Week Two – The hosts
I took off from Pass Christian to keep heading east. I was hugging the coastline as there was no need to head out to sea like the Pacific. I am often in just a few feet of water as I move down the coast. That is one of the things I am most excited about this trip. I headed out leaving late. I am nocturnal by nature. I set my alarms for 6:00. I see the sun rise around 7:00. I fall back asleep. It took a month on the Mississippi River and close to 2 months on the Pacific Ocean to get onto an adventure schedule. It is difficult to change my normal cycle. The sunset is around 5:00, therefor my paddling time is limited. I know that it makes the beginning if this expedition a bit of a slow go. I know that will change. I still enjoy the coastline when I do paddle.
I made a go towards Gulfport, MS. It was my first bigger city on the water. I was dealing with some heavy wind and the water was choppy. I decided to cut between two ocean going boats under the pier. I snapped a few images under the pier and set my camera on my spray skirt as I went to block my kayak from running into a shell covered pillar. My leash tapped my camera and in slow motion, I saw it go for a swim. It was an elementary mistake. I was pissed. I knew exactly where it went down and though about going for a swim to get it. I called my brother to get some logical advise. The water was cold, not clear, and at an unknown depth. I found out it was around 20 feet deep. I did not know what the bottom looked like. I opted against it. I beat myself up for the rest of the day. I was upset that made such a dumb mistake. I kept pushing on because I decided I needed to get some miles in this day.
I made it to a pier at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum. I saw this gentleman on the end and I thought I would go up to say hi. As I approached, he said, “Are you Rich?” I wondered how he knew who I was. Stan is one of my followers and he lived in Gulfport. I did not know what to make of that at first, but I thought it was cool that he had come out to see me. I decided to land there. I was about done with that day. Stan is a former Navy Seebee. He asked If I needed anything. I was good and we chatted for a little bit. He took off and then I saw this woman coming back off the same pier. I thought she was a local and asked her about life in the area. She had only been here for about a week. We started talking and I found out she was in the Air National Guard. She was from DC and we had some friends in common. The world is a small place sometimes. She offered me a place to stay, but I already had my ivy sack set up and I could not leave my kayak. It was very kind of her to offer. I slept peacefully that night, despite the cold temperatures.
The next morning, I wanted to get moving. I made it to Biloxi. I went to the furthest marina, but there was no real place to tie up. All the docks out here are stationary. The west coast all had floating docks. A sailor told me about a marina I had passed that had floating docks. I decided to head back to it. I pulled up and met Captain Ron. He is a WWII vet and a kick ass guy. He said I could tie up for the night. I did and he started looking for a place for me to sleep. I told him I could sleep on the dock and be fine. He was not hearing that. He opened up a dining hall and told me I could stay there. He gave me a key to the marina since it was a private one. I was able to stay in a warm place for the night. I was excited. The next day, the winds were howling out of the east. It was not something I wanted to fight. I asked Captain Ron if I could stay another day. He had no problem with that. We went to the Marine and Seafood Museum. I was able to see some more of the workings that happened along the gulf coast.
That evening, I decided to meet Kristy and her husband. Kristy was the “local from the ANG”. I went to head down to their place. This is where things got weird for me. I was in black pants and a black jacket. I know I am not the smallest guy, but I am a nice guy. I approached 3 different people to ask for a ride towards their place. EACH one of them said no, got in their cars and immediately locked their doors. I heard the clicks. One girl even put the car in reverse before pulling the sun visor. I wonder if they thoughI was a boogie man. I have never had that happen to me. Again, the all black apparel and being a big guy may have had something to do with it, but it was weird to me.
I ended up getting a cab to her place since they don’t have Uber here yet. I met her and Greg and a few of her fellow classmates that were here for the same training. She had already told them all about me. I was the kayak guy. The classmates all took off and then we did too. We went to Slap Your Mama’s BBQ. It was good. We stayed there and had some fun conversations and a good time playing air hockey. We got back to their place as a rain storm was coming in. The lightening and thunder just made me smile. I have missed southern thunderstorms. I ended up staying the night there. It was amazing to have a comfortable bed to sleep in. I love my camping pad, but a bed was nice. The next late morning, we all were up. We had some eggs for breakfast and Kristy dropped me back off at my kayak. I was off to a late start that day when I left at 2:00. I said buy to Captain Ron and I told him I would keep in touch because he asked me. I will as I just appreciate good people.
I made it just past Biloxi. I did not go too far, but the trip began to sink in even more. I landed and set up camp for the night. The air was fresh with a nice breeze blowing. This is a comfortable lifestyle that I am quite fond to be living. The next day, I left around 10:30. I am working on getting up earlier. It is a process. I was in a mood to make some good miles. I aimed for Pascagoula. I had a big bay to cross and I knew the timing would be tight to make it before sunset. I was pushing it on a bay that was much larger that I anticipated. As I was moving along, my first pod of bottle nose dolphins decided to join me. I was thrilled. Three were off to my starboard side and one kept swimming right behind me. That never gets old. The sun set and I still had over a mile to go. I aimed for an old Navy base. I kept the water tower in my sights as I was loosing light quickly. There was a shipbuilding yard there too that put out a lot of light. I was not too worried, just tired. I made it to land only to find out it was marsh. I pulled under a bridge looking for solid ground to sleep on. I found a late night fisherman and asked him for directional advise. He pointed out a Coast Guard station around the corner. I headed around to it but could not see anyone. I decided to keep going. My shoulders were sore, but my energy was still hight.
I looked on my map and saw the Singing River Yacht Club. There were storms on their was, but theory were still out to sea. I paddled all the way to the yacht club and set up camp for the night. I wanted shelter from the big line of storms coming. I also knew that the wind would be howling that night and all day on Sunday. I paddled 9 hours that day. It was my longest day and night, but more in tune for what I like to do. I made my MRM protein shake and a Backpackers Pantry dinner before watching the storms roll in and me roll out to sleep. Today I woke up late as I knew I was not paddling today. I wanted to give my muscles a break and I did not want to deal with the 20-30mph winds out of the north. I have a package waiting for me once I get to Dolphin Island on Thursday and it is only 25 miles away. I came upstairs once the yacht club opened and made some friends. I told them who I was and what I was doing. They were excited and full of helpful tips for my route through Florida. Chris, the bartender, even got me a chicken and bacon sandwich to eat. I watched the football games with them and talked with everyone about the area. More good people. One of them is even bringing me breakfast tomorrow. It is the little things that mean a lot to me and all the people at the Singing River Yacht Club helped make me feel like home. Tomorrow, the adventure continues.
Never. Miss. A. Moment.