Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Weekend Trip - Sneads Ferry

It’s always fun to get away to paddle and camp. This past weekends trip offered some nice distance (about 42 miles total) was also a great shakedown paddle preparing for a longer week-long trip at the Outer Banks next month, and an opportunity to paddle a section of the ICW I’d not paddled before.

From Swansboro South to Sneads Ferry, mostly through an area completely undeveloped, part of the Camp Lejuene Marine Corps Base.

Five of us left early Sat morning from Lee’s house in Swansboro, after first carbo loading with a great breakfast of banana pancakes, than paddling south to the town of Sneads Ferry.

Craig about to seal launch off Lee’s floating dock.

It was a great day, a bit overcast but keeping it from getting too hot, and the ICW offered nice protection from the 10-12 mph headwinds. It wasn’t until we paddled off the ICW to check out Brown’s Inlet that we even noticed the wind, but decided it was enough that we wouldn't change the plan by going outside, an attractive option Lee and I had hoped for. We did stop at the inlet for a nice picnic lunch.  (Picture of Barrett on right).

Much of the ICW in this area is on military lands, and they don't let you forget it (no trespassing signs, lights when flashing for firing practice, and rusted tanks and other targets about).  But the water is beautiful and clear and full of fish and shells. 

Sherman was a paddler I'd not met previous to this trip.  He paddles a Tarpon sit-on-top, and was a very strong and fast paddler among all us skinny boaters.

21 miles and 7 hours later, we passed the turn at the New River Inlet, and landed at the Marina where we’d worked out tent camping arrangements (very convenient with bathroom and shower facilities).  We even had a great seafood dinner, when the owner of  ‘The Green Turtle’ picked us all up and drove us back later that evening, very nice.

During the night we had some rain, and by morning the winds had really picked up, 20-25 mph, but South, and at our backs. Paddling back inside again on the ICW, I’d occasionally pop my sail (Pacific Action Sail), but found my sailing speeds 6mph+ were just a bit too fast to stay together, though all of us were nicely averaging 5-5.5 mph with the push.  Throughout the day we’d have the occasional yacht (snow birds still returning from Florida) pass us, adding to the wind swells for short surf.

Just for fun, we finished with a short paddle on one of the canoe trails in the salt marshes near Dudley Island, and stopped quickly at Barrier Island Kayaks when passing by, but found no one around. I’m planning to try the new NDK foam seats, thinking it’ll help with my numb toes.  I'll just have to give Lamar a call.

We finished back at Lee's early afternoon, packed up, and hit the Dairy Queen.  Thanks Lee (below), your a great trip organizer.

Oh, I even saw a house on the ICW that I can probably afford in my retirement :)


Friday, April 23, 2010

All in the Family

WaterTribe has started registration signups for the 2012 Ultimate Florida Challenge.  It might seem a bit early but it's a big event, an unsupported 1200 mile circumnavigation around Florida, including a 40 mile portage between the St Mary's and Suwanneee Rivers.  I've decided to plan for it, and have signed myself up.  Lots of time to get ready.

SandyBottom during 2006 UFC

I participated in this Challenge in 2006, and had created a website which was also the beginning of this blog, and a very exciting adventure.  WaterTribe also ran the event this March, it was great fun watching the SPOT tracking data of the challengers, and reading and participating in the exciting reports on the WaterTribe forum

