Monday July 23, 2012 at 5:30am I awoke with the idea of getting a little early morning kayaking in. Those hours just before and after sunrise are some of my favorite times to paddle. Although they sky was a bit overcast I was confident that there would be no adverse weather until early afternoon. I prepared a little snack and some water, placed my camera, binoculars and my phone in my water tight box and went outside to prep my kayak.
About 10 months ago I built a kayak trailer out of PVC tubing for my bike, it doubles as a stand when the ‘yak is not in use. I secured the boat, hitched it to my bike and loaded my paddle, cooler, water tight box and life jacket and started to think about where I’d paddle to and how long I’d stay out… both of which depended on the wind and tide since the river I’d be paddling, the Halifax, is a tidal river so it’s direction of flow is at the mercy of the ocean.
I got to my put-in at The Wilbur Boathouse right at sunrise and noticed the tide was out…. way out! Meaning that a southerly exit from Wilbur Bay was near impossible, without a little portaging. So I decided to exit to the north, through the boat channel and head towards the Port Orange Causeway Park. Once I entered the river I immediately noticed that the tide had turned and was headed back in, pushing the river north, the direction I was headed… and that the wind was also blowing to the north. This was making my trip out easy enough, but my return trip would be a bit more challenging. As the wind speed began to increase, I decided it would be in my best interest to turn and start paddling into the wind and tide, so that way when I got tired I would be south of my entrance to the bay and I could allow the wind and tide to push me back.
As soon I turned I noticed something swimming very close to the shore, I figured it was just a catfish that had gotten into the shallows and was working his way out… as I watched it dawned on me that this was no catfish, it was too big and too gray. As a list of fish went through my head I came to the only conclusion… shark. My thoughts were confirmed as the shark turned and headed right towards me and then to my surprise… swam right up to me. My kayak was pointed west towards the shore and the shark came north and didn’t stop until it was directly beside my port side (left)… actually between the tip of my paddle and the boat, and I was paddling so it’s dorsal fin came less than 3 inches from my hand. It was about 3-4 feet in length, most likely a Nurse Shark.
I was completely in awe. This is the first shark I have ever seen in the wild, and I’ll admit… I was giddy. To be that close to such a creature made me remember why I love to kayak! So, I turned away from the shark and gave it some breathing room, and then kept an eye out for it to appear again. The above photo was taken just a few minutes after that first encounter. As I watched and followed the shark, I could hear the occasional exhale of a nearby Dolphin… maybe it was sticking around just in case.
Between the wind and the current, it was difficult to hold position so I had to keep on the move. As I meandered through the water I heard a large splash come from behind… I quickly turned and realized I had just missed the shark jumping in to the air. It must have found an ideal feeding spot, as it became very active and would dip out of sight for minutes at a time. Suddenly, about 10 feet off to my right the shark resurfaced and quickly dove, a few seconds later… THUMP! My yak was struck from beneath… I probably should have been concerned, but I just chuckled and moved away. Since I didn’t seem to be getting circled or charged at by the shark I felt I must have just been in the way.
A large boat had just gone by and it’s wake was just hitting my section of the river as the shark continued to search the riverbed. I caught the above video just before the shark started to move north again, the wind was picking up and the temperature was rising so I decided it was time to head back home. Not a particularly long kayak trip… but one I’ll never forget.