I
was tempted to title this report “Atlantic Ocean —June 14-15”,
following along with the traditional boast of native Charlestonians
that their city is located “where the Ashley River and Cooper
River meet to form the Atlantic Ocean.” It was also where 10
GCA paddlers (Mike Higgins, Evelyn Hopkins, Walter & Salena
Lynch, Rick & Jean Campbell, Rachel Gates, Brannen Proctor, and
Meg & I) met to learn the skills of sea kayaking from Anne Gould
and Chris at Coastal Expeditions, of Mount Pleasant, SC.

We
met at C.E. on Saturday to get geared up, then walked to the put-in
on Shem Creek. We kayaked down the creek, past moored shrimp boats
and umpty-leven seafood restaurants, then out into a sheltered part
of Charleston Harbor. It’s sheltered because of an island, Crab
Bank, to which we paddled. We took out on the island, then walked
around it gawking at the thousands of nesting pelicans, laughing
gulls, tri-color herons, and snowy egrets. I’m not sure how many
pelicans I had ever seen in my life before that day, but the number
instantly tripled. We stood 4 feet away from nests with tiny
hatchlings peeking out from under their parents, and the birds
weren’t even bothered. An impressive sight. The odor was equally
impressive when we got to the downwind side of the island.

After
lunch, we were back in the water practicing sea kayak rescues, both
assisted and unassisted with paddle floats. You have to have a
different idea about rescue when the bank is a mile away. I fooled
around a while and finally figured out how to roll a sea kayak. The
C-to-C doesn’t work very well; you need a big long sweep. Evie
persevered and got a sea kayak roll as well. We were the only two
experienced kayakers on the trip (except for Meg, who does not
roll, thank you), so the rest of the group mostly worked on strokes
and rescues.

Around
four o’clock we noticed a big black cloud bearing down on us and we
made a run for the creek. Unfortunately, all the power boats were
doing the same thing, so it got a little busy. Sure, you’re been run
over by a raft. Have you ever been run over by a 20 foot sport
fisherman with twin 150 Mercs? We weren’t, of course, but it was a
little dicey.

About
half way back to the shelter of Shem Creek, the storm hit, hard. The
wind and waves picked up, visibility dropped way down, and the rain
poured on us. Jean was paddling slower than most of us (it was,
after all, only her second time in a boat). She smiled and said “You
just go on, I’m fine.” I explained that we don’t do things that
way and dropped my stroke rate down to back her up. Chris, our
junior instructor, was running sweep and madly counting heads
whenever he could see that far ahead.

We
reached the creek just as the lightning started. It got close fast,
so we hunkered down under the bridge until it had passed, then
paddled the last 100 yards to the take-out.

After
warm showers back at our respective motels or B&Bs, we convened
at “The Wreck”, one of the restaurants on the creek. The
place is a wreck, but the food is great. Highly recommended.
Folks were particularly taken with the fried grits. Check the beer
selection on the way in, because the waitresses can’t remember them
all, especially the imports.

Sunday
we loaded up the boats and drove to the beach on Sullivan’s island.
The tide was out, so it was calm. We worked on high and low braces,
brace turns — get up some speed, lay down a low brace flat on the
water as far back as you can reach, and lean on it — and more
rescues.

After
lunch the tide was coming in, so SURF’S UP! Several of us paddled
out and kayak in the 4-5 foot breakers. There were a few flips, but
no swims, as the water was only about 3 feet deep.

So
let’s say there were a few stand-ups. Sea kayaks are amazingly
stable in big water. That’s the point of those boats, of course, but
even people who don’t like busy water were getting air going over the
crests and grinning while they did it.

Doing
sea kayak rescues in 5 foot waves is a hoot, too. The waves were
hard to catch, but when you did you got an exhilarating ride. The
ride usually ended with the boat broaching to the wave, necessitating
a hasty lean. Quick, which way is downstream in the ocean? Wrong!

By
the time you read this, a second group of GCA sea kayakers has done
this trip. If you’re interested, I have scheduled a third trip in
September, this one with more touring. See the announcement
elsewhere in this Eddy Line for more info.

by
Steve Cramer
From The Eddy Line, August 1997