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Essex River, 12/20

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To see the illustrated version of this report go to http://mysite.verizon.net/vze242r4/essex_river_12_2003.html

On the weekend before Christmas, four NSPN trip leaders: Jeff, Jim, Gary, and Dee, paddled the Essex River from the public boat ramp by the Essex Shipbuilding Museum to Castle Neck. The day started sunny with little to no wind, air temperature 27 degrees F, water temperature 42 F. We discovered that the parking lot behind the police station has been renovated, and the town is putting in stairs that lead directly to the street.

The group started to get into the spirit of things while launching. Although it was cold, there wasn't much ice or snow to deal with. There was a decent amount of water coming under the bridge by the ramp, but the eddy lines were scrambled making crossings confused.

The group started off down river, paddling with the tide which was about four hours form dead low. There were no boats or people spotted on the way out, only mallards. We circumnavigated around Hog Island, with only one misstep. Everyone but Jim got caught on the wrong side a some very shallow water on the northeast side of the island. We could have backed out but decided to quickly portage across.

Castle Neck appeared desserted. We stopped about halfway down the back side for lunch. While eating we say a couple of small boats out on Essex Bay. Otherwise it was very quiet. Our break was leisurely, and the sun kept us warm for most of it.

After we launched we continued down the neck to the only navigable part of the harbor at this time. We crossed to the far side of the bay, and tried to hug the shore where the channel is supposed to be. We were still too conservative and had to turn back briefly before ending up in deep water. At some point soon after, we stopped for someone and someone else noticed a couple of horses on Castle Neck.

After snapping a long distance picture, we continued up river, ocassionally consulting Jeff's chart to ensure ourselves we were on the right track. At the first turn in the channel, we noticed a couple of harbor seals on some rocks. As we snapped photos, they got nervous and entered the water, coming up behind us as usual. We turned our boats around and paddled up river backwards so we could watch them following us. Pretty soon we realized there were more than two.

After the seals lost interested we turned back around and continued up river with a pit stop in the tidal flats. As I have noticed before, the trip back up the river seems a lot longer than the trip down. It could be the current, or it could be that the turns obscure what it ahead making one think that the boat ramp is around the next turn. I know that on this trip, the sun became lost in cloud cover and I started to get a bit cold. By the time we took out, everything was chilled except my head. Certainly, this had to contribute to the trip seeming longer going back.

Jeff fitted the output from his GPS to a TOPO map. I was amazed at the details of our trip that could be seen from turning around for the seals to the pit stop in the mud. Actually, from the map, it looks like we knew exactly where we were going.

Dee Hall

Impex Currituck, Blue over Smoky Ivory

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