For those starting here but needing a U-turn to the beginning:
After the rains moved through and avoiding direct lightning hits, sleep returned and suddenly it was morning again. Everyone knew what was still out there though. Them. Those...those...THINGS. Skeeters.
The shout-out to rise was sounded at 5:00 AM. The departure from the marina ferry slip was the most efficient and quickest of the week. Everyone quickly disassembled their tents, packed their gear, donned their life jackets, swatted at a few more mosquitoes, and paddled away - all in about 30 minutes. We paddled to a safe distance away and then took a short rest to eat our breakfast.
This was our final day of kayaking. From our breakfast stop around 5:30, we paddled pretty much non-stop several miles to the mouth of Cedar Island Bay with the wind favoring us. We re-grouped around 10:30. Our guides told us we were "home free" - that we only had about 3 to 4 miles up the bay to our take-out point. He was wrong. The row up the bay included headwinds and tidal flow working against us.
One scout finally ran out of gas from the week of rowing and could paddle no more. He could dip each end of his oar in the water, but he had zero forward movement. My son stepped up and showed true scouting and teamwork spirit by towing his fellow scout and friend about 3 miles. He finally needed help from a dad to help him bring the two of them to the end of the bay and takeout point at Cedars Island on mainland near the Cedars Island Ferry. It was great camaraderie amongst kayaks of the the armada, and I could not have been prouder of my son for his extra effort.
Finally - boat by boat - we all reached the take-out point. Land Ho! We'd made it. Approximately 40 miles of rowing were complete. But we still had work to do. All boats had to be moved approximately 200 yards to a storage area. Life jackets, spray skirts, and paddles had to be stowed. Personal gear had to be re-consolidated into as few bags as possible. And then we had to hustle to catch the ferry for a 2 hour ride to Ocracoke Island for a final night of camping.
Our ferry to Ocracoke: The Silver Lake
The license plate on this car succinctly summarized what we looked and smelled like: A Mess. Many passengers on the ferry asked about our trip. But within a matter of moments of any of us beginning to tell the story, our smells would waft their way. It didn't take long for folks to find another place on the boat to enjoy the ride.
With two hours of nothing to do, scouts and adults found different ways to pass the time. For some, it was time to catch up on soft drinks. Dr. Pepper, Ginger Ale, and Coca-Cola were dispensed with regularity. Some gathered at a table for card games. Some caught a nice two-hour nap.
And some still had enough gas in the tank to hang along the rail, enjoy the sun and nice breeze, look cool, and troll for girls. I laughed at a couple of our guys who simply didn't realize all the coolness they tried to exude was no match for their overpowering stench from a week without a meaningful shower.
Upon arrival at the Ocracoke ferry stop, we hauled our gear to Teeter's Campground managed by Bubby. None of us are sure if Bubby has a last name - or if Bubby is even his true first name. But he was hospitable, lets scout crews camp for free, and allowed us to use the campground's showers and bathrooms.
The only charge for the boys to spend the night at the campground was a 12 pack of Silver Bullets. With three troops camping at Teeter's, Bubby cleaned up a case and a half of beer. Not a bad return for an otherwise unused parcel of grass.
Bubby wandered over looking just like his name would suggest. Shirtless, shoeless, NASCAR cap, a Coors Light in one hand, and a cig in the other. As soon as he strolled up and without knowing who he was, I extended my hand and said "Well, you must be Bubby."
The guides had told us Bubby had an accent - one that was a bit odd and maybe a bit old English style. They paid him his Coors Light but otherwise didn't have a lot of interaction with him. But once I got to talking to him about NASCAR and beer, we got along just fine. He didn't speak old English. He just spoke redneck, that's all!
I thanked him for letting us stay at the campground. His response was "Aww, no worries man." He then took a long drag on his cig and a long pour of his beer and said "Well, I was corrupting them girl scouts when I was fifteen. Figured it was 'bout time to start corrupting them boy scouts too."
My new Coors Light swilling and NASCAR following friend, Bubby. He was kind enough to park his cigarette for this photo rather than taking the chance of burning my ear.
While the scouts worked hard to learn kayaking and other skills such as camping and outdoor cooking, it was clear Bubby had already successfully earned his Redneck merit badge.
During the previous nights, the crew battled strong winds, sand, and thunderstorms. The night on Ocracoke would require us to challenge different foes: hot temperatures, high humidity, and zero breeze.
The crew prepared a final camp dinner. About half the crew ate the chicken and undercooked rice dinner. The other half hit the tourist town of Ocracoke early for dinners of Thai food, hamburgers, chicken fingers, etc.
After dinner and clean-up, it didn't take long for the crew to find ways to pass the evening hours - homemade ice cream, freshly squeeze lemonade, souvenir and surf shops, walks along the main drag, sitting in beach chairs under an old oak tree listening to reggae music, etc. There was seemingly no shortage of ways to pass the time until 9PM.
I stopped with the other dads to get some ice cream and lemonade. Taking a break under a big oak tree was wonderfully relaxing. But one of the dads and I already had developed an understanding to use coded body language like a baseball manager signaling a base runner to steal.
Once we knew the kids were on one end of the street snacking and shopping and the three other dads were collapsed under the tree, the two of us sighed deeply and suggested we might stroll the street much like Sheriff Taylor and Deputy Fife checking the streets of Mayberry at dusk.
We found a small open-air bar with live music. He and I found a high top table pretty much out of view from the street and quickly ordered two Yuenglings. Before they could be served, however, two scouts unbelievably walked to the entrance seemingly appearing out of nowhere. My partner-in-crime quickly met them at the door with a stiff palm to the chest suggesting they go back down the street. He returned laughing saying the two of them wanted to come in because they smelled french fries. He told them to get fries elsewhere.
As soon as the brews were set before us, we killed 'em. We didn't plan to drink all night or get in a chugging contest. But after a week on the water, it went down so quickly and tasty. Immediately, we held up two fingers to the waitress to bring us a second one.
But once again, we had visitors. This time it was two dads vs. more scouts. But still... of all the places... and after we deliberately tried to slip away. One of them plopped down and asked for a cold Coke. The other just glared at us - clearly upset with our breaking of protocol. I didn't care because I now had my second brew to his zero.
Upon returning to the campground, I asked the dad who ordered the Coke if he was cool with everything. He said absolutely and that he used to sip on Mountain Dew and vodka after long days of some of his scout backpack trips. We got a good laugh out of that.
No more was said from prude dad. I was ready if he did. Sure, I had a couple of cold brews - but we didn't do so in front of the kids. Nor did we get out of control. Meanwhile, he didn't want me to take a photo of him eating ICE CREAM because his wife would see him eating empty calories. Are you kidding me? I certainly realized I wasn't the one with the bigger issue.
Once all returned to Teeter's, everyone attempted to sleep in the hot, humid, windless conditions. My trick of using baby powder as I had in previous nights backfired. I didn't have sand to shed, but I thought another heavy dousing of powder might help cool me. Instead, the powder coagulated with my sweat. I felt like a big pile of self-rising biscuit dough as I laid in my crockpot of a tent.