This has been a difficult Thanksgiving weekend, but not without things for which I’ve been thankful. One of those has been the ability to escape, even if just for a bit. The pattern has been for me to get in a bit of paddling either at sunrise or in the morning. Either Laura or Amy would head over to Atlantic Healthcare by 9:00 to get their mom up for the day, and I would join them there later (with a banjo on my knee, to quote the old song.) I had to limit these escapes, though. A couple of times I would get some distance from the house, check in with Laura to find her in the midst of dealing with a crisis, then find myself paddling pretty quickly straight back to come assist where I can. In those situations I found myself hitting a zen state, where I become one with the kayak, paddling as quickly and efficiently as possibly to get to my destination..
Normally I don’t believe in paddling just to get from point A to point B. I’ve paddling with a couple of groups, and that seemed to be their only goal. One reason I like Lowcountry Unfiltered, the “ADD Paddlers”, is because they realize that the fun is in the journey, in the discoveries along the way. That’s my entire paddling philosophy in a nutshell.
I don’t remember the actual year (maybe 2008?) but church member David Freeland turned me on to kayaking. Our families were vacationing at the time on the South Carolina coast when my good friend was suffering from his own family tragedy. The peace Dave had while on the Water in the midst of his own grief was something I coveted. At the time I was told by my wife that there was no way, no how that I would get a kayak. We were just flat broke.
Years have now passed and on Father’s Day this year my wife took me to Walmart (yes, I hate it too). My incredible wife bought me my first kayak! it is a 10′ Sun Dolphin Aruba which she could only afford via her paycheck that came at the end of that month. This occurred at the end of our vacation on Lake Keowee, South Carolina paid for by a family member.
In recent months I have purchased another kayak wanting others to join me. I have a terrific friend (Tom Taylor) who has been patient with my family’s circumstances and who invited me to this forum.
This is my point. I have discovered peace and tranquility on a floating vessel that I have never found on solid land. Foremost I am thankful for friends like David Freeland and Tom Taylor who may I add, have very different political and religious opinions from each other and possibly myself (even though all three of us have southern preachers within our families) yet we remain true friends for life – hopefully an example to others. The water is indeed wide. It accepts all. It bathes all. It can heal all if we let it.
Peace and love to all who are part of this Church.
The Water Is Wide, November 25, 2016
Well said, Bennie. Well said.
However, sometimes, as with these aforementioned trips, I’ve found myself having to move out. This has also happened when I’ve had to outrun storms, or knew that I had a lot of distance to cover. Dip – pull – rotate – dip – pull rotate. Soon you hit a stride so that you are using minimal effort to maintain a good cruising speed. Heck, when the scenery is dull, sometimes I just like hitting that zen. I can almost understand with those Point A – Point B paddlers.
Each boat requires a bit of adaptation to reach that zen state. When we started making more frequent trips down to Florida I left one of my kayaks down here so that it would always be ready. The boat I chose was our tandem, a Wilderness Systems Pamlico 145T, with the thought that Laura could escape with me on occasion. This one seems to be quite unstable as a tandem, but works surprisingly well as a solo boat. I push the front seat as far back as I can so that it’s somewhat back-center on the boat. There isn’t a sealed cargo hatch, but there lots of space to carry stuff on the rear seat or up front, almost like a hybrid or a canoe. It’s also pretty quick and responsive.
Even when you do have to make a quick paddle back, you can get in quite a few miles. I was able to add more miles to my yearly total, despite the challenges of this visit. I’ll summarize a couple of those trips here:
Black Friday Island Hopping
This first tale starts with something far, far removed from paddling. I went to a Black Friday sale. I’m not proud of it, but I confess it here. Amy and I got up at 4:30 am and set out to stand in line at Home Depot for Christmas lights and a tree. The nice folks there even fed us doughnuts.
There were lots of things that would have been fun to buy at very compelling prices, but we resisted. The folks at Home Depot made the tree shopping easy by having the trees preloaded onto carts for us. We snagged one, a few sets of cheap lights, and got back to the house by sunrise.
