If At First You Don’t See A Pony, Try, Try Again

Monday November 12, 2012

Our last day in Beaufort and we weren’t going to leave it without seeing a pony. Nevermind that we hadn’t seen town at all and checked out the local stores and shops, we know what’s really important. After the first attempt, the only two we saw were across a deep marsh that we couldn’t have walked over but it looked like the dinghy would be able to make it’s way through. So caravanning with Rode Trip in their dinghy we made our way down the parts of Taylor Creek where no one has their boat anchored. Getting my binoculars out of the bag I started focusing them on shore just so I could search down and try to find the inlet when something whizzed past my sight. I don’t know if it was a pony or a bird, but looking back at Rode Trip they were pointing to shore and taking photos as well so I figured it had to be something. Deciding to pull our dinghies off to the side there we walked up a small hill and saw groups of ponies grazing in the grass. They were still close to a mile away and some definite marshy-ness between us. Now seeing that the inlet was just a few hundred yards away we piled back in the dinks for a better approach.

 Slipping through the channel that a few other small boats were fishing in we crept up to the ponies as quietly as one can with an outboard running although I don’t think they even noticed or cared we were there. Bottoming out a few times I jumped out in the calf high water and dragged us to a point it was deep enough to run the motor again. When we finally crashed into shore we were less than two hundred feet from a group of four ponies grazing. Grabbing a carrot out of a bag Matt and I started slowly walking toward them not wanting to startle them and send them running. The ground we were walking on was thick and muddy and acted like a suction cup on your feet. We basically had to sneak up on them because we couldn’t move any faster than that. While Matt went straight for a group of three I stayed off to the side, partly so I could try and get a photo of him feeding his carrot to the pony should that ever happen and party so I could come up on a female all by herself that kept watching me. Maybe we had some kind of special connection and she’d let me ride her off into the setting sun?

While Matt came up on the group of three they ignored him until he started getting a little too close and then turned their backs to walk away. Thinking they might want to come back to us if they knew just how good our carrots tasted he haucked it in their direction only to frighten the crap out of one and make it do some fancy sidestepping. I kept working my way toward the female who hadn’t moved yet but kept watching me. Just as I was getting to a 5-10 foot distance she also turned her back to me and trotted away. Just as we thought we were getting nowhere (we including Stephanie now, Brain was hanging back at the dinghy with his cousin who had come along) a large male a half mile off to our left threw his head back and neighed, bringing up a group of four other ponies behind him. We joked that these must be the show ponies, the ones that come out for the tourist. Changing course now we began stepping and sliding in their direction getting stuck in the mud with every other step. Finally making our way through the marshes and over to them we stopped for just a minute to let them take us in and then began taking small steps forward, only one or two at a time, before stopping again. Either these were the show ponies or our baby steps were working because they seemed to care less that we were less than ten feet away.

Getting the attention of another female I walked ever so gently forward with my arm extended and a carrot in my flat palm. She didn’t move away as I inched closer and actually appeared to be interested in me. I let my body stop about three feet away from her and leaned in with the carrot. Instead of going back to grazing on the dry grass she leaned her head in toward my hand and took a sniff of my palm. I didn’t know what to expect since it’s been about fifteen years since I’ve fed anything to a horse and I was just hoping my hand would still be intact at the end. The same hand that had just jammed it’s way into a block a few days earlier. The pony sniffed a few more times, her soft snout brushing my hand, and turning the carrot down went back to her grass. Stepping a foot closer this time she didn’t want what I was selling and turned her back to me as she walked away. For five or ten more minutes the three of us continued to step up to the ponies surrounding us just to have them turn away at the last second. I don’t know what I was originally expecting of these wild ponies, eating out of my hand, letting me run my hand across their coat, but they were making it pretty clear that they were interested in looking but not touching. Deciding we’d let them be we bid our ponies farewell and rode our dinghies back home.

