Check out Ashley’s recount of paddling from Charleston, SC to Georgetown, SC

By January 11, 2022January 24th, 2022No Comments

This story was featured in Coastbusters July 2020

The inlet at Winyah Bay, near Georgetown, SC, has
a rock jetty that sticks out into the ocean about a mile.
From the chart it appears the only way to avoid going
around would be to portage over the rocks at the
shore to get on the other side. It didn’t seem like that
big of a deal to simply paddle around instead of
landing, unpacking everything, carrying the boats
and gear over giant jetty rocks, re-packing
everything, and re-launching. So we decide to go
It’s getting windy, around 15 kts. The surf is
breaking perpendicular to the coast line and into the
rock jetty. It’s getting a little hairy and I start arguing
with myself for a few minutes:
“Put on your helmet!
“No, not now, DON’T stop to put on your
“You should have put on your helmet!!”
The waves are crashing and bumping to my right, the
rock jetty is raising and lowering on the left. But I
watch this pelican, in the middle of a larger rock pile
– a big wave crashes over the top and the water swirls
around his feet and he lifts his wings and body in a
shrug to keep his feathers dry. He looks so relaxed,
so I relax, and we make it around the south end of the
big rock jetty.
May 2020 Coastbusters Page 20
4 Days and 80 Miles on Open Water:
Big winds, big crossings, big horseflies and a cockroach in my cockpit.
Ashley Brown
The Start
This was the second of a four-day, three-night, 80 nm
journey from Charleston to Georgetown, almost all
of it out on the ocean. It was something we had talked
about for ages, something we had never had (or
taken) the time to do. Then the planets aligned. The
wind direction and weather were favorable. Jeff,
James and I were available and ready. So, on June 3,
we set out.
Leaving Charleston Harbor on an outgoing tide, we
got on to a conveyor belt of consistent SE wind
around 15 kt. We rocketed past Sullivan’s Island, Isle
of Palms, Dewees, and Capers. Ultimately camping
on the North oceanside point of Capers. 16 miles,
just like that.
This was my first time kayak camping while
traveling oceanside and I was struck by how much
more weather cocking my boat was subject to. I
extended the paddle so that the right blade was as far
away as possible and the left was in my hand.
The other thing that was new, but expected, was how
sloooooowly the fully-loaded boat floats back up.
when a wave breaks over you. My body was reacting
to the typically nimble Sportive’s reaction to the surf,
and then reminded, while the boat submarined, to
hang on – it is going to take a minute to float.
Figure 1. Charleston (southern circle) to Georgetown (northern circle)
May 2020 Coastbusters Page 21
#NDK: I paddled my Sportive. It is my bigger boat,
the Pilgrim decided she wanted to stay home. The
Sportive performed well, but I think for anything
longer than 4 days, I’m gonna need a bigger boat. Jeff
paddled his nearly one of a kind Expedition Excel,
which weighed ALOT when loaded. James paddled
his famous yellow-over-other-yellow Explorer.
That first night the moon was nearly full, the breeze
felt nice, the horse flies and no-see-ums were
delighted to have a 3 course meal.
Day two started with a five-mile paddle across the
oceanside of Bull Island. We were underway and
something skittered across my thigh. I screamed a
tiny surprised scream, popped the skirt to free the
beast – and couldn’t find it. I put things back together
and got back underway – and again…. The
Skittering!!! This time I popped the skirt quickly
enough to see that it was a cockroach. But – gone. I
slid out and straddled the back deck trying to catch it
– rolling up and down over the swell hoping to scare
it, catch it, and feed it to the fish. Unsuccessfully.
James glides over to check on me. “There is a
cockroach in my cockpit!” James gets the big grin
on his face – “Well, this should be fun!”
Ashley at Little Murphy Island camp. Photo: Jeff Atkins
We planned a route from the north end of Bull’s
Island to the Cape Romaine lighthouse: a nine-mile
crossing of Bull’s Bay. Before the crossing, we
climbed to the top of a sand dune and could just
barely find the top of the lighthouse – it looked like a
pencil point. We still had a southeast wind, but
