As part of a fun Spring Break Vacation to Gulf Shores & Orange Beach, Alabama.with our daughters and 5 grand kids 5 to 11 we signed up to rent some kayaks and paddle around the Bayou Saint John Bay in Orange Beach. One of the reasons we decided to rent from Chute for the Skye was because they are in a great location for some fun kayaking and right next door to Tacky Jacks where we could get a good burger and margaritas after our kayak race. As you may know, we are a very competitive group and I had already lost two go kart races and a round of miniature golf to the grand kids and I badly needed a win. I figured I could take them down in a kayak race based on my strategic seamanship skills (predicting the wind, reading and knowing the tide schedule, and using that knowledge to set an ideal route to win the race) plus I was counting on my superior strength and excellent paddling skills. One of the other reasons I picked Chute for the Skye was because it was about a quarter of a mile from a small island that would be perfect to race to and then I could collect my drink bet at Tacky Jacks.
I was pumped up (I did six push ups and bench pressed a small cooler three times), had studied the tide carts, and listened to three weather reports for wind conditions. We we arrived and met Mike Collins, the owner and a great guy who I knew could keep a secret, I took him aside and told him my plan and that I needed a must win and to please give me the fastest kayak and best paddles and if he had time to please put some sand or rocks in the other kayaks - he just grinned. I tried to slip him a $10 but he refused. Mike fitted us with life jackets, hauled down our kayaks (I saw him draining a kayak and figured I'll get that one), and helped us get in - so far so good, I didn't tip over and do a face plant in the water.
Once we were all lined up side by side, Mike gave us a "ready, set, go" and we all took off paddling like crazy - kayaks were bumping into each other, paddles were banging, and there was lots of yelling backing and forth. I got off on a fast paddle toward the small sandy Gilchrist Island and since I knew the tide was heading against us and would not flow as fast closer to the shore I took what others thought would be a longer route and headed toward the shore not directly toward the island. Based on the weather report, the wind was blowing from the north so my route also took me on a side of the bay that was most protected from the wind. I assumed the laughing and pointing fingers was because they figured I was going the wrong way. A few minutes into my paddling I nearly had a heart attack when I spotted a tail fin about 30 meters off the bow of my kayak - Jaws immediately came to mind and I was wondering if my will was up to date! But it was only a couple playful dolphins who I figured were probably showing me the optimum route to the island - or were they also laughing at my route?
After paddling like crazy for 20 minutes my arms were aching, sweat was dripping off my brow, a sea gull had pooped on my bald head, and I was soaking wet from the water dripping off the paddle. When I looked at my goal of Gilchrist Island I noted that it was now home to 5 other kayaks with people waving at me! Turns out I had read the tide charts for the wrong day and the tide was flowing out and not in, there was little wind, and two of the grand kids have kayaks at home and really know how to use them. Another humiliating loss plus another round of margaritas and ice cream.
When I finally got to the island, they had been swimming, playing in the sand, and had built some sand castles and, written "welcome Duke" in the sand with a picture of an ice cream cone next to it. They asked me what the white stuff dripping down my forehead was and they were curious why my face was red and most of me was wet. They gave me a 5 minute break and asked if I wanted to race to the next island which was about 500 yards away. Thanks, but no thanks, I'll just take my time and look for more dolphins and try to stay away from the seagulls and pelicans.
We paddled over to nearby Robinson Island and then a a leisurely paddle around the backside of Gilchrist Island, along the sandbar, and back toward Chute in the Skye. Of course there were a few skirmishes, lots of paddle splashing, and what seemed like an argument between my daughter and her son - he was saying something about her lack of paddling hard enough to catch and pass his cousin. Next thing I know, he's out of the kayak and walking along the sand bar! Hmm.
I pretended it wasn't a race to the finish and that I was only at the end of the paddlers to make sure everything was ok. Mike helped us all out of the water and I noticed the grand kids all gave him a high five - did he conspire against me and give them some better advice and a faster kayak? I did win the race to the bar and was happy to buy the first round of drinks and promised a stop for ice cream. Fun time!
In addition to renting kayaks, Chute for the Skye also rents pontoon boats and paddleboards and has three boats to take you parasailing - which we all agreed we would do next time. Thanks to Mike and his crew at Chute for the Skye for a fun kayak trip.
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