Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Rivers to Reefs 2012
Mission Information

Saturday: July 21, 2012
Log Day 6

Betty Bates; Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High,
   Fort Oglethorpe, GA
Shannon Sanders; Bonaire Middle School, Bonaire, GA

Betty Bates

Betty Bates, Dana Emery, Stephanie Miles and Shannon Sanders observe estuary critters collected in the trawl net

Betty Bates, Dana Emery, Stephanie Miles and Shannon Sanders observe estuary critters collected in the trawl net.
(Photo: Cathy Sakas)

What can one say about this workshop except that it was beyond all expectations? So many experiences and so much learning going on! I did improve my skills on water quality testing, which was a goal of mine. I am still not the expert that I wish to be but am improved. The night on Sapelo was something to remember. Meeting the authors of two of my favorite books was memorable. One book is by James Holland on the Altamaha Riverkeepers and the other was by Cornelia Walker Bailey - God, Dr. Buzzard and the Bolito Man.

Of course, there was the trip to Gray's Reef that was cut short by the high waves. I do believe that God had a hand in that one because God knew that I would get sick. There was so much reflection (and thankfulness that we did not have to go the full distance) going on in my head while I was in my seat at the back of the ship. It was such a psychological lift to see that boat turn around. It is amazing how calm the waters in the sound can be. I was a different person. I truly thank all who came over to pat me on the head and give me their blessings. No one will believe it but I was less sick this trip than the last time I sailed into deeper waters.

Jacqui Toner holds the catch container while Sharon Butler, Kerry Carter, Joseph Denato, Kathryn Paxton and Patty Matthews observe; with Kim Morris-Zarneke ready to snap the photo behind them

Jacqui Toner holds the catch container while Sharon Butler, Kerry Carter, Joseph Denato, Kathryn Paxton and Patty Matthews observe; with Kim Morris-Zarneke ready to snap the photo behind them.
(Photo: Cathy Sakas)

The canoe trip was memorable. I am not the steering captain that I thought that I was. However, we had the best time seeing the entire river. Others just cruised down the center of the river while we went in circles and visited both sides in a zigzag course. I can truthfully say that I have completely seen the Altamaha River from our put in to the take out point. Kayaks are so different from canoes. My son was correct when he told me that I would be wishing for rapids like we have in our northern rivers.

Capt. Mike Neal deploys otter trawl

Capt. Mike Neal deploys otter trawl.
(Photo: Cathy Sakas)

I was very leery of the mud crawl. I have walked through Spartina grass before and came out cut to pieces and vowing that no shell is worth going in there to get and here I was going to crawl through the stuff! God was again gracious as there was a huge rain before we went and it was a very cooling rain so at least the temperature was decent (not a 100 degree day with 99% humidity). The down side to that was there was more water in the marsh than usual. Plus, this tide had just gone down. For once in my life, I did not stop to pick up shells. The end goal was to go out and finish. I accomplished my goal to go half way. Goal accomplished. I had enough sense to realize that I would have to have enough energy to get me back to the starting place and that if I could not make it, the others would be too tired to help. I had visions of becoming the Marsh Woman of Sapelo. I do not want to go out of this world that way. Therefore, I made the decision, to not become completely exhausted. Good decision, because the others looked pretty beat when they came back. It was like a nightmare coming true to watch them rising from the grass covered with mud and walking like zombies. I was so glad that I knew all of them.

A large flock of endangered Woodstorks herald our return to port

A large flock of endangered Woodstorks herald our return to port.
(Photo: Cathy Sakas)

Lightening is very powerful and I will not get outside when it is going on. I do not want to go out of here like a flaming marshmallow either. That was okay because too many people have been killed standing under trees during storms. I missed the turtle walk on the beach with no moonlight or flashlights. Again, I made the decision, that since I cannot see well at night with the one good eye that I have, that it would not be too good to risk breaking an arm or leg or something else. Depth perception diminishes with only one good eye. Age, does have its limitations and wisdom. I know what I can and cannot do or will or will not do. I won't do lightening and I can't do sailing the high seas very well.

