Winter days along the west coast of Florida can be exquisite – and this morning dawned high overcast, barely a breeze and the wide open Gulf of Mexico beckoning me to take a paddle from the Clearwater Pier. After walking my Starboard 4 in 1 Wingboard to the water I did wish that i could have been soaring along with my FreeWing – but 5 minutes into the paddle I fell into a sweet rhythm just enjoying the sights.
Heading north, a series of pilings lined the boundary line keeping power boats away from swimmers, but to the local pelicans the pilings were the perfect vantage point for looking for schools of bait fish which were abundant.
The water was so calm and what little breeze there was pushed me gently northward. There was no better time to make my way the 4 miles to Caladesi Island. I heard there was an inlet that would allow me to leave the Gulf and return via the Intracoastal Waterway.
Caladesi Island is generally accessed by boat. Most often, paddlers drive to Dunedin (about 4 miles north of Clearwater) then drive the causeway out to Honeymoon Island. From “Pet Beach” one can negotiate the inlet that separates Caladesi from Honeymoon Island – but beware of weekends and power boat traffic. Alternately, there is a ferry that will take beachgoers to Caladesi. For me, I liked the idea of accessing this gem of a beach with abundant mangroves to explore from Clearwater Beach.
It took about an hour of easy paddling to get to the south end of the park. I explored a bit further north of where the inlet showed on the map – but there was no inlet. Recent storms and silting had filled it in and small pines and mangroves had already taken over.
Just as I was about to return down the beach in a southward direction, amazingly the breeze picked up a bit AND SHIFTED 180 DEGREES!!!! How lucky was I. For the 4 mile return trip I had a gentle downwinder. It was a very special morning.