Then the other day I received this email (via Ham Radio) from my son Alan, currently somewhere in the Pacific Ocean between the Galapagos and Marquesas Islands, sailing around the world with EYE of theWorld.
I would love to do the UFC with you in 2012. I think we would be a pretty good team. Full on racing right? :)   Ideas in my head:
  • Tandem folding bike?
  • Spinnakers lots of spinnakers
  • At least 3 masts and sails with TWIN PAS rigs
  • We'll need big solid outriggers to support all the sails
  • Maybe a bigger rudder
  • Some hiking benches
 JUST KIDDING. well at least a little.
I think we could put together something pretty good. Would you be interested in any other type of vessels other than a double kruger? Do you think we could borrow one?  I know there isn't much else out there that would be as good but just in case I think of something.  My biggest problem would of course be that I don't have a paddling "base" like you and would not be trained for paddling the whole way if i got back late 2011 and raced in march 2012. Thus my mind turns to sailing. I would like going offshore on the east coast like some of the boats this year did and I'll bet you would rather be in the waterways.
Lets keep talking about it. If we sail around South Africa then I may be back in time.
Alan UFC
I just love this son of mine.  In 2007 we paddled the Missour River (MR340) race together in 2007, and had alot of fun.  Alan (SOS) has also particpated in the WaterTribe Everglades Challenge, in 2007 with 3 of his college roomates in sailing outrigger canoes they built themselves, and in 2008 with Paul (Dances with SandyBottom) in our CoreSound20 that he and Paul built.  Paul and Alan again raced together in the 2009 North Carolina Challenge.

Alan and friends in 2007 Watertribe Everglades Challenge

DancesWithSandyBottom and SOS in 2008 EC

Paul's response to all this, "OMG you created a monster"  :)  

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Numb Toes

I spend every March, April, and May, sometimes even into June after each year’s March WaterTribe Everglades Challenge with numb toes, usually my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th toes, both feet. This year is no different. I’ve never been able to figure out why. It can’t be good. After a few months the numbness goes away, everything feels normal again, and is soon forgotten.

I have a pretty strong push with my feet during my paddling stroke. My NDK Explorer is outfitted with a foam bulkhead rather than foot pegs, so there is a lot of pressure on my toes, not just the balls of my feet. But Paul says I’ve had numb toes when I’ve paddled my Kruger DreamCatcher in previous EC’s too, and that boat has foot pegs and a rudder.

Some have suggested it has to do with my seat. But my explorer seat has always felt like a perfect fit, it’s almost as if they made the mold using me as the model. My usual posture is not straight legged, my knees are up just enough to have thigh contact with the deck, so I don’t think my seat is putting pressure under my legs/butt.

During the EC, one is often sitting in their kayak for up to 18 hrs, sometimes longer, every day for 5-6 days. There have been years when I’ve sat in it for more than 24 hours without getting out (there are ways, don’t ask:) But yes, this is not normal, so maybe not so surprising to have numb toes.

Anyone got any ideas?

Oh, and these are my new shoes, and they really comfortable shoes.  Probably my new paddling shoes now that the water is warmer.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

EC Freak Out

I’m a bit of a tough old broad, not much of a girly girl, and little in kayaking scares me anymore, including kayak sailing. This is not true regards sailing in general which I am just learning, but as Silbs used to always say, I digress… However, there was that one day during this year’s EC where I let myself get freaked out.

The WaterTribe Everglades Challenge, from Tampa Bay to Key Largo offers many different options for routing, on the Gulf, various ICWs, and other various routes in and out along the way that one can choose. Actually working out navigation for an EC is really one of the fun things I think. Except for the requirement to check-in at 3 different checkpoints along the way, challengers can choose to navigate whatever suits them, often determined by weather, camping options, and some by boat type. I usually set off each year with a goal to try at least one different route, and have done so every year I’ve participated.

I’ve also found I really enjoy taking the Everglades Wilderness Waterway, even though it adds an additional 30 miles. The WW is just beautiful, a labyrinth of mangrove swamps, islands, and grassy shallows, and where submerged logs are likely to be gators. You sleep at beach campsites or, where no dry land exists, on wooden platforms called chickees, constructed by the Park Service. I’ve taken the WW now 4 times. Even inside the waterway, there are narrow cuts one can take and explore.

This year, my plan was to take the WW route called the “Nightmare” between the Broad River and Broad Creek. Warnings are written that you can only take this route at high tide, so WaterTribe allows one to leave Broad River out to the Gulf, and come back in joining the Waterway off Broad Creek, or the Harney River if the tides are wrong.  I’d previously paddled Broad Creek in from the Gulf with KiwiBird in 2007, and recalled it was a nightmare. So I wasn’t sure what something actually called "The Nightmare" would be like, but I was going to do it.

Broad Creek in 2007 in Kruger DreamCatcher, a narrow twisty tangled Creek of fallen trees.

