Two weekends ago my family spent the weekend in Coastal Carolina on Kiawah Island, SC. John, Judge and I went out for a quick spin on the canoe before our annual crab-picking dinner. At this meal, we eat everything we caught that year at Kiwawah including fish, crab and shrimp. It’s usually the last meal of the vacation where we enjoy She Crab Soup. Well… we never made it home in time for dinner, much to my grandmother’s breakdown.
Our house on the beach is nestled inbetween the Atlanta Ocean and a Tidal Creek. Our condo actually looks over the salt water marsh, and not the coast. As children we spent much more time on the dock then on the beach, because of all the wildlife to be explored and caught. In the picture below the dock we spend all of our time on, is the white T protruding into the water.
So, Judge John and I left the dock around six and John led us into a salt water creek he had explored numerous times with our cousin Jay. You can see the creek pictured above across the mainwater way from the dock. We would have turned around sooner, but we kept on finding more and more oyster beds full of clams aka “bacon.” Many times there were signs to turn around and go back to the dock because the tide was low enough for us to literally drag our canoe over the oyster beds. However, we were all having so much fun adventuring together and bonding over our spoils that all thoughts of safety and reason were pushed aside.
We kept on thinking the next turn would be the larger water way which would bring us back to the dock, but instead we got deeper and deeper into trouble (or shallower and shallower, really) lured by the bait of e clams. We weren’t the only ones stuck in the creek, but other wildlife that had stayed out too late hunting got trapped in the deeper section of the creek. At one moment, our boat was slammed by a bonnet head shark and I stood to my feet and almost tipped the canoe into the water. Like a flash, the shark lifted his head against John’s ore. I freaked out.
I couldn’t believe this was happening. I felt like I was in video game and just hit a level called “Jaws” or something. Luckily, I wasn’t the one doing the rowing andgot to sit back and relax while John and Judge used every ounce of their effort to get us back to the condo before grandmom and our parents would freak out.
However, the creek just got longer and kept spinning and the sun was setting fast.
Slowly, the tide let out complete;ly and Judge, John and I were stuck in a canoe on a creek with no water. We literally were stuck in miles of mud and grass. John and I tried to keep spirits high and have a positive attitude. The worst possible thing that would happen is that we’d have to spend the night out there and our parents would be worried… but at that point we weren’t in immediate danger, just ready to get back home. It literally felt like we were in a real corn maze. The paths would wind and turn, and we couldn’t see over the reeds to know where we were going or when we would be released.
Once, when my sister and I were in middle school I made her leave the dock and retrieve one of my crabbing pots that had got knocked off the line. My sister walked out to the trap and almost instantly got stuck in the fine sinking mud which is rubbed into rich ingredients by the tides every day. The more she struggled, the deeper she fell. One lady at the dock, decided to call emergency services because the tide was rising and Kristen couldn’t get unstuck. 911. Finally, some bright man came down to the dock (Jesus? a scientist?) and told Kristen if she would disperse her body weight by falling back, that her legs would pop out and she only had to shimmy on all fours back to safety. This is a huge leap of faith to take when your legs are going father and farther into the mud. But Kristen, without much other choice, leaned back to place her head firmly against the mud and she popped out.
I knew this from years of being on Kiawah that if I got out of the canoe and dispersed my weight I could climb up to the top of the mud banks and reed to see where we needed to go. I called myself the “fiddler crab” and shimmied on all fours to the top of the mud bank and reeds. Somehow, I convinced John and Judge to lift the canoe and follow me through what seemed likes miles of mud to a new stream I could see in the distance.
This is where the fun adventure turned south and scary. John and Judge were such ballers hauling that canoe through the mud. They lef thteir weight on their knees and pulled it forever, while I the “fiddler” pushed on alone through the dirt to scout out what was ahead. Suddenly though, when we were close to the new creek I got a big slice in my finder from hidden oysters underneath the mud. This is another thing you quickly learn after you’ve visited Kiawah. You never can walk on the mud without shoes because at any moment you can hit an oyster bed and will be given a million little paper cuts all over your feet that will bleed li just a minute, but later become infected very quickly because the shells of oyster and mussels are full of bacteria. After the trip, John was sick for two days probably from the level of infection he got from the cuts.
In the middle of this stage of the adventure, Judge went on ahead from me to check out the island to see if we could maybe stay there until help came. All of us were bleeding and John and Judge were physically exhausted. Right in that moment, I gave up and refused to take one step forward. John came up to me and started singing to me. I started to pray and worship, and right in the midst of rock bottom we were able to put the canoe in the new creek which led us out to safety thirty minutes later.
We returned home to the dock to the voices of our freightened family. Dad had already contacted emergency services and the coastguard was putting together three boats to scan the marsh and ocean, before they called the helicopter to look for our bodies in the sea.
Right in the nick of time, when it was almots pitch dark, we made it back home to the dock.
John & Judge are now truly my heroes.