Monday, September 04, 2017

Paddling Across Romerly Marsh


Leaving Delegal Creek
(notice empty osprey nest)
They changed the weather forecast for Friday so I thought I would take my kayak out to an extended trip.  I launched at Delegal Marina a little before ten, knowing that I had just over an hour before the tide turned.  The winds were stronger than expected, coming out of the south, which provided resistance as I paddled out of the creek.  By the time I was in Ossabaw Sound, the wind was coming off my starboard side and I found the skeg worked wonderfully as I maintained a straight line toward the south end of Wassaw Island.  The last mile or so, as I paddled by the shoals off Pine Island, the waves began to build.  As I crossed the entrance to Wassaw Creek, I was paddling in three foot waves.  The boat handled perfectly.  I made the five mile paddle to the island by 11:15 (which would be close to 3.5 miles an hour which wasn’t bad with the waning tide).  

Ranger station on Wassaw
Normally I would be ready to crawl out of the boat, but it was so comfortable that I paddled about a mile and a half up into Wassaw Creek, stopping at the ranger station for the National Wildlife Refuge.  There was no one there, except for a couple of fishermen who had decided to hole up under their dock.  They fished there, in the shade for over an hour and I think they caught one fish.  I pulled out on a sandy beach a ways down from the station, took out my lunch and hammock, and found two perfectly spaced trees up on a high bluff where I could enjoy a nice breeze.  I strung the hammock and then had lunch.  


Lunch stop
Lunch stop
The Good Life
My original plan had been to return the way that I came or back through the Odingsell River, but I have always wanted to try to paddle through Romerly Marsh to the north end of Skidaway Island. I’ve done this before, paddling in the ocean, but I wanted to go through the marsh.  I figured it would still be close to 17 miles (the distance it is in the ocean) due to the curves in the creeks.  I knew there is a dredged cut I’d have to find, and it’s not very wide. I made a call to get picked up at the Priest Landing marina and headed out about 1:30.  I was hoping to be back around 3:30, well before any afternoon thunderstorm.

This turned out being harder than I thought.  The map showed the cut being further from the Parson family holdings on the island than I thought (they were close to the docks), which I discovered after spending an hour going down false leads.  When I made it back into the main creek, saw someone on the Parson family dock, I paddled over and asked if they could help me.  They pointed me to the right channel, told me to take the second left, which would be marked with a PVC pipe.  I never did see a pipe (in a kayak I’m a lot lower than someone standing in a boat).  I got lost again, but thirty minutes later I had found the cut.  Each time I got lost, I had to paddle back against the tide.  By this point, I was tired. I had also broken a paddle, but thankfully had another with me.

The Parson family purchased the island in the 1860s.  In 1969, they sold all but a 150 or so acre holding to the Nature Conservancy for one million dollars. They, in turn, sold the island to the government to be used as a wildlife refuge. This kept the island from being developed and it is considered one of the most natural islands along the Georgia coast, since it has never been farmed, logged, or used for raising livestock.  The only development on the island are several homes in the Parson holdings, the Refuge ranger's station, and a Spanish American War era battery on the north end that is slowly eroding away.

The marsh is an interesting area.  There are a number of hardwood hammocks within the marsh (with live oaks and sort) and these trees were filled with a variety of birds.  I saw several osprey, ibis, egrets, a variety of ducks, sea gulls and pelicans.  I love watching pelicans fish and one dove into the water not more than 20 feet from my boat, making a big splash.  As he came up, he threw his head back and swallowed.  I also saw a couple of alligator in the marsh.  One, I surprised as I paddled around a bend.  He jumped out into the water and almost hit my boat as he dove under it. 

Dead end
As I floundered in the marsh, I kept looking for where the tide was going against me as I headed in the right direction, for I knew then I’d be paddling out toward the Wassaw Sound.  High tide wasn’t until 5:20 PM, at which time I could probably make it through over the marsh grass, but then I would have to paddle against the tide back to the marina.  When I found the cut and where the tide changed directions, it felt good, as I was now sure that I had only a couple of miles before I would be in Wassaw Sound (and then five more miles before I was at my destination). 

In Wassaw Sound
Once in Wassaw Sound, I turned inland.  In the distance, a storm was brewing.  It was already after four.  I would paddle hard for a bit and then rest.  Thankfully the ocean breeze was strong and to my back, as it gave me a push and also kept the thunderstorm from moving over me.  Instead, the storm moved north, parallel to the coast.  Yet, it was close enough that I saw a dozen or so strikes of lightning.   Once I entered the Wilmington River (where I regularly sail) I felt safe. 






I arrived at the marina at 5:40 PM.  I figured I’d paddled over 20 miles, but I had fulfilled my goal of paddling across the marsh.  

