|Heading out at Sunset|
Friday was a blue moon and the tide was high at 9:30 PM, the perfect combo for a night-time paddle. I sent the word out and had a group of eight ready to enjoy the evening. It’d been a hot and humid week, usual weather for late July. But nature has a way of breaking such cycles and as the weekend approached, so did the thunderstorms. On Friday, folks kept emailing me saying that they were bailing on the trip. One friend, who is also in the fire department, cancelled but promise he’d stand by if called out to rescue us. But looking at the radar, it appeared we might get lucky and there would be a window between storms. Hopefully, we’d even see the full moon rising over the marsh as we paddled along Moon River…
|Launching on a cloudy evening|
At 8 PM, four of us set off in our kayaks, leaving from Butterbean Beach (the Rodney Hall Boat Ramp for those of you curious to find our journey) for a five mile paddle. The air was strangely still. There were clouds but a few patches where you could almost see the sky. We paddled through a channel to the Moon River Bridge, turned south and paddled down to Burnside Island, took a left and paddled between Pigeon and Burnside Islands through Shipyard Creek. Slowly night descended but we still didn’t have to turn on lights because of the lights along the docks on Burnside Island. We paddled steady but slowly, talking about a number of subjects and enjoying being outdoors. The wind had died and I was sweating as it was really humid. About half way along the section by Burnside Island, we felt a few drops of rain. It was cooling. A little further, we felt more drops. Then, as we were approaching the Intracoastal Waterway, the wind picked up and we could hear the rain coming. A few minutes later, the water became rough and the rain heavy and we couldn’t see very well. It was completely dark and thankfully there was a lighted navigation marker that allowed us to know when we entered the waterway.
We turned on lights (I had a white LED light on the back of my kayak (which I used so everyone could see me as well as any other boat that may be out in the waterway). I only used my headlamp when I wanted to look at something. The rain became heavier and it was no longer cooling, but chilling. The waterway here makes some curves (it is kind of like a trap below a sink) and it was hard to know when we were in the channel as the water was high enough that in places we could paddle across the marsh but was also confusing as we didn’t want to get stuck in the grass with the tide dropping. After a few mistakes, we finally got through the curves. The takeout point was now less than a mile away. A few bolts of lightning encouraged us to pick up the pace. Thankfully most of the lightning bolts seemed to land on the other side of Skidway Island (to our east) but some were close enough to concern us.
|Jim, Me and Gary (photo by Tim) as we head out|
We were soaked when we got back to the landing. We loaded the boats, said quick goodbyes. Jim told us not to challenge him when he tells the story of lightning bouncing off his now singed paddle. I put my fire jacket on my seat (as I didn’t have a dry towel available), turned down the AC, and drove home…
|Waiting in hopes of a 3rd race|
On Saturday afternoon, I was scheduled to race with Tito and Jerry. Our sail club always mixes up the teams (with the exception of the team that’s going to the Nationals who get to sail together to work on their teamwork). I’d never sailed with Tito, but have admired his skill from other boats. We got out in time to figure out the favorable tack and had even a great start. We were well ahead of the other boats including the team going to National at the windward mark and although we struggled a bit with the spinnaker, soon it was flying and we were moving downwind against a heavy tide, maintaining our position. We set a course close to land, where the tide was less. It was a perfect race, until… As we prepared to jive the boat to run across the channel to the leeward mark, the bottom pintle of the rudder broke. We were out of the race. With a wobbly tiller, we made into the marina (thankfully it wasn’t far from the leeward mark) and quickly found another tiller, which had to be modified. We got in together and was back out as the boats were making for the leeward mark on the second race. We were ready to show our skill in the third race (we normally do 3 or 4 races), but there were clouds building and the guy on the committee boat, who was looking at the radar, decided not to risk a third race… We headed back in and after folding sails and putting the boats up, enjoyed a beer while watching the storm move in another direction… Oh well…
It was a good weekend! It really was.