Around again

It was beastly hot, with the expectation to approach 100 again with high humidity. It seemed a bit early for this kind of blast furnace weather, only June 13. I had recovered from my early morning run with my running buddy Brantley Arnau to prepare for a sail around Bull Island, a circumnavigation of this barrier isle to be specific. The conditions were ripe for this voyage, with a low tide around 3PM, and southwest winds from 10-15 knots. This trip would be a revisited sail that I have made several times before, including the one in 2003 that I recounted in Exploring Bull Island. I would sail south in the Intracoastal Waterway until Price’s Creek and Inlet, and out into the ocean, then northeast parallel to the beach until turning around the Boneyard to head north, with a final turn around the Northeast Point to head west across Bulls Bay to Andersonville Creek and home. The outgoing tide would facilitate the sail against the wind up the waterway and out the inlet, and the turn of the tide would help in the sail back across the bay and through the marshes.

While launching Kingfisher at our landing and preparing to sail at noon, I talked to my neighbor Chad Marcinak, who had his boat at the dock and was waiting for family members to arrive before heading out to the Northeast Point. I told him I would probably see them after my rounding. I paddled out into the waterway to create space for raising sail. The wind was actually more out of the west as I found myself heading down the waterway closehauled on the starboard tack. I continued to find variances in wind direction and speed, sitting through lulls and then picking up in puffs, and utilizing the shifts to SSW and back to W. A number of outboards passed heading in either direction, but one outboard stopped ahead as I approached. It was my friend Brantley with his wife Penny and her son Brian along with their dogs, just returning from Price’s and Capers Island. They left not due to the heat but the congregation of boats along both the Bull and Capers Island sides of the inlet. After a brief chat I continued my beat to the entrance to Price’s Creek.

The wind was gathering some consistency before I left the waterway to head out toward the inlet through Price’s Creek, and soon I was flattening out the sail for the fifteen knots and more. The filling in of the wind still had me beating out this creek, but I finally came to a bend where I could stay closehauled on starboard tack. As I approached Little Bulls Island, I took a close look at the shrimp trawler docked there – Miss April, owned by Scotty Magwood and up for sale, so I understood. The trawler’s port side was streaked with rust.

The view ahead captured the inlet and a parking lot of boats lining each side of the inlet. There were also several kites in the distance, and as I got closer I saw that men perched below on boards controlled these kites. The type of craft became clear when one of these kiteboarders took a jump appearing as high as Kingfisher’s mast.  And they were flying, reaching back and forth across the inlet, I initially thought. But no, they were ripping across the shoals stretching out far off the Bull Island beach, and beyond across the ocean. I was wondering about how the kite and my spars might interact in close quarters when a kiteboarder roared across toward the Capers Island sandbar, and instead of spinning back for his next run he slowed and stepped off his board to chat with friends, waiting for my passing. Nice show, good sport.

I began to look ahead to find my course through the inlet to the ocean beyond. I had planned to take some photographs of the inlet, particularly the shoals on the Bull Island side that I would be negotiating, but the conversation between the solid southwest wind and the opposing outgoing tide made this plan – getting the camera out of the waterproof bag, standing up to take photos, and returning the camera dry to its bag – absolutely delusional. Bagging this idea, I focused on just getting outside intact. The tide was still ebbing strongly. I found a spot in the outer part of the shoals where the waves were not breaking critically. Bearing off, I jumped up on a plane and sailed through this spot quickly and found the deeper waters of the ocean beyond. And I had company as I began the sail toward the other end of the island, for the kiteboarders were flashing across the ocean between Kingfisher and the island before they made their turn and flew back across the shoals and the inlet.

There was more wind and a larger swell than anticipated, and the course allowed me to surf on waves in the open ocean. A lack of attention threatened to submarine Kingfisher’s bow and send inches or more of water into the cockpit. With the plug out, the self-bailer did its thing and sucked water out quickly. As in a previous sail down the island, little marine life was observed except the occasional cannonball jellyfish or tern. As I sailed closer to the beach, there were no people to be seen; the Bull Island ferry does not run on Sunday. The congestion of the weekend boaters was long ago left astern.

About a mile away from the Boneyard, a cluster of people appeared on the beach, and their presence was a surprise due to the heat. I raised my hat to hail them. I later found out that they were a private charter led by the head of Coastal Expeditions, Chris Crolley. As is my habit, I had called in my float plan to Chris earlier, though had not talked directly to him. He recounted later to me that someone on the beach all of a sudden asked “Where did he come from?” when Kingfisher’s sail appeared cruising down the beach about a hundred yards offshore. Chris did capture several photos with his phone, and this one below gives the perspective of the small Kingfisher on the big ocean.

I made it to the Boneyard in several minutes from that sighting. An invisible line appeared drawn in the ocean where the swell eased off at a point stretching out from this protrusion of the island to the east. I took the opportunity to luff and drift so I could grab my camera in the relatively smooth conditions to snap a couple of photos. The Boneyard is a fascinating place, whether one is walking through the trees on the beach or viewing the place from the perspective of the ocean.  The walk across the island makes one’s arrival at the Boneyard magical, and the view from the water is both surreal and inspiring. I took the opportunity to have a good look before making a jibe and heading off to the north.

The wind was close to directly behind as I ran up close to the beach. An outboard was anchored off the first of the tidal creeks cutting across the beach into the marsh, and there were people ahead on the beach. The top of a tree jutted above the water’s surface a couple of feet not far from the Northeast Point – I recalled seeing this recently but don’t remember it from previous years, since this is a channel that I would beat up the island when headed in the opposite direction. It would pose a serious problem when underwater at a higher tide. I tried to put it into my memory as I sailed by ready to round. However, Kingfisher fetched up on a shoal hard, spinning the bow to windward. I don’t recall this shoal either, and even with daggerboard pulled out I struggled to sail off with the rudder also popped up and dragging. Heeling the hull to windward to help steer Kingfisher, we finally made it to deeper water and rounded the point.

There were a few boats arrayed along the island’s shore, though nothing like Price’s. I recognized my neighbors on the beach – the Kings, MacDonalds, and Marcinaks, comprising six adults, five children, and an infant. I decided to stop to socialize, hydrate, and eat a snack. They had arrived on two boats, and were set up on the beach with a large shade tent, beach chairs, and ample food and beverage.  Sitting under the tent on a cooler with these good neighbors felt like I had returned to civilization, with only a few pesky black flies nibbling at the feet as the only negative. The shade was much needed and appreciated.

Taking my leave of these neighbors, I set sail across the bay on a close reach.  The tide was now in my favor, and in the bright sun we skimmed across the open water headed to Andersonville Creek. Before reaching the opening into the marsh, a loggerhead sunk down in front of the fast approaching Kingfisher. It seemed no coincidence that I have spotted loggerheads in this vicinity on at least three occasions in the past two months.

Despite following the bending course of Andersonville Creek, we continued without the need of making any tacks. I dropped sail in the usual location for these conditions, next to channel marker #68, and in paddling toward the dock realized that I had arrived ahead of schedule. The tide had only come in about an hour, and a large mud flat extended out from the shore between the docks.

Tying up Kingfisher to the dock’s end, I sat back in the shade and waited for the water to rise and provide the inches needed to haul the boat out.