Thursday, June 11, 2015

Paddling to Daufuskie Island

Photo taken by Tim
That's me taking a photo!
This is the story of my trip a week agoits been a busy week and I havent been able to finish up writing this or about any other fun things Ive done over the last couple of weeks.  Next week, Im heading to NYC for nine days.  Hopefully, thatll give me plenty of topics to explore in my blog.


The sun beat us up over the horizon, when we rounded the big bend in Lazarette Creek.  I put on my sunglasses as the rays shine through the booms and netting of the shrimp boats docked before the bridge to Tybee. 

"We just missed it," Tim sighed

Its still beautiful, I shout. 
Cockspur Lighthouse

It's not quite 6:30 A.M. and we're paddling against a strong incoming tide as we go under the bridge and head toward the Savannah River.  On our right is the historic Cockspur Lighthouse, left over from the time before all the shipping into Savannah was concentrated into one channel.  Low tide was at 4:30 AM this morning and one could still walk out across the mud and oysters to the brick structure at the end of Daymark Island by the South Channel of the river.  The water in the shoals in front of the lighthouse is rough and provides a little challenge as we're tossed around in the mix of a north wind and  incoming tide worked against the outflowing current.  A few minutes later we've passed the lighthouse and enter smoother water. 

Tybee Lighthouse and water tower from beyond the break wall
Fort Pulaski (taken on return paddle)
To starboard (my right) is the north point of Tybee, where there is still a lighthouse used to guide vessels into the Savannah Harbor.  To port is Fort Pulaski, one of the brick fortresses built after the gallant efforts of Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor to repel the British in the War of 1812.  Fort McHenry, whose bombardment was observed by Francis Scott Key and led him to write the nearly unsingable National Anthem, held and in the two decades after the war, brick fortresses were built up and down the American coast.  However, by the time the Civil War came along, with rifled artillery that could blast through thick brick walls, such forts became obsolete and death traps to soldiers garrisoned there.  After 36 hours of bombardment during the Civil War, the South surrendered the fort and the port of Savannah was closed to shipping. 
 
Container ship heading to Savannah Port
(taken on the return trip)
  Setting a northern course, the three of us head to the rock break wall that protects the shipping channel of the Savannah River.  The rising tide has begun to cover some of the rocks, providing us a passageway into the channel that leads to the fourth largest port in the United States.  Ahead of the others, I cross the break wall and wait in the river, but the tide keeps pushing me back toward the rocks and I find I must keep paddling just to keep my place.  When the others arrive, we look to make sure no ships are coming, then sprint across the river.   We're not sure how where we can get through the break wall on the north.  Tim has informed us that we might have to paddle out into the open water, but when I reach it, I find a gap that's easy to cross and wait for Matt and Tim on the far side.  I'm now in South Carolina.  

Bloody Point: notice the oil/gas storage containers
at the Savannah ports in the distance
There, the silence is disturbed by squawking of pelicans perched on the exposed rock along with the droning of a diesel engine in a large shrimp trawler heading out to sea.   Actually, we're already in the sea.

From here, we decided to head toward the water tower on Hilton Head.  Originally, our destination was Daufuskie Island, but it seems as if Hilton Head is doable.  Between us and there is an island we think about stopping to stretch, but as we approach and before we can read the "Stay Away" from this nesting site, we decide not to stop because the stench of poop from 1000s of birds is just too much.  We paddle east of Bird Poop Island, far from the shore of Jones and Turtle Islands, places also protected for the purpose of bird nesting.  This area, north of the Savannah River, is fed by the Wright and Cooper Rivers.  Porpoises play in the water and occasionally a pelican will do a head dive and come up with a small fish.  We paddle toward a shoal line that exists on the north side of Cooper River, where its waters drop sand on its way out into the sea. 

Development (not the cabins described by Conroy)
As we approach, it appears that there may be a jetty instead of just shoals, so we decide to return to our original plan and paddle westward to Daufuskie.  Its a good distance as we're way out into the ocean.  We land at Blood Point at 9:30 AM.  This site was named for a battle that supposedly occurred here in the mid-18th Century between two rival Native American tribes. 


Daufuskie was the island that Pat Conroy taught on during the 1960s and which he used as a model (although he changed the name) in the book The River is Wide.  There is still a small Gullah community on the island, but much of the land has been purchased and is now private resort communities.  We walk along the beach a bit and rescue a bunch of horseshoe crabs. 
Fornicating horseshoe crabs


Mammals must not be the only ones in the animal kingdom who rationality is compromised by sex.  These horseshoe crabs are having orgies in the surf which has tendencies to roll them over and leave them exposed to the sun and birds.   Sometimes the waves will roll them back over, but soon the tide is falling and our efforts saves a few from baking in the hot sun far from the receding waters.  After a rest in the sun, we push off and begin to head back the way we came.  A number of smaller shrimp trawls are working the area north of the river and are followed by porpoises looking for handouts (fish that get thrown overboard).   The tide, which has turned is beginning to run out to sea, is still higher than it was this morning and we have no  problems making it over the break wall.  By the time we get to the Cockspur Lighthouse, it is a fight to paddle upstream.  
Matt and Tim passing the Cockspur Lighthouse on the return

