Sunday, September 23, 2007

Two Days Before the Official End of Summer 2007

We've taken our kayaks out several times over the past three months at dusk but have never managed to catch one of those jaw-dropping sunsets. It was mostly overcast when we left home for the Ship Bottom boat ramp so we weren't expecting one on this night either, but boy were we in for a surprise! With summer just about to give way to autumn, we figured it best to grab every opportunity for an evening out on the water before the weather turns colder. Even though we've had some very chilly nights lately, this particular evening was warm enough to wear only t-shirts and shorts, so off we went.

We began by paddling west with the intent of going around the whole Cedar Bonnet Island archipelago which would take us about halfway across the Barnegat Bay and then under the huge causeway bridge. This was my wife's idea and it sounded good to me since we had never traversed this section before. As we made our way toward the setting sun, we slipped into a small channel which looked like it could dead end, but then again maybe it could lead to an alternate universe so we decided to explore it. As it turned out, it was merely a shortcut through the tidal marshlands. Don't forget you can click on the pictures to enlarge them... they are worth it!

Even though the wind was supposed to be out of the northeast, it was in fact out of the south and probably closer to 7 mph than the 3 mph that was predicted. This didn't really affect us at all and we rather enjoyed the slight chop in the water, but it's a good example of how important it is to be prepared for different conditions than you are expecting to encounter. When we emerged from the marshland, we were just a mile or so from the houses on the easternmost point of Beach Haven West and I was amazed that we had gotten that far across the bay with so little effort. There were quite a few boats hurrying to make it back to their respective docks before it got dark, but we just sat there idle, gazing at the sun as it sank into the horizon. I snapped a few pictures, but they really don't come close to capturing the beautiful scene.

The breeze was slowly diminishing as it often does at dusk but it was still strong enough to drift us slowly northward. Since we wouldn't be eating dinner until around 10pm, we snacked on the cheese and crackers I had grabbed on our way out the door. In between bites I kept trying different settings on the camera to ensure we ended up with at least a few good pictures as a record of our outing.

Eventually it was time to move on so we paddled our way under the huge span and toward the northern point of the island group we were circumnavigating.

Once we got on the north side of the bridge, I looked over my shoulder to check on how the sunset was progressing and yelled out "Holy mackerel!". My wife thought something was wrong, but I was just shocked by the incredible sight. I quickly reoriented my boat toward the west and scrambled to get the camera back out of its waterproof container. The sun had sunk below the horizon by then and was casting its light across the bottom of the thin cloud cover causing it to glow a very intense yellow.

We were no longer near any land so we just sat there side-by-side facing directly into the sunset, letting the current take us wherever it might. The yellows slowly turned to a deep orange, and then finally to fiery red. Of course this was all reflected in the water so it looked like both the whole western sky and the entire liquid expanse in front of us was ablaze. Very, very cool. We were truly awestruck.

We continued to drift for at least 20 minutes, not wanting to take our eyes off that scene. At last, when the final traces of color had faded and darkness had enveloped us, we turned the yaks and continued toward the now barely visible tip of the island. Again it seemed like we didn't even need to paddle to make progress, so our strokes were very light ones. The wind had subsided to nearly nothing by now and the sea below us had become almost flat except for these tiny ripples that gave the surface a corduroy type appearance.

Eventually we cruised past the Dutchman's restaurant and under the much smaller middle bridge. We pulled up side by side again and quit paddling, knowing that the parking lot where we began our journey was only 5 minutes away. We sat in the still water and just talked for close to half an hour. Neither of us wanted this adventure to end, but that seems to be a common theme when we take the boats out for an evening on the bay. I just can't believe I have lived here for over 20 years and have been missing out on this activity for 19 and a half of them.

Here are a couple of short videos of the trip. Enjoy!

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