Chocolate Bayou
by Sandra Leinweber

We had been watching the weather everyday, waiting for a 3 or 4 day stretch with no cold blasts, no heavy rain, no anomalies. We also had to coordinate those days (should they appear) with 3 or 4 days with no life or death commitments. The planets had to align. It happened last week. We loaded the car; we strapped on the boats; we drove south.

We loaded the car; we strapped on the boats; we drove south

We stopped to visit Charlie Jones in Victoria on the way down. He’s building a B&B Princess 22 for a customer. The last time we saw it, it was an upside down hull. It is right side up now, and moving right along. We followed him home and visited with him and Laura. Laura gave us a tour of the new studio. She is working on a series of seabird paintings, and they are awesome. See them at

Besides just escaping from home for a few days, we wanted to camp at the spot we have chosen for the Duckwork’s Messabout this spring–the Calhoun County Park at Magnolia Beach, about 10 miles south of Port Lavaca. It is basically a long stretch of oyster shell beach on Matagorda Bay with picnic tables under shade shelters, bathrooms (no showers), a nice boat ramp and good wind for sailing almost all the time. The wind helps keep things cool and also blows the bugs away. On this trip, there were RV’s at most of the spots, but they are winter Texans and will be gone soon.

Shelter at Calhoun County Park

The next morning, the wind was definitely blowing. I thought that if we found a paddling spot that was inland a bit, we would have less wind. Chuck had his skin boat, and I had my Toto. We found a little inlet that meandered down into the Aransas Wildlife Refuge. As long as we paddled with the wind, we could practically surf, but when we turned to go back the other way, it was like slogging uphill. Chuck didn’t seem to have nearly as much trouble as I did paddling against the wind, and I blamed it on the Toto and its curved up front (which is my favorite part of the boat visually), but the truth is, I am a lazy person, and I like nice casual paddling. I like to check out the birds and watch for fish over the side and just slide smoothly through the water. Our first excursion did not last long. We strapped the boats back on the car and drove off to explore.

it was like slogging uphill

We have fantasized about having a little place down on the coast for years. The place we picture is always perfect, not too close to anyone else, just the right distance from the water, and it has a beautiful beach for walking on in the evenings. We have looked for that spot many times, but it has eluded us. Probably just as well, because I am not sure how we would pay for it. Nothing wrong with dreaming though, and that’s how we spent the rest of the day, driving around, looking and imagining. You never know. We did find a patch of beautiful spider lilies.

Spider Lillies

Our last morning, the wind had calmed a bit and we went to a spot Charlie had told us about. Chocolate Bayou winds up through the area south of Port Lavaca for 3 miles or so. It was a good mix of upwind and downwind paddling–a long series of S curves. We were serenaded by redwing blackbirds and watched by blue herons and brown pelicans. I have never had an alligator slide into the water as I paddled past. Ever since we had one swim past the Caprice, I have been a bit leery of being out in a small boat in gator country. I must confess it’s why I did not bring my skin boat. I didn’t think a gator would try to crunch through the Toto. Chuck told me I was being silly–any self respecting alligator would choose me over him no matter what kind of boats we were in. Of course, we saw none.

I didn’t think a gator would try to crunch through the Toto

I need to get the kayak foot braces in. In the skin boat, you can brace your feet on the ribs; in the Toto there are just smooth inner walls. And I need to sit farther forward in the Toto. I had no idea how far the front of the boat came up in the air when I sat against the back bulkhead until I saw the pictures Chuck had taken. I did find that if I scooted forward when paddling upwind, the going was smoother. Always trying buck the laws of physics.

We’ll be back in May for the messabout

The wind began to pick up just about the time we got back to the car, so instead of paddling out into the mouth of the bayou and perhaps the bay, we loaded up and headed home. We’ll be back in May for the messabout.