Pamlico Sound – Cape Hatteras, NC

We took our season-opener last week during a vacation to Cape Hatteras, NC. The weather had not cooperated early on in the week, excessive winds put conditions beyond our comfort level, and we were excited to finally get out. After 5 months off the water we were a bit disorganized in the gear department, but were able to get going in about 20 minutes or so.

We launched into the cool but comfortable waters of the Pamlico Sound at the west end of Frisco and began our travels east along the marshes. Moving through the clear water that was seldom more than two or three feet deep, we could easily see the grasses growing on the bottom and the creatures that lived there. Blue crabs, small fish, the occasional fluke and a small electric ray (Narcine brasiliensis) cruising across one of the many sandy areas.

We continued paddle along the edge of the marsh, exploring small inlets and coves and came upon a very long canal leading into the grasses. Paddling quietly we were rewarded with a host of birdlife, and about half way in we interrupted a large swimming nutria. The canal lead to a dead end but remained deep throughout – impossible to see the bottom due to tannins. As we turned to leave I got the barest glimpse of a large turtle’s shell slowly sinking into the murk.

We left the canal and continued eastward until we came to a deep cut into the sedges (“sedges have edges, rushes are round, grasses are hollow right up from the ground.”), and we eased in with high expectations. Although we could hear birds all around us the plant height was far too tall to see anything. Moving on, the creek abruptly widened and we found ourselves in a small dock area with several working boats tied up. Crab pots, nets, railroad ties and other gear were stacked everywhere, and several modest but well-kept homes were around. A local was walking by and we exchanged pleasantries about the weather and the area and, as we left, he asked if we had seen the alligator that had taken up residence nearby. We told him we had not and as we paddled away I smiled at Tam, “that’s right… mess with the ignorant tourists…”

A few minutes later, to myself, “That was a turtle in the canal, right?”

We paddled back out of the creek at a leisurely pace, reached the sound and turned back west towards our launch site. There was a pair of yakkers coming towards us and we stopped briefly to exchange thoughts on the area then we went our separate ways.

“A turtle in the canal?” I was starting to replay the scene, and my brain refused to let it go.

Tam spent a bit of time with a very camera shy egret. She would give a small pull on the paddle and drift towards him while he would walk casually away at the same painfully slow pace, deftly moving to place tall grasses between them. After about half of an hour playing hide and seek, she was rewarded with several nice photos of a very handsome creature and we continued on.

”Saltwater, dude… it was a turtle, no doubt…”

We returned to our leisurely pace home, seeing birds, more flukes, minnows and even a hermit crab. Did you know that, in the wild, hermit crab shells are not painted with day-glow paint? Who would have thought it? We passed several other paddlers including a couple on a tandem that was quietly arguing over who was paddling wrong and making the trip so difficult. Almost finished for the day, we caught sight of a black-bellied plover, uncommon to the Outer Banks and a nice finish to a great paddle. We had traveled about 5 miles at a comfortable pace, witnessed a beautiful ecosystem and once again enjoyed each other’s company.

”A turtle, Rick.”

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~ by Rick on May 27, 2008.

One Response to “Pamlico Sound – Cape Hatteras, NC”

  1. Thanks for sharing your story. It is fun to go kayaking in Hatteras!

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