Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A grand wee adventure: part 1

SandyBottom and I had planned a three-day, 100-mile (160km) sea kayak trip to scout for our September WaterTribe North Carolina Challenge (NCC). Using Top Spot chart N239, this is our story…

After a comfy night camping at Cedar Island’s Driftwood campground, the boats were packed, prepped and ready for action ten minutes before the 0730 ferry departed beside us. Not a breath of wind, after a very gusty night—and it remained that way for the first four to five hours—absolutely still.

Our first ten miles (16kms)—on a course of 300 degrees—took us to the northern end of Raccoon Island, a bombing range for the military, complete with an abandoned super hull in the middle of an inner bay, sadly awaiting its purpose as target practise. Tucking around the point, but far off enough to skirt the restricted zone, we entered the Neuse River. From here on all new territory for me—I hadn’t appreciated what an expanse of water there is in this area to play about in and explore.

By the time we crossed the entrance to South River, tell-tale signs of impending wind on the water promised a bit more action. A 20 minute break for a late lunch on a sandy point on the nor-eastern head of the IntraCoastal Waterway signalled the start of the headwinds we were to experience for the rest of the day—a good 10-15 knots in all.

We hugged the coast from the ICW to the mouth of Clubfoot Creek, and along the banks of the creek, trying to find some shelter—not much luck. Though with finally entering the Harlowe Canal—narrow and heavily treelined—we could finally rest, particularly with the 1-2 knot current helping us along.

The Harlowe Canal is truly a work of wonder—narrow and surprisingly deep enough—with three bridges to pass under. The sailing boats in the NCC will definitely have to dismast and paddle most of the Canal, but it will not only give them time to enjoy the vista, but also level out the playing field somewhat for the kayakers.

Once the tree line cut away back to reeds, the wind hit us again. We began looking for possible campsites, and have two new gouges on my hull to attest to the numerous hidden oyster beds along the banks of the Canal as we neared the Newport River.

The sun nearly down we stormed across the Newport in a stiff headwind and harbour chop to find some shelter on the southern side of the river, to now look in earnest for somewhere to lay our heads.

At 45 miles (72.5kms) a lone jetty stuck out, and we checked for a possible site above that. Clear grass, and a wee bit trepidly we dragged/carried my boat up and over the concrete block rip rap, and laid SB’s on the dock. Tents up, changed, a hot meal in our bellies, and we hit the sack.

Around 0200 we awoke to a commotiion on the water—a motor straining against the mud that trapped it, and two folks yelling in language that can’t be printed here—trying to find their put in—all obviously oiled with beer. After a hour or so of constant barraging one another and the woman screaming that “Joe’s not happy with you”, they docked at the end of our jetty, which turned out to be “home” for the boat.

I got dressed and out of my tent to see if any help was needed—with the language still flying and commotion continuing in trying to clear the boat away, I was just about back in my tent when a truck pulled up the driveway, its headlights illuminating our boats. We’d been rumbled. I immediately went over to the truck, introduced myself to Joe and apologized for camping on what was obviously private property. No trouble, said a very weary Joe, it’s my uncle’s property and he’s now living way down the road. But that’s my soon-to-be-ex-wife you can hear, and they seem to have ruined my very expensive boat.

On seeing her soon-to-be-ex-husband arrive, the soon-to-be-ex-wife stumbled up the jetty, and immediately tripped over my very well carlights-lit kayak. Joe sighed another sigh of deep weariness, and soothingly put her up in the cab of the truck, told her to stay there and went to assess the damage to his boat. Seeing that I was no longer needed, I bid my farewell and repaired to my tent. They all left within minutes. We slept…

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