Gulf Islands National Seashore Report
(Cat Island)

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Report By:  gbailey    Date: 4/3/2006 
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Gulfport's beaches out into the Gulf of Mexico to Cat Island (part 2 of 2 - long story warning)

My Report:

... continued (Part 2 of 2)

With very light winds and calm seas we expected a very pleasant return trip back to the coast and were not disappointed. It was probably one of the most pleasant and relaxing Gulf crossings that I have experienced. However, it was not without a little excitement though. Soon after starting our return we noticed that three paddlers apparently were taking a different route back to our takeout. We were on a heading of approximately 55 degrees, somewhat northeast, while they appeared to be heading due east. To make matters worse they were paddling quite fast and the distance between our groups was growing quickly. We thought maybe they were using the wrong GPS coordinate or had fixed onto an incorrect visual target. Due to their swift paddling pace we knew catching them was out of the question so we continued on our course while attempting to keep them in sight. We were almost halfway home when we realized they were nowhere to be seen. With their safety in mind we decided to pull out the emergency flares and attempt to flag down a passing vessel. Within a few minutes we noticed a USCG cutter moving behind and away from us. My first thought was this would be quite easy but also realized that our situation was taking on a serious note when we had to engage the Coast Guard for help. Unfortunately, the first flares that Cy shot were duds, with the wad of one splashing down just beyond me. So Mimi quickly pulled hers from their secure spot on her PFD and fired away. Unfortunately again, those took a flight path too far behind the Coast Guard boat for them to see and they continued on. Since we saw some other large vessels moving in various directions we decided to paddle on until we noticed one heading closer to us. Within a few moments a large motor yacht appeared and more flares were prepared. Mimi’s first shot this time was perfect, fired over her shoulder and directly in front of the cruising yacht. Seeing the flare the yacht redirected it’s path toward us and soon we were describing our situation to the mate. We asked her if they were headed east (and they were) to look out for those three knuckleheads and kindly point them back in the right direction. The captain didn’t seem to be very interested in helping (maybe he thought we ALL were knuckleheads for being out in our ‘little boats’) but fortunately the mate (his wife? and probably the real captain of the vessel) reassured us that they would indeed look for them. So off they went to the east and on to the north we continued. The skies had turned kid of hazy and the coastline, although getting closer all the time was actually proving harder to see now than just 30 minutes ago. We could hear thunder back to the northwest so we decided to quicken our pace just in case. Soon another boat appeared, this time a 25-foot sport fishing boat with three young guys aboard. We waved our paddles and they quickly approached with big, broad smiles across their faces. Before we could completely explain our situation they eagerly asked if we wanted them to do a search for our missing friends. No sooner had we said sure that they went off rip-roaring into the now choppy waters. I thought maybe we had just provided them with a real purpose that day for being out on the water.

Anyway, we paddled on keeping an eye out for the approaching storm (still couldn’t see it) and our two search parties. We never did see either of them again but to our surprise just ahead of us on the beach were the three ‘lost’ souls. Somewhere along their route they must have discovered the error in their way and adjusted course. Their uninterrupted paddling and pace must have made up for the long sweeping path that they followed. I believe that they were completely unaware of our concern for their safety that resulted from the ill-timed departure from the group. After a few unpleasant words were exchanged we paddled on a little further to our beach takeout, further away from where they had stopped. The return trip with ideal conditions had taken 2 hours and 10 minutes, not bad at all considering all the time we spent messing with flares and talking to search and rescue parties. Within a short while all of our gear was loaded and we had secured the salty boats on our vehicles. Our last decision of the day was to decide where to eat and no sooner had we decided that the skies opened up and a very heavy rain began to pour. No lightning, no thunder and no wind. But the timing was perfect to rinse the salt grime from the kayaks and 3 days of oak pollen piled atop my car.

All in all, this was a very pleasant trip with some very pleasant individuals, topped off with a great shrimp po-boy sandwich, freedom fries and a coke. Now it was time to set the cruise control on high and get home to Jacksonville.

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Location Data:

Distance (miles): 19
Fees/Costs $: n/a

Special Interests and Comments:

Special InterestsGulf Islands National Seashore

Post Date: 2/28/2009

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