Tybee Island GA Kayaking

This is part two of theCumberland and Tybee Island Sea Kayak trip.  This blog is about the Tybee Island experience, the blog is a little late since I was very busy with home and work items after returning from vacation.  It did not help that I was sent to Upstate NY for work for a week working 12 hour days.  Therefore I hope I remember the highlights after such a delay in writing this.  Fortunately there are lots of pictures to remind me. 

Tybee Beach Picture

Tybee Beach In The April Afternoon - Off Season

Disclaimer: Some or most of this blog will not be interesting if you are a veteran ocean kayaker; it will be old hat, for me this was a wonderful new learning experience.

Tybee Island Beach View

Tybee Island Beach

Surf  on Tybee Island

Ocean Surf

Atlantic Ocean Surf

After paddling to St Mary’s GA from Cumberland Island on Wednesday we got the trailer out of storage without any issues and loaded the vehicles.  It was time for lunch and we had another great meal in St Mary’s on the outside porch of  The Riverside Café.

Riverside Cafe Picture

Lunch at The Riverside Cafe - St Marys GA

This was the first non-rustic meal in four days and the first cold beer available in the same time period.  Everything tasted great.

From lunch we had a 3 hour drive North toTybee Island.  There were no travel issues and we got to Tybee excited to check out the huge rental house.  I’m still not sure I saw all the bedrooms and bathrooms in the place.  It would easily accommodate a group of 20 people.  There were now 4 couples in theTybee Island group since some additional people opted to fly in and avoid the Cumberland experience (light weights – just kidding).

 All the bathroom doors did not lock, so after one or two embarrassing moments we all got accustomed to being careful not to just open a door.

 We unloaded quickly were ready for yet another meal out, this time at the Crab Shack.

The Crab Shack seating was outdoors, just a little cool so the outdoor heaters made it just right.  Everyone got plenty to eat and the sea food was very good.  They had no trouble seating a group as large as ours, now up to 15 people.  There were no issues with the noise of our group here at this establishment.  The wait staff however was not as much fun as in St Mary’s.

 The next morning (Thursday) we were up early, made breakfast, drank lots of coffee and got our paddling gear ready and got our kayaks to the beach ready to launch.  This was the first time I launched into surf and got some good tips and instruction.  I found it not hard with the amount of surf we had to get through. 

Launching Through The Surf

Launching Through The Surf

Then it was on to the Devils Triangle, maybe a mile South down the beach of our launch site.  For the novices in the group we started at the edge of the wave action to get used to surfing the waves and bracing to stay upright.  We played for several hours in the waves and I got confident with the conditions since I did not get rolled by the surf. 

Playing In The Ocean

Playing In The Ocean

 A couple other people did and had to be towed out beyond the high surf area to get back into their kayak.  The pictures really do not capture the waves and what it looks like from the kayak cockpit.

Kayak Rescue After a Roll and Wet Exit

Kayak Rescue After a Roll and Wet Exit

We came back to the house for lunch and I think a group went back out in the afternoon to play in the waves, but I was content to walk the beach and soak up some sun in the afternoon.  The kayaks were stored behind a dune on the beach for the next days paddling.  Dinner was cooked in, and I remember it being another fine meal but now the dinners and days are blending together except for the crab dinner which was a different experience discussed later.

Lunch Break

Kayaks sitting During Lunch Break, Ready for Launching

The next day (Friday) repeated breakfast and coffee prior to suiting up to do some more paddling in the Triangle.  This time I went deeper into the Triangle, I’m told the “zipper” was not at its peak.  This is a section where the incoming surf meets the outflow of the river and creates a wave that goes straight up.  I will have to witness this phenomenon another time. 

Kayak Storage On the Beach Over the Dune

Kayak Storage On the Beach Over the Dune

Today I had my confidence reduced as I was rolled and had to be rescued three times.  I was doing a great surf run and thought the wave was done so I stopped bracing so aggressively then got pushed over by the end of the wave, the next roll was right after that and should have been avoidable if I had worked harder to stay up with a good brace before going all the way over and also planting a paddle at the top of the wave, which was a tip provided by the more experienced Tybee people.  The third time I remember was also avoidable but now the details allude me.  I also should have been able to stay calm and try to roll back up – but being a little intimated at the waves I did not try this either.  It takes a lot less energy if you can stay in your kayak than doing a wet exit and a recovery.  As I have heard it said your kayak is your PFD.

