Finish: 4:40 PM - Shell Island (At the mouth of Crystal River FL)
Daily dist: 37 miles
Total dist: 1755 miles
Weather: NE wind about 10 mph clear and nice. Wind was only an issue for a few hours
Notes: Very happy to be at the start of an interior route to get out of the wind for a day.
After escaping the shallows my next navigational chore was to pick up on the channel markers that would take me to and past Cedar Key. The channel is marked with the same red and green navigational beacons/signs that I described on the Mississippi river. Red is on your right on the way back in to a port and green is on your left. Around here, because it’s so shallow (even miles from shore) finding and staying within the marked channels can save a kayaker a lot of aggravation. You wouldn’t think it for a boat that drafts only a few inches, but I need about six feet of water under my kayak to get top performance. When it’s too shallow (even though I’m not touching bottom) there is bottom turbulence from the boat passing above that causes the boat to slow. I don’t know the finite details of how or why it works. I just know that when I’m in water that’s too shallow my kayak doesn’t behave like it should. It doesn’t seem to glide and often feels like I’m dragging something behind me. In addition, when I try to turn it’s a slow lumbering process. All due to the drag caused by the bottom.
Because shallow water slows me down I often find myself running miles from shore to be sure that I’m in deep water. When I see a point of land or island ahead of me I turn and head off shore very early to avoid running into the shallow water around those features. Part of what has made dealing with the wind such an adventure is that in order to run close enough to get out of the roughest water I’ve had to run across shallow water that slows me in its own way. It’s become a trade off between cruising in calmer (but shallow) water with a constant feeling like I’ve got an extra forty pounds in my rear hatch verses running further out in deeper water but where the waves are big enough to give me a constant beating. That’s why finding and following a marked channel can be such a pleasure. It takes all the guess work out of finding your way around the shallows and keeps the kayak moving efficiently.
Following the marked channels around Cedar Key today was exceptionally important because much of the surrounding area is not only shallow but shallow with oyster beds. There is no sound worse than the screeeeeeeccch of a fiberglass hull coming to a stop against a clump of razor sharp oyster shells. I’ve had a couple run ins already but thankfully the Ikkuma came out not too much worse for wear. It’s always tempting to try to cut corners when I’m following a channel but I know the risks to my hull are not worth the few minutes of time I might save.