With the unusually nice day we were having the rest of the afternoon was spent lounging outside in the cockpit just for the fun of it. I don’t think that’s been done since we were in Deltaville, before hurricane Sandy. It felt so good to get the outdoor living space to our boat back. As we were sitting there with the fabric of the dodger blocking the view to our sides I could hear another boat was anchoring and a British voice calling out instructions to the person behind the helm. I didn’t think to even look up but when they began chatting with the boat behind us I thought another anchor dispute was about to breakout as we had experienced one earlier in the day (not involving us) with the boat behind us and a guy dragging a grappling hook in the area looking for his lost anchor. Let’s just say that he caught the anchor of the boat behind us (liveaboards in that spot for the past six months) and things quickly escalated to Jerry Springer level. But this time the boat behind us was welcoming in the new one and I popped my head around to take a look. Right away I recognized the name printed on the side, Hideaway, as it belonged to a hopefully new friend of mine, Tasha. Although we had never met in person she had found our website through her friends that we had met in Manhattan (Bill and Grace). She e-mailed when we were back in D.C. to let me know she was following and that her and her husband Ryan had just left out of Manhattan and were also making their way south. We’d sporadically message each other on Facebook and I kept an eye on her location through her website, TurfToSurf.com to see if they were catching up with us, and boy were they! As soon as their anchor was down I was busy sending her a message that we were right next to each other and they should stop by that evening for a drink. Quickly stopping by to say hi and introduce themselves while on their way in to town for a quick bite to eat and a little exploring they were over at Serendipity. Trading experiences on the way down so far and finding out they had it a lot worse in Sandy than we did just due to the winds in their location we were soon joined by Brian and Stephanie.  Through the night new friendships were formed and I was able to add another couple to the Young Cruiser’s Club  I’m planning on starting.  It was a great day from start to finish and just reinforced why we’re out here doing what we do.


Carrot Island

Saturday November 10, 2012

Not that we had chosen this anchorage for a reason, but we happened to be anchored next to Carrot Island which is rumored to have wild ponies roaming it. At first I was a little skeptical, but after checking my good friend Google it showed lots of images of the island and it seemed to be overrun with them. After finishing some projects in the early afternoon (Matt was glassing in a bulkhead to the anchor locker and I was roaming around town trying to find an internet signal) we jumped in the dinghy at low tide and beached ourselves on the sand. Throwing down the dinghy anchor since tides change so much in the area and we didn’t want to come back to no ride home, we started to make our way forward to the hills and trees of the island. Standing in our way though was lots of marshy grass and ankle deep water. This wasn’t a problem for me as I had borrowed Stephanie’s rain boots but Matt was walking around in his Merrell water shoes taking the full brunt of the nastiness. Getting to dry land we had to make our way through thick brush and branches but after a little bushwacking we were in the clear.

 Walking up the sandy grass we got to a high point on the island where we could see the Atlantic on the other side but could not see any ponies roaming. Treating me as if I had a sixth sense Matt asked me what direction we’d find them and I pointed to the left (only because that side had more land to cover) and we began making our way over. Although we weren’t seeing any wild animals at the moment it didn’t take long to discover that they were actually there by the gargantuan amounts of horse poo all over the island. It was all over and most of the time you had to be careful where you stepped as not to walk into a big pile of it. It was starting to feel like we were back on Mackinac Island again. Getting scientific we started searching out fresh piles thinking it may lead us to the ponies. Walking up and down the dunes and through the trees we did not see anything moving except a few birds. So far this search was looking fruitless. Marking our way from the solid ground towards more marshy land in the center I pulled out my binoculars to scan the area. Looking all the way across the island as far as I could scan I stopped as I saw a dark figure in the distance. Going back and focusing in a little clearer I saw two ponies grazing. Pulling the binocs down I looked in the same spot to just be able to make out two dark specs. Getting excited I handed the binoculars to Matt so he could see and started formulating a plan to get ourselves over there.

There looked to be a miniature lake separating a straight path to them so we hugged the sometimes solid and sometimes soft ground that lined the water. Every few minutes the ponies in the distance would become a little clearer and my excitement grew. We walked for close to a mile and just as I could start to fully make them out with my own eyes our path was halted. Not only was there a lake between us and the horses on one side, but now there was a channel blocking our other way around. We weren’t sure how deep it was or if it was crossable, but a fishing boat sitting off to the side verified that it was nothing we could make our way through. The journey ended here. Standing there with disappointment I thought I’d never get to see my wild ponies when we noticed the fishing vessel disappear. The channel must lead out to Taylor Creek which means we could get in to it with our dinghy and practically land ourselves right next to the ponies. Hope was growing high again but unfortunately the sun was not. By the time it would take us to go back to the dink and ride it all the way out here again it would be close to twilight. The hunt would have to wait. We made our way back through the marshes and high ground and back through the branches to where the dink was still sitting waiting for us. Getting back to the boat we consoled ourselves a little by making up some big juicy hamburgers to throw on the grill. Being treated to another beautiful sunset and a quick dolphin sighting I watched the sky slowly turn black and the smoke from our grill send clouds across the anchorage.

So close yet so far away.