The Gull Reef Club

5/5/2019

Good Bye Blue Sky

Filed under: — Jaime @ 2:18 pm

Savannah is getting tropical again, and yesterday we were plunged head-on into it. We pretty much have two seasons here – tropical and not tropical. Our seasons are not defined by temperature like places up north (i.e., it’s usually either warm or hot here), it’s defined by whether we will be subject to pop up thunderstorms or not.

Yesterday started as a gorgeous day – bright and sunny, mid 80s, low breeze, only 30% chance of storms for the afternoon. Looked like a great forecast for boating and fishing. We haven’t been on the boat since January and we really wanted to get out. Mike has done a ton of work to/for the boat in the off-time and we were looking forward to trying it all out. He even got us some mudminnows so we’d have good, live bait.

Our day was mostly spent fishing out the low tide on the tributaries around the St. Augustine Creek (the one between the Wilmington & Bull Rivers; apparently, there are two – no, Savannah, not confusing at all). As usual, I didn’t catch anything but had my bait stolen a ton. Mike was hitting a lot, but not much in the way of keepers. The wildlife was abundant – birds of all sorts all around and more turtles than I’ve ever seen on any local creeks. Lovely is the perfect word for this part of the day.

As the afternoon wore on, we noticed dark clouds building to our north, but they appeared to be heading toward the western mainland and wouldn’t touch us. We continued down our little tributary and continued to fish it as the tide went out. As the water level lowered, clouds began to build. In the north and the west, we could see that it was raining, but it was still sunny over us. Not wanting to be stuck in a small creek during a negative low tide, we opted to head west to more familiar waters, and yes, toward the darker clouds. It was a nice ride back, but as the St. Augustine merged with the Wilmington, we were plunged into much, much colder temps. I’m not sure what the air temperature was but I noticed the water temp had dropped from 81 to 75. Woah.

It still wasn’t raining, though. In fact, it really wasn’t windy – at least no low-level winds. Clearly the clouds were screaming by at a quick speed, but they weren’t dropping any rain until they moved past. We headed back down the Wilmington thinking we’d fish one of its feeder creeks as the tide turned. We are familiar with these waters and knew we could safely be there even in a negative low tide. We fished one part of the creek a bit without much luck and then moved along, trying to gauge that the tide had turned and how much of it had come back up. As we moved along, it started to drizzle. We have waited out light rains before and hoped we could here, but before we could make that call, the bottom dropped out and it began to pour. It was cartoonish how hard the rain fell.

We headed toward the bridge hoping to seek shelter underneath. This was not to be. A new bridge is being constructed next to the hold one and its supports were blocking our path. We were still in the downpour and had to get out. Obviously, our best, and really only, bet was to try to make it back to the boat ramp and go home. Getting to the ramp would not be an easy task. The ramp we use is usually not accessible during low tide. It was nearly 90 minutes past low tide so we headed in hoping not to get stuck. The water was churning, but because the winds remained surprisingly low there wasn’t much surge. After what felt like a wet eternity, we made it to the basin where the ramp is located. There was water, we might make it. The depth finder kept plunging, 3 feet, 2 feet, 1.6…and then just dashes. We kicked up some mud, but were still going. Mike put us in shallow water mode and somehow rode on in all the way to the ramp.

I can’t give enough credit to Mike here for his exceptional navigation through this. Even more to him because he had the foresight last year to go to the ramp during a super negative low tide, on a much sunnier day, to observe where the water runs. We learned there isn’t much, but there is a tiny channel that runs from the ramp, out the basin and into the River. This knowledge saved us from getting stuck in the muddy basin, during the pouring rain, only a few hundred feet from the ramp. We followed where we knew the channel to be, despite not being able to see very far and having to go slow. We made it.

It continued to pour for another 15-20 minutes. Mike let me shelter in the car while he waited with the boat, bailing water. Grateful isn’t even close to how I feel, but I don’t have a better word. The rain eventually slowed and we were able to retrieve the boat from the water. Almost everything was wet, but the boat wasn’t stuck or sunk, so it’s a victory. We made the slow, steamy ride home, and were rewarded with a fresh fish dinner. We later learned that a tornado had come through about two and a half miles south of where we were. Some reports of waterspouts too. Never did hear any warning sirens – because they were down for maintenance (!!!).

Just another reminder that the sea doesn’t care. You may start out with a beautiful day but it can turn on you in a moment, without any notice. All you can do is hope your emergency plans are executable and then execute.

I can’t wait to get back on the water again.

The Gull Reef Club