Opening up

I postponed my sail until Sunday afternoon, April 11, 2010, with the tide incoming for several hours before launching Kingfisher at the Romain Retreat landing. The winds were forecast for 10-15 knots from the NE, so I anticipated some tacks to get through the marshes via Andersonville Creek on the way to the Northeast Point of Bull Island. It was a spectacularly clear day, with the atmosphere opened up for viewing distant places not usually acquired with the naked eye. This passage out was most familiar, but I noticed acutely each opening. Initially it was the beginning of Andersonville Creek, a parting in the marsh just off of the Intracoastal Waterway.

I found that the wind was more east, and more tacks were necessary. Despite the incoming tide the steady moderate wind pulled us ahead. After several bends in the creek, another major opening came at the junction of several major creeks, known locally as the Shark Hole (there are a few in the area). I passed my first boat before this opening, and he was inspired to shout “Great day for sailing!”

Sailing around that bend into the straight section heading ENE (mirroring the wind direction), I was distracted by an anomaly on the northern side. There are bits of bank ahead toward the creek mouth providing relief to the monolithic green of the Spartina alterniflora, but the patch of solid white was something different than a small sand bank. It appeared to be a boat: at first glance the bottom, but getting closer maybe a covered craft.

I was right on the first guess – it was an inboard outboard, perhaps 20 feet, completely upside down with bow touching the marsh grass of the creek side. It was not a current emergency, and I wondered how long it had been abandoned.

Beating toward the opening to the bay, I was struck again by the pristine conditions. The view out past the point on the north side of the creek revealed the north end of Bull in detail: the maritime forest of the main body of the island, the Jacks Creek dike with several individual palmettos standing out, the northern upland, and the dunes stretching out to the Northeast Point.

Sailing out into the bay closehauled enabled me to enter this wide-open seascape of the bay, with views opening to various compass points.

We stuck initially to the shallower waters of the south side of the bay, avoiding the main channel and its inflowing waters. I was rewarded with the sighting of another anomaly, this time a swimming reptile. The relatively clear water allowed me to see more than just the head gasping on the surface for air, but also the yellow plastron of this loggerhead turtle. It was my first sighting of 2010, and enhanced this wonderful sail.

The sail to the Northeast Point was longer than anticipated, but I had to remind myself of the incoming tide, and the fact that I was beating to windward. A boat passed me on the way out to the island, and I could see a couple of others beached or fishing along the backside of the island. Occasionally looking to the north I could see blotches of sand in the distance – perhaps Raccoon Key. As I drew closer to the Northeast Point a sand bump that I have landed on several times in the past few years was still quite visible. I wondered if it was accreting, and what its future would be.

I approached from the north side of the channel, and especially away from the incoming waters flowing back behind the island in Bull Creek. The rain gear was protection from the cool spray at times splashing me pretty thoroughly. As I approached the island on the port tack for my landing, the outboard I had seen earlier was departing. There were waves to sail through before the beach, but a quite small break on the beach as I came in with daggerboard pulled out. I hauled Kingfisher up a hull’s length, but kept the sail rigged for my brief walk around.

The point provided a fine viewing platform that I now had all to myself. The vista to the north highlighted the mainland stretching up to McClellanville.

The bay’s waters were vast, with shallow waters marked by small waves. I walked to the tip of the point, though wary of not getting too distracted by these views with the incoming tide lapping toward Kingfisher’s stern. The view east out the inlet at the point’s extremity was the finally opening, peering out past Bull Breakers to the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

It was both familiar and precarious, here on the edge of North America. My sails to this spot and around have been an opening up of my consciousness, and a jumping off point to other passages, islands, and awareness.

The thought was expansive, but the time short as I returned to Kingfisher and shoved off. The return sail was all downhill, with the wind and current behind. I had the leisure of just looking around and observing, keeping the heading to the west. The towers of the Cooper River Bridge were easily picked out across the marsh to the southwest.  The feeling of running into Andersonville Creek from the bay was the familiar embrace of greeting by the calm waters and green of the marsh. In making the first turn in the creek to the north, a dolphin came up close to starboard, and another farther off to port. This brief greeting was enough to maintain the spirit of this trip all the way home.