Monday dawned cold and clear. There were no mosquitoes to welcome me as I came out of my hammock tent, just a quiet in the early morning light prior to sun up. I became immediately aware of the soreness in my right hip area, but packed up as quickly as possible, as I wanted to take advantage of the later part of the ebb tide moving down the Waccamaw River. By the time I was ready to pack up the kayak, there were a few boatmen holding their hot cups of coffee for warmth. It did not take me long before I was in the cockpit, and backing up from the dock to move into the channel to catch the current going my way. The marina quickly slid out of sight, although the glow from such a fine evening stayed with me for miles. I was again quite alone in this ever-widening river, as more and more creeks joined from both sides. It seemed like only minutes before I was passing the next marina, which was actually the Reserve Harbor Yacht Club at mile 388 on my left. At this point, the river was between a quarter and a third of a mile across, but still it retained its magical hold on me. I came to a stop near some electric poles sitting in 2 feet of water, among a stand of water plants that held me tight, so that I could turn my chart over to be able to see the next 8 miles or so. I noticed that I had previously marked on the chart that the next marina was past mile 394, again on the left, and made the decision to stop there for a rest and get something to eat, as I had not had any breakfast yet (too cold at the start of each morning).
When I arrived at the Heritage Plantation Marina, the tide was whipping by at a good clip, so I came in at the dock closest to the shore where the current was not as strong, and landed right where the dockmaster was standing. I tied up, and with some pain, got out of the kayak and onto the dock, which was at the height of my armpit. The dockmaster very nicely invited me in, and we discussed tides and possible locations for camping out past Georgetown. I had already marked on the chart that past that upcoming city, there would be no food or supplies for the next 27 miles. We discussed what the best marina would be for me to set up my tent that night, and he recommended that I stay at the last marina available, as it was 4 miles or so past the city – therefore, more likely to let me set up somewhere around the marina location. After breakfast, and use of the bathroom, I went down with him back to the kayak, limping as I walked down the gangway, and eased my way into Katie, and back into the current.
As I paddled these past two days, I found myself asking some tough questions about how much longer I could or should continue. Not only was I experiencing more physical pain but also a general sense of physically running out of gas, as it were. Psychologically, I was getting very tired of the constant worrying about where to sleep, where to get my rest every 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours to give my back a break, where to get some good food to eat, what the weather would bring, when to paddle without having to fight the increasingly powerful tidal currents, where the wind was blowing, with me or against me, etc. etc. Ahead of me in another 65 miles lay a large bay where Charleston was located, and beyond Beaufort, large inlets and sounds where I would again be exposed to the ocean and other elements of the weather. Then there were concerns that many boatmen had shared with me about Georgia, with up to 9 foot tides with really strong tidal currents, with marshes that would not easily provide places for me to camp, and with increasing populations of alligators. I very much had the sense that I had already paddled the best sections of this Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, and I was running out of the necessary energy to face these additional challenges. These thoughts kept running through my mind, and when I asked our Lord what should I do, I just kept getting similar messages, that He would let me know.
The Waccamaw River was now getting wider, and ahead I could see the Lafayette fixed bridge with its standard 65 foot height clearance. By the time I got there, the tidal current was in its slack stage, meaning it would be in flood stage shortly, running against me. I decided that I had enough food for the next stage, and could resupply with water at the Belle Isle marina. I therefore crossed over the Great Pee Dee River, coming from the right to join the Waccamaw, and paddled to a small beach where I could rest. I tried to lift myself out of the kayak, and sharp pains hit me again in the right upper hip area. I had trouble bending over to pull my water and snack bag from the front storage locker. Wow, this is not good. Once back into the kayak, I passed the entrance to the Sampit River, where the city of Georgetown was located. The Waterway Guide had some nice things to say about the city, but I felt the need to paddle on.
I arrived at my destination around 3:45 PM, near mile 406. There was more pain in getting out of the kayak. There I met an older gentleman named Anthony, who was working on his pontoon boat. I explained what I was doing, and that I needed to camp over for the night. The dockmaster was not there, but Anthony took me in his truck to the dockmaster’s home, where I explained what I was doing and what I needed to the dockmaster’s wife. (I had difficulty getting into and out of his vehicle). She was very nice, and said I could stay for no charge, and as Anthony drove me back, he said it would be ok to set up my tent in some woods near the marina and some new townhouses, located in an old battlefield. When everything was set up, I called Grace to tell her about the thoughts I was having, my physical infirmities, my doubts about continuing. She in turn told me about her inability to sleep, being so worried about me. In a matter of minutes, we both came to a decision that I should stop the journey, and get me back home and see my doctor about the physical issues that I had. We decided that I would go back up to Georgetown, where she would meet me Wednesday morning. After the call, I felt both a great sense of relief as well as huge disappointment that suddenly, this journey seemed to be over.
I rated this day a 3 – good paddling with the current giving me a total of 23 miles, offset by this final decision.