Jamestown Paddling Trip

John Flowers

Going to Virginia to do anything is a joy. The Virginia Parks and Rec have done wonders developing their state. NC could learn from them. Chippokes Plantation State Park was our camp spot. We had a group site which was clean and roomy. I brought the giant tarp so we stayed high and dry no matter what the elements brought to us.

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Friday morning we went over to Jamestown Island on the free ferry from Surry, Va. The put in was a swim beach with great parking just after getting off the ferry. Since the water was about 60 degrees there were no swimmers to impede our progress. We had to go under the bridge to the ferry which was concrete. We launched on high tide to I really had to lay on the deck of my boat to squeeze under the bridge, whew! It was tight for me.

A short paddle away were the replica ships of Jamestown. We paddled behind the jetty and paddled right up to the boats. Tours were going on while we paddled around and took pictures of each other. We then proceeded to paddle Sandy Bay. This is involves going through a small opening under a bridge. Sandy Bay leads to Back River which takes you around the back side of Jamestown Island. The Back River opens into The Thorofare which then takes you around the east side and into the James river side of Jamestown Island.

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We encountered a stiff wind, at this time, so we took our lunch break on Jamestown Island hoping the wind would abate. After lunch we launched and paddled back out to observe The Thorofare was a wind swept maelstrom.

Looking across the bay we spotted a concrete bridge which on the map revealed Mill Creek, a protected waterway, ripe for exploration without whitecaps and waves crashing over the bow of the boats.

The paddle over to Mill Creek will be remembered by all. The waves came in sets, just like at sea. These waves were driven mainly by the wind. The boats and paddlers all proved their mettle and all made it safe to the shelter of the bridge to Mill Creek. I asked Rick how far the waves came up on his boat. He replied theycame all the way up to his cockpit. Hope said she held her breath for at least 5 minutes, during the crossing. I thought my boat was dipping into the waves with waves coming up the front hatch. It was all fun, none-the-less, and we all rather enjoyed the challenge.

The paddle under this bridge offered at look at a tidal current which was running nicely under the bridge. We cut our kayaks into the current and paddled through and into Mill Creek. This proved to be a lovely interlude, provided views, an old wooden ships ribs portruding from the creek, and finally, toward the end, some lovely homes with nice yachts moored in front of them.

We paddled back to the bridge and took a break on a nice landing before heading back out. Heading back out we decided to go ahead and go out into the James, wind and all set on cirmcumnavigating the island. We rounded Biset Point and discovered the shoreline to be lined with riprap.

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The wind was still giving us a go so we took a chance and cut into Passmore Creek, at Cal’s suggestion, praying that it came out into the James again and that it did not dead end somewhere before reaching the James. Passmore proved to be another smooth paddle with twist and turns but no wind nor waves. It did come out into the James River as we had hoped. There was a welcome sandbar on the right which we took advantage of with a deserved respite before paddling back out into the bigger water and the paddle back down the James, past the settlement of Jamestown, then the ships, then the bridge, and then the beach where our cars were parked.

The launch back out proved to a rather fun paddle with a break from the strong winds. There was a breeze, now, but nothing like we had experienced earlier.

There was a constant rythym of swells from the river proper as the ferries made their runs and container ships plied the channel of the James. Tourist waved from the settlement at us as we passed by and of course we all waved back.

Paddling back we discovered the tide had gone out and the paddle under the bridge was made with room to spare. We loaded up and took the ferry back to Surry and then Chippokes for the evening.

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