I was ready for a change of venue. I think the #optoutside hash tag that some groups were promoting meant that you were supposed to hike/bike/paddle/whatever instead of shopping. I did both. Laura headed up to see her mom and Amy headed in to work for a bit. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get to head out, though. A weird rainstorm came up. The sun was shining, but it was dumping rain. Soon, though, it passed and I was able to get underway.
Normally I cross the main channel and paddle south behind the spoil islands. This gets me into the interesting parts near the mangroves where there are fewer motor boats and lots of wildlife. This time I decided to do something different. I crossed the channel, but then headed north, hopping from spoil island to spoil island.
I made it up to Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, where Amy works. There was one sound spit that had been set aside as a bird sanctuary. There were no signs now to indicate that it was a preserve, but the birds were certainly there.
I spotted a large group of kayaks far on the other side of the cove. I paddled up to the next island where there were beaches and no boats. There I paused for a bit.
More kayaks appeared, so I paddled up to the next island to see if I could get closer. There were lots of smaller islands mostly made of mangroves. A dolphin popped up at one point to keep me company.
I was as far north as Round Island, but I didn’t paddle across the cove to it. I decided to save that for another trip. I was far enough north to see the Vero Beach Causeway. I decided I needed to be heading back. Boat traffic was very bad around Harbor Branch, so I decided to stay near the spoil islands until I got back past it. I ran into more kayaks along the way. They didn’t even way.
By this time I’d gotten the message from Laura that things were not going well with her mother, so I entered my zen state and started paddling directly back home. Even though I’d paddled further north than I had on any previous trips, it was only right at 7 miles.
Paddling to Little Jim Bridge
Saturday’s paddling was similar to Black Friday, but in a different direction. I crossed the channel at my favorite point, then headed south.
There were lots more boats out and about. Getting back behind the spoil island and into the shallows got me away from boat wakes and traffic. There were still quite a few boats fishing in the shallows.
I cut through the mangroves of the Old Inlet area, eventually winding up at the entrance to the channel behind Pepper Park. I saw ripples, and realized that I was on top of an oyster bed. I had to pick my way through, finding a route that would get me through without damaging the kayak.
Instead of heading toward Pepper Park I continued south along the edge of North Hutchinson Island. I was closer to the condos than I had paddled before. There were quite a few birds in this area.
Soon I made it to Little Jim Bridge. There was lots of boat traffic through here, so I paddled opposite the bait shop. Some folks fishing from the bridge pilings shouted at me to stay away from their lines. I did the best I could. I didn’t see them shouting at motor boats that were taking the same route I was.
A group of kayaks launched from the beach at Little Jim Bait Shop, then paddled west into the mangroves. I continued to the east. Google Earth had shown lots of channels across the island to the east, and I hoped to explore some of those. Sadly, it looked like these were separate from the main water, and I couldn’t get back into there. I entertained thoughts of paddling onto the so-called Redneck Riviera, but realized that was probably a bit too far.
I touched base with Laura to see how things were going, and decided to head on back. There wasn’t a crisis with her mom, but it was obvious I needed to return. I decided to stop by Little Jim Bait Shop for a could drink first. As I approached the beach, more people fishing shouted at me to stay away from their fishing lines. I was as far away from them as I could get, but their lines were completely blocking the beach access. I still managed to hit one. I was pissed. I shouted back. The guy renting kayaks there on the beach had my back.
I went on in and found a cold drink. I knew they have food here, but I thought I’d save that for another excursion. As I was enjoying my drink, an older man started chatting with me. He owns all of the kayaks that had just launched. He doesn’t run a business, but just has those for friends and family, kind of like my large collection. We talked paddling for awhile, but then I needed to get back.
I took the most direct route back, which, fortunately, let through some of the interesting mangroves. The boat traffic had increased even more. Each of the spoil islands had parties getting started. I just fell into my zen state and kept going.
For this one I had actually paddle quite a bit further. This trip took me 9.28 miles.
For the Thanksgiving weekend I was able to paddle 25 miles. The weather conditions were perfect, so I was able to get many more days of paddling. So far I’m at 193.81 miles for the year. I think I might just break 200. At to think I had only thought I might make 100 miles for this year.