Beach Kayaks

Kayaks Ready For The Next Day

I did learn more by going over than if I did not.  I know you are supposed to hold onto your kayak, I was talking to my rescuer and went to grab my paddle for just an instant letting go of the kayak.  This was a big mistake I had to work hard to get back to it after that.  Sometimes you just have to learn by experience to set in training.

At this particular spot the water depth was over my head and there were still some good waves coming, I had several lessons learned here with this roll.  I got back in cowboy style – but got scolded for not staying low and staying stomach down head pointing backwards, getting my feet in first then turning around in the cockpit.  I really appreciated the scolding since next time I need to re-enter the kayak differently in the surf.  The reason is better stability and not having a high center of gravity that could also pull over the rescuer.

The Tybee trip is a good place to learn how to handle rough water in a somewhat controlled environment.  Most of the area in the triangle is shallow so once out of the kayak it’s not too difficult to recover your wet exit.  The water temp was also warm when we were there at the end of April so wet suits and dry suits are not needed.

We stopped for a lunch break on Little Tybee Island just beyond the Devils Triangle area.  Just a somewhat secluded spot with a beach and some palm trees with a distant view of Tybee Island. 



 This is a rustic location, so the restroom is the bushes behind the beach.

On Little Tybee Island

On Little Tybee Island

Kayaks at rest during lunch:

Kayak Kneading Water

Kayak Kneading Water

 We saw several Dolphins there close to shore, one mother with her young swimming right next to her.  The photo below does not really show it well. 



After lunch we split into two groups, some going back for more wave action and another group having enough action for the day.  Either way some crossing of the triangle required.  On a sand bar there was a large group of pelicans.  For a Northern Yankee like myself, this was an unusual sight to see so many in one place.  It was a fantastic warm and sunny day, with the wind not picking up too much in the afternoon as it usually did.

Sand Bar Birds

Pelicans On Sand Bar

Landing in the surf takes some skill as well, making sure you do not come in too fast with the crashing wave.  You have to paddle backwards as the wave comes to slow you down, then once past, paddle hard forward to get on shore before the next crashing wave.  If not done correctly, you can end up rolling on the beach.  Fortunately I did it correctly with each landing.  Whoever was on the beach first helped the others land and get out of the waves.  People on the beach were oblivious to the kayaks coming in and had to be warned to watch out.  A kayak being accelerated and pushed in from the waves would hurt big time if you got hit by one standing too close on the beach.  And once committed there is no stopping the kayak.

Walking Back To The House After Paddling

Walking Back To The House From The Beach After Paddling

We had another good home cooked meal for dinner and although most of us were tired from the day, we were talked into doing the Tybee trip ritual of going downtown to Doc’s Bar. Doc’s was maybe a mile walk from our rental house, some of us drove there, and I won’t point out the lazy ones that didn’t walk.  The bar I’m told has not changed for years, it is narrow and packed with locals and snow birds.  Music is always the same, danceable 70’s and 80’s classic rock is the best I can describe it.

 There are no public smoking restrictions in Georgia so I was reminded how nice it is in Michigan to not allow smoking inside bars.  I personally do not miss smoky bars (sorry smokers).  Most of our group got out on the dance floor.  My significant other does not dance so I have not done any dancing in about 10 years and I did not break that streak on this trip.  I’m sure my lack of alcohol fueling had something to do with not dancing.

The bar crowd was our age or older, interesting mix.  This is not a twenty or thirty something bar.  We were called damn Yankees there by some local Georgia female patrons in jest.  However there are still some in the South that have not given up on the North Vs South of the distant past.

Kayak Roll

A Cool Off Roll Going To The Lighthouse

A series of rolls that just felt good.

Kayak Rolls

One of Many Rolls - Just Because He Could

The finish or the start of the next kayak roll depending on how you look at it.

Kayak Rolling

The Finish or Start?

