Editor’s note: Don Hyman is a retired journalist and public relations consultant who enjoys the natural world, nearby and around the globe. All photographs accompanying his account of a recent kayaking trip to Cockenoe Island were taken by Hyman.

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By Don Hyman

If you are an experienced kayak paddler and live around this area, summer is not complete without a trip out to Cockenoe Island off Westport’s coast, the popular destination for picnics, swimming, fishing and camping that might have been a nuclear power plant.

I have been paddling out to this very special island for more than 20 years and not once have I been disappointed. 

A crescent beach surrounds an almost perfectly still lagoon. The birds love coming as much as people and there’s always plenty to watch. Overall, the flora and fauna variety, if you’re looking for it, is magnificent. 

Depending on where you launch from, it is less than two miles from the mainland but the journey there and back, arrival, exploration, rest and relaxation are, in my personal opinion, world class recreation experiences.

I went out Saturday morning, July 30, around 9:30, solo on a rising tide, launching from the boat ramp at E.R. Strait marina at Longshore Club Park. Wind was from the north at about 8 mph. High tide was 1 p.m. 

I hardly had to paddle. It was almost too easy. My boat was quickly pushed out by wind and tide. If you look (okay, squint) at Cockenoe from a certain angle early in the day before crowds come, it kind of looks like a tropical island with scrub oak and sumac trees versus palms.  

I was the only human on the island when I got there but, of course, that changed within 30 minutes. A variety of large and small boats started to arrive and share the island as I knew they would. Why shouldn’t they?

I swam. Walked about and photographed. Had a granola bar and a bottle of water. Chatted with newly arrived overnight campers. Took a rest and then put my kayak back into the lagoon to head back.  

One problem. By 11:30, the winds had picked up to 12 mph with gusts to 18 mph. And the wind was coming straight at me from the north. I would have a long, very hard paddle back to Longshore. But that’s another story.

Learn more about the fight to prevent construction of a nuclear power plant on Cockenoe Island, compiled by connecticuthistory.org.