I decided to head out to Eastern Neck Island and try to paddle the 9 mile circumnavigation of the island. It is a popular place to kayak - the Eastern side of the island is on the Chester River while most of the west side is largely exposed to the Chesapeake Bay. The Eastern Neck Wildlife Refuge is just south of Rock Hall, MD - I hadn't been out that way in probably 10 years, when Carole and I spent a rainy weekend at a bed and breakfast between Chestertown and Rock Hall. I'd forgotten how looong a drive it is to get there - there is still another 35 miles or so to go after you've gone over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Rock Hall has gotten tarted up since I'd last been there - there is a fixed up Main Street with a coffee shop (Java Rock) and everything now.
The night before I tried a few Internet sources to get a weather forecast for Eastern Neck. Since I'd be going by myself and I still don't have all that much experience in open waters, if the forecast was for winds and high waves, I'd do something else. One forecast was for 10-15 mph winds, but starting in the afternoon, and another was for just 5 mph winds. I figured I would get an early start to beat the winds and do the exposed side early - that way I'd be on the Chester River side before the winds built up. Mistake 1 - not checking the weather forecast in the morning before I headed out.
When I reached the Bay Bridge the water looked pretty calm - until I reached the Eastern Shore, where there were white caps and waves crashing onto the Kent Island beach. The wind seemed to be out of the northwest and the waves were really building up as the wind roared across the Bay - or the fetch, as we old salts call it. When I crossed the Chester River at Chestertown, it looked calm as a pond but of course the river is only a hundred feet wide and very sheltered up there. When I finally crossed over the last little bridge onto Eastern Neck, looking to the West I could see nothing but whitecaps, hmmm.
However, at the Bogle's wharf launch ramp, things didn't look so bad on the Chester River side, so I decided to go for it. Of course, it turns out that the launch ramp is in sheltered Durdin's Creek - as soon as I paddled out onto the Chester River I was hit with 15-20 mph winds roaring down the mile-wide river and 1-2 foot waves. Oh, and lots of wakes from crabbing, clamming and fishing boats - it was pretty exciting. I figured I still head around towards Eastern Neck narrows, go under the bridge and see if it was too rough to try the Bay side. However, once I reached the open area past Boxes Point I was already in whitecaps and confused seas (actually, the seas knew exactly what they were doing - I was the confused one) - since I was by myself and at the edge of my skills, I decided to turn around, which resulted in some exciting paddling with the wind at my back and some good practice surfing some swells.
I explored the sheltered area of Shipyard creek and saw many herons and assorted normal birds, and kept going back out into the Chester River to paddle in the whitecaps to get more comfortable in the Capella in those kinds of seas. After about 6 miles of paddling I decided to call it a day and went back to the launch. On the way off of the Island I made mistake number 2 and stopped at the lookout area at Tubby's Cove to take some pictures. As I walked on the boardwalk I thought "Those bushes look just like enormous poison ivy or poison sumac bushes, good thing there is a boardwalk." At the end of the boardwalk there is a lookout platform that had some weeds growing along side - one of which apparently swiped my arm as I stopped to take pictures. Yup - I got a horrendous case of poison sumac or poison oak without even knowing I'd touched anything.
My wife helpfully forwarded me an article about how global warming is causing poison ivy to become even more potent, and when I checked the NOAA weather it turned out there were small craft warnings for the Bay that day...