Tybee Island Report
(Little Tybee Island)


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Report By:  gbailey    Date: 4/12/2009 
Rating:Trip Rating     Photos: See 40 photos     Map & Directions: View


The FLOHIO trip. Three day, two night kayak camping trip along Georgia's barrier islands.

My Report:

Tybee Island Kayak Camping
April 3-5 2009

By Greg Bailey

FLOHIO. That’s the t-shirt theme that represented this adventure. Twelve paddlers from the Cincy Paddlers joined five FSKAers in paddling along the Georgia coastal islands, south of Tybee Island.


We met Friday morning at Sea Kayak Georgia to meet and greet everyone, grab a few maps and check on our paddling route. Our plan was to launch at the old boat ramp’s beach launch, then head south and through Jack’s Cut, if possible, then on to the beaches along Little Tybee Island.

After seeing Marsha and the gang at SKG, we decided that giving the incoming tide more time meant we’d have time to have lunch before meeting at the put-in. So to The Crab Shack we headed. With it’s nice setting outdoors and a tropical feel we as a group had some time to get to know our Mid-Western paddlers a bit more and review the trip plan in more detail. Good food and company set the stage for a great three day paddle, and as our put-in meeting time of 1 pm neared, we paid our bills and headed for the boat-ramp.

We felt for the first time the true strength of the winds once we walked from the limited parking area to the beach! It was certainly sustained – probably 18-22 mph – but coming from the S or SE so we’d only have to cross the 200 yards or so to get to the entry of Jack’s cut. Fitting 17 sea kayaks on the narrowing beach wasn’t easy, since the incoming tide was scratching it away by the minute. However, with machine like precision, everyone worked through the tight arrangements and soon we were entering the water, very close to 2 pm, our targeted departure time. We headed across the white-capped waters until nearing the cut’s entry, stopping briefly to rally the last paddlers from the open waters into the now protected narrow creek. Paddling with a strong incoming tide, this cut took us on a narrow, winding swing through the marshes behind Little Tybee Island. After 30 minutes or so we took the final switchback and out into a larger tidal creek, this one leading out to the ocean. Now paddling against the incoming tide we occasionally were forced to head directly into the strong winds, but waves weren’t the problem, just the strong winds. Soon we were at the ocean’s edge, with visible ocean swells and white sandy beaches ahead. We moved on a bit slower now, trying to determine our next route, hoping to avoid crashing through the surf. Eventually we noticed a narrow cut not far ahead that appeared to lead behind some sand dunes and into protected waters. However, to get to it we’d have to paddle past and through some fast moving incoming ocean swells, some breaking on top, possibly 3-4’ in height. Seeing no other immediate possibility, we increased our forward speed and made a break for that cut. Dodging a half dozen waves in a 2-3 minute sprint, soon everyone had made it past the swells and we headed for the first sandy beach to take a break and review our situation.

Looking around from the highest sandy spot we could see a few potential camping areas south and to the west. Those to the west were not reachable, with 100 feet of marsh grasses separating us. Franklin headed south to checkout an inside camping spot, while others, led by Don Betz, checked out the beach side sand dunes. After a group meeting we decided the beach side location was high enough to avoid the tides and had room for all, so we headed that way, anxious to get our tents setup a couple of hours before the sunset. Our camping site was perfect, with water entry from both the protected tidal creek to the west and the ocean on the east side. Some chose to pitch their tents not far from the high-tide line right on the beach, while others stayed near the inside and the rest stuck in between! The strong winds made it a bit interesting to assemble tents, with helping hands making the job easier for many (including me). Flapping rain-flies reminded me of what a great day it was to fly a kite.

With camp made and paddlers getting a chance to relax, we began to gauge the sunset direction, since this coast line was new to most of us and is not oriented in a North / South direction. More along a Northeast and Southwest line. The next low tide was at approximately 21:49 pm so it would be after dark before we’d see how low the waters were to fall, but by sundown it was already evident that we might have to walk a while to get our boats into the water the next day, whether it be on the ocean side or inside.

