There was a lot I needed to do last Friday morning which made me an hour later than I was hoping for when I launched my kayak. It was already hot and humid. 11:45 AM. The tide was still running out, but not nearly as strongly as it would have been an hour earlier. I had hoped to use the tide to make the paddling easier, especially since there was already a light offshore wind blowing in my face. My wish was to get close enough to the island before the tide started running against me. Further compounding my fear was knowing the off-shore breeze would intensify with the afternoon heat. I paddle rapidly through the turns of Delegal Creek. Last year, there was an osprey on the navigation marker at the first turn, but no birds used that nest this year. On the marker just before entering Ossabaw Sound, I hear an osprey. It’s a chirping sound begins slowly but becomes more rapid and higher pitched as I move closer to the nest. When fifty yards away, the magnificent bird takes to flight, circling over its nest. It continues to sound the alarm until I am well past the next. The bird then lands but keeps, but keeps an eye on me as I paddle out into the sound.
|Osprey at mouth of Delegal Creek|
As I enter the open waters of the sound, mullet jump all around. Occasionally, I spot a flash underwater of a larger fish feeding and scaring this smaller specie. Since the tide is so low, I have to move further out into the sound as the water near the marsh is shallow. I set a course for a distant clump of pines, four and a half miles away. I paddle steadily for the next hour, only occasionally stopping to take a sip of water. Just south of the south end of Wassaw, a shrimp trawler stands idly by. As I come closer, I realize there are no birds present and even though his booms are extended, his nets have been hung to dry. The pelicans and gulls that would usually be in flight around the boat, hoping to catch a snack as they cull through their catch, throwing back unwanted fish, are now up on the sandbar watching among the sand pipers and oystercatchers. When I am about a half mile from the island, the boat begins to move inland toward its home up the Ogeechee River. I take this to mean the tide has turned and now rising, making it easier for him to navigate the channel. If he grounded, the rising waters would so float him free. The boat is named Daddy’s Boy. I have to paddle harder to make headway as I aim for the backside of the island, in a beach off Wassaw Creek. There are two groups of people with powerboats already on the beach, hanging out under canopies. I am not going to have the beach to myself.
|Approaching Wassaw Island|
Coming ashore, it has taken me a little less than an hour and a half. I didn’t feel the heat on the water, but the sandy beach is hot. I pull my boat high on the beach and take my lunch and a book and head into the pines. There are a series of two-track roads on the island and down one of them I find a shady place to sit down and eat and rest. After lunch, I walk around a bit, watching bottle nose porpoise’s play just offshore.
Wassaw Island as well as the other islands between it and Skidaway Island are a part of the Wassaw Wildlife Refuge, one of a number of refugees in the area. The island was purchased by the George Parson, a wealthy businessman from the north, the year after the Civil War. Georgia coastal islands seemed to be in strong demand as many of them were purchased by wealthy families in the late 19th and early 20th century. In 1969, the Parson family sold their holdings to the Nature Conservancy, retaining a 180 acre section which they still own and use today. The land and marsh was later deeded over to the Department of Interior for a National Wildlife Refuge.
|Looking Southeast into the Atlantic. |
Ossabaw Island is to the left
|Clouds building and tide rising|
Time to head back
When I realizing that the tide is rising fast and clouds are building in the west, I launch and begin to paddle back to the Delegal Marina. The first chore is to cross the mouth of Delegal Creek where the water wants to push me inside with the rising tide. I set a course out into the sound to avoid the breakers forming along the shallow areas off Pine Island and the marsh to the east. The offshore wind has increased, but is coming out of the Southeast, which means I have to paddle at a diagonal to the waves in order not to be sweep toward the edge of the land. A number of waves break across the boat, but I stay dry with the spray skirt. When I reach Delegal Creek, my osprey who serves as a sentinel over the mouth of the creek again expresses her displeasure, but I am soon past her nest with the fast rising tide. It has taken me a little over an hour to make the return trip. As I take my kayak out of the water, I hear the first sounds of thunder.