Planning the tides, I actually left the night’s campsite about 4:30 in the morning with KiwiBird, KneadingWater, and Seiche still sleeping. I would have to fight the incoming tide on the Broad to hit the Nightmare at full tide. There is a very narrow twisty short-cut off the Waterway at Cabbage Island toward the Broad that I’d taken before. It’s so small it’s actually just called ‘The Cutoff’. Just before getting to it I saw Scareman paddling and opting for the longer route hoping he’d get to work some sail on the River. I tried to tell him that inside the WW, it didn’t seem to matter the direction of the wind, any turn you take is a headwind, but I also didn’t think he’d fit in the cut with his large outriggers, so we split and I headed into the cut.

The thick purple line shows the cut on it's right, narrow purple line shows the longer WW route.

I did remember that when I’d taken this route before, I’d seen more alligators than any other section of the WW. But I was feeling a bit brave… until I started seeing them. These are really really big alligators. Alone, I found myself too scared to even look at them. I couldn’t take a picture because I knew my flash was set to on, I just didn’t want them to even think about me. Aligator picture below taken a couple years ago in this same cut, they've grown even more.

I was actually still okay until I saw and/or heard alligators ahead of me slip in the water in front of me, and then I’d see their trail of bubbles going under my kayak. It was finally when I heard one crashing in the woods, jumping in the water in front of me, and then thrashing in the water on the side of me, and saw his bubbles going under my boat that I was finally totally freaked out, just waiting for him to start thrashing under my kayak.

I had a big sigh of relief when I finally got out onto the River, hoping I’d see Scareman (I didn’t). I kept paddling against the tide the remaining 5 miles to the entrance of the Nightmare. As planned, it was full tide and I just sat there and sat there looking at this narrow little creek. The longer I sat there, the more I just psyched myself out. I kept hoping Scareman would show up and I could talk him into entering with me, I even hung around the Broad River Chickee right next to the entrance, had a little lunch and still no one showed up.

In the end, I just chickened out, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I knew it would actually be a harder and much longer paddle going out and around on the Gulf. There were small craft advisories with 15-20 mph winds out of the South, yet still, I chose to go out. And it was a tough paddle, white caps breaking over 2-3 feet swells in the shallow waters near the shoreline, and a hard headwind. But it still seemed the right thing to me at the time.

I spent the rest of the day paddling alone, got back on the Waterway at the Harney River, then towards the Shark River Chickee that we'd reserved for our camp that night. KiwiBird, KneadingWater, and Seiche all  started later in the morning than I, and each had chose to take the Nightmare even at a lower tide. We all eventually hooked up together only a few hundred yards in front of our Chickee just at night fall.  They reported it wasn’t such a big deal.

Guess I’ll try for it again next year.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Goose Creek Island Paddle N Party - Part 2

By Friday all the out-of-towner paddlers had arrived, Don, Sandy, Greg, Marianne, Chuck, Beth, Peggy, Steven (with a small motor skiff), Scott made it but a bit later that night. We all sat around visiting, getting to know each other, drinking beer (lots of beer), and eating steamed oysters and boiled shrimp. A couple folks eventually went out to dinner in Aurora, but I was just having too much fun to leave the boatyard.

Our paddle for Saturday was all planned out with a launch at 10am, and lead by Islander’s Zack with assist by John. We were a very varied group of paddlers, dogs, and kayak (see slide show below), some offering history of the area, some identifying bird sounds, all laughing and enjoying each other’s company.

We headed out the channel from the boat yard into Jones Bay, and into a fog that was just beginning to burn off. We paddled across the Bay and headed east into a slight head wind towards a cut called Ditch Creek (which is a much prettier place than the name would have you believe). Ditch Creek is a narrow creek that cuts thru Jones Island and comes out at Bay River on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW).

Not many places to land, with lots of salt marsh and sea grass. Just passing the point off Jones Island there was what looked to be a couple of rather large cabins, on a well landscaped property. A turn out this is the Jones Island Hunt Club.  The caretaker not only allowed us to stop and picnic, he offered cans of OFF bug spray. The weather this weekend with its cool mornings and nights left the mosquitoes a bit groggy I think, as they were not much problem for me.

