Kayaking Journal of Charleston, Morris Island, Folly Island, South Carolina
DAY 1 - November 15, 2007
Photos for DAY 1 (#1-24)
I left the Spirit of South Carolina at 3:10 p.m. with two hours of light left in heavy winds (30+ knots). As I was loading the kayak on shore, a local began telling me I was crazy and would be pushed out into the Atlantic Ocean and lost forever in these winds. The local started questioning my stupidity. I remained silently skeptical of what lay in store for me... Trying to remain confident. After an hour of loading food, clothing, and supplies into dry bags, I carried the loaded kayak down the ramp to the dock closest to the water. I situated myself, put the skirt on, and began attempting to slide myself off the dock into the Harbor water. After sliding two-thirds of the way in, I quickly found myself rolling, then upside down, and I immediately began to panic in the November water. I tried to right the kayak, as I had done so many times before (I taught kayaking in college), but the boat would not roll. Several tries, and I started assessing the problem as I lay upside down in the water. Looking at the stern showed that the last foot of the kayak still remained on the dock. I bailed into the Charleston Harbor. Surprisingly the water didn't seem as cold as I was expecting. I quickly pulled myself on to the dock, dragging the kayak back on the dock as well, and went to seek assistance from a crew mate. I was now shivering from being wet in my shorts and t-shirt. Any confidence I had before the journey was now gone.
With assistance, we lowered the kayak into the Harbor. A few minutes relaxing and learning to trust the kayak, I headed to get one last look at the Spirit of South Carolina sitting in the Charleston Harbor before heading on. The tide was receding back to the Ocean, and the winds blowing from the Northwest pushed me out to the Atlantic Ocean towards Fort Sumter. I quickly became overwhelmed and scared of being surrounded with nowhere to escape. Every wave became the wave that would roll me over and leave me stranded floating out to sea as I assumed I wouldn't be able to right the kayak.
The paddle to Fort Sumter is five miles of open water, and when I merged with the Ashley River, four to five foot waves pushed/pulled and tossed me toward the Atlantic Ocean. Waves crashing over my hips, my bow and stern were continuously being submerged and the feeling of not being in control reminded me I was small and insignificant in the wind and water's eyes. I had to sing my way through what seemed to be a fate of disaster. Upon arriving to Fort Sumter, I scrambled to hug the shoreline and found myself beached well off from dry land, about 150 yds away. Having to go into the wind in order to continue- I hugged as close to the shoreline as I could, eventually having to drag the kayak across the sand in order to make it to the Atlantic Ocean. I had no intentions of going back out into the Harbor to try and go around Fort Sumter on the channel side. I worried the water between Fort Sumter and the Atlantic Ocean would pull me out to sea. I drug the kayak over to open water and proceeded to Cummings Point. The worst seemed over and I began to relax after rounding Cummings Point. Rounding Cummings Point submerged my worries about the Atlantic Ocean sweeping me away. The Ocean was rather calm and peaceful compared to what I'd just experienced. The Atlantic Ocean proved to be more stable with more timely rolling waves under me.
I stopped paddling around 5:00 p.m. My shorts were still wet and I hurried to warm myself away from the cold. The forecast tonight was for 37 degrees. I'm in a 40 degree sleeping bag, with no pants, no socks, and no tarp. But as for now, as I am writing this, I am warm. I'm within sight of the abandoned lighthouse off Morris Island. I lay under a palm tree 300 feet from the Ocean trying to hide from tonight's winds. It's a little after 6:40 p.m. there are no clouds in the sky, with a quarter moon shining over me. The storm front today has pushed the rain out from this afternoon, an hour before I departed.
DAY 2 - November 16, 2007
Photos for DAY 2 (#25-105)
I started paddling in the Atlantic Ocean around 8:00 a.m. My hands were bitter cold from the wind as I paddled south along the Atlantic Ocean. I frequently stopped paddling hoping that holding my hands in one another would help, but the wind kept blowing. I struggled with my hands until I reached the Abandoned Lighthouse around 9 a.m. I took a break to eat, as I was hoping for the sun to warm me; but my shorts were wet, my hands were cold, I began to shiver, and I was doubtful of much progress today. Eating seemed to lift my spirits. I donned my jacket over my life-vest and pressed on hoping to inch my way further as the sun climbed higher and provided more warmth. One fear I had was if I got my jacket wet today, I wouldn't have it for tonight.
I was able to make it past Folly Beach before I headed inland to began the return home. By 12:00 p.m. I had rounded Folly Corner and stopped for 30 minutes or so to eat a lunch. The wind dies down in the marshes, so I was feeling I would be able to return safely by Saturday without needing assistance. I headed into the tall grassy marsh armed only with a map. The tall marsh grass proved to be an obstacle, as I was not able to see over what lay in front of me. I had trouble understanding which marsh was marked (not all marshes were depicted on my map), or if I was in a creek or river. I quickly became confused as I entered Folly River in search of Folly Creek. Backtracking became a standard as I tried to locate reference points on my map. No signs were present - just a maze of marshes that could or could not lead you to a relevant location.
By 3:00 p.m. I had tried all my guess work to get me to Fort Sumter through the marshes to avoid returning via the Atlantic Ocean. After continuous backtracking and dead-ends, two hours left of daylight- finding a place to stay became my only desire. I knew if need be, I could backtrack tomorrow to a known location and be picked up at a road crossing. Having failed at guessing my way through the marshes, I finally decided to let the water take me where it was going. Fortunately the water was receding back to the Ocean. I just worried rather the path I was taking would dead-end as the marshes twisted and turned.
By 4:15 p.m. I had been pushed into Lighthouse Creek's flow and paddled back to sea. Forty-five minutes later, and I'm within half a mile of where I slept last night. I'm perched on a dune wall, hoping I won't need to wake and move on during high tide tonight.
It's cold again tonight. I guess I'm within 3 to 4 hours of making it back to the Charleston Harbor. I'm hoping to sleep in and let the sun warm my portion of the Earth before I begin my paddle back. However, it's only 6:30 p.m. and that would mean trying to stay warm and comfortable for at least 14 hours. My watch says 45 degrees, but I can see my breath so I think it may be a little colder.
DAY 3 - November 17, 2007
Photos for DAY 3 (#105-125)
It got down to 37 degrees last night. I tried to sleep until 10:00 a.m. for warmth and so I wouldn't arrive back to early. I ended up getting back into the Atlantic Ocean and leaving at 9:50 a.m. This morning felt surprisingly warmer though the outside of my sleeping bag was drenched with cold heavy dew, as was everything I left outside last night. Inside my sleeping bag was a thick fog of moist warmth. My feet were still cold, but by 9:00 a.m. I started looking at the day as a delight.
The trip from Morris Island back to Charleston Harbor and the Spirit of South Carolina had already been navigated once in heavy seas. I was leaving late enough to avoid the cold, early enough to avoid the late afternoon winds, and trying to paddle in with the rising tide. The Harbor's water again proved to be the most turbulent of the journey - though nothing in comparison to Thursday afternoon. By 10 a.m. I neared Fort Sumter and was able to pass on the south side without dragging the boat across the shallow channel. By 11 a.m. I reached the dock safely and began to realize my body from the waist down had fallen asleep and continued to stay that way for hours as I ran about doing chores in preparation for tomorrow's overnight sail.
I can see kayaking being an adventure for me, but I may stay away from a cold one.
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