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cold night of illegal camping next to the fernandina inlet

March 26, 2011

March 25, Jekyll Island Georgia

My last night in Florida was spent on the beach close to the breakwater of Fernandina. I did not have a site or any business being there, so I had to be stealthy.

I put my kayak way up the beach. It was at the beginning of the brush. I started the night sleeping on a bench on the long deserted pier. I slept really well for about two hours then decided that I could now put my tent next to my kayak. The plan was to sleep until daylight but the tent was flatten by the wind at 4 am. I undid the tent and got my tarp. I put the tarp on the ground and rolled myself in it with my sleeping bag. That worked really well and I slept another two hours. At 6 the wind was still tearing everything around me and it was now very cold. As expected my sleeping bag was now damp because of the lack of air circulation. I was sort of cold but I stayed in my tarp until 7:30. That’s when the sun started to warm things up a bit.

I was tempted to go on the ocean side of the island in front of me but the tide was rushing in and promising me a good 5 to 6 hours of favorable current if I took the inside pass. I did not need much more convincing after the last day’s adventures.

The wind was from the north but was supposed to switch to south east according to the wildly inaccurate forecasters at NOA. Again, I wonder why I listen to the VHF weather.

The wind was very hard to use constructively because I was heading north into the wind and tacking (going left and right to slowly progress into the wind for the non sailors) was made tricky by the configuration of the passage. Eventually that wind died so I pedaled pretty much all day.

The intracoastal in Georgia requires constant use of the GPS. It’s a real maze. Looking at google earth will give you an idea of just how crazy the water system is. It looks like a fractal drawing like you would see on some screen savers.

I made it out of the ever turning passage and got to the inlet with a good south east wind. The wind was quite strong actually. The waves in the inlet got bigger and bigger. The inlet was very wide but I had to cross it in order to get to Jekyll Island. At that time the water was rushing out to sea because of the low tide and the ocean swell soon joined the wind created waves to complete a picture of complete watery chaos. The waves were coming from every direction and the current was making my boat dive in all sorts of way. I was steering really attentively to avoid capsizing in the inlet. The combination of the current and a side wave can easily capsize my boat. Capsizing would have taken me pretty far out to sea. I would have been caught on the ocean side, on the wrong tide. I did not wish to spend another night on some deserted beach waiting for the next tide.

Once I got close to the island the current got really strong but the waves were more manageable. I made it against the current thanks to the strong wind. I got to a marina and asked about the camping, restaurants and groceries to a couple coming back from the groceries. Tom and his wife gave me some information, and then Tom told me he would drive me around. I was able to go to the grocery store and the campsite. Tom even took me and the kayak to the campsite (it’s inland). I could have cried. I am now in a safe cozy campground for two days. I really needed this. The rest of Georgia is going to be rough since I will have to do illegal camping from here to Tybee, at the border of South Carolina. Thanks Tom!

  1. Joe permalink

    Hi Rene!
    It is Joe – we met at the Jekyll Island campground on Sunday morning having breakfast.
    It was great to meet you and wish you well on your journey north.

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