published in Canoe News, Summer 2011, Vol 44 No 2, p.6
Working at a college gives me the benefit of a two week vacation from Dec 18th to Jan 2nd, so one would think that I got a lot of kayak camping in. Unfortunately, I spent more time on land catching up on the basic day to day stuff. But the time I did get out to camp was perfect.
Sean and I camped out on an island on two separate nights Dec 23rd to the 24th and Dec 30th to the 31st. Both times we parked at the west side of Tom Stuart Causeway north of the drawbridge. It is not well lit at night and it is also a dog park, thus walking at night with a kayak to the water’s edge can be a smelly and squishy event. Never the less, the location is a good place to launch.
Before getting on the water I outfitted my kayak with two deck lights on the stern. The smaller one has a suction cup on it; where as, the taller light has a bungee and locking cam to keep it on the deck. Kayalu makes the taller light “Kayalite”. I have had it for about nine months and used it on several types of kayaks. It is a good piece of kit. (A detailed review is now available).
On December 23rd we paddled east into Boca Ciega Bay to Archie’s Island. It was mild and in the upper 40’s F. The moon was almost full and the tide was unusually high. When we got to Archie’s there was a group also camping on the island. We saw their powerboat on the east side of the island and gave them plenty of space. We set up our tents behind some brush and started boiling water for dinner.
We went simple and ate Pad Thai by Backpacker’s Pantry, hot coco, and Freeze-Dried Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. Yum.
We could hear the wind howl during the night. And for a moment I thought I hear our neighbor’s powerboat engine come on. In the morning there was so much sea foam on the shore it looked like mini icebergs. But that was not the most surprising thing we saw.
The people who were camping on the east side of the island did move their boat. And they anchored it like amateur boaters. The Carolina Skiff was high and dry with the Yamaha engine’s propeller locked and buried vertical into the shell encrusted beach. Ouch.
On December 30th we paddled west into the inter coastal waterway to Travestine Island. We took our time getting to the island. We looked at the Christmas lights on the local condos and meandered through some mangrove tunnels near an island. This was tricky at night and we had to paddle backwards after entering a tunnel. When we got on to Travestine we also discovered we had a neighbor so we gave kayaker some distance.
We set up camp and started boiling water for dinner. Sean and I both received some new pieces of kit during Christmas. And it was time to test it out. I got a Snowpeak GigaPower Stove, and Sean got a GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Dualist Cook System.
I always cook with a bunsen burner pad to distribute the heat. And this worked great with the Snowpeak. The only thing I now want to add to my kit is a Snowpeak windscreen. Because I can see cooking on a beach without one could be a problem. Sean’s GSI Cook System worked great, but I still prefer my GSI kettle, Sea to Summit collapsible X-Mug, and Snowpeak chopsticks.
In the morning there was evidence on the shore of the effects of cold water. There were several juvenile horseshoe crabs dead and washed up under a dead tree.
As we were paddling back to Tom Stuart Causeway we saw our neighbor on the water. He was sailing his Hobie kayak. He was having fun in that boat. Given the chance, I would try sailing that type of kayak.