Our Intrepid Instructors - Cathy Sakas, Mike Mahan, and Kim Morris-Zarneke

Our Intrepid Instructors - Cathy Sakas, Mike Mahan, and Kim Morris-Zarneke.
(Photo: Mike Heath)

That said I would love to do this workshop again. I have some goals to conquer. I will do better on the ship next time. I won't eat a chili dog for my lunch before we sail and I will increase the medicine and try the wristbands. Each time, the sickness gets less. I will either learn how to steer a canoe or I will sit in the front. It upset me that I could not really crawl as far as people 30 years younger than me. They will not outdo me again. Next year, I will go the entire way and I will conquer that sea.

The instructors were fabulous. They were filled with knowledge of their subjects. It was like being on Jeopardy for 24-7. I was writing as fast as I could to keep up with them. I wanted to jump inside their brains and stay for a few days internalizing their knowledge.

In conclusion, this was one fantastic workshop that I would definitely love to attend again. One other observation, that this class was one of the best to be a part of. There were no cliques and all were genuinely interested in learning. Georgia can indeed be proud of her teachers. So many times, we hear negative comments about our teachers. Our teachers are definitely interested in learning and taking back information. Workshops are boot camps, packed from 6:30 am to 11:00 pm. They are not for the faint of heart or the weak of body. We are also blessed to have people like Kim Morris-Zarneke and Cathy Sakas who are willing to plan for and take on a group of adults. That takes dedication and determination also. Thank you to the instructors for planning such a great workshop and for the cooperation and concern of the participants to make it such a success. And, thank you for letting me attend and experience this workshop.

Shannon Sanders

Wow! This week has flown by. I can't believe it's already over. This has been one of the best educational experiences in my professional career. One of the most exciting aspects of this trip for me has been looking forward to going back to my school to share this experience with my co-workers and students.

Chandra Westafer, Rob Herrin, Sharon Butler and Laura Hunter discuss the contents of the viewing container

Chandra Westafer, Rob Herrin, Sharon Butler and Laura Hunter discuss the contents of the viewing container.
(Photo: Cathy Sakas)

This morning we woke up on the RV Savannah and enjoyed a wonderful chocolate chip pancake breakfast cooked by the ship's own chef. After all the experiences we've had this week, we were all wondering what in the world could be in store for us next. As we all were getting our luggage unloaded onto the dock we looked up and here comes one of the biggest pontoon boats I ever seen to pick us up. We boarded the boat, owned and operated by Bull River Cruises, and set out for an exploration of another one of Georgia's many estuary systems. We were able to capture and release a good variety of fish, shellfish, and even a squid or two. Seeing all these different types of marine animals and the faces of the members of our groups as we examined each and every one reminded me that for the most part teachers are really just big kids too. Being able to shed the teacher role and take on a student role has been so much fun this week. The other part of our morning voyage around the estuary that will always be memorable to me was getting to see a woodstork rookery in person. How many people can say that? By no means were these the only birds we saw on this trip, but to me they were the most fascinating. Seeing those great birds flying through the air with their black tipped wings reminded me that humans really aren't the masters of the sky, but that we are only borrowing just a little air space from the real masters. Two things that I personally enjoyed about this aspect of our trip were trawling for various macro-invertebrates and macro-vertebrates living in the salt-water marshes in and around Skidaway Island.

After a trip around the marsh we gathered together as a group again and dissected the data that each group had collected throughout the week. It was very interesting to hear Kim Morris-Zarneke's interpretation and give us feedback of our results. Seeing the results first hand made me really realize how interrelated and fragile our water systems are. Before this trip I had an idea about how our rivers and watersheds work together to create the ocean, but for the first time I really see how it truly matters what we put in our water systems from the smallest of streams to the largest of rivers. It all flows to our ocean and in many ways our ocean defines us in our traditions, economically, spiritually, and it ultimately binds us together as a human race.

The Entire Gang - R2R 2012....Survivors!

The Entire Gang - R2R 2012....Survivors!
(Photo: Mike Heath)


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