A weekly column by Catherine Dugan. This week: Kayaking.
If the thought of kayaking conjures images of whitewater, Eskimo rolls and helmets, think again. Kayaking around the “blueways” of Cape May involves none of that – it’s a gentle way to get close to nature. With a kid in front and an adult in back, you can explore for hours, and get some of the best photos of your vacation.
Kayaks and canoes have been used by hunters since ancient times. In fact, the word “kayak” means “hunter’s boat.” Inuits crafted the earliest kayaks of whalebone, covered with sealskin, to move efficiently through the icy water. In the 1850s, Europeans copied the basic design and modified it for recreation. Today’s ocean kayaks are sit-on-top – no rolling required!
So we took the whole family to Aquatrails, located at the Nature Center on Delaware Avenue, for a morning of paddling. Kayaks rentals are also available at the Miss Chris Marina. Kayaking is about as much exercise as riding a bike – you’ll burn roughly 350 calories per hour. You’re also toning your back, chest, stomach and arms, but it doesn’t feel like a workout. Nor does it require a lot of skill. The guide will give you a brief lesson, a map, and a dry bag for your cellphone – just in case. Rent double kayaks – the person in back steers and provides most of the power – and set out to enjoy the water.
You can stick to the harbor – wave to the diners at the Lobster House, check out the boats in the marina – or venture into the gaps in the grasses for a better look at Cape May’s beautiful birds. (Wear bug spray!) Look for herons, gulls and cormorants. Greet the reliable ospreys, who return home from places like Venezuela every year to spend the spring and summer, winging their way back to South America as August comes to an end.
Bring a waterproof camera, and take lots of pictures – kayaking photos lead to great scrapbook pages. You can pass the camera back and forth using your paddle. Wear a T-shirt over your bathing suit, flip-flops, a hat and sunscreen. Bring a towel to dry off – you’ll be damp from the waist down, even if no one is splashing – and always wear your life jacket.
If you’re new to kayaking, one hour may be enough. With two hours, you can cross the harbor and explore the other side. Or consider a guided tour, which will lead you to hidden beaches you’d never find on your own and to species you’d never recognize.
Next week: Parasailing