Monday, October 27, 2014

Sailing, Tides and Currents

 We were heading to the  beach one last time for the year.  Looking at the forecast,  with the warm temps, we decided to take the boat and hope for some wind.  I grew up in the Caribbean, sailing the trade winds, and feel that I'm a pretty skilled sailor.  What I am not familiar with is tides and river currents.   I did as much research as I could and decided that Remleys Point would be a good place to launch.  This public boat launch is at the mouth of the Cooper River and empties into the Charleston Harbor. 

When we arrived at the launch Saturday morning,  we got some advice from an 18ish yr old kid,  telling us the current would not be a problem.  The kid was in a fancy looking bass boat. 

The wind was blowing about 8 mph which would keep us moving, so we rigged up and headed out.  We sailed up current for half an hour,  just to get the feel of the water, and then I relaxed.   It seemed this was going to work out well. 

We pointed the bow of our little 12 foot Odea Widgeon down into the harbor.  Sailing under the Cooper River Bridge, then towards the Charleston side.  Our main goal was to see dolphins and we were not disappointed.   We tacked back and forth a couple of times watching the dolphins gently break the surface of the water, before heading over to take a look at the mega sized aircraft carrier on Patriot's Point.

I took note of the time and decided that we had enough time to head back across the harbor for one last look at the dolphins , like sirens luring us to our fate, before the wind was forecast to ease.  

Halfway across the bay, we realized that we were not making much headway.  The wind was steady and the same, but for some reason, we were basically sitting in the same place.  Then we started to lose ground.  I figured out quickly that the current had picked up, but could not figure out why.  Rhonda took over the tiller and I scampered up to the bow storage to retrieve the old wood paddle that had come with the boat.  I started paddling and we inched our way closer to a marina on the other side.  The current was definitely picking up speed and the guy at the marina said he could see the intensity  mixed with panic on my face. 

We crossed the eddy line,  got yelled at by some fishermen for crossing their lines and paddled into the safety of the marina. 

After some quick discussion, we found out that it was low tide and the water levels would be dropping 6-8 feet over the next 3.5 ish hours, and that there was no hope of getting anywhere without a motor of some sort.   So,  we headed into town, found the East Bay Deli. I had some cash with me, but needed to save some of it, in case we needed to pay someone for a tow, back to Remley's Point.  So,  we ordered a turkey sandwich, split it in 3 pieces and were thankful that we had food. (we had trailmix type snacks in the boat, but need something more solid).   We walked back the the Charleston Maritime Center, where we had found shelter and apologized to the fishermen for running over their lines on the way in.  Talked with the employees and gathered info about what to expect as far as the tide reversing etc. 

Around 3:30pm roughly 3.5 hrs after arriving, we could visibly see the current slowing.  Following the advice of the employees who worked at the marina, we decided to give it a go and head back across the harbor.  The Charleston Water Taxi gave me a short tow to the lower dock in the marina so that I could pick the wife and kid up, then we headed out. 

At this point, according to forecast, the wind also decided to calm to abour 2/3 mph.  We were barely moving so I pulled out the paddle and attempted to gain some ground.   I'm not sure how long it took,  with the wife and kid swapping tiller time as I pulled against the current, but we finally made it across to the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina.  There were several motor boats of different sizes zipping around and in the distance, I saw the yellow and black Sea Tow rescue boat.  I was determined to attempt to make it back on my own though. 

We made it to the dock,  I got out and pull the boat up stream,  got back in,  paddled up some more to another dock,  and .started pulling the boat upstream again.   A friendly looking pair of couples in a really nice fishing boat outfitted with a Garmin satellite system on top cruised by and waved.  We waved back.  On their way back out of the marina,  I gave in and asked if they would mind towing us back up to the boat launch at Remley's Point.  They quickly agreed,  threw us a line, I tied off and 30 minutes later we were back on dry land de-rigging the boat.  I offered them the cash that I had left but they declined.  Without their kindness, I'm not sure how the day would have played out. 
 We were all happy and relieved to be back.  I was relieved to hear that the wife and kid enjoyed the adventure, and even though there were some dicey moments,  they are still interested in pursuing sailing.  We will be adding some sort of small trolling motor to the boat to avoid similar mishaps in the future!  Sitting down to some Mexican food later we discussed the highs and lows from the day.  I realized that this was the first adventure with potential disaster that our family had gone through.  I'm proud of us for pushing through and doing what needed to be done to get back safely.  And I told them as much! 
The next day, we rented bikes.....

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mike's BRP Ride

My friends Mike and Jason road the entire BRP.  Here is their write up:

I rode up to meet them at Little Swizterland, spend the night and ride back to Asheville with them the next day.  I couldn't help but take the scenic route though. 
I got a late start and asked Rhonda to drop me off at Ridgecrest.  I got on my fully loaded bike and dropped down Mill Creek Rd,  up Star Gap, down lower HBR, and out Jarret's Creek Rd.

