A couple weekends ago ( Nov. 21st) Jeff and I decided to do a bit of paddling and training for the up coming Expedition we are taking on the Suwannee River. We decided to meet at Sweetwater Kayaks which is owned by a friend of ours Russell Farrow. We met each other at around 10:00 a.m. at the shop which is located on the southwest side of the Gandy Bridge in St. Petersburg, Fl. This bridge is 1 of 3 that crosses the Tampa Bay waters, and is probably about 6- 7 miles across.
We spent almost an hour talking to Russell’s brother Steve at the shop about our upcoming trip and the fun of paddling. Jeff and I finally got on the water around 11:oo a.m. and began to paddle towards the city of Tampa, across the Tampa Bay; along the south side of the Gandy Bridge. As we paddled we started to see some large Sting Rays, and I know Jeff and I saw at least 2 seperate species- Atlantic Southern Stingray and Spotted Eagle Ray. The tide was about to change so we hoped for really clear and clean water on the paddle back to view some more of the marine life.
Jeff and I reached the Tampa side in about 2 1/2 hours and stopped to have lunch on the northeast side of the bridge, on a nice sand beach that was among old bridge supports and some mangroves. There were 2 types of the 3 species of mangroves on this beach- red and black. After investigating the mangroves a little closer we found a VERY LARGE Paper Wasp Nest with ALOT of wasps on it!! Glad we didn’ t grab that branch to check what type of mangrove it was. Jeff and I then shared an MRE for lunch and thanked each other for a fun paddle over.
After lunch we decided to flip a few rocks over to see what we could find that our inner child would enjoy. We managed to find alot of juvenile Stone Crabs and a couple of small Lobsters or Crawfish of some sort. I tried to find the species but could not, it had a large claw which it could “POP”; I assume to stun prey. It had the most vivid teal markings on its tail too! Also many varying sizes of Hermit Crabs were everywhere.
We then climbed back in our kayaks and began our paddle back along the bridge headed back to St. Petersburg. The tide was now coming in and was creating a strong current along the bridge and we actually had to adjust our course. Jeff and I paddled out off of the bridge to keep from being swept into it!! As we paddled the water clarity was perfect, and the visibility was so good into the water we could see to the bottom, around 10-15 feet. There were numerous fish species seen and they include- Sheepshead, Angel Fish, Puffer Fish, Cobia and Redfish. We also saw a few dolphin and I believe I saw a couple of Spotted Sea Trout.
We finished our day by talking with Russell once we arrived back at the shop. What a great training paddle and FUN day it was!! Amazing the amount of wildlife we saw and the workout we got just from a short 10-12 mile paddle in waters that are right in the middle of two large cities!! The Paradise found was not in a certain destination or place but was in the entire paddle and the moments and discoveries that lie within it! Well hope you enjoyed the reading and can find the time to get outdoors and discover your own little Paradise!!!!
-Sea Turtle Sean