After a short night of sleep, morning came a little early. The first thing I heard after daylight – besides whippoorwills, gulls, bobwhite quail, crows, turkeys, crickets and cicadas – was Ken’s outboard chugging up the creek. Kevin M and Ken were already putt-putting across the water in LIttle T and the O’Day with everyone else on board.
Aeon at Anchor by Kevin MacDonald
They tossed me a line, but I dallied and delayed until the coffee was ready. Some things are just as essential as life jackets. Then we crossed the cove, towing and towed, seven of us in three boats, to Sotterley Wharf, where our little landing party tied up at the dock and disembarked. Thus began the first of what seemed like four complete adventures that day, all in one day.
Maybe I just didn’t wait for my coffe to kick in, but from the moment we set foot on the dock, it was like we passed through a looking glass, or landed in Oz. Definitely didn’t feel like Kansas anymore. We had stepped back in time a couple of hundred years. The experience of arriving via an antiquated form of travel – aboard sailboats designed in the 1800’s – only amplified the effect. Add to that the strange absence of any people, seemingly replaced by the constant trilling of millions of cicadas, and you have the makings of a rather surreal morning.
Sotterley is an 18th century plantation, privately owned but open to the public. Originally, it consisted of 2000 acres acquired in 1699, most which have remained unchanged for centuries. Everything looks very, very much the same as it did in the 1700’s. The house, barns, and dependencies sit on a low bluff set back from the river. The approach from the water is a three quarter mile walk over tree-lined sand roads, through hay fields, pastures, plots of corn and sorghum. Catalpa trees were in full bloom, lining both sides as we got nearer the house, and they dropped big white blossoms everywhere across the path like confetti – on lawns, tables, rooftops and us. Yes, like the yellow brick road through the poppy fields.
The grounds were strangely vacant at that early hour, so we had the place all to ourselves, strangers wandering around a strange land. We finally found a few people preparing for a wedding in one of the barns, manufacturing another kind of fantasy.
We walked paths through the lush gardens, looked into smokehouses and slave cabins, strolled across the veranda taking in the impressive view across the fields to the river.
We lost Mike briefly, then found him sitting peacefully in the shade under the catalpa trees, quite contented in semi-dreamlike state. Pete finally found someone who looked a bit official and made a small donation for all of us.
We strolled back down the road to the boats in a pleasant daze.
Some video of the walk:
Once all the boats were underway, we headed back to Broomes Island to rendezvous with the rest of our party, and began the longest and best single day of sailing the entire trip.