|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.
|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.
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)