Jake has been battling poor internet connections so he phoned his brother Luke with an update from Cape Romain S.C. about 30 miles N. of Charleston. Jake spent yesterday visiting Ft. Sumter, site where the first battle of the Civil War took place in 1861, (Stay in school kids!) and friends in Charleston. He put in 30 miles today to make it to Cape Romain. Jake's spirits were up as Charleston was the point he has been targeting as the half way point since he began planning this trip. I guess you could say he is now back on his way home! He is putting together details of the past few days and hopes to have a strong enough connection to have new blogs posted soon. Stay tuned!
Start: 10:00 AM - Charleston, SC
Finish: 5:15 PM - Cape Romain, SC
Daily dist: 30 miles
Total dist: 2700+ miles
Weather: Partly cloudy, windy, warm
Notes: Another day spent paddling on the outside. Despite the later than normal start I wanted to get as far as the cape before tomorrow.
After a restful day with friends yesterday I was feeling great on the water today and managed to take advantage of a good tail wind and log some great mileage. After reviewing the maps over breakfast with Rick, Susan and the kids I decided that a worthy goal for the day would be Cape Romain.
Before I rode in to work with Susan we grabbed a few photos of the kids. As it always seems to be when photographing kids we never did manage to get everyone right in one photo.
Despite a later than normal start from the dock at Susan’s office I had a great day with following winds which drove me all the way to my destination. The only drawback to that spot was that I’m not sure camping is allowed. It seems as though many of the good camp-able islands on the coast in this region are wildlife sanctuaries that don’t always allow camping. A fresh set of ATV tire tracks in the sand near my camp made me a bit nervous but also indicated that any would be patroller had already passed and may be done for the night.
Either way it was a great day of paddling after an awesome visit with good old friends.
Start: 6:30 AM - Kiawah Island, SC
Finish: 12:15 PM - Charleston, SC
Time: 5:45 (Two hours spent in Ft. Sumter)
Daily dist: 12 miles
Total dist: 2700+ miles
Weather: Very nice, partly cloudy, gentle breeze, warm
Notes: Charleston is what I’ve had plotted as the half way point since the beginning of the trip.
When I started planning this trip the first time over seven years ago one of the first pins I put in the map was in Charleston. Back then my friends Rick and Susan had just moved here and married, and having them in the area made Charleston an automatic place to visit. It suffices to say that I didn’t get the trip off the ground back then and in the intervening years I moved to California to work construction while Rick and Susan started a family. I had been back to Charleston to visit once over the years but before their kids were born, so last summer when I started planning the trip in earnest, I once again stuck a pin in Charleston as a place to visit. This time the visit was all the more important as I got to finally meet Rick and Susan’s kids Lucia (age 5) and Remy (age 2).
One place I’ve wanted to see since the first time paddling in Charleston was Fort Sumter. So on the way in to town this morning I landed at the fort just as the National Park staff was arriving and setting things up for the day. I was shooting video of the American flag being raised then was surprised to see it get lowered to half staff. Apparently a famous civil rights leader had passed away. Not being sure if I’d have to pay to get in or not I approached the park rangers as they led a mob of people off the ferry landing dock. It turns out that if you get yourself out there you’re welcome to tour as long as you like for free. Apparently it’s the ride over that you pay for. The fort is quite interesting and different than most I’ve seen before. It was where the first shots of the Civil War were fired and the long lasting battles that were waged against this fort turned the formerly four story tall walls into piles of rubble. After the war the rubble was cleared and the fort was rebuilt and remodeled to house more modern armaments. Compared to the fort I toured in St. Augustine this one is a bit ugly but the history in this area is rich and the fort allows a commanding view of Charleston Harbor that is quite a site to see.
