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Great Egg Harbor River Snow Paddle
Jan 5th 2003

 

By George Sluker
 

Hey here’s some real news…George was on time! Yes hard to believe as it is, he actually was not the last one to show up. Bruce started calling early from the Drag Island launch site just to confirm that the reputedly tardy paddler was actually going to make it. 

So, nine intrepid paddlers set out on time as established by our fearless leader CDI, who was unable to attend due to a mild fever. We proceeded up the Great Egg Harbor River at a decent pace covering the five miles up to English Creek averaging just under 3.5 mph, eliciting remarks about an Olympic pace. We had though, kept pace with the flood tide and were positioned well to proceed into a very flooded salt marsh. As we paused to review options, two bald eagles put on some aerial  acrobatics above the distant hummocks. 

We worked our way thru the salt marsh, following “Going Through”, as the cut is named, surprising water fowl that managed to be airborne against the ever increasingly grey sky before we could establish a firm ID. We paused as we entered Middle River, the tide that had turned at the mid point of our trip thru the marsh, now was flowing well toward the inlet and home to the launch site. The grey that had been approaching rapidly from the west was upon us. I finished changing gloves. Amazingly, the crew that had felt the pace was “Olympic” on the trip up river, were moving real well now.  

My GPS was showing a speed of 6.8 as I caught up with the group. We were having our first “snow paddle” of the new year! As we reached the mouth of Middle River, the south wind was driving the snow into the side of my face. Even very prominent landmarks were hidden in the driving snow. Cheery ever though was the group, all excited about the snow covering the decks of our small craft. We followed the shore of the Great Egg River onto what was now the Great Egg Harbor Bay to Rock Point, which had been barely visible in the distance, and wasn’t much clearer now that we had arrived! From there a compass course of due East would bring us to the Drag Island launch site.  

Knowing your position, the currents, and trusting the compass became as important as staying together as we crossed the bay blind in the snow. Fortunately, this is a shallow bay with no commercial traffic, and at this time of year, no power boat traffic. We ventured at an easy pace across the bay, receiving a nice push from the following tide and small waves. The GPS showed 7.2 over the ground. A truly invigorating paddle with good company and comrades sharing a very special and very memorable paddle.

 As always through group activity we safely learn anew, and reinforce what we already know. As open water paddlers at a very harsh time of year, it is important to be prepared for the unexpected, work as a team and stay as a unit. Proper clothing and gear teamed with competent and confident skills and good mental attitude will have every one enjoying a great day on the water, even in unexpectedly harsh weather. 

Chris, man you missed a great paddle, hope you are feeling well and dreaming up another great itinerary!

 

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