Week Six – The reach into the river
I woke on St. Joseph’s Island. The wind was blistery as the sand dune that I hid behind was not that effective in the morning. Sand was flying all around me as I opened my bivy sack. I debated on zipping it back up and calling my friends or making a go at the day. I decided to call friends. I knew I had the wind at my back and I would catch a good sail that day. I talked with my best friend for a bit. We were able to have one of those good friend conversations. That made the good day even better. i put on my wind shell and got my things together. There was a little surf to get out, but nothing I could not handle. I would like to thank the Pacific Ocean for that. I was off to make the day a good and fast one.
As soon as I cleared the surf, I turned south and popped up my Windpaddle Sail. The wind was pretty strong and I was moving. The wind was moving around 15mph. I had to hold on when the gust picked up. I placed the sail lines behind my head and used my paddle as an outrigger. I checked off 10 miles in short order. I dropped the sail and decided to head in so I could get something to eat. I ride the surf in, which my Quest X3 did a great job, and made a quick lunch. A few people walking and riding along the beach checked to see if I was ok. They could see the wind capped waves and chop in the water, so I appreciated that. I went to relaunch and I was having the hardest time due to a hard pull along the shore line. I kept fighting it until I decided to stay in and wait it out. It turned my kayak a full 360 degrees before the water pushed up right mad I pushed out.
I sailed all the way around the southernmost point. I needed to make it past here because the next few days would be nasty with the wind. I was losing light and began to head in closer to the beach. I saw some homes pushed back a bit as I realized I would not make it to the point down the beach where I was hoping to land. I was a woman with her pink running shoes and her dog on the beach. I decided to head in. I landed on the beach and asked if she lived in the area and if I could possible set up a tent behind her place to get out of the cold and wind coming. She told me I could stay i her screened in porch. The woman, Virginia, went up to tell her husband I was coming up and to put her dog in. Another neighbor, Phillip, offered to help me pull my kayak up through the sand. I told them my story and they were kind enough to help me out. WE pulled the kayak up to Virginia’s place and I met her husband, Earl. They were both adventurers in their own right. They invited me in and I chatted with them for a bit. They offered me a much needed shower and to join them upstairs after I was finished.
I cleaned up and joined them as they were watching the Super Bowl. I was not that interested in it or the teams, so we just started talking. We made it to halftime before we decided to go downstairs and eat. Virginia had made some extra chicken and I sat down with them. They then offered me to stay in their guest bedroom. I could not have been happier of more appreciative. The next day was bringing in cold weather and gale force winds. I looked at it as an opportunity to catch up on my blogs. The next day was nice and quiet. It was still a no-go for getting on the water. Virginia and Earl both had things to do. They were a married couple of 45 years from up north. They came down for the winter to escape the cold. The both were pilots and have flown everywhere. Earl was more of the free spirit and she was the brains. They were both successful in their jobs and were just enjoying life.
We went into town to get some groceries for dinner that night. I offered to cook. I made some simple burgers and some fries. I also did an interview with the local paper. They were excited to write about my story. That issue would come out after I had left. That night while I was cooking, they both sat down in the living room. Earl grabbed a book bad began to read it to Virginia. It was a simple version of classic romance to me. I felt lucky to be in the same place as them. The conversations with them were easy. They had traveled well in their lives and had an insight into what I was doing. It was nice to be around other people that have traveled and understood some of the challenges that pop up. That night, I enjoyed a good nights rest as I knew I would be pushing off the next day. Virginia said I could stay as long as I would like. They enjoyed my company. I told them if I had done that with each person that has said that on my adventures, I would get nowhere fast.
Wednesday morning, the winds were still high but they shifted in a favorable way. Phillip and his wife came over to Virginia and Earls place to see me off and to help launch me. I got down to the beach and there were a few other people to see me off. Phillip helped get me out from the beach and I was off. As soon as I headed west, I popped my sail and I was off. The winds were moving right along and so was I. The water was a little choppy, so I had to pay attention. I kept going further out to sea and I kept fighting my way back towards shore. I was keeping an eye out for this small gap in which I could enter the Saint Vincent Sound. I would be protected there but still be able to catch a sail. I saw this area where the surf was high and a little rough. I decided to head that way as I thought the slot would be in there. I dropped the sail and surfed the waves in over a sand bar. My Seaward Kayak worked like a charm. The nose did not dive and it rode the edge quite well. I was thrilled about that. Once I got through the slot, I was able to relax for a few. I ate a quick bite in the kayak and then headed back out across the sound. I sailed most of the was to Apalachicola. I landed at one of the first dock landings I could see. I made it in just before sunset. I pulled my kayak out of the water and grabbed a quick image of the sunset. I was on the dock when I met AJ. He was a local Chief Deputy for another county. We started talking about adventures. He asked me if I needed anything. Aside of the 250 horse power motor and a roll of duct tape, I was good. He asked about snacks and drinks. He told me he would bring me some in the morning. I set up my little camp and called it a night.
Thursday, I woke up to AJ bringing me some snacks and drinks like he said he would. I was grateful for that type of kindness. I was not moving that fast in the morning because it was a cold night. I was getting things organized one of AJ’s friends pulled up. He asked if I was the guy AJ had posted about that morning. Word gets around in smaller towns. I spoke with my friend Jenna. We were going to be Skyping that morning with her class. I always look forward to that. I was done with breakfast and was ready to head out, but I decided to talk with the kids from a dock. They asked me a few more questions and then I told them about the dolphins I have been seeing. If I can light the spark within them about adventures and exploring, I have done my job. I told them about what they can look forward to as I move down the FL coast.
