Jake has been battling poor internet connections so he phoned his brother Luke with an update from Cape Romain S.C. about 30 miles N. of Charleston. Jake spent yesterday visiting Ft. Sumter, site where the first battle of the Civil War took place in 1861, (Stay in school kids!) and friends in Charleston. He put in 30 miles today to make it to Cape Romain. Jake's spirits were up as Charleston was the point he has been targeting as the half way point since he began planning this trip. I guess you could say he is now back on his way home! He is putting together details of the past few days and hopes to have a strong enough connection to have new blogs posted soon. Stay tuned!
Start: 10:00 AM - Charleston, SC
Finish: 5:15 PM - Cape Romain, SC
Daily dist: 30 miles
Total dist: 2700+ miles
Weather: Partly cloudy, windy, warm
Notes: Another day spent paddling on the outside. Despite the later than normal start I wanted to get as far as the cape before tomorrow.
After a restful day with friends yesterday I was feeling great on the water today and managed to take advantage of a good tail wind and log some great mileage. After reviewing the maps over breakfast with Rick, Susan and the kids I decided that a worthy goal for the day would be Cape Romain.
Before I rode in to work with Susan we grabbed a few photos of the kids. As it always seems to be when photographing kids we never did manage to get everyone right in one photo.
Despite a later than normal start from the dock at Susan’s office I had a great day with following winds which drove me all the way to my destination. The only drawback to that spot was that I’m not sure camping is allowed. It seems as though many of the good camp-able islands on the coast in this region are wildlife sanctuaries that don’t always allow camping. A fresh set of ATV tire tracks in the sand near my camp made me a bit nervous but also indicated that any would be patroller had already passed and may be done for the night.
Either way it was a great day of paddling after an awesome visit with good old friends.
Start: 6:30 AM - Kiawah Island, SC
Finish: 12:15 PM - Charleston, SC
Time: 5:45 (Two hours spent in Ft. Sumter)
Daily dist: 12 miles
Total dist: 2700+ miles
Weather: Very nice, partly cloudy, gentle breeze, warm
Notes: Charleston is what I’ve had plotted as the half way point since the beginning of the trip.
When I started planning this trip the first time over seven years ago one of the first pins I put in the map was in Charleston. Back then my friends Rick and Susan had just moved here and married, and having them in the area made Charleston an automatic place to visit. It suffices to say that I didn’t get the trip off the ground back then and in the intervening years I moved to California to work construction while Rick and Susan started a family. I had been back to Charleston to visit once over the years but before their kids were born, so last summer when I started planning the trip in earnest, I once again stuck a pin in Charleston as a place to visit. This time the visit was all the more important as I got to finally meet Rick and Susan’s kids Lucia (age 5) and Remy (age 2).
One place I’ve wanted to see since the first time paddling in Charleston was Fort Sumter. So on the way in to town this morning I landed at the fort just as the National Park staff was arriving and setting things up for the day. I was shooting video of the American flag being raised then was surprised to see it get lowered to half staff. Apparently a famous civil rights leader had passed away. Not being sure if I’d have to pay to get in or not I approached the park rangers as they led a mob of people off the ferry landing dock. It turns out that if you get yourself out there you’re welcome to tour as long as you like for free. Apparently it’s the ride over that you pay for. The fort is quite interesting and different than most I’ve seen before. It was where the first shots of the Civil War were fired and the long lasting battles that were waged against this fort turned the formerly four story tall walls into piles of rubble. After the war the rubble was cleared and the fort was rebuilt and remodeled to house more modern armaments. Compared to the fort I toured in St. Augustine this one is a bit ugly but the history in this area is rich and the fort allows a commanding view of Charleston Harbor that is quite a site to see.