After lunch we paddled down the ICW a ways and turned back to Jones Bay to the Boat Yard, we were passed by a few yachts heading north. And occasionally Shawn would motor out on his pontoon boat checking us out, but more likely just a bit lonely without us all :)  Total trip was 8.19 miles.

Once back, we all enjoyed an Easter egg hunt planned by Chrissy, and some bolo golf (a modification of horseshoes).

That night, we had a real party, and a feast; beer butt chickens cooked on the grill, steamed oysters and shrimp, potato salad, pasta salad, deviled eggs, green and tomato casserole, cole slaw, hush puppies and boatyard crackers. Then after dinner, Islander Gary our DJ started playing and there was dancing and karaoke well past midnight.

Sunday morning, another feast; breakfast casserole, grilled sausage, stewed apples, muffins, juice, coffee. Scott was the first to leave as he had the longest drive back to TN. Marianne and Chuck, with dogs, went out for another paddle. I opted for the pontoon ride exploring more of the ICW North towards the Pamlico River.

All good things come to an end, and people started packing, eating leftovers for lunch, and getting back on the rode. But I’m already planning my return, as I’ve got some unfinished business, paddling around that Island. Maybe this or next weekend.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Goose Creek Island Paddle N Party - Part 1

I’m not only all about hard core paddling. Sure I love to paddle hard, and long, but I can appreciate a nice relaxing recreational and social paddle/gathering as much as anyone. So when I read the trip description below, I decided it would be a perfect 3 day weekend at the coast.  Paul had some work he wanted to do on our sailboat, and of course there were the taxes, so he sent me off with good wishes.

Goose Creek Island Paddle and Party Fest
   Come join us in paddling the Pamlico Sound Estuaries; Jones Bay, NC Intercoastal Waterway, and side creeks near Hobucken, NC. We will camp at the boat yard on the channel leading into Jones Bay. There will be campsites available. Campsites will have a porta john and water at the boat yard.
   If you arrive early Friday, you can set out on your own and paddle that day. Bring your own supper Friday night and breakfast Saturday morning. Friday night there will be a party/get together with music in the boat yard. On Saturday we will do a 10-13 mile paddle trip from the boat yard out into Jones Bay and through Jones Island back around ending back up at the boat yard.
   Saturday night, supper will be included and we will have beer can chicken, fresh seafood and other foods. Also Saturday night there will be a party with DJ and karaoke at the boat yard. On Sunday breakfast will be provided at the boatyard. Cost will be $40 per person and this includes the camping, supper Saturday night, party with DJ Saturday night, and breakfast on Sunday.

The event was planned by Don Meece, a regular among the Lumber River Canoe Club, and Sampson County Waterways Association, and someone I'd wanted to meet for a long time. Though primarily a canoer and river paddler, Don's daughter and her husband now live on the coast in Hobucken (way down Eastern NC), and they had arranged this event with Shawn, the owner of Pate’s Boatyard, who'd set up a nice campground on his property.

Photos of Pate's Boatyard

I arrived Thursday night and planned a solo paddle Friday before the group was to arrive.  I was warmly welcomed by Don, his  wife Sandy, his daughter Chrissy and her husband John, Shawn, and a few of the local Island residents. Evidently Shawn's Boatyard is a bit of a community center for the Island, and clearly "the place to be".  Quite a few glasses of wine and lots of delicious steamed oysters later, I headed to my tent for the night.

I woke feeling great (surprisingly), and got set up for a long ~28 mi paddle circumnavigating Goose Creek Island. All part of some scouting for an eventual 300 mile WaterTribe North Carolina Challenge being planned for 2012. We'll have the 50 and 100 mile NCC this September 2010.

I gave Shawn my SPOT track URL to follow online.  Though I was very prepared for this solo paddle, and he was clearly quite surprised at the amount of safety gear I carried, there was some concern with 15 mph E winds. It was a long distance, and the Albemarle Sound is not always a tame place with it's large fetch. Part of my journey would also be on the ICW, and with the SnowBirds now starting to make their way back North from Florida, there can often be quite big waves from their wakes in the narrower canals of the ICW.