I made it out of Apalachicola and got to East Point across the bay. I mad it under a bridge to see 3 white kayaks on the beach. I was a little puzzled as I had not seen any other kayakers out this early. As I got closer, I could see that they were high end Epic kayaks. I pulled up to where they were to make lunch. Three guys came over. I told them I was on an adventure and they told me that they were too. They had come from Montreal, Canada and were paddling down to Yucatan, Mexico. They were 8 months into their 16 month expedition. I was thrilled. I was able to actually meet other people doing things like I was doing. We were both about halfway through our days and both had some more paddling to do. We decided to just stay at that beach, make dinner, share stories, and play games. We found each other assign the same questions that we both get ask all the time. I liked how they spread their food and gear in three different kayaks to help keep the weight distributed. They liked how I got everything into my one kayak. They mad a good mac and cheese for dinner. I ate as soon as I landed, but was up for some more. After dinner, we set up our camps and then we played a dice game that they knew. I learned quick and we had some good laughs while playing. Before we crashed out, we looked up to the sky. The Milky Way galaxy was shining bright and clear. I have seen a lot of stars over the course of my adventures, but this night just seemed a little better. I am happy to have met Nuka, Luc, and Julian. Their web site is: www.defigofetch.com
Friday morning, they made eggs, bacon, and toast. I liked how they had that option. I have oatmeal or my freeze fried breakfast. I will look into changing that. We got some departing images and they headed into the wind and I was catching a sail. I popped mine up and we off. I made it about a half mile out before I ran ashore to a sand bar. I got out to move my kayak. I found it funny I was over a half mile off shore in water two inches deep. That is the nature of the Gulf of Mexico. I had a good tailwind all day. I made it into Carrabelle. I pulled into their marina and pulled up to a bar, one of the only ones open. People came out to see me on the deck. I told them what I was doing and they invited me up. I pulled up on the landing and headed in. I brought my electronics to recharge them. I met a lot of people there who were snowbirds from up north. Then I met Greg.
Greg and his wife were marine biologist. His wife was out of town and Greg lived on his boat in the marina. He told me he could host me for the night. I pulled my kayak around to his place and was inside for the night. I got a shower and a good nights sleep. The next morning, he invited me onto his sailboat. He made me a salmon, black bean, broccoli, and cheese omelet. It sounded weird, but was rather good. He told me about his adventures in Alaska and some of his sailing adventures around the Pacific with his wife. They led an interesting life, but one I could understand. Some of the nontraditional lives are just as rewarding as “traditional” lives. While talking, I was checking out the weather and debating on wether to take the river or play in the gulf with the winds. I opted for the river. I knew it may add an extra day, but I knew I would not have the opportunity to see land like that much more on this expedition. We made a quick grocery store run and then I was off.
I paddled up into the Ochlockonee River. It was not long before I was out of civilization and into the wild of the river. The was not too mush movement happening, but that was a nice thing. I underestimated the time it would take me to get through all the curves of the river, but it was well worth it. There was a beauty about the quite. There was a little wind blowing along the tree tops, but that was it. Quiet. In a society with so much noise going on, it was nice to not hear anything. I twisted and turned through the curves of the river never knowing what each corner would bring. Around lunch time, I spotted this dock and an area where I could land. There was a john boat and a pickup truck at the landing. I called out to see if anyone was there. I was in the swamps and did not want to surprise anyone. You just don’t do that out here. I landed and called out. The truck window was down so I figured that there were hunters in the area. There was a bucket of fish heads and an bin full of discarded fish parts. I was uneasy, but I whipped up my lunch. I was about finished with my lunch when this guy popped up. He was in full camouflage with a white head bandana and sunglasses on. He kinda startled me. Before he got close, with my hands out, I told him who I was and what I was doing. He walked past his truck to see if everything was still there. I told him I just landed to eat some food and I would be on my way. I could not tell if he was armed, but I just assumed he was carrying. He gave off the biggest “Deliverance” vibe I have ever seen. I packed up and quickly, yet in a friendly manner, and left. I could not have got out of there any quicker. It was an odd feeling. Swamp people are out there for a reason and I will let them be.
I continued on and the sun was beginning to set. I needed to find solid dry land. I approached this house on the river. There was another guy working and did not pay me any attention even after I called over to him. Finally, he acknowledged me. I asked him if I could set up a tent on his back yard. He just said, “Na”.
He told me of a public launch site up by the highway. I saw that but that is exactly where I did not want to go. After a younger version of Deliverance, I pushed on. I found the site and pulled over. It was right next to a highway, but it was solid ground. I had my ivy sack set up for a few minutes when a truck pulled over. I met Tom and his wife, Katie. They had heard about me from a guy that Greg in Carrabelle called. That guy, Chris the banjo player, passed my information forward to them. They just happened to see me as they crossed the area. They told me that they would get a bigger truck to carry my kayak and that they would take me back to their place.
There is where I just put my faith in humanity. They were “Trail Angels” for the circumnavigation water trail of Florida. They made a ravioli dinner with a salad. They were great host. I was able to shower and sleep on a real bed. It would be a short stay because I had to head out early in the am with Tom. Tom told me he would share my information with Liz Sparks. She organizes all the trail angels in Tallahassee and with Dan who is a coordinator out of Jupiter, FL. Things have come together in weird ways this week. That adventure continues.
Never. Miss. A. Moment.