 Some hike a bike occurred, but that is par for the course in these parts.  A person can't expect to ride the good trails and not get off and push. 
 I can't go anywhere in this town without someone spying  on me and trying to steal the secrets to my success.  Out in the middle of the woods where the singletrack turns to double,  I heard voices and came upon a group including Steve Owens and Randall Tuttle.  I threw some trail mix into the woods, and took off as soon as they started fighting over it!  
The climb up Curtis Creek was, of course, long.  I enjoyed it more than riding the pavement and fighting traffic though.   Once I got to the top,  I wanted to drop down the gravel on the other side, but decided to head for "The Cheese"  on the BRP. 
Once I arrived and got cleaned up,  I was hoping to take a nap and prop my feet up, but Mike was having none of it.  He made us go down the road and pick wild apples.  It worked out well, because his wife, also a Rhonda,  baked apple pie,  whipped up a huge meal, and had pancakes ready for breakfast the next morning! 

The next day,  I was a bit tired, and Mike and Jason were pedaling a little bit faster than me.  They had farther to go, so I encouraged them to leave me behind.  They were having none of it, so we ground up and over the hills to Craggy, where Ton and John Paksoy met us.  This created a train and we bombed down the grade all the way to Asheville,  making quick work of the miles. 

I peeled off and went home and the guys rode on to finish their day at Mt Pisgah.  Big ride.

Congrats to Jason, Mike and Rhonda (Mike's Rhonda) for completing the entire parkway!  Mike has talked about that ride for a long time and finally went for it!    

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Circumnavigation of Mt Mitchell

 I headed out for an overnight bikepacking trip.  The main goal was to camp on Mt Mitchell.  But I had all day to ride, so I decided to ride around the mountain range first,  on the western side.  I rode up the Parkway and down Ox Creek, the out and over the mountain through Reems Creek to Barnardsville.  I stopped at the little feed and seed store and was glad to find a fridge full of handmade foods and a Coke.  I sat and ate half before heading on up Hwy 197.
 I had driven a little ways up 197 a long time ago, but had never seen the whole thing.  I was excited to be exploring new ground and looking forward to pedaling all day.  Little did I know at this point that I would be pedaling well past sunset! 
 The pavement finally ended and I enjoy the sights and sounds of Pisgah from a different angle.  Less than a week after the Stage Race, I was feeling decent.  Not fast, but steady. 
 Up and over the top, down the other side and into Murchison.  This would have been a cool store long ago when it was open. 
 It was getting close to 3pm when I pedaled into Burnsville and, being hungry, I made the mistake of going to Mc Donald's.   I was craving a chocolate shake which was great, but the Big Mac was terrible.  I bought 2 apple pies for later which was a good decision.  Next time, I won't be getting a Big Mac. 

 Back onto 19E and headed over through Celo then onto the gravel road past Black Mountain Campground.   I learned something valuable.  I had hoped to get to the restaurant on Mt Mitchell for dinner.  It was around 4pm, and I barely had time to meet my goal.  But,  the staff at Black Mountain Campground informed me that it was supposed to start raining early in the morning.  The highest peak east of the Mississippi combined with early morning rain and 40 degree temps did not sound appealing at all. 

Upon gathering and considering all of the info,  I should have turned around, gone back to the golf course in Celo and grabbed a burger at the grill there.  Then spend the night at Black Mountain Campground. 
 Instead, I pedaled on,  up the gravel road to the parkway, then south towards the mountain.  I arrived at the gate at 7pm.  It would be another 2 miles to the restaurant.  I should be able to make it, but then doubts started hammering.  What if they closed early?  What if I got a flat and didn't get there in time?  What ifs?  I had some snack foods, but didn't want to spend the night hungry.

Then I considered riding home.  Only another 30 miles,  which would make 100 for the day.  I headed south,  the sun set and it was dark, except for the light of the moon.   The next hour and a half was spent riding alone through the darkness.  With only an occasional car passing.   Some times, I turned off my lights and rode by the light of the moon.  It was almost magical. 
 I arrived home at 9pm,  and enjoyed a warm night's sleep.   I have some unfinished business on the mountain, but that will have to wait for another day. 

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Keeley Rides the Parkway

Check this out,  my friend Mike Keeley is riding the Blue Ridge Parkway!!

Friday, October 03, 2014


 Adventure,  exploration, challenge..... a few of the reasons that I ride my bike.  I rode around the mountain and got caught in the dark on the way home.  I turned the lights off periodically and rode by the light of the moon. 
 Magical, mysterious, imagination running wild.  Too wild.  Need to tame that, take a deep breathe and enjoy the way the moon makes dark shadows on the pavement. 
Pushing the limits, reaching new heights,  rewarded with the satisfaction of accomplishing something that I didn't know I could do. 

Slept well.