Two Kayakers Almost Die In Harbor Of Safe Refuge
(August 31, 2018) … The point opened one day early this morning and I went out to explore, see the new formed up beaches, take pictures, formulate a plan for next week’s beach clean up, and of course do some surf fishing. While I was out there, I watched something I thought I would never see, two kayakers decided to try to cross the path of the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. Guess who won that contest? So if you haven’t figured it out by now that title is totally a click bait title to get your attention. Now that I have it, let me tell you what happened today while I was on the point. No one died in the making of this article.
These two guys were in peddle kayaks doing some fishing and chasing the little bluefish schools around up and down the beach. Eventually they went to the outer wall and I guess did some fishing but I lost track of them. When you are fishing the point you see boats and activity all day, it is rather exciting at times. The ferry going towards Cape May or outbound, would come between the outer wall and the point. The first time it went by I could have easily hit the hull with a sinker.
Not that I would ever do that, but she was that close and I can cast that far. The water there is very deep, so it is not like the ferry is in a bad spot, that is just the path it takes. Especially if other boats are coming towards her from the point. The Pilot boats roll through there constantly, recreational boats, charter boats, head boats, the marine police, and the coast guard clipper came through there today. At one point while we were fishing I look up and see these two kayaks moving across the harbor of safe refuge. Meanwhile I hear the ferry coming, and of course you can see it, I mean its huge, you can’t miss it. So these two kayakers decide to start peddling like all get out. I guess to get on the other side of where they think the ferry is headed or to avoid the ferry altogether. The ferry captain obviously saw them and had to adjust his course to go around these two kayakers, but probably only missed them by a hundred plus yards. You can’t just hit the brakes in a ship that large, no way he could have stopped he did slow down, but even that was futile at this point. These kayakers should not have been in that area.
Distance is hard to tell when you are that far away. I knew the captain would miss them, but I don’t think they realized that and the current was an incoming tide so it was pushing them back towards the ferry. The ferry passed them with no issues and they were still peddling like crazy at this point to avoid the huge wake headed towards them. They decided to beach the kayaks not too far down from us. I probably should have asked them how their trip was but they looked a little shaken and in need of a change of shorts.
SO THE MORAL OF THIS STORY IS … know your surroundings, I don’t care if you are in an unpowered watercraft and think you have the right of way. That area is a shipping lane and a lot of boats move through there. Be careful and stick close to shore. Going to the outer wall is fun to fish, but also very dangerous in a kayak. I know very experienced kayakers, who won’t even attempt it without all kinds of back up gear in case they have an issue. You are in water that gets up to a hundred feet deep.
Not to mention the currents there can get fast quickly due to tide changes, the wind, and the wakes from these big boats and of course the ferry. So be careful out there and have fun. Now I told you this story to tell you another one as well.
I have been asked by several Lewes captains in the past to put out this warning. You cannot be seen too well in your kayaks when you are in the harbor of Safe Refuge, that is that big body of water behind the outer wall, off the point beach in Cape Henlopen State Park. When these charters and head-boats come back in, especially in the evenings when they round that point the sun is in their eyes. They have a very difficult time seeing people in kayaks.
For the fact the captains are all but blind from the sun and kayaks sit so low to the water they are hard to see anyway. So be careful not only of you surroundings but the position of the sun in relation to you and the boats coming at you, it is very possible you can not be seen.
This is how close the ferry can get to the beach at the point, she has the right of way.