On Sunday, a cab picked me up at 8 AM sharp to take me back to Barefoot Landing Marina. The day opened cool but sunny as promised, with north winds 10 to 15 mph, and with the low tide at 9 AM. I pulled out my float bags for my legs, thinking this might help with the hip problems I was experiencing. Finally, everything was packed up, and I was ready to go. I slipped into the cockpit, secured the skirt around me, and untied my two stability lines from the cleat on the dock. I gracefully pulled away and started off heading west. It was a beautiful day. Shortly afterwards, I saw a raccoon scamper away from the edge of the water, and the usual cormorants and herons were already out finding food. The changing fall colors captured my attention. Soon after mile 355 I noticed more Cypress trees, growing out of the fresh water. Notwithstanding the fact that the tide was still moderately against me, this day was starting very well. The Sunday recreational boat traffic was moderate, and several boats came by to wish me well. Later, I passed the marina at Grand Dunes. About 8 miles later, I noticed that the current had completely turned into slack tide, which improved my mileage. Around mile 360, I noticed that we were passing a section where the canal went through high banks on both sides; we were now passing Myrtle Beach located well to the east. Several golf courses passed by. As I kept paddling, I noticed that the water cut was widening, and that nearly all of the trees were Cypress, growing in water. In fact, this low country showed very little in the way of above water ground. I was getting worried that I would not find anywhere to rest, and get out of the kayak, so I decided to stop at the Osprey Marina around mile 372.
There, I spoke with the manager, and they agreed to allow me to stay overnight on the property. Their restaurant was closed until Thursday due to fewer boats passing by, but I could order something from a delivery service. But it was only 3:15 PM and there was still plenty of good paddling to be done. I checked with one of the older boathands, and he thought high tide had been reached, and that therefore the current would be in my favor if I continued, and against me in the morning. I made the decision to continue paddling. About 3 miles later, I found myself in the Waccamaw River. According to the Waterway Guide, “The Waccamaw River, deep to its wooded banks, is possibly the most scenic part of the ICW route. Moss-draped cypresses line its side streams, and turtles sometimes sun themselves along the shore. Wildflowers of all descriptions grow in cypress stumps, and the water looks like tea”.
As I entered the Waccamaw River just short of mile 375, the sun continued its inexorable track to the horizon. It’s late afternoon rays shimmered off the soft waves into thousands of ever changing shapes in front of me. The tide continued to come in, covering the few tiny breaches until the cypress woods looked like a full swamp, with no dry land in sight. Truly, this was going to be a challenge to find someplace to camp. It was obvious that I would have to stay over at a marina.
I continued to paddle to the next marina, called the Bucksport Plantation Marina and RV Resort. As I approached it on the right side of the river, I could see people eating under a large structure, but I could also tell it was very noisy and unattractive, and made a big decision to keep on paddling. As time was growing short, I did not even stop there to rest my back, but kept going down river. The next marina and the last one available to me that afternoon would be the Wacca Wache Marina.
The next 6 and 1/2 miles were a combination of extraordinary beauty mixed with growing anxiety about reaching the marina before dark. I calmed myself down, reminding myself that God would provide, and He did. The recreational boats faded away and I found myself all alone on the darkening water. The rythmic stokes of the paddle bacame almost hypnotic as I pushed back the pain from sitting so long in the kayak. I finally came around a bend and saw in the distance boats and a restaurant 2 miles in the distance, and told my body just to keep on paddling – we were that close. Upon arrival, as the sun dipped below the woods to the southwest, I paddled into a boat slip in front of the side door to the open restaurant. There were people sitting outside as well, listening to live music. What a sight for sore eyes! I tied up Katie, so I could get out, and found it very difficult to get out of the boat. Once out, it was equally difficult to stand up without shooting pains in my hip. As soon as the pain subsided, I walked carefully to the bar and asked for the owner. I was introduced to Ken, who gave me permission to leave the kayak where it was, and to camp on the property. I immediately looked for and found a set of trees up the entranceway (and out of the water) where I could set up the tent out of eyesight. Once everything was set up, I took my clothes and stood by the men’s room until someone came out, and I went in. After a quick shower and fresh clothes, I rejoined the crowd at the bar and ordered a beer and fish tacos and gave thanks to the extraordinary blessings I had received this Sunday. With almost 29 miles paddled on a very nice day through the most scenic country yet seen, and with an ending as good as this one was, I gave the day a 5. Little did I realize as I went to sleep that the following day would lead to fatefull decisions that would have a major impact on the rest of this journey.