Ocracoke Vacation — Day Eight, October 31

After a morning of running, buying a small step ladder, and getting breakfast, I decided it was time to kayak. Conditions were finally right for me to attempt a paddle in unfamiliar waters. The step ladder was to assist me in loading the boat onto the Titan, something not necessary with the Frontier since it’s not as tall. I have always enlisted help from someone else when loading to or unloading from the Titan, but I learned before leaving home that I could do it by myself if I stood on something. Thankfully the Q700X is not a very heavy kayak (44 pounds), but the 18-foot length makes it somewhat awkward to maneuver while holding it above your head, especially in the wind.

Wave action at the landing was chaotic, but low. I cautiously moved away from the docks and faced the wind, holding position near the shore until I determined the feel of the water underneath me. Satisfied, I carved out left, into the sound, and arced fully downwind, heading toward the ferry channel and the entrance to Silver Lake. It was lively, and the rudder became necessary to hold me on course.

Silver Lake is not actually a lake but a jettied natural harbor where ferries terminal and the village of Ocracoke crescents from its edge. I entered the space between the jetties, those lines of rocks moderating the flow of waves and wind for those who travel the water. In a tiny vessel like mine, the difference was clear; the surface was more stable between the rocks. Paddling leisurely in the harbor, I strolled past docks and tethered boats and came to the shallow landing at the Surf Shop, where I got out and went to the door. Since I was wet, I didn’t go inside, but had one of the guys meet me on the porch to give me suggestions for where to paddle from here. They rent kayaks, so I figured they would know, and I got some helpful advice.

Back out past the seafood company and the ferry berths, I exited into the sound again and turned left, toward Springer’s Point. I covered distance quickly, moving past some homes and then the point into a broad cove where some tidal creeks reached into the island. I chose what seemed to be the main creek and started in. For the narrower channel, and since I was sitting below grass level and the wind wasn’t a big factor, I raised the rudder and reverted to hip/torso steering. The creek went a long way back through marsh, with several streams branching off. After a while I was paddling essentially through the backyards of some homes, and the creek became very narrow and blocked with tree branches. I turned around, probably pleasing the small group of Mallards and one Green-winged Teal hen that I kept flushing.

When I arrived back near the mouth of the creek, I explored a few more creeks, briefly, before entering the sound and turning left again. I could see the long sandy conclusion of the island in the distance, near where Michael and I had driven on Sunday. I moved in that direction, resting on the water really, and let the breeze coming off the island catch me from the side and push me for a few hundred feet. From there I paddled some more toward the distant sand, but not intending to go all the way. At a selected spot past a stand of trees, I turned and started back.

Along the way a boat wake caught me from behind at an angle, and I noticed how, in that situation, you can tell what is about to happen behind you by what you see the surface doing to your left front. Everything the water does means something. It is a language unto itself, with a vocabulary embedded in the seasons, accented by the depth of the land which rides below. And sometimes the language is a song, with hypnotizing rhythm, or recitative so convincing I nod my assent to things it says are true. When I’ve gone back to shore, what will I miss that is never sung again?

The distance passed, and I came to the ferry cut again, the “Ditch” as it’s called locally. As I emerged from the lee of the jetties, the wind met me head on, unchecked across the open miles of Pamlico Sound. The waves were a batallion of white-haired gnomes, marching out to sea with me in their way. By glancing to my right for relative shore speed, I could tell the wind had slowed me, but the relative water speed was still blazing as the waves took their shots. Some broke across the bow and some crashed beside the cockpit, getting me wet. So I began to time my stroke so the blade sliced into each crest, attacking them, and the ride smoothed-out considerably. Active waves are fun!

I was only out for a little more than two hours, but it was packed with enough distance and sensation and interior openings that it seemed like half a day. Sliding back into the landing, I was tired and ready for something to eat. Here’s a photo of the 700 after takeout, with the Cedar Island and Swan Quarter ferries in the background having just met each other.

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After getting a shower I headed over to The Pelican Restaurant for lunch. Then I washed some clothes, did some writing, and took a nap. Around 4:30 I drove to the upper end of the island to enjoy the evening outside, my last night here.

About the time I was getting to the ferry landing, my phone rang, and it was Andrea, my traveling-nurse sister in Arizona. She was watching some birds outside her apartment and, in addition to sharing the joy of the observation, was asking for some identification tips. What she had was a Black-crowned Night-Heron and a Least Bittern, cool birds, the latter of which I don’t have on my Hyde County list. Here are some shots from the drive.

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Some of the clouds look like willow seeds blowing.

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And some clouds look like jetties, moderating the flow of color and hope for those who travel the night.
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Published in: on November 8, 2007 at 8:09 pm  Comments (7)