Friday, December 20, 2013

Paddle Away

We were late to the wilds.  Metaphorically for sure -- the area along the Florida Gulf Coast was heavily developed fifty years ago -- but also literally.

The guide said the tide was going out and the wind picking up.  Sunset was a few hours away.  It was less than an ideal time to get on the water but we wanted to go anyway.

Yesterday, a local had said this was the best kayaking in the area.  He also said, "Any day on the water is better than no day on the water."  True that. 

We put the littlest in the tandem between my teenage nephew and I.  She is a total gamer, jumped right into the small boat ready to go.  I got in with my knees bent high behind her back.  Flexible is not a word used to describe me but like I said, the water was calling.

We made a run for the mangroves before it would become too shallow and impassable. 

The cormorants greeted us along the way.  They drop in out of the sky, gliding across the water with their web feet sticking up, so close that the splash from their landing sprays us.  Their "beautiful blue eyes" as my cousin in the middle called them, were on us.

Their eyes were actually on the water under our boats.  The shadows of our kayaks startle fish and the cormorants are there for a snack.  Learned behavior as my buddy called it, but also just plain exciting if you're in one of the kayaks.

One of the birds started a dive a few feet off from the side of our boat and emerged a few fat seconds later on the other side of us.

Several times I looked straight down next to the boat and glimpsed one of their night green backs, a few bubbles trailing off their feathers, swiftly passing underneath.  Their bodies carry the colors of everything around us -- the shadowy mangroves, the green water, and the clumps of submerged, silt-sprinkled algae in the shallows.

One of the birds surfaced inches from the boat with a palm-sized flash of silver in its beak.  A small butterfish or maybe a juvenile mullet.  It rendered me speechless for a moment.

Read Part II

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