January 11, 2022

Lea Island Backwater Excursion

On January 10, 2022 Club Members Gray Mitchell and Buck & Ein Dawson set out with Captain Marty Foerster to explore the backwater creeks west of Lea Island.  It was a beautiful winter day in the 60’s!  The tide was high but 1′ less than the normal high tide of 4.5 feet.  This meant there was only so much time to explore the backwater creeks until the water was too low to get out in the 23′ boat.

First the crew navigated from the marina through the creek north of Lee’s Cut to the Intracoastal Waterway.  This way is only navigable at mid tide or above.  After passing the second red channel marker north of the Figure Eight Island drawbridge, the crew turned east into Nixon Channel.  A house with a slanted roof on the mainland is a good landmark at this turn.  From there to Figure Eight Island, the key was to hug the right side of the channel, avoiding one point on the right.  (There are often sandbars jutting off points in tidal waters.)  After passing the last house on the north end of the island (which is protected from erosion by sandbags) the crew travelled straight across the inlet to the south tip of Lea Island.  Turning west up Green Channel, the best areas to beach a boat on Lea Island are to the right.  

The crew decided to forgo the beaching for a more ambitious adventure.  Now 10.5 miles from homeport was the mouth of one of the larger creeks in the Lea Island marshes.  This creek twists and turns, running on the east side of Snake Island.  Snake Island is long-narrow island recognized by some tall Live Oak trees which have been sculpted by the sea breezes.  The crew took turns driving the boat through these shallow and narrow creeks, with one crew member on the bow sighting the sandbars and deeper water.  Everyone was excited when they passed over holes as deep as 7 feet, as the average depth was between 2 and 3 feet.  These holes make great spots for fish to hang out.  Often the deeper channel was no wider than a couple boat widths.  Since the cold winter water was super-clear, the bottom was easily visible. One of the deepest holes is in a 180-degree hairpin turn of the creek.  After this turn, the water was barely passable, and with the falling tide the crew decided it was best to make their way back out of the creek.

The ride back home was a bit chilly as the sun was low in the sky.  Back down in Wrightsville Beach, the crew approached Lee’s Cut from the Intracoastal Waterway.  Palm Tree Island was starting to become exposed by the falling tide.  This was the signal that the creek north of Lee’s Cut was getting too shallow to navigate.  The crew passed up this creek opting to take Lee’s Cut back to home port and civilization.  There were lots of lessons along the trip about the nature of tidal creeks.  What a wonderful way to enjoy a sunny winter day!