Saturday, June 23, 2012

Paddling on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway!

Location: Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, near Myrtle Beach, SC. Temperature: 90F Wind: Light 0 - 5mph Conditions: Sunny and Hot

Our family took a short vacation to Myrtle Beach, SC. (June 21 - June 24). We partook of the "usual" vacation activities; going to the beach, eating seafood, playing putt-putt golf, and just being "lazy." But, being the Durhamblogger... I was able to also incorporate a morning paddle on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway! Rachel and I headed south of the Myrtle Beach area and found our way to Island Adventure Watersports, located on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, just off Dick Pond Road (guys I don't make up these names!)

 Rachel, at our put in area, checking out the Coleman sit-on-top kayak.

 The Coleman tandem kayak fit our long limbs well, but both of us were not happy with what we perceived to be a lack of stability. There seemed to be a lot of roll in the kayak and I believe some of that was because we normally paddle using sit-in kayaks. The center of gravity is higher with a sit-on-top kayak.

 Amber, an employee of Island Adventure Watersports, was very friendly and helpful in getting us set-up with our rental kayak. We will definitely rent kayaks from Island Adventure Watersports in the future!  

 Approaching the Highway 544 bridge that spans the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. Rachel in her customary front seat.

 The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway is like a water highway, and we were excited since this was our first time paddling along a stretch of it!

 The exposed tree roots and brackish waters reminded me of the Louisiana swamps.

 Amber cautioned us not to venture down any of the channels that branched off the main waterway, because of the potential hazard of disturbing crocodiles. We did not have any crocodile encounters during our paddle.  

 Spotted this egret as it strode along the exposed roots and brush along the shoreline. Even as fast moving motorboats threw a lot of wake into the shore, the bird calmly walked through the resulting chop and continued its search for food, seemingly undisturbed by either the loud motors or waves.

 Saw a snake bird as it made its way across the narrow waterway. It also appeared undisturbed by the boat traffic. In the photo background, is the diminishing wake of a passing boat.

 Curious and strange, dead tree trunks with new growth like wild hair sprouting from the wood tops.

An unidentified, but beautiful "splash of yellow" from a flowering plant on the shoreline.

 However, while the wildlife appeared undisturbed by the numerous watercraft that sped along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, Rachel and I were on edge and grumbling on the lack of courtesy and lack of marine navigation knowledge of many water craft "captains" on how to pass, cross or overtake another boat on the water - especially on narrow and restricted water channels. 

 Rachel and I encountered over a dozen water craft (jet skies, motor boats, and cabin cruisers) during our morning paddle on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. Maybe a quarter of these "captains" throttled down to minimize their boats' wakes as they passed our kayak. Most of these folks paid little-to-no-attention to a small yellow tandem kayak, and just barreled through the narrow waterway, also ignoring the numerous "No Wake" signs that dotted each side of the channel. Each encounter, we had to stop paddling and point our bow into the oncoming waves and ride them out. Thankfully, we both have over 3 years experience with paddling kayaks and know how to handle ourselves. I shutter to think what would have happened to any beginner kayakers who attempted to paddle along this busy and narrow waterway! Unfortunately, you can encounter unthoughtful persons anywhere, but when it's with high power watercraft on narrow waterways, the danger is increased ten-fold! BTW, neither of the boats in these two photos, reduced their speed as they passed our kayak. The cabin cruiser, in this photo, came dangerously close.

Spotted lots of Spanish moss clinging to tree branches that jutted out over the water.


 We also saw many elaborate boat docks. Here is a 2-story structure with two lifts and large sunning / lounging area on the upper story. 

 The historic Socastee Swing Bridge in operation near our put in / take out area.


Addendum- What's the law?

After being on the "receiving end" of  large wakes kicked up by many discourteous and ignorant boaters and a few "close encounters" of the dangerous kind, that Saturday morning on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, I decided to check into South Carolina boating law. I located "The Handbook of South Carolina Boating Laws and Responsibilities." A couple of sections caught my eyes:

Under the Negligent, Reckless, and Other Illegal Operation section;

"Weaving your boat or Personal Watercraft (PWC) through congested traffic."

"Boating in restricted areas without regard for other boaters or persons, posted speed and wake restrictions, diver-down flags, etc."

And, than under the Speed Regulations section;

"Failure to regulate speed is defined as operating a boat or PWC at speeds that may cause danger, injury, damage, or unnecessary inconvenience."

"Idle Speed" or "No Wake, Idle Speed" "When you see buoys or signs with these words, they indicate a restricted boating area established to protect the safety of the public and property. In these areas, a vessel cannot proceed at a speed greater than the speed necessary to maintain steering."

Report violators to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (800) 922-5431


Bottom line -  I witnessed numerous violations of the above SC boating laws and regulations during our morning paddle. Every water craft (powered, and non-powered - sail or human powered) should be able to operate safely while on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. Unfortunately, because of discourteous, ignorant, or simply uncaring boaters, this was the exception, rather than the "rule" during our paddle. Another employee of Island Adventure Watersports advised us, after we came back in from paddling, that weekends were the busiest for water traffic and that during week days, the Intracoastal Waterway was quiet and practically void of water craft. In the future, we plan to take his advice and only paddle on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway during the week.

Stay safe out there!


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