From Ft. Sumter I paddled a mile into the bay to the site where Fort Johnson once stood. This is the place from which the first shot of the civil war was fired. Now days it houses the South Carolina fish and game offices where my friend Susan works. After finding their dock I paddled up to a warm greeting from Susan. We quickly unloaded my boat and stashed it in an old shed on the property. We were then joined by another old friend from Florida Joy who was accompanied by her two kids Jude and Maria. Joy and the kids have been following my progress for quite some time and were excited to meet me. We all went out to lunch and afterward Susan returned to work while Joy volunteered to help me run some errands which included picking up a care package sent to my from my mom. I had it sent to Josh Hall who works on James Island for the Charleston County Parks and Rec. Department where the Kayak festival was held a couple weeks ago. When I was here for the festival Josh and I had discussed paddling together as I passed through the area but his schedule wouldn’t allow it.
After running errands with Joy she dropped me off at Susan’s office and after the kids had a chance to sign my boat we bid farewell. From there it was on to Rick and Susan’s house to finally meet their kids. And of course grab a shower and enjoy a home cooked meal with friends.
Start: 7:30 AM- Otter Island, SC
Finish: 2:00 PM - Kiawah Island, SC (across from Folly Beach)
Daily dist: 23 miles
Total dist: 2700+ miles
Weather: Clear skies, 70 degrees, NW then W wind about 10 mph
Notes: A very nice easy paddle especially compared to yesterday’s excitement.
After yesterday’s excitement in the wind today was a cake walk. The head winds that were predicted did materialize but not as strong as I had imagined. In fact by mid day the winds dropped and swung back to the west giving me a bit of a tail wind for a while. With plans to visit Charleston for at least a day I stopped after only 23 miles to spend the night just outside of town. All the other camp spots would have required a long paddle inland or all the way across to the other side of town.
Visitors in camp
While I was in my tent this afternoon reviewing my maps a dog poked his head in the open door and almost gave me a heart attack. The dog, and two others, belonged to a gentleman named Ransom and his wife/girlfriend? Lauren. After chatting with Ransom for a bit I learned that he had done the Great Circle route with his family as a kid. Talking about my trip seemed to bring back many fond memories of his family’s ten month trek aboard their sailboat. It seems as though traveling that far in any craft is bound to produce all sorts of memorable adventures.
Start: 7:15 AM- Tybee Island, GA
Finish: 5:15 PM - Otter Island, SC
Daily dist: 43 miles
Total dist: x miles
Weather: WINDY from the west at 15-20 mph - clear to cloudy and back to clear
Notes: Probably the roughest day so far. Spent an hour and a half dealing with very steep waves while crossing St. Helena sound.
My introduction to paddling the coast in South Carolina proved to be an exciting one. A strong west wind and a heading of northeast or east for most of the day meant a tail wind which allowed me to make very good progress toward Charleston. Navigation today was a fairly simple affair where most of what I needed to do was keep land on my left and paddle until I saw a potential camp spot away from houses or buildings. In route three sounds (river mouths) created gaps in the shore line allowing the wind an unhindered blast over the water. Crossing the sounds proved to be a bit challenging due to more and larger waves as well as breaking waves created by off shore sand shoals. The Savanna River and Port Royal sounds passed by without much more than a splash through waves over a shoal. St. Helena Sound however, proved to be some of the most challenging conditions I’ve dealt with so far.
The wind blew hard out of the west all day and the marine weather was saying that it was going to blow from the NW at 25 to 30 mph this evening and 10-15 mph from the NW tomorrow. The northwest wind will be a bit of a head wind tomorrow and a strong blow tonight will get the seas riled up well before dawn. Bucking against a head wind in choppy water would not be a pleasant experience so I decided that rather than camp on the West end of St. Helena sound tonight I’d take advantage of a tail wind and put in a couple extra hours to get the six mile crossing done today.
