Halls River Trip Report

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Ted & Al | VCKC
Published Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Dates: February 14 and 15, 2006

Approximately 30 club members participated each of the two days of this kayak trip outfitted and guided by Brack of Wild Florida Kayak Adventures and Matt of Aardvark's Florida Kayak Company. Although we visited the same river, each day was different, with some good and some not so good results.

The 14th: Temperatures on the 14th were cool, cold by some standards, with a frost on the pumpkin when we met at Southern Trace Shopping Center at 8AM. It was an easy hour's drive to our launch site, Seagrass Pub & Grill on the Homosassa River, and the directions were good.

On arrival at the river, we began to organize for our put-in. Using two outfitters caused some confusion as to what group/boat to take, and some members thought that one group was only for beginners. I have no idea where that came from! By launch time most had taken off their jackets, and the weather for the remainder of the trip was good for a Florida winter kayak trip.

Matt and his assistant helped club members get into their boats and began shoving them off the launch ramp. One of the early boats, a tandem kayak, flipped at the ramp causing the paddlers to get wet from the waist down. After their boat was righted, they decided to change into dry clothing, abort the paddle and head home. There were no other incidents and it took about 40 minutes for the last boat (mine) to launch.

After I joined the rest of the paddlers, I heard some members say that we seemed not to be heading in the direction that one of the guides said that we would head to see manatees. Because I was assisting members prepare for launch, I did not hear the safety and trip information given by the outfitters. Until the time I caught up with the outfitters, my concern had been focused on the capsized paddlers.

We launched on the Homosassa River near its junction with the Halls. The river at the put-in was bay like, in that it was wide and had many homes and restaurants on it. A left turn quickly brought us to the bridge that separates the Homosassa and Halls and we were on our way. The Halls is a wide tidal marsh river and certainly had some charm, but it lacks the wilderness feel that I favor. I would rate it as a pleasant but not an exciting paddle.

We saw no manatees, but one paddler near me reported that she might have seen a small one swimming by. We paddled through 3 or 4 areas where a combination of tides and currents required effort to arrive at the springhead of the Halls, a pretty unimpressive area. I launched my boat a little after 10 AM and arrived back about 1 PM, about a 3 hour trip.

As planned, we ate lunch at the Seagrass Pub. Service was slow which caused some grumbling from club members. I commented about the service to our server who seemed surprised by my comment. The meals finally arrived, and my grouper sandwich was tasty. As always, the company was good.

The 15th: Temperatures were about 10 degrees warmer this morning, giving the promise of a more comfortable trip. Al talked to the outfitters before putting in, and the route was revised so that paddlers were taken up the Homosassa River first, to an area of countless manatees. This was a thrill for everyone. There was an incident where club members paddled into a restricted manatee protective area, not having heard a warning in advance by the outfitter. My understanding is that outfitters can receive heavy fines for any violations with no excuses accepted.

The groups then proceeded to return and travel up the Halls River. This is quite a different river than we are used to, wide and bordered by reeds and marshes. We saw lots of birds nesting along the edges, and it was kind of cool to poke along the fringes, wondering what might be hidden in the tall grass! Winds did create a vigorous workout, and we were pleased to pull in at the Seagrass Pub after about a 3 hour paddle.

We also ate, or planned to, at the Seagrass Pub, but service was so poor that many walked out when it appeared their meals were not forthcoming. A letter of our complaint has been sent to the Seagrass, with notice that we will not be using their services for our “Chass” trips in March. This was unfortunate as our after paddle lunches have become an integral part our

trips and this was our first truly bad experience. We might not have included it in the first place, except that they did grant us parking and launching facilities with the promise of the lunch business. Also, Bob and Ted ate there with good results the week prior!

Lessons learned: Planning and executing two trips on the same river in addition to our “regular” monthly trip is challenging from many perspectives, including dealing with two or more outfitters. We also need to clarify the club's 48 hour cancellation policy, remind club members to remember the time and date(s) of trips and to notify as early as possible of any cancellations. Capsizing, regardless of fault, is always a possibility and is just a part of any water sport. Calling it quits may not always be a possibility, and any refund for boat rentals and other fees will be between the club member and outfitter.

Paddle Safely,

Ted & Al

Last update Friday, April 11, 2008

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