probably not even 10 kts. We paddled for a long time
– a really long time: two hours in the morning, then
a short break, then three more hours.
It was only 1:30 or so, but I was tired – really tired.
I am glad no one was close by, because I was having
a full-blown adult hissy fit! I was angry at myself for
going on this idiotic trip! And the shrimp boat didn’t
help – the one that somehow managed to keep its’
diesel smell near me, even though it was the only
other boat you could see in any direction. Where did
the wind assistance go? Jeff – you idiot, this is too
far!! Wah, wah, wah.
When I finally arrived on the beach I put my adult fit
in time-out and took a nap, beside the boat, flat on
my back on the beach. When reason returned, we
paddled again for another 11 miles. The crossing
ended up being 11.5 miles. The 25+ mile day was
We camped on Little Murphy Island, which turned
out to be beautiful. The current in between Little
Murphy and Cedar Island had a great-looking tide
There were dolphins, black skimmers, a giant sea
turtle, terns. A beautiful moon rise. That night there
were a couple of thunderstorms and howling winds.
I reached up and held the tent poles a couple of times
when they threatened to bend too far. I discovered I
need to re-do the waterproofing on my rain fly. I
learned one other thing, which is embarrassing, as I
am pretty late to the game. You can pee in a
Gatorade bottle in your tent! What!?! It’s true and
it’s easy. The first thing you have to do is ……….
well, wait, never mind………
May 2020 Coastbusters Page 22
We got on the water around 8:30 for day three. We
paddled about 10 miles north to South Island where
we waited on the beach for a few hours for the tide
to turn. We were able to go for long walks and there
were huge dunes and maritime forests and enough
wildlife activity to keep us entertained. The wind
was picking up and we had our most challenging, and
not-pretty-breaking-surf, beach launch yet!
Then we dealt with that whole sideways-wavescrashing-into-the-jetty thing followed, thankfully, by
the calming effect of the pelican shrugging off the
crashing waves and swirling water.
Once around the jetty, we paddled inland to North
Island, (clever island names, South and North) where
there is another lighthouse and another beach
campsite. The wind was whipping, which was good,
because the hungry horse flies still managed to feast
until we were all in long pants and long sleeve shirts.
There were dark, heavy clouds making a dramatic
sunset; full moon rise. I can never capture that
beauty on film, or explain it in a way that people can
understand. But I can remind you of that feeling: a
scene so lovely in every direction that it takes your
breath away. Be there, open your eyes, keep them
The next morning, we were on the water by 7 so we
would have the current with us up into Winyah Bay.
This was only an 11-mile segment and the only
stretch with headwinds. After an uneventful couple
of hours, we landed in Georgetown, happy to be
Sunset. Photo; Ashley Brown
James and old friend RN 18. Photo: Ashley Brown
done, but at the same time already missing the
fabulous time on the water.
I asked James and Jeff the thing I ask students at the
end of class. What did you like? What did you learn?
What would you change? And what hurts the most?
James said that he really liked getting to know people
he had known for years. (aw, so sweet). He learned
that he was not familiar enough with the jetties at
Winyah bay entrance. Study those charts! What
would he change? He would bring Bev. What hurts
the most? Abdominal muscles.
Jeff said that he loved how many remote, pristine,
protected beaches are between Charleston and
Myrtle Beach. He learned (or was reminded) that if
you want to take time to explore, you have to build
in more time. What would he change? Better
foreknowledge of the jetties at Winyah bay. What
hurts? Rash on his armpit because he forgot the antichafing lotion.
I loved that it happened, it is so easy to NOT make
time for adventure! I learned the Gatorade bottle in
the tent trick. What would I would change? I would
have taken a minute to put on the helmet at the beach
when I realized the conditions had increased
significantly. What hurts? My right forearm.
I can’t wait to do the next section!

Author Wavepaddlerjeff87577

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