Artist at work
After going under the Tybee Bridge, I hang close to the marsh on the northside, taking advantage of the eddy current to make the paddling easier.  I spy a woman painting next at the end of a road where the old bridge used to connect to Tybee and stop to image the scene she is painting, the marsh and shrimp trawlers on the south side of the channel.  At 12:30 PM, we arrive back at the boat ramp.  Tim, who has tracked our trip on his phone, notes that we've paddled 12 1/2 miles (6.5 miles out and 6 miles back).  I am tired but happy.
Looking under the bridge (taken on return trip)


35 comments:

  1. Ironically, the photo labeled Bloody Point looks like the most peaceful spot and I like the photo of the painter you encountered at the end of the road. Loving your travel stories and I plan to be back for more.

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    1. Yes, it is a beautiful spot to have such a horrific name!

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  2. You have some of the most beautiful pictures on your blog today. What a great trip!!

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    1. Thank you. Actually, the water here is not nearly as clean as the last paddle I did across Ossobaw Sound. The Savannah River is fairly industrialized.

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  3. Wonderful images, Sage... and paddling from one state into another. You take me along on journeys here that I would not have the stamina to complete at my age and I sure enjoy it. Your description of crossing shipping lanes is quite exciting. Whether of Cockspur Lighthouse or coitional crabs, your photos are informative and impressive. My compliments and appreciation!

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    1. Thanks, Geo. I have paddled across a few state lines in the past, but not often!

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  4. Extremely well written and captivating, Sage! I always feel as if I'm a passenger shadowing you guys on the waters when I stop by here to read. Your mention of Conroy reminded me of Jon Voight's movie "Conrack", which was quite good! The lighthouse and its story on your journey is magnificent!

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    1. I don't know the movie, "Conrack" but will have to look it up. I'm pretty sure the Conroy book was made into a movie, but I haven't seen it

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  5. looks like a great trip, must be amazing to see the horseshoe crabs like that!

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    1. Yes, I do think they'll be horseshoe crabs next season, too! :)

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  6. Those horseshoe crabs need to be a little more discreet. :P

    I always love to read about your adventures. They sound so exciting and beautiful.

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    1. Life is fun, even for horseshoe crabs!

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  7. I would love to visit this area some day. Except for Bird Poop island.

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    1. Come on down (or up, or out, depending on your direction). We avoided Bird Poop Island on the return trip and shaved 1/2 mile of paddling!

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  8. haha @ Chrys! love the pics and it sounds SO cool.

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    1. It was actually kind of warm, mid-80s, which I would take today as I just came in from yard work and rehydrating after working outside with the temps climbing over 90 and its very humid

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  9. I am tired just reading about your trip! You must be in amazing shape. Beautiful pictures along the way.

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    1. Not as good of shape as I'd like, but I kept up with these guys who were 10 years younger than me

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  10. What an incredible place to be a part of, such an interesting experience in so many ways. inspiring place for writers, and painters as well, neat to see you and others out and about enjoying life. Great captures too!

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  11. As always, I enjoy seeing your pictures. We were in Savannah briefly in the spring. We'd like to go back and explore some of the beach areas more. It's such a lovely place!

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    1. This is a nice area, but the water at Tybee is a bit dirty as it is always silty with the outflow from the Savannah River. But there are a lot of wild places to explore and a lot in Savannah to see. Stop by if you get back down here, but I am sorry that I don't have a motorcycle to offer you a ride :)

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  12. What a great way to spend a morning! I love the photos, especially #s 2, 7 and 9.

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    1. Thanks, it was a pretty good morning!

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  13. I've read 4 Conroy books, but not that one. I love his work. I didn't know that book took place on an island.

    Such serenity and beauty. I always get inspired by the water.

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    1. For a Conroy book, "The Water is Wide" is a short book but like others is funny and insightful as he was a teacher in a Gullah community on the island.

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  14. Excellent trip and even better story!

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  15. My 4 year old granddaughter watches a children's program called 'Gullah Gullah Island", takes place somewhere near there, made in the mid-90's I think.
    I liked some of Conroy's work, the movies made from them were rather spotty, though.

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  16. Even the sand looks clean and smooth - a great place for horseshoe crabs to fornicate (so it appears). And how do you know these things, Sage?

    Have a great, safe time in NY, and I'm looking forward to more stories and photos.

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  17. Even the sand looks clean and smooth - a great place for horseshoe crabs to fornicate (so it appears). And how do you know these things, Sage?

    Have a great, safe time in NY, and I'm looking forward to more stories and photos.

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  18. Another fantastic trip. I look forward to reading your travelogue on New York. Thanks.

    Greetings from London.

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  19. That kayaking sounds like a boatload of work Jeff, personally i would have tried for the pretide mudflats and got me a bucket full of the oysters. Less work and a tastier ending.

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