Saturday morning started with cool temps (57 F), and very light winds. The incoming waves were tiny, with maybe a 1 foot break. The morning low tide at 10:34 am meant that the only way to the water was on the ocean side, so we carried the boats and gear the short distance, getting ready for a beach launch and paddle down to Wassaw Island. Twelve in our group were to be led by Don and Franklin, moving down past the south end of Little Tybee, across Wassaw sound and on to the northern tip of Wassaw Island. Slow moving dolphins were working close to the beach, looking for that elusive late breakfast feast. When the incoming tide brought us enough water, Henry and I would take the others along the backside, hoping the waterway opened to the south out into the sound as well. We’d then meet the others as they returned from Wassaw. That was the plan anyway, with a 2 pm radio check agreed upon.

The backwater group hit the water around 1 pm and preceded south, paddling effortlessly into light winds and an incoming current sweeping in from the south. Within 30 minutes we found our way out along the ocean, with breakers still being held offshore due to the shallow waters that seemed to stretch out quite a distance, some at least 1.5 to 2 miles. As we rounded the southern end of Little Tybee Island we kept expecting a sharp right turn but in fact the ocean had curved the tip into a rounded end. Finally we followed the curve for what seemed like 30 minutes until we saw, out into the sound, some kayakers headed our way. Sort of, headed in our general direction. We could see two out front with a long stretched line of 10 others behind, but they were headed to a point still ahead of us. So we continued a few minutes more until we were sure they had seen us and soon we were all bobbing in a confused chop, right where the island does indeed make a turn back to the north, the waters moving along toward Buck River. Close to 2 pm, our radio check was not needed after all.

It seemed that the paddling and crossing of the sound for the offshore group had been quite uneventful, with lots of dolphins seen along the way. They all seemed to really enjoyed seeing Wassaw Island and it’s beautiful northern end. It was well worth their effort to travel the approximate 12-14 mile round-trip. So we all decided to reverse course and return via the backwaters. With a now stronger incoming tide and a few small ocean swells getting to us, the paddling was exciting but not difficult at all, with a brilliant blue sky above it all. We pulled into a large rounded sandy beach for some photos and a quick break. From that point we’d have a very easy 30 minute trip back with 4-5 hours of relaxing, free time before dark. We took some great group photos, with the sun magnifying the various colors and smiles in the group. As we reentered our boats, I noticed that Don had returned to the beach and was now walking oddly in the waters, just astern of his boat. Franklin and I returned to him and discovered that Don’s radio had come unfastened and fell into the shallow waters. So we all hit the water (68 F - it felt cold to this Floridian) and did the shuffle walk in a grid pattern for a while until Don decided on Plan B. That plan was to mark the spot with his GPS and return later at low tide. (Sure enough, right around sundown, Don had traveled back to that area and found his waterproof (but non-floating) VHF radio – and it was still in working order!).

That evening we prepared dinner well before sundown, expecting a brilliant sunset with a few high-level clouds now filtering in from the SW. Some of the Cincy guys were able to enjoy a little surf paddling action in their boats, with the relatively warm waters (compared to Ohio this time of year) quite inviting. Sure enough, we were not disappointed with the sunset, and the colors seemed to linger longer than usual, maybe due to the slow moving thin cirrus clouds. We setup a campfire on the backside near the high tide line so we could relax in behind the high dunes along the waters edge, as the cool onshore winds seemed to stiffen as the sun set. Our last evening of the trip was very comfortable, although it seemed we had just arrived and it was too soon to think about departing. But depart we must, and decided on a surf launch no later than 11:30 am, to take us back along the ocean side to the takeout. At that time, the backwaters would surely be too shallow and we hopped that ocean swells would not be a problem.

The next morning, around 3:30 am, the ocean was rolling! The winds sounded like 15-20 mph with high-tide inspired surf chomping at our beach front camping sites. I knew that high tide would occur around 4-4:30 am, so I grew anxious for those camping so close to the ocean. We knew it would be a HIGH high tide, with a 7.21 ft. reading expected, and we picked our campsites with that in mind, but still the strong winds and roaring surf had me half-expecting to hear voices in the night - asking for help in moving their tent and gathering belongings! But soon thereafter, the tide receded with no one washed away and amazingly, the winds quieted.

