Today my friend and I needed to be rescued.
It all started simple enough. The Matanzas Christmas Bird Count is Saturday and I wanted to check out an area for kayaking for the count. My friend Paige, who grew up in the area, said she would go with me. I selected the nearest boat ramp which is along the intracoastal waterway (ICW) at the Rte 206 bridge. Paige had not launched from this ramp before, but she was familiar with our destination. She agreed it was the closest ramp that did not require us to cross the ICW but could be difficult at low tide.
The weather looked to be sunny and warm today with 11 knots of wind. We preferred to have less wind, but it was tolerable. We launched at high tide and planned to return before the tide got too low.
We headed north along the marsh, looking for the mouth of Moses Creek. The marsh is a maze of little pathways that lead nowhere. Upon entering one of those pathways, Paige felt something was wrong and checked her GPS. We were too far north. The wind had increased, so I checked my weather app and it now said the winds would be 17 knots. Not good.
We started back south and when we got to more open water, which was necessary to traverse to get where we needed to be, Paige said she knew 20 knot winds and these were 20 knot winds. There were whitecaps on the water. We tried to head back and had great difficulty making headway. Paige showed me that an easier way was to get out of the kayak and walk the kayak through the marsh. It was slow going and worked until we hit one of those water pathways through the marsh and the water was too deep. We had to get in the kayak and paddle past these spots while waves crashed over us and then try walking again. The bridge next to the boat ramp suddenly appeared very far away to me.
I checked my app again and it was up to 18 knots and showing no sign of slowing down until after sunset. This was not the plan. The wind was obviously stronger on the open water.
We were wearing out. I was contemplating how lousy the day was going to be walking through the salt marsh in water up to our knees for over a mile and dealing with the relentless wind. Kayaking in this wind was almost undoable. Having the energy to make it back to the ramp seemed out of the question.
Then Paige had an idea. She has lots of relatives in the area and said she would get someone to rescue us, starting with a call to her husband. At this point, we were at the mouth to Moses Creek and headed up the creek to get out of the wind. We saw a father and daughter kayaking toward the ICW and told them it was rough out there. They gave a polite reply that I don’t remember and kept going while we headed up the creek to get to a dry shore, arrange for a rescue, and eat lunch. Twenty minutes after we stopped, the father and daughter kayakers showed up. They were looking for a way to walk back. They had wheels with their kayaks, so they could walk them. We had stopped at an overnight camping area that had a kiosk with a map, so the team figured out if they paddled another mile or so up the creek, they could get out and walk about a mile to get back to their car. We didn’t have wheels.
Paige called her husband Kevin who immediately headed out with their daughter Kai and her boyfriend Job to help us out. Kevin was bringing a Gheenoe which is a canoe with a motor on it. The plan was to strap the kayaks to the side of the Gheenoe and all of us ride in the Gheenoe back.
Paige and I enjoyed the scenery while waiting for Kevin to arrive. We were on an elevated place and with binoculars I could see Kevin in the distance. He stopped, then starting going the wrong way. He was stuck. He got out of it but it was a bad omen for what was to come.
Kevin arrived at our picnic spot and tied the kayaks to the Gheenoe and we loaded our gear to leave which was easier said than done. The tide was significantly lower and we were standing in muck. Kevin did all the dirty work while Paige and I tucked ourselves into the Gheenoe and held the kayaks and Kevin sunk in mud up to his armpits. Okay, it wasn’t that bad but I’m sure Kevin was not enjoying it.
Getting out of Moses Creek turned out to be harder than coming in. Kevin ran aground frequently because of the low tide and the strong wind made it difficult to get out of the situation. He spent more time out of the boat than in it while walking us through the oyster beds. If the water never got too deep, he could have walked us all the way back. There are deep spots and there are shallow spots and it was a mess. Every time we got to deeper water and Kevin tried to start the motor, the wind would push us back near the marsh grasses. It was slow going.
The closer we got to the ICW and the more the wind was an impact, the more Kevin realized we could not get back to the boat ramp. He would have to head out to deeper water in the ICW and go against the wind. Also, the boat ramp might now have been inaccessible at such a low tide.
Kevin or Paige called Kai and Job and had them drive to a boat ramp across the ICW to pick us up. THis was a different boat ramp than where we launched. The wind was more favorable in that direction and the boat ramp was more accessible at low tide. It was a long journey across the ICW and there was lots of bird activity. We saw a bald eagle catch a fish and many pelicans diving in one area. The scenery was beautiful.
We got to the boat ramp and they tied my kayak on top of their truck and we drove back to the original boat ramp so I could load the kayak on my car and we all headed home.
Thank you Paige for the adventure and thank you Kevin (and Kai and Job) for rescuing us.
It brings to mind the time I scouted prior to a Matanzas Christmas Bird Count in 2018 and almost sunk the Jeep (see here). Hmmmm.
Regis will say it was a successful day because I am unlikely to be discussing the purchase of a boat any time soon. What a way to end a crazy year.
On the lighter side of things, I picked up the two baby killdeers that made it successfully through Christmas. They could not possibly be cuter. They are very noisy and cheep constantly. The first time they quieted down after bringing them home, I was worried something was wrong and checked on them. That started them up again. Sleeping dogs and babies should be left alone, same for killdeers if you want any peace. Notice how long the legs are on these little chicks. The minute I met these guys and listened to all that peeping, I named them Pip and Squeak. Pip is the smaller one.