I am a grandmother paddling alone over 2,500 miles from Maine to Guatemala. Along the way I will be:
- telling the story of the children who live in the Guatemala City garbage dump community
- honoring their entrepreneurial mothers
- talking about the success of the Safe Passage model school and
- raising funds for additional grades for the school.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Paddle Day 13: Disaster Averted, Crab Balls and Jelly Balls

Shrimp boats and paddling a skiff
Touch and go to avert disaster, then clear sailing to coastal culture.

Mindi joined me for a while on her sit-on-top.  First paddler since the restart!  Not bad for someone with her 100 ton license.  She usually captains much larger vessels!
Mindi amazes!
After leaving Mindi, I tried to take a short cut across the tip of Cedar Hammock in Sapelo Sound.  The tide was going out and I knew it was shallow there, but I thought I could make it.  As soon as my paddle started touching the bottom, I turned to port and raced for deeper water.  Too late.  A few minutes later I was grounded.  It was 90 minutes before low tide, so it would take at least 3 hours for the water to start getting deep enough for me to paddle.  I tested the bottom with my paddle.  Yep, mud!  But a sort of sandy mud, so I decided to risk getting out and walking my kayak to deeper water.  It was the kind of mud-sand where you sink in when you stand still.  But if you keep moving, you can sometimes get across the flats.  I tried it.  I knew I had to run, as the water was just getting more and more shallow by the minute.  It was almost like a dance to prance in front of the kayak, pulling it along behind me.  I'd hit an occasional patch of softer pluff mud and sink in over my shoes.  Fortunately, even if I sank in deeper, I knew I could use the kayak as a support to pull myself out of the mud.  After about 20 minutes,  I was getting very hot and tired, but finally reached water deep enough to paddle.  What a relief!

It felt good to get out of the wind on the sound and head up the Sapelo River.  When I turned into the Front River, I saw three small islands standing out in the wide expanses of marsh.  They were formed back in colonial times, when ships would arrive from England with stones for ballast.  Since they would a load of lumber or cotton for the return trip, they wouldn't need the ballast stones.  So before heading up the shallower river, they would throw the stones overboard.  Over the years these three islands were formed.
Ballast stone islands
Right after passing the ballast islands, the current was so swift in the river that I could sit back and sleep while the incoming tide swept me up the river.
Sleeping on the job.
As I paddled up the smaller rivers and creeks, I used a trick I learned from Mindi: "Follow the crab balls."  I thought crab balls would be something tasty to eat.  But, no, they are the round floats that mark the location of crab traps.  Most are located as close to shore as possible, such that they stay submerged at low tide.  So to paddle against the current, and not get stuck in the mud,  following the crab balls is great advice.

Staying with Bill and Lou Watson at their lovely marsh front home in Pine Harbor.  This was an old plantation, and the rows of live oaks, draped with Spanish moss are lovely.
Oak Alley (somewhere else)  (photo by Jim Liestman)
At night, way across the marsh, we can see the lights of a restaurant and a "jelly ball" plant.  Say what?  After my experience with crab balls, I assumed this would not be something to eat.  As the ocean warmed along the south-east coast,  the waters have become home to hoards of jelly fish.  It's so bad that some power plants in Florida had to be shut down periodically as their water intakes clogged with these small "cannonball" jelly fish.
Cannonball jelly fish (AP)
Enterprising shrimpers, hurt by the decrease in their shrimp crop, have started hauling in jelly fish, which enables them to earn four times what they earn on shrimp.  The jelly balls are processed and shipped to Japan, China and Thailand, where they are considered a great delicacy.  What do they taste like?  One quote I heard was,  "Actually they taste a little like the gristle of a chicken bone."   Yum.  Can't wait.

Gratitude List:

  1. The offer of drinks and cinnamon rolls from a passing fishing boat.
  2. Paddling along in silence to hear the sounds of the marsh: gas bubbles popping up, oysters spitting out water and snapping shrimp.
  3. Not having to spend three hours stuck in the mud
  4. Chicken tertrazzni and orange creme pie for dinner
  5. A greenland paddle that is easy on my body

Date: October 23, 2015                                                    Restart Paddle Day: 13
Start location: Barbour IslandGeorgia                             Launch time: 10:30 am
End location:  Valona                                                       Land time: 3:45 pm
Average speed: 3.3 mph                                                   Max Speed: 5.5 mph
Miles: 13
Total expedition miles with kayak: 1793                          Motor-portage miles: 363
Kayak Storage: Red and Mariana Hagan
Hosts: Bill and Lou Watson

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