Okracoke, NC – May 16, 2013
The smell of bird shit woke me up. I could taste it in the air. The baking sun cooked it thick enough to chew. I pulled myself up and peered over the edge of the duck blind. The kayak floated in the water below me, tied to the blind’s rotting stilts with every rope I had.
Half-a-mile from shore, nothing stopped wind from racing up the sound, roaring, battering, howling against the thin plywood walls. The blind had rocked all night. I hardly slept. Every few minutes I sat up to shine my headlight down in the darkness at the boat, half expecting to see her upside down or broken ropes dangling in the water.
Yesterday, the whole sound disappeared in the falling tide. Mud and sand rose out of the water, the kayak’s hull caught and slid across dirt a mile off shore. I had to paddle so far away that I couldn’t see anything but the vague outline of marsh and dunes in the distance. Near sunset, I walked the boat a mile to the shore and found nothing but a maze of head high brush and marsh channels with no way through.
I stood in the mud listening to waves wash up the beach a hundred yards away, but too far for me to reach through the wall of tall grass and shriveled trees. All I could do was walk back through shallow water in the darkness, soaking wet, dragging the boat behind me, searching for an old duck blind I’d seen a half-mile off shore.
I climbed the tilted ladder, squeezed on a bench half the width of my shoulders, and almost choked on the smell of bird shit piled on the floor. I barely slept. It took me an hour to get up this morning. I lay on the bench choking on stale air, exhausted, not wanting to sink into waist deep water to pack the boat.
Then I drifted north, half conscious, almost asleep, until I found a long dry sandbar and collapsed in the wreckage of the day.