Destination in sight
(notice broken paddle)

The Skeg (photo to answer questions below)

27 comments:

  1. Jeepers, I had a look at that spaghetti of creeks streams and rivers and it's a wonder you ever came out of it.
    So where is this addition to the craft. Is it one of those odd little tillers you sometimes see. And if so does that really give you compensating force to the paddle and flow to keep you on a line, or close to it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Vince, the skeg acts like a swing fin keel on a sailboat (much like the one on my Lightning, but obviously not as large). It is located near the stern nad maybe 12 inches long and 5 inches thick. It can be engaged by a slider switch on the starboard side of the boat, a few inches under the cockpit hatch (you can see it if you enlarge the photo of the boat). It is helpful when paddling against current or wind, but if not can be retracted. It was a maze of creeks and when the water is low and you're sitting low, it's hard to see anything as the marsh grass stands high over you.

      Delete
    2. Ahh, I see now. So in a way it might even convert the natural swing of the tail into thrust if it was shaped properly.
      Was I reading correctly, the Lightening has a draft keel raised of 5 inches ?.

      Delete
    3. I was speaking of the way the Lightning swing keel worked. The Lightning is a type of sailboat with a shallow draft (about 5 inches) but with the keel down it's draft is 4' 9". It's keel also weights (if I remember correctly) 160 pounds. The skeg is a composite construction and only weighs ounces. Don't understand how it could provide thrust as it just swings down and up and is very thin.

      Delete
    4. I posted a photo of the skeg at the bottom of the post.

      Delete
    5. I read up online about your vessel and it said 5" draft with the keelboard up. I was just wondering for the Kayak would be about that.
      I believe they've measured the physics of the fins on a surfboard and found in certain conditions it forms wing like highs on one side and lows on the other. And since you are putting quite a bit of torque with you as the pivot and the blade the force there just might be a bit of push from the skeg. But I was thinking something a bit more substantial, about the size of a dinner plate sliced in twain, and that quite frankly looks decorative. :-)

      Delete
    6. I hope you are all yours are safe from these storms. The projections seen to by-pass you but I suspect even a glancing blow from these two mightn't be kind.

      Delete
  2. What a wonderful adventure which I'm sure you enjoyed fully. Thanks for taking us on the journey, the photos are great. Warm greetings to you.

    ReplyDelete
  3. That's a lot of paddling in one day; I would've been pooped! Love your lunch spot :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Sage - that's certainly one long paddle ... but must have been amazing to do - looks a wonderful part of the world ... and I didn't know about the Sea Islands or Wassaw itself ... just glad the alligator didn't get you - cheers Hilary

    ReplyDelete
  5. I’m glad you eventually got across the marsh. I probably would’ve gotten so lost that I’d still be in there . . .

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Some of that marshy landscape looks a lot like down here

    ReplyDelete
  7. Congratulations!
    That was scary - for me, at least, and for several stretches. But you're brave and skilled. I'm glad your intuition and competence got you there.

    ReplyDelete
  8. What a great outing filled with adventure (the alligator and lightning would have made me nervous!) and I love the hammock. Do you let someone know when you set off like that? Just for safety sake?

    ReplyDelete
  9. No story on how the paddle broke? Against alligator hide?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nothing exciting. It had been patched before and broke again--probably a design or poorly made fiberglass shaft. I'm glad it broke on easy paddling in a creek, not while I was battling waves coming out of Ossabaw Sound to Wassaw Creek

      Delete
  10. Heading out of Winyah Bay the most common way to getting to the ocean is a similar network of marshy waterways that are quite shallow and muddy. One of my cousins got quite upset with me because I would never take him on his repeated offers to ride in his boat. Not only was I worried about getting stranded in the marsh, he had a habit of inadvertently telling stories about how many times his boat broken down while in the water.

    He told his stories in an effort to glorify his adventures. I took them as warnings.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I only have to see a hammock and I'm at peace. They epitomize relaxation, and you earned yours with that long paddle!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I don't have any experience on the water so I find these posts very interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  13. This is kind of off topic, but have you ever kayaked on the Bay of Fundee in Nova Scotia? It has 50 foot tides. My mom and her husband came back from a kayaking trip there. They said it was pretty neat to see.

    ReplyDelete
  14. 20 miles, dang that a lot of paddling. Sounds like an interesting trip alligator and all.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Sounds like you had quite the adventure! Good thing the storm passed.

    I took my kayak out on Lake Ontario in high waves and lasted about twenty minutes before heading back to a calmer bay. I thought it was fun and tried to go out in high waves again--but from a shallow zone. Big mistake! The waves were cresting, filling my kayak. By wave number 4, I was dumped out. Luckily I didn't lose my paddle and even found my thermos bobbing about thirty feet away after I emptied the kayak and got back in.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Ah, this is the way to live, and your retelling of it all is the icing on the story! Great photos too, it's almost as good as being there too.

    ReplyDelete
  17. So glad you were able to avoid the storm. Sounds scary! I can imagine your relief when you made it back to familiar waters. :)
    ~Jess

    ReplyDelete
  18. What a great trip, and your lunch spot looked very special.

    All the best Jan

    ReplyDelete