For a change of pace the next day (Saturday) we paddled North along the shore of Tybee Island to the Cockspur Island Lighthouse and the final destination to be the old confederate Fort Pulaski .  

Cockspur Island Lighthouse

Cockspur Island Lighthouse

The Union Army Civil War attack on the fort changed military history.  This paddle was nice since we were out of the wind for a change with the point of TybeeIsland shoreline protecting us from the majority of the wind.  The Fort sits on an island between two legs of the South Channel of the Savannah River, one being the boundary between South Carolina and Georgia.


Heading Up to the Top of the Lighthouse

Several of us climbed to the top of the lighthouse.  While there, some in our group stopped a crab boat and bought fresh live crabs off the fishing boat.  This would end up being the first course of dinner.  The crabs with put in the front hatch of one of the kayaks with water added a little later.  The crabs survived the days paddle and were put in to the cooking pot live – I avoided watching this later, but did try one of the crabs, tasty but a lot of work.  We landed our kayaks at the bridge for Fort Pulanski and walked to the Fort’s entrance.


Can't You Read The Sign?

We had a little bit of a surprise just after we landed our kayaks, reading the other side of the sign.  Then we felt guilty and moved our kayaks next to the road, hoping nobody would bother them, and they didn’t.


Fort Pulaski Walk From the Bridge

Fort Pulaski Walk From the Bridge


 It was a hot day and getting cold Gatorade Sports G Series drinks from the machine at the Fort entrance was really welcomed.  A credit card was used on the machine and thanks you to whoever provided the card since we had no coin change.  I did not think to bring a card with me on the paddle, only a $20 of paper money.

Fort Pulanski

Fort Pulanski

The Fort itself was very interesting, I thought for the late 1800’s the Fort’s housing conditions for the soldiers were pretty good.  You can read all about the fort at the link above.

Outside Fort Pulanski

Outside Fort Pulanski

The next day (Sunday) there was an early morning paddle then carry the kayaks back to the house for loading and packing. 

Trasporting Kayaks

Trasporting Kayaks - What's Wrong With This Picture???

We must have got the trailer weight distribution right this time since the trailer did not sway.

Packing Up

Packing Up

 We drove though the downtown area of Savannah and it was much better scenery than the way though to Tybee. 

Savannah GA

Savannah GA

Of course the adventure was not over, somewhere inSouth Carolina the trailer blew a tire.  Fortunately the trailer was kept under control and moved safely to the shoulder, only a mile for the next freeway exit.  There were no spare tires for the trailer – a question asked at the start of the trip with the answer that it was never needed before.  The theory is that all the swaying at the start of the trip damaged the belts in the tires causing the failure on the return trip.

Kayak Trailer

Kayak Trailer On The Road Again

The Aztek   showed its utility again my having a the correct 5 lug hole rim on a temporary spare tire.  With the temporary tire on the trailer we drove off the freeway; why we did not stop there and then use the Aztek to drive 20 miles to Wal-Mart – the only place open on a Sunday I do not know.  We drove 5 miles then pulled over to a gas station in the middle of nowhere.  Even though this was a rural area, the gas station had bars on the windows not giving us a good feeling.  We almost adopted a dog that showed up and made friends, while waiting for the Wal-Mart run to be performed.  We talked the trailer owner into getting two new tires instead of just one and the logic of this was realized since both original tires were of the same age and subject to the same stress as the blown tire.  We had plenty of trailer adventures already on the trip without having another late on a Sunday evening out of range of a Wal-Mart.

Two people stopped to ask if we needed help, one offered his front lawn to camp out if we needed to.  My opinion is this generosity would not have happened in the North.  There is something to Southern hospitality.

With that delay plus a very slow service dinner at an Applebee’s restaurant inNorth Carolinawe did not get to the hotel in Knoxville Tennessee until 2 am.  A short nights sleep and back on the road around 9:30 am after breakfast. For anAnn Arborarrival around 8:00 PM Monday.

It took me several days to unpack, picking up my kayak from the trailer in Brighton MI on Tuesday night.  My significant other said I had a grin on my face for days like I just had sex or something.  Guess I enjoyed the trip and the people on it.

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