Unlike the other two crossings, the run across St. Helena sound put me on a track heading mostly north. From the mouth of the sound it opens up into a wide and deep bay orientated roughly east to west. The wind had been building all day to well over 20mph sustained. Because St. Helena sound is so wide and deep it allowed that strong wind to whip the surface of the ocean into quite a frenzy. It was out there in 3 to 5 foot whitecapping waves that I paddled for an hour and a half to make it across the sound. It started out quiet enough but as the first mile passed behind me I came into some of the roughest water I’ve had to deal with on the trip so far. The conditions didn’t allow time to stop paddling for a break instead it was continuous paddling to move forward toward more sheltered water miles away combined with frequent bracing to remain upright.
Out of the wind at last
When I finally did make it to shore I was very tired but happy to have the crossing over with. I really didn’t want to run the risk of doing the crossing with head winds into equally sloppy conditions tomorrow. In order to get a little relief from the wind I set up camp in a cozy spot amongst thick low palm trees. It is a relief to not be getting blown around any more.
Yesterday and today have become R&R days as I get myself organized for the run up to Charleston, SC this week, and on up to Norfolk, VA by mid May. Originally I had plans to be back on the water by today (Monday) but fairly strong winds, a great town to hang out in, and very cozy accommodations at Marsha and Ronnie‘s house, have kept me land-bound one more day.
While I was at the kayak store sorting out maps yesterday, a young couple stopped in looking for a seat cushion. They looked as though they’ve been on the water a while and someone asked where they were headed. It turns out that they started a couple weeks ago in St. Augustine, FL and are on their way as far north as they can get by Memorial Day. Like me, they’re taking advantage of a “between apartments” and “between Jobs/school” moment in their life to do their trip. Traveling with a 16 foot sit on top kayak and a 13 foot plastic sit inside they’re going a bit slower than me but, much like the turtle and the hare, they’re slow but steady progress allowed them to catch up with me here in Tybee. It was fun to swap notes on the route from Florida to here and interesting to see how many of the same places we ended up visiting. They’ve been utilizing marinas a fair amount to gain access to showers and a bit of civilization. After learning how well it has worked for them, I may be doing the same when the need arises.
Regan and Ashley taking boats to demo
Yesterday wasn’t spent completely off the water for me. A young man named Ashley stopped by the store to look at some kayaks and I accompanied him as he demoed a couple. It turns out that he has aspirations to paddle the length of the Missouri River (and possibly beyond). By hooking up with a place like Sea Kayak GA and folks like Ronnie and Marsha, I know he’s on the right track.
On a borrowed beach cruiser bike from Ronnie, I’m now on my way to explore the town. With luck I’ll find a post office and lunch along the way.
Start: 8:00 AM- Little Tybee Island, GA
Finish: 10:00 AM - Tybee Island, GA (Alley Number 3)
Daily dist: 6 miles
Total dist: x miles
Companions: Mark Gibbs
Weather: Rainy with 10 mph south wind
Notes: A short run in to Tybee where I met up with friends Marsha and Ronnie at Sea Kayak Georgia
Today Mark and I paddled only two hours to arrive at Alley Number 3 on Tybee Island. From the boat launch we walked up to friends Marsha and Ronnie’s house and borrowed a couple of boat carts to wheel our boats and gear up off the beach. It was a busy day for local kayakers out on the water. As we came in to the landing we saw three different tours out on the water and at the boat launch itself we met up with Marsha herself about to launch on a lesson with some students.
After wheeling our boats back to Marsha and Ronnie’s house we sorted our gear and got the wet stuff hung out to dry then walked over and celebrated a couple good days on the water with lunch at a local seafood restaurant.
Needing to get caught up on some long neglected administrative work, I borrowed a computer at the Sea Kayak Georgia store. Then later added a few recent photos to my slideshow which I showed to some local paddlers that met at the kayak shop before we headed out for pizza and beer (sweet tea for me anyway). It was a great day and I’m happy to be amongst good friends in Tybee.
