A case for kayaks

Published 10:33 pm Thursday, October 18, 2012

The extent of my experience with self-propelled watercraft is limited to a rubber dingy I received for about my 12th birthday, which almost resulted in the mobilization of a search party. There also was a canoeing expedition with the Virginia Living History Museum earlier this year that yields no such dramatic anecdote but was pleasurable, nonetheless.

For a while now I’ve been laying foundations for the purchase of kayaks via subtle hints to my wife about the potential joys of waterborne exploration.

This campaign of mine received a real boost Tuesday, when the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance unveiled a detailed map of Suffolk’s waterways.

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The Suffolk Water Trails Map was launched at an Alliance meeting at the C.E.H. Ruritan Hall in Eclipse, within short paddling distance of Chuckatuck Creek and the Nansemond and James rivers.

Looking at the map, which will be placed in tourist information centers around the state, it’s clear Suffolk has great potential for kayaking and canoeing.

And for those who would enjoy some history lessons with their outdoor water pursuits, the map highlights significant historical locations around Suffolk.

Who would have thought that Constant’s Wharf is named for a tobacco rolling house built by John Constant in 1712, or that Dumpling Island, farther down the river, was the Nansemond Indian tribe’s seat of tribal government and where they entombed dead chiefs and housed their treasury?

The Suffolk map is part of a larger trail that is being developed and will be called — it’s a bit of a mouthful — the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Water Trail.

Named after a pioneer and explorer whom we hope needs no introduction to readers, the John Smith trail has been described as the National Park Service’s first designated national water trail.

John Davy, who talked about the project in Eclipse Tuesday, said he’s been working with “dozens” of groups like the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance and Suffolk River Heritage to make it a reality.

He said he started on the project about two months after retiring from the service following many years of working there, and we can all be thankful that Davy didn’t instead take up lawn bowling.

With any luck, it won’t be long now, and my wife will cave and we’ll devote a very small portion of our savings to two small vessels that, armed with the new Suffolk map and its counterparts around the Chesapeake Bay, will deliver us a lifetime of health-giving and educational activity.