Explore the beautiful blueways, go kayaking!

Daily Press

Chesapeake Experience, an environmental education nonprofit organization owned and operated by Jill Bieri, 40, of York County, offers trips that include basic kayak instruction, as well as all equipment and an interpretive guide; $45. She also does summer programs for kids and teens, custom trips and eco-paddles.

About Jill: She has a master's degree in marine science and worked as a research scientist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) in Gloucester and was underwater grass scientist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, monitoring grass beds in a kayak. After leaving an environmental education funding program with NOAA's Chesapeake Bay Office, she started Chesapeake Experience and now has a fleet of 35 kayaks.

"I have taken people age 5 to 78 on trips – it's a sport for everyone," she says.

Jill's favorite paddling places: Goodwin Island, Powhatan Creek, Chickahominy River, Poquoson Flat and New Point Comfort. www.ChesapeakeExperience.org or 757-890-0502.


Kayaking is a wonderful way to be part of nature.

"You literally become one with the water because your body is below the water level, in a ride-in, not a sit-on kayak," says Kimberly McHugh, 53, of upper York County.

"I like how silent is it and how much you can hear wildlife around you. You can sneak up on animals without bothering them and witness things that power boaters never see. You can go in amazingly shallow water where it is clear enough to see bottom."Other women agree.

"There's an inner peace, a thrill of being so close to the water and its inhabitants," says Phyllis Neumann, a 40ish veterinarian who lives in Barhamsville, New Kent County.

"It's great exercise and great fun."

For Cathy Millar, 58, in Williamsburg, it's also about sharing experiences.

"Other kayakers are the type of folks I like spending time with when I want to share the experience with others," she says.

Q. What is a good beginner's kayak?

A. I use a Wilderness System Tsunami 120. It's a great kayak for beginners and experienced paddlers, says veteran kayaker Jill Bieri of York County. It's light, comfortable and very stable. I paddle six to seven days a week in season and never get tired of being in that boat. I recommend one of the boats in the Tsunami series as a great boat for women, beginners and others.

I got the Prodigy by Perception, which is perfect for the type of dabbling that I like to do, says Cathy Millar. I bought a more expensive brand of paddle that fits my small hands and a comfortable personal flotation device; the kayak paddle, flotation device and simple roof-mounting system came to exactly $500. I got excellent advice and service at Appomattox River Company at Kiln Creek.

Phyllis Neumann chose a sea kayak over a recreational style because she wanted to paddle the Chesapeake Bay, weather permitting, as well as marshes and backwaters. "Speed wasn't a factor so I opted for a shorter boat of 14 feet rather than a longer one of 16 or 18 feet," she says.

For Kimberly McHugh, her Old Town Adventurer XL is easy to get into.

"There's no dainty way to get out of a kayak," she says.

Q. What kayaking mistakes do women most often make?

A. I would think it's the fear of trying in the first place, says Jill.

Q. How do you know what kind of kayak to buy?

A. Are you interested in quiet marshes and backwaters? Or, are you looking for the excitement of open water? Perhaps white-water kayaking? A beginner should seek the advice of a knowledgeable salesperson when picking out a boat so it fits their body as well as their goals, says Phyllis.


Maps for blueways -- canoe and kayak trails -- in Hampton Roads, can be found for:Mathews County at www.blueways.org

York County at www.yorkcounty.gov/parksandrec

Free printed maps, including Hampton Blueways, are available at Appomattox River Company in York County; www.paddleva.com or 757-890-0800.

In upper York County, expert kayaker Sara Lewis regularly leads "bring your own kayak" paddles along Queens Creek at New Quarter Park; 757-220-3653.

In James City County, Chickahominy Riverfront Park and Little Creek Reservoir offer good kayaking. www.jccegov.com/recreation

In Gloucester, Beaverdam Park is the place to go. www.gloucesterva.info/pr/parks.htmIn Northern Neck, guided trips tours and custom trips at www.nnkkayak.com

Want to meet paddlers? Visit http://kayaking.meetup.com/144/Coastal Canoeists at www.coastals.org

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