ran to the beach. Heaving the heaviest lure as far as possible, I could only halve the distance to the feeding frenzy. I stood there trying for fifteen minutes and realized the school was not moving. “Aha!” I just might have time to run back to the house and drag the W500 down to the beach one last time and get in on the action. I grabbed one rod, my life jacket, and one bag of lures… In moments, I was right in the middle of the frenzy: Fish scattering in every direction, fleeing from the huge predators below them. One shower of mullet sent a three-pounder flying right into the W500 and back out just as fast as it entered. The school seemed to find me a convenient hiding spot but the tarpon didn’t mind at all, charging through the masses at will, even bumping the boat as they rocketed by. Birds, dolphins, sharks, tarpon, mullet, glass minnows, jellyfish by the thousands and ME! It was a sight to behold.
I hooked several fish, and lost every one because they were nearly as big as me and my tackle was 10 pound test braid. Who cares, I was in fisherman’s heaven!
So oblivious was I that I hadn’t noticed we all were drifting out of the sound toward the Atlantic… Again, it all seemed flat and smooth, but in 15 minutes we had drifted a full mile from where I started. Concerned, I started stroking rather heavily back toward home base, but I was fighting that strong current again. After another 15 minutes, I realized I was not making enough headway to make it back to my point of origin, so I headed for the first piece of beach I could reach. I figured I would beach the craft and walk back to the house, a mile farther down the beach.
As I approached the beach, the waves tossed me about like a rubber duck in a washing machine. BOY! was I looking out of control . . mostly, because I WAS out of control.
I have gained a new respect for mother nature’s power – Your perspective changes, and you gain a degree of respect for the massive power of moving water, especially when it’s just you, your 28” wide W500, and your paddle.
Did I have a good time? You bet, but I paid for it! The advice I got before it all started was spot on – Start with still waters!
Back at the beach house, I washed the W500 down and it is pretty as ever.
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