Start: 8:45 AM- Obassaw Island, GA
Finish: 2:45 PM - Little Tybee Island, GA
Daily dist: 20 miles
Total dist: x miles
Companions: Mark Gibbs
Weather: SW wind 10-15 mph, clear skies, temps in the low 80s
Notes: Mark paddled six miles down from a marina to catch up with me for an overnight on the way to Tybee.
Way back in early February while I was still paddling around the Big Bend area of Florida I go an e-mail from Georgia paddler Mark Gibbs. Mark had learned of this trip and the blog when he was at the Sea Kayak Georgia symposium last fall. After following along with the blog for a while, Mark got inspired enough to want to join up with me as I passed through his home paddling turf in Georgia. He first suggested a route on a local river but over time the plan changed to simply paddling a leg of the journey up the Georgia coast along with me. Being a moving target that isn’t always easy to catch up with, Mark moved mountains in order to meet up with me this morning in order to do an overnighter on the way in to Tybee Island (the northernmost of the Georgia barrier islands).
As I made camp on an island last night Mark got a ride in to a marina about six miles inland and slept there so he could get an early start and ride the tide out to meet me this morning. Right on time at 8:00 AM Mark cruised in to where I was waiting and after a short break we were on our way paddling up the open coast.
The weather held for most of the day but the wind did finally build enough to give us some interesting water as we passed over a few shoals on the way north. We had considered breaking the 26 mile run to Tybee up into two short days by camping on Wassaw island. However, because Wassaw island is a wildlife area where camping is not allowed,we were forced to skip past that island and press on all the way to Little Tybee Island just six miles from our ultimate destination at Sea Kayak Georgia on Tybee Island. The resulting 20 mile day for me was shorter than my average but Mark’s 26 mile day nearly doubled his previous longest mileage and gave him the new experience of paddling the open coast and with some rough water to boot
On Little Tybee we set up a nice campsite (albeit windy and sandy but bug free) and enjoyed some pleasant conversation as we watched another beautiful red sunset while eating our camp dinners.
Start: 7:00 AM- North of St. Simons Island, GA
Finish: 2:45 PM - Ossabaw Island, GA
Daily dist: 27 miles
Total dist: x miles
Weather: Clear skies, 80 degrees, west wind 10 mph
Notes: Another chance to run on the outside. I had to drag my boat over shallow water at the start but it was smooth going after that.
I don’t know if it is the volcano in Iceland pumping ash into the atmosphere or what but the sunset last night and sunrise this morning had some of the deepest red I’ve seen in a while. It was under that red sunrise this morning that I dragged my kayak laden with gear over a few hundred feet of ankle deep water. The tide was out and still dropping the only way around the drag would have been to wait six or seven hours for the water to return at the next high tide.
The wind was still relatively low and out of the west so I ran the outside coast once again today. Being what I expected to be a 26 mile day I expected to be in camp by 1:30. Somehow something slowed me down (perhaps an off shore current running south) but by 1:00 a check on the map showed that I was an hour behind my normal pace. I was no big deal it just meant a little more time on the water than I had planned. At this point anything eight hours or less is a normal day.
With plans to camp on St. Catherines island I changed my mind when I realized that I’d be in the lee of the island and therefore out of the wind. Normally that is exactly what you’d look for in a camp, however bugs and heat have had me looking for camp sites in the wind so I can get relief from both. The sun has been a significant force to be dealt with lately. With very little cloud cover over the last couple days I’ve started to feel a bit like a raisin on a drying rack. With salt water splashing on my arms the evaporating in the relentless sun the sleeves on my rash guard develop buildups of salt. At times so much salt builds up that my sleeves become somewhat stiff from the accumulated brine. Part of my routine at the end of the day is to rinse my paddling clothes and PFD in the comparatively less salty ocean to get rid of the buildup.
