The sunrise would arrive a little after seven. A cloud bank in the east held the sun’s emergence a little longer, and was illuminated from behind, looking like some craggy Patagonian mountainscape. I would return later with Kingfisher to launch for a sail out toward Bull Island. Along the ecotone just above the marsh flying insects filled the air: butterflies working the wildflowers, and dragonflies patrolling for prey. WIth Kingfisher launched, I stopped to survey my trailer. Time and salt water had taken their toll, and another member of the frame was preparing to collapse, requiring a sister. I had already rigged the loose cockpit rail on Kingfisher with the most expedient of solutions, duct tape.
The views, the atmosphere, the colors all gave the feeling of fall. The incessant boat traffic was generated by this special Saturday of the year – the first full day of the shrimp baiting season. It was not officially fall – no equinox yet – but all other indicators were pointing to that season. As I beat out Andersonville Creek heading toward Bulls Bay, an outboard occasionally roared by. I wondered if they knew what to encounter in terms of their shrimp catch. The previous evening I talked to neighbors at the landing as a shrimper had just returned from several hours in the Bay. When asked about his catch, he said six or seven, and when queried if this was pounds, he replied, no, shrimp. The same questioner tried it that evening, and got zero.
I anticipated an easy sail out to the Northeast point with the NE breeze, but it was already swinging around to the east, therefore the need for windward work. A strong outgoing tide pushed us along out into Bulls Bay.
As anticipated, dozens of outboards were spread around the Bay, setting out poles, or already making casting passes. The Bay was smooth, and the wind light but steady, allowing me to stay dry. The wind had definitely come around to the East, much earlier than forecast, and this was the wind I had sought for a sail across the Bay to Raccoon Key and back. It also would have been conducive for heading out around the Point and bearing off for a circumnavigation of the island. I decided to stick with my plans to land at the Point, and spend some time on foot on the island. I buried a piece of driftwood in the intertidal zone to provide an anchor for Kingfisher as a safety measure during my walk. Upon beginning my walk, the view back across the Bay displayed the numerous shrimp baiters at work.
After passing a couple people on the Point, I would see no others on the island except for four bike riders off the ferry. A piece of loggerhead carapace caught my attention, and reminded me of the exceptional nesting season in the refuge – 1645 loggerhead nests recorded. My eye turned away from the high tide debris, and more to the maritime islandscapes enhanced by the ensemble of clear air, blue skies, and fair weather cumulus clouds. Behind the Jacks Creek dike, more water was collecting in the marsh, with the flat profile of the beach allowing high tides to reach this low spot. At the closest proximity to the Jacks Creek secondary dike, water also continued to collect and expose this vulnerability. The scarp on the south terminus of the eroded dike appeared higher than ever. The view from the beach at this spot, the Little Boneyard, had clear blue skies as the backdrop.
The small creek draining the marsh between the beach and the Jacks Creek dike cut across the strand, and required ankle depth wading at this point of low tide. The Boneyard was just beyond, with its dark forms brought into sharp relief by the sands and blue sky. I pulled on long sleeves for a brief foray into the island’s interior. There were a few mosquitoes but not a high count. I passed several ponds but saw no alligators. I went to the pool frequented by Alligatorzilla, my old friend, but saw no sign. The adjacent pool had wonderful reflections of shrubs, palmettos, and clouds. I took a different route back to the Boneyard past New Pond. RIght before the beach in an open area a stand of prickly pear contrasted with the Atlantic beyond.
I kept a good pace on the return walk, since the tide was now rising toward Kingfisher. Birds caught my eye – an osprey returning to the island from over the ocean, and a collective of gulls and terns along the water’s edge. A black potsherd reminded me of our woeful understanding of Native Americans in the Lowcountry, and the poverty of that deficit. The islandscapes invigorated the surroundings: a remnant pine trunk with exposed roots as the foreground to palmettos on the strand and more on the dike; a ridge of sea oats tasseled with golden flowers and a cumulous ridge beyond. In sum total it was a sublime afternoon.
I had calculated where to berth Kingfisher and how long to stay on the island before the return. In rounding the Point, I kept my eye ahead to spot the solitary aluminum spar. It was quite a way past the jet skiing couple beached on the bank. But she was there, and the rising waters were a few feet from the stern. After securing all and raising sail we were off, running back across the Bay with the wind directly behind, and the tide rising. At times it was as if we were on parade, with shrimp poles and attendant shrimpers on either side of the channel running toward Andersonville Creek. Boats were still heading out to the Bay, and shrimpers calling it a day, as we ran in through the creeks. Passing a state shellfish ground sign, a perched boat tailed grackle beeped emphatically, and soon after a wood stork flew by. Dropping sail outside of the landing in the ICW, bringing Kingfisher around with paddle, and floating in between the docks, another wood stork hovered overhead, circled, and headed for its roost in the impoundment. We were both home for the night.