Kingfisher had a major addition, or replacement, on this day – a new daggerboard. True, I felt nostalgia for the old board of fine mahogany, extensively weathered, cupped, gouged, oyster-impaled, repaired, sanded, and varnished over and over. The new board was of modern, synthetic materials, a gleaming chunk of white symmetry, with a fine, even sharp, trailing edge. It looked out of place on Kingfisher’s old, weathered, discolored hull. But it was well past time for the upgrade, and I knew it would make a big difference in sailing to windward. Unfortunately, it was not on board after arriving at the landing, and I headed home to pick up the essential piece of gear.
I’m not sure I could ever be bored in this familiar passage, and on this day the presence of a bald eagle, and a group of five white pelicans, were wildlife highlights on the way across. It was a dry trip, thankfully with the 40 degree start; layers, sun, and an observing mind helped in buffering the cold. My start was later than planned, but I made fast to the dock prior to the ferry also arriving at the island.
I walked south, heading for a less traveled path. Summerhouse Road took me through the maritime forest, colored brightly on this winter day. Cormorants had a small roost in the Upper Summerhouse Pond, and other birds were in the impoundment. Just past here the road joined with Mills Road, and continuing south a sign provided an ironic message “DEAD END ROAD”. I understood why it was there, indicating that the road would not loop back on another road. Mills Road continues south on the island until it ends at Price’s Inlet. I had discovered a loop of sorts a number of years ago (2003, in fact). Continuing down the road, marveling at live oaks and palmettos in the maritime forest, I wondered if this could be the finest Dead End Road in America for naturalists. (View map to see Mills Road). Perhaps just standing by itself, it was, but certainly with the access to the beach ahead and the return north on the beach, most assuredly.
Turning off Mills Road toward the beach, I passed sweetgrass plants, faded from their pink glory on my past visit, and peeked into a tiny pool in a slough. From the top of the dunes, the view south stretched to the condominiums on Isle of Palms, and north along the beach’s curvature to the Boneyard. Off the beaten path, I mainly saw deer tracks, and the many animals or their shells stranded by the high tide. I only picked up two shells, and instead captured many with digital images, enjoying their beauty where they sat.
Returning to the dock, we were soon sailing on the return, retracing the passage out Bull Creek and across Bulls Bay. The wind had nicely veered more to the east, and the sail was routine. Casually taking photos before the bay, I cut a point too close, and my new daggerboard found an oyster bank. On later inspection, I discovered the new board was not impregnable – it had two new dings. The new board earlier had passed a critical test when picking up speed on a reach – it was silent, unlike the old board which would begin to vibrate setting up an annoying vibration running through the entire hull. It was quiet coming through the creek, and I sailed the edge to feel the tide beginning to roll out of the many small channels running through the marsh’s expanse.