An interesting new article of clothing I’ve been trying out the last couple days was given to me at the Charleston kayak festival. It’s called the “Buff” head scarf, instead of being made of a material that would keep you warm like other scarves, this one is made of “coolmax” material that helps keep you cooler. I was skeptical at first but after two days of using it, I’m convinced. Admittedly you look a little bit like a stylish bank robber when you’re wearing it but the thing is great. Not only does it keep the sun off your face and neck it keep the wind off as well. It is way better than the constant application and reapplication of sunscreen I’ve been using so far.
One of the reasons I chose this camp site (besides escaping the bugs) was to make rendezvousing with a gentleman named Mark Gibbs easier in the morning. Mark e-mailed me way back in January saying that he’d like to meet up and paddle with me while I was in Georgia. He has organized a drop off at a marina about six miles up the Bear and Kilkenny rivers. His plan is to stay there tonight then ride the tide out to meet me tomorrow morning. With only 23 odd miles to go to Tybee island it’s going to be two rather short days to pull off an overnighter with Mark but it should be fun. It would be nice to camp on Wassaw island (pronounced just like my home town of Wausau, WI) but that island is heavily patrolled by a ranger and is off limits to camping. Therefore we’ll have to blaze all the way up to Little Tybee Island, camp there, and then cruise into Tybee Island early Saturday morning. Not anticipating the extra night on the water I am running a bit low on water which is causing me some concern but it should work out seems how it will be such a short day on Saturday.
Start: 7:15 AM- Brickhill Bluff on Cumberland Island, GA
Finish: 3:00 PM - Small island north of St. Simons Island, GA
Daily dist: 29 miles
Total dist: x miles
Weather: Very nice, partly cloudy, 75 degrees, west wind 5-10 mph
Notes: West wind allowed me to paddle on the open ocean for the first time since reaching Miami.
I had a couple from Boston as neighbors in camp last night. They arrived just before sunset and set up camp 50 yards south of me. I went over to say hello but the visit was cut short when it started to rain. They were up bright and early though and singed my boat before helping me drag it to the water and set out for points further north.
The weather promised of light winds from the west which meant calm seas and the first opportunity to paddle on the open ocean since I scooted behind Key Biscayne on my approach into Miami several weeks ago. As much as I’ve been enjoying paddling on the Intracoastal Waterway it was nice to have the change of pace. It was also nice to not have to worry about tide flows as much either as I would have on the inside channels and rivers.
A “grass is greener” feeling has been haunting me the whole time I paddled up the Florida coast on the inside. As good as I knew I had it on the ICW I couldn’t help but wonder what I was missing on the open coast. Experience told me that I probably wasn’t missing much. What I’d see would be water on my right and a sand beach backed by trees and/or beach houses on my left. Seven hours of paddling today pretty much convinced me that I was right. The open coast is still beautiful in it’s own way but honestly, there is more happening on the narrower ICW. On the inside, with land on both sides of you there is simply more to see. The sheltered water also brings wildlife in closer. Dolphins, pelicans, and herons were constant companions on the sheltered channels. On the outside most of what you see is gulls and the occasional head first crash landing Brown Pelican diving after a bait fish.
What the open coast has that the inside channels don’t is ocean swell. There is something hypnotic to me about the gentle rise and fall of my boat as a wave passes under it. Somehow my paddling seems to fall in rhythm with the swell and the miles just pass by. That’s how it was for me today as I paddled up the length of Jekyll Island then on past St. Simons Island. I had intended to camp on the beach on the north end of Little St. Simons Island but upon reaching my destination I discovered signs warning trespassers away from what proved to be a wildlife sanctuary. Not wanting to log a ridiculously long day I turned north and crossed a channel to a small island. Unlike the ghostly silent wildlife sanctuary this island is alive with thousands of birds of dozens of varieties. The smell of so many birds forced me to camp on the upwind side of the island. As I sat in camp every once in a while something would excite the birds sending clouds of them aloft to circle the island until the call went out that it was again safe to land. It was incredible to watch so much animal life in one spot.