By sunrise the winds had died almost completely, with a few gnats greeting us as we stepped from our tents. After an easy going breakfast and some beach browsing, everyone began the task of camp disassembly. Quietly loading the boats amid the ever diminishing seas and no wind to speak of, everyone was packed and ready to hit the water well before our 11:30 departure time. With no reason to linger along the beach and dressed to paddle, we entered the water at 10:45 and started the return trip back north. Paddling along the sandy shoreline near low tide, it looked very different from our trip out. With a 7.2 ft. tidal range, the cut we had taken out was completely closed with a 5-6 foot beach front now! If we hadn’t experienced it for ourselves, you’d never think there is a path leading that way, just over the sand dunes. Paddling now in very shallow waters we had to find our way through the Triangle, an area famously noted for it’s strong currents and ocean swells interacting in some very confusing ways. However, on this day it was a pussycat, with a low tide and light winds taming the beast for the time being.
Soon we were landed along the takeout beach, now much larger than at our trip’s beginning. Good thing too, since several groups of kayakers were using the same location for their shorter day trips along the coast. Their trips were obviously timed to occur at this tame low tide window, making for easy paddling for even the novice paddler.

Winding up our trip with the Cincy Paddlers with a lunch at Stingrays, it was with reluctance we had to say goodbye. They were a very capable and good natured group of people, a group which we all admitted we hoped to see and paddle with again. It was a pleasure.

Groups and paddler names:

Cincy Paddlers
Larry Bowdre
Don Betz
Fredric Haaser
David Howard
Henry Dorfman
Don Himburg
Anthony Bogard
Patricia Owens
James Gadrow
Jerald Messer
Michele Westermeyer
George Hills

FSKA Paddlers
Franklin Dickinson
Lee Cubinski
Robert Keeler
Jack Perdue
Greg Bailey

Get Map & Directions for this trip

Location Data:

Fees/Costs $: $18 per day to park


Photos from Little Tybee Island:    (Click image to view full size)

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Little Tybee Island

Thru the cut - on the edge

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Little Tybee Island

Jack (sans hat & sunglasses) Perdue

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Little Tybee Island

Franklin and his floppy hat

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Little Tybee Island

Ocean side at low tide

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Little Tybee Island

Campsites - view from the ocean

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Little Tybee Island

Campsites - view from the backwater side (at high tide we would all be standing in 6 inches of water)

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Little Tybee Island

Yes dear, we were not alone

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Little Tybee Island

Note the consistent pattern

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Little Tybee Island

Saturday morning into the surf

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Little Tybee Island

Saturday morning - gentle ocean

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Little Tybee Island

taking a break - Saturday afternoon

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Little Tybee Island

looking south toward Wassaw Sound

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Little Tybee Island

Saturday's sunset

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Little Tybee Island

low tide and the setting sun

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Little Tybee Island

sunset

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Little Tybee Island

one last sunset shot

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Little Tybee Island

Sunday am - loading for the return trip

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Little Tybee Island

Sunday am - lots of stuff

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Little Tybee Island

Robert from atop his throne

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Little Tybee Island

campsites view from backwater side

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Little Tybee Island

group photo

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Little Tybee Island

Crossing to Jack's cut
(Henry's pics)

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Little Tybee Island

Taking a break on north beach of Little Tybee Island
(Henry's pics)

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Little Tybee Island

Lee's ocean side campsite
(Henry's pics)

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Little Tybee Island

Sunrise from Henry's tent

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Little Tybee Island

Don B. and George with Wassaw Island in the background
(Henry's pics)

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Little Tybee Island

Out to Wassaw Sound
(Henry's pics)

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Little Tybee Island

Meeting up with Don B. and Franklin
(Henry's pics)

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Little Tybee Island

Pat liking her sweet new sea kayak
(Henry's pics)

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Little Tybee Island

Dave leads the pack for a spot to break
(Henry's pics)

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Little Tybee Island

Group Shot
(Henry's pics)

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Little Tybee Island

Time for some surfing
(Henry's pics)

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Little Tybee Island

... and swimming
(Henry's pics)

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Little Tybee Island

Sunset
(Henry's pics)

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Little Tybee Island

Another sunset
(Henry's pics)

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Little Tybee Island

... and later, sunrise
(Henry's pics)

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Little Tybee Island

Mother and young'un
(Henry's pics)

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Little Tybee Island

Packing up to beat the weather
(Henry's pics)

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Little Tybee Island

Satellite photo - Little Tybee Island

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Tybee Island, GA

Georgia Coastal Islands



Special Interests and Comments:

Special InterestsSea Kayak Georgia



Post Date: 4/12/2009

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