Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Kayaking in the Aftermath

Travis Easely paddling past grounded fishing vessels in the Industrial Seaway

Kayaks are probably the safest boats in which to navigate Mississippi's coastal waters at the moment. There's an unbelievable amount of debris hidden beneath the surface almost everywhere that would pose a serious threat to most larger vessels.

I did some exploring by kayak over the Thanksgiving holiday week, launching solo from Ocean Springs harbor one day and paddling up Davis Bayou and then over to Deer Island and back on one day trip. Then Travis Easley and I made a loop trip around Bernard Bayou to the Industrial Seaway and down to Big Lake and back to our starting point.

Deer Island appears normal when viewed over the horizon from the mainland, but once ashore it is easy to see the effects of Katrina. The beaches are littered with debris from mainland homes and many trees are down in the predominately pine forests that cover the island. A lot of beach erosion has occured as well. Overall, however, the island hasn't changed in a significant way and will certainly recover. I only explored the southeast end on this trip. Travis Easley and I went back Sunday with my Necky Tesla and his new Current Designs 14-footer and planned to launch from the beach near the former location of the Biloxi Yacht Club. We had unloaded the boats when we were informed by a Biloxi police officer that it was a $500 fine to drive around a barricade and park on the south side of highway 90. There were no signs to this effect. Thankfully, he let us off on the condition that we load up and leave immediately, so our plan to circumnavigate Deer Island was dropped and we did the Bernard Bayou loop from the park at Switzer Road instead.

Although most have been removed by now, there are still plenty of wrecked commercial and pleasure boats along the Seaway and in the bayou. We paddled past sunken boats and destroyed houses, but found the marsh and woods surprisingly intact in this area. I hope to get out to the barrier islands and to the lower Pascagoula River soon. The purpose of these day paddles is to take photographs and gather observations for an article about what was lost here to be published in an upcoming issue of Sea Kayaker magazine.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Latest "Backwoods Drifter" Ready to be Launched

12-foot "Mississippi Backwoods Drifter"

Here's the latest example of my custom-designed and built "Backwoods Drifter." This boat was built on commission for a fellow in east Texas who plans to use it for floating creeks and fishing. I've also documented the building process while constructing this boat and will soon have plans available for those who wish to try building their own. It's a fairly simple boat to build, using the "stitch and glue" epoxy-plywood composite method. This produces a strong, long-lasting wooden boat that shows the beauty of natural materials without the need for constant maintenance traditionally associated with wooden boats.