I took my new-fangled, ultralight canoe for its maiden Florida saltwater ride this past week. An earlier paddle since coming south, in freshwater, was a couple weeks ago at nearby John Prince Park.
I have been wanting to take it to the intercoastal, where the bottom is sandy, visible and clean, so I could dump it over. I hadn’t wanted to do that in the colder waters of the northeast or with the alligators and mucky bottoms of Florida freshwaters.
(If you own a canoe or kayak, by the way, you should take it somewhere safe and dump it over on purpose. It’ll teach you just how far you can go before it’ll flip and even more important you’ll have some experience for the first time it happens accidentally.)
I’d been planning to do this since I bought it in June, but a good opportunity hadn’t come up. With the Florida summer weather still in force, even this far into winter, it seemed to be the time. So I rounded up a friend and we set off for a beachy area on the intercoastal off on the Southern Boulevard causeway. With temps in the 80s and the humidity probably higher than that, it felt very good to fall in the water.
What did I learn? This thing’s about as tippy as I figured it would be, way more sensitive than my Grumman. I figured as much, as it’s far lighter, more than a foot narrower, not nearly as tall and two feet shorter.
When swamped it floated, but just barely. Trying to ride inside it while swamped doesn’t work. It sinks. (The solid foam seat and back are what keeps the swamped boat afloat.)
Among other things that day, I also found out it’s pretty good in the waves. There was a decent wind from the southeast, with some whitecaps and waves of up to two feet. We headed south about two miles to Hunter’s Island. The boat handled the oncoming waves just fine. Coming back the wind and waves were coming from behind and I had to work to keep from getting pushed sideways. I did get pushed sideways a couple times and the feeling was a bit precarious. Wake from powerboats from both directions combined with the waves from the wind made for a pretty deep, messy chop happening at times, both coming and going. Stability in the boat seemed higher when it was moving than when standing still.
Below are some photos from the day, and a couple from the John Prince Park ride.
Below are some birds from the John Prince Park paddle; a little blue heron stretching his wings, a tri-colored heron fishing in shallow water, and an anhinga resting on a rock. (Photos by Ron Haines)