This is actually a trip I took last summer (2007) and it wasn’t even a real paddling trip.

I was going to be in Tampa for a week to attend technical training, so I threw the boat on top of the car in hopes I could get some time on the water — I managed to get about an hour a day at lunch and a couple hours each evening by just putting in off the causeway at the extreme northern end of Tampa Bay. The class location was nearby and my hotel was right on the water, so it was convenient:

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There’s a boat ramp about a mile onto the westbound causeway where I put in. If you zoom the map in close enough in satellite-view, you can see that the part of the bay north of the causeway looks like dry land with canals:

It’s actually water, but it’s so shallow outside the boat channel that it looks like land on the imagery.

This is a pleasant area to paddle in — well-sheltered from the wind and there are some nice houses on the canals if you paddle to the Northeast, but what made this trip special was the dolphins.

When I was done with my first paddle, just as I was strapping the kayak to the top of the car, a pod of dolphins came up the channel past the boat ramp. I said some bad words about how if I’d just stayed out ten minutes longer, I’d have been coming back right through them when they arrived.

The next day, I tried to time my trip so I’d be on the water while the tide was in about the same state it had been when the dolphins arrived and, sure enough, they showed. I was able to spend about an hour on the water, with dolphins occasionally surfacing all around me, sometimes close enough that I could have touched them with the paddle.

Unfortunately, I only had my cellphone for a camera and its shutter speed was too slow to get good pictures:

For the week I was there I went out every day and dolphins were there at the same tide-state. I assume there was some food source coming out of the mangroves on the tide that brought them there.

I felt very privileged to be on the water with these beautiful creatures all around me. There were a few of them breaching, which I wish I’d been able to get a picture of, because it’s a far more impressive show from the water-level than at a marine park.