I left about 8am, into headwinds down Jones Bay. On the Sound, the swells were 1-3 ft with the large fetch, but I was making good speed and progress, occasionally popping my Pacific Action Sail when I could get a good beam reach.

The only picture I took during the paddle leaving Jones Bay

About 10am I stared getting the shakes and not feeling too well. I decided I was getting chilled, the water is still cold, and I was getting wet.  I beached to put on a jacket.  Unfortunately, I also started to realize this was more "late onset hangover" than anything else, and I started to get very nauseous and sick to my stomach.  The coastline of the sound here is completely undeveloped; there is little else but salt marsh, duck blinds, and an occasional nice sandy beach.  I continued heading North, figuring if I could make it thru a cut in Mouse Harbour and around into the ICW,  I'd more likely find a road and some help. (Shawn later told me finding a road didn't mean I'd ever find anyone on it :)  The whole Island only has a population of about 300.

As I entered Mouse Harbor, quite a bit dehydrated and weak, I spotted a small fishing boat going down a little creek. I decided to follow and ask him for help. I'm sure I surprised him, he asked if I was lost and I responded with "yes and more, I needed some help". Luck would have it that he had stopped at a dock which had a 6 mile dirt driveway, I could call someone to come get me. I managed to get Shawn's number. My fisherman was named Troy, he was a crabber, and hunting/fishing guide on the island, and was able to tell Shawn how to find me.  Troy left with his boat full of crab pots before Shawn came, but he warned me not to go walking down the road, as this area is pretty forested and full of Black Bears.

I was back at the Boatyard by 1:30, in time to start meeting the other paddlers who came down for the weekend. We were a small group of about 10 from out-of-town.

Luckily for me, I started to feel much better later that aftenoon, because the "Party" part of the weekend was starting, again.

To be continued...

Sunday, April 04, 2010

I've Not Forgotten

Yes I still owe you some trip reports from my 2010 WaterTribe Everglades Challenge.  I promise to get to it soon. 

KiwiBird has completed all her trip reports of the EC on her blog, she really is a great story teller.  And though we didn't always paddle together, we did camp at the same campsites, and with KneadingWater and Seiche.  I think we may have paddled together more this year than during any one of the previous 4 EC years.  So, please check out her postings for Days 1 thru 7 starting March 23rd, as we often shared similar experiences.

To reduce the redundancy, I'll eventually post about the EC in a different format, picking topics rather than a play by play of each day, for example:  "solo or not", "kayak sailing", and "letting the alligators freak me out".  So I'll get to these over the next month or two.

The past couple weeks I've been busy following the WaterTribe Ultimate Florida Challenge, 1200 mile race around Florida.  It was so exciting to sit back and watch it thru the discussion forum and the SPOT trackers.  Enough so, that I'm pretty sure I'll be doing it again in 2012 :)

On the paddling front, I just got back from a GREAT weekend at Goose Creek Island, a 3 day Paddle n Party.  Paul posted a bit about it below.  Quite the social event, possibly a bit more party then paddle.  More to report on this too.  Saturday night Karaoke below.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Goose Creek Island, NC: Kayak Club Paddle

SandyBottom paddled with other kayak club members Saturday on a short trip from Pate Boatyard: SE on Jones Bay, SW to the Bay River, NNE up the ICW back again.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Goose Creek Island, NC: Friendly Pate Boatyard

At 8:00am Friday Sandybottom left Pate Boatyard in Hobucken, to paddle around Goose Creek Island. Her path [white track in image above] from Pate Boatyard was ESE out Jones Bay. At 10:30 she reached the Pamlico Sound, turned NNE and called home. By 11:40 she had turned west, come inland through Mouse Harbor, and called home to say she was sick (vomiting, etc.) and was calling it a day. Someone at Pate Boatyard kindly drove her vehicle the 6 miles to pick her up [yellow track in image above]. She was back at Pate's by 1:20pm and headed to her tent to take a nap. Pate Boatyard is hosting members of two kayaking clubs this weekend for camping and kayaking. The remainder of the circumnavigation [purple track in image above] will have to wait for another day. Sandybottom reported that the area is indeed very beautiful and that she is looking forward to return visits. Stay tuned for her trip report (conditions, sea state, skirting a bombing range, helpful crab fisherman, lots of bears, friendly folks at Pate Boatyard , etc.)

