Sunset kayaking. Photo by Tom Smith

By TL Grace West

Carl Sagan once said, “Somewhere something incredible is waiting to be known.”

For me, that somewhere is on a kayak in the Pamlico Sound off the shores of Ocracoke.

During the 30 years I’ve been leading kayak tours, each one has been unique.

I name each two-and-a-half-hour tour according to that something incredible that we experienced.

Recently about 10 dolphins graced us with their presence in Silver Lake.

Other kayak trip names include: first diamond back terrapin of the season; the green flash; baby skates, double rainbow; jumping mullet; slick calm; terns feeding; thousands of migrating cormorants; gentle rain.

You get the picture.

Kayaking is easy to learn, comfortable, and needs only six inches of water to glide over.

This means you can explore the island’s creeks and marshes firsthand.

Grace West directs a kayak tour around Ocracoke. Photo courtesy of Grace West

I always bring a net to scoop through the eel grass to, I jokingly say, “catch lunch.”

Actually, these baby fish, shrimp, crabs and eels are newborns and are tiny.

There is nothing like seeing these fragile new lives to appreciate why it is important to protect our estuaries.

You don’t have to sign up for a tour to enjoy the wonders of kayaking on Pamlico Sound. You can bring your own or rent a kayak for an hour or a week.

It’s relatively safe and you can get basic instructions, directions and safety guidelines — especially about the ferry, boat wakes and the channel — from Ride the Wind Surf Shop (

The Coast Guard requires children 12 and under to wear life jackets.

The rest of us just need to have a life jacket on board. Since kayaking in the sound involves paddling in shallow water — less than five feet — it’s safe for kids.

My goddaughter’s 2-year-old, who is afraid to get into water that moves, loved a short kayak ride with her dad.

Kayaking is best on days when the wind is 10 mph or less. Also, check the radar for storms.

When slipping into a kayak I feel like the water is hugging me.

The quiet can’t be beat.

As Wendell Berry says, “For a time you can rest in the peace of the world and be free.”

(Carl Sagan quote from “Think Happy, Be Happy,” Workman Publishing, New York. Wendell Berry poem “Peace of Wild Things,” from “Openings”)

Encounters with wildlife. Photo courtesy of Grace West
Kayaking in Ocracoke canals. Photo by Scott Buechler
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