Overview of the area

A History of Pate Boatyard

"Pate Boatyard is something of an institution on Goose Creek island, or more specifically, in the village of Hobucken, NC."

This accurate summary is a quote from the current owner of Pate Boatyard (from ) who wrote the following short history...

"When white settlers first sought refuge here some 300 years ago they did so primarily for the abundance of seafood that was readily available as well as the numerous well protected creeks and bays.

Generation after generation of Goose Creek islanders grew up knowing that the bounty of blue crabs, oysters and the many species of native fish would sustain them and their families, just as they had the native populations for thousands of years before. Located where the Neuse and Pamilico rivers empty into the Pamlico sound, this area today not only continues to support various commercial fishing enterprises, but also an increasing number of recreational fishermen.

Integral to fishing these waters have always been the various types of watercraft used to get out to the fish, oysters and crabs. From the humble dugout canoe to wooden skiffs, to modern steel-hulled trawlers and fiberglass yachts, this island has seen virtually every type of vessel known to man ply its waters and brave the elements in the pursuit of seafood.

It was as part of this tradition that Herman Pate opened Pate Boatyard, first in the 1920s along the shores of the intracoastal waterway, then moving to its present location in the 1950s. From all indications, Mr Herman always built a "pretty" boat, long and lean with plenty of shear, and was also something of a pioneer, experimenting early on with various types of hydrofoils.

After he passed on, Pate Boatyard was purchased by a local fisherman named Charles Spain, who after a long career of shrimping along the Gulf coast, returned to Hobucken to "semi-retire," maintaining a 50' trawler that he used for "fun". Charles made many improvements to the property before he too passed on, leaving the boatyard to his widow Mary.

Mary in turn leased the boatyard to a local seafood company, and for a number of years an incredible amount of crabs and shrimp passed over the docks of the boatyard.

In 2004, the boatyard was again sold, this time to an "outsider" who saw past the piles of rotting rope and rusting crab pots to realize that he had at last found a place for which he had been searching for over 20 years.

In the weeks and months and perhaps even years to come, this space will be used to pass along some of the rich heritage that this lucky fellow stumbled across when he purchased Pate Boatyard." [Posted October 2, 2006, on]

And More History

The history of Hobucken goes much further back in time, of course, and the current owner has also provided comments on that as well...

"Well it's a new year, but worth a look back... way back. Over the holidays a friend of mine found a pottery shard that he brought over to show me and I was stunned. There were beautiful star and zig zag designs cut into what looks like a naturally black clay base with small dots pushed into the rim of what was once possibly a small pot or other such vessel.

I say I was stunned, but as soon as the local folks saw it they all said that they too had unearthed many pieces of native american pottery over the years while oystering and trawling around here.

I had heard and read that there were some fairly large Algonquin tribes around here, but to actually hold something in your hand that came from that era changes everything. Suddenly the people who were here long before any Europeans "discovered" this area come alive.

You start to wonder who made that piece of pottery? What were they like? What was life like back then? What happened to them? And you want to know more.

There are some around here who also asked those same questions and at least one (that I know of) who's actually done some real research on the subject. Some of his findings, as well as numerous other stories of life on Goose Creek Island can be found in Odell Spain's Cap'n Dell's Stories ( It's a great book on this area that touches on some of the native sites and finds, and if you've ever been interested in what life was like in a small NC coastal fishing community I'd highly recommend it." [Posted January 5, 2007 on ]

Life in Hobucken

Additional commentary on life around Pate Boatyard can be found in other posts...


Thursday, April 01, 2010

Goose Creek Island, NC

Gone paddling!   This weekend, I am kayaking around Goose Creek Island, NC,  near the south side of the mouth of the Pamlico River.

You can follow my SPOT messenger here.