From Ft. Sumter I paddled a mile into the bay to the site where Fort Johnson once stood. This is the place from which the first shot of the civil war was fired. Now days it houses the South Carolina fish and game offices where my friend Susan works. After finding their dock I paddled up to a warm greeting from Susan. We quickly unloaded my boat and stashed it in an old shed on the property. We were then joined by another old friend from Florida Joy who was accompanied by her two kids Jude and Maria. Joy and the kids have been following my progress for quite some time and were excited to meet me. We all went out to lunch and afterward Susan returned to work while Joy volunteered to help me run some errands which included picking up a care package sent to my from my mom. I had it sent to Josh Hall who works on James Island for the Charleston County Parks and Rec. Department where the Kayak festival was held a couple weeks ago. When I was here for the festival Josh and I had discussed paddling together as I passed through the area but his schedule wouldn’t allow it.
After running errands with Joy she dropped me off at Susan’s office and after the kids had a chance to sign my boat we bid farewell. From there it was on to Rick and Susan’s house to finally meet their kids. And of course grab a shower and enjoy a home cooked meal with friends.
Start: 7:30 AM- Otter Island, SC
Finish: 2:00 PM - Kiawah Island, SC (across from Folly Beach)
Daily dist: 23 miles
Total dist: 2700+ miles
Weather: Clear skies, 70 degrees, NW then W wind about 10 mph
Notes: A very nice easy paddle especially compared to yesterday’s excitement.
After yesterday’s excitement in the wind today was a cake walk. The head winds that were predicted did materialize but not as strong as I had imagined. In fact by mid day the winds dropped and swung back to the west giving me a bit of a tail wind for a while. With plans to visit Charleston for at least a day I stopped after only 23 miles to spend the night just outside of town. All the other camp spots would have required a long paddle inland or all the way across to the other side of town.
Visitors in camp
While I was in my tent this afternoon reviewing my maps a dog poked his head in the open door and almost gave me a heart attack. The dog, and two others, belonged to a gentleman named Ransom and his wife/girlfriend? Lauren. After chatting with Ransom for a bit I learned that he had done the Great Circle route with his family as a kid. Talking about my trip seemed to bring back many fond memories of his family’s ten month trek aboard their sailboat. It seems as though traveling that far in any craft is bound to produce all sorts of memorable adventures.
Start: 7:15 AM- Tybee Island, GA
Finish: 5:15 PM - Otter Island, SC
Daily dist: 43 miles
Total dist: x miles
Weather: WINDY from the west at 15-20 mph - clear to cloudy and back to clear
Notes: Probably the roughest day so far. Spent an hour and a half dealing with very steep waves while crossing St. Helena sound.
My introduction to paddling the coast in South Carolina proved to be an exciting one. A strong west wind and a heading of northeast or east for most of the day meant a tail wind which allowed me to make very good progress toward Charleston. Navigation today was a fairly simple affair where most of what I needed to do was keep land on my left and paddle until I saw a potential camp spot away from houses or buildings. In route three sounds (river mouths) created gaps in the shore line allowing the wind an unhindered blast over the water. Crossing the sounds proved to be a bit challenging due to more and larger waves as well as breaking waves created by off shore sand shoals. The Savanna River and Port Royal sounds passed by without much more than a splash through waves over a shoal. St. Helena Sound however, proved to be some of the most challenging conditions I’ve dealt with so far.
The wind blew hard out of the west all day and the marine weather was saying that it was going to blow from the NW at 25 to 30 mph this evening and 10-15 mph from the NW tomorrow. The northwest wind will be a bit of a head wind tomorrow and a strong blow tonight will get the seas riled up well before dawn. Bucking against a head wind in choppy water would not be a pleasant experience so I decided that rather than camp on the West end of St. Helena sound tonight I’d take advantage of a tail wind and put in a couple extra hours to get the six mile crossing done today.
Unlike the other two crossings, the run across St. Helena sound put me on a track heading mostly north. From the mouth of the sound it opens up into a wide and deep bay orientated roughly east to west. The wind had been building all day to well over 20mph sustained. Because St. Helena sound is so wide and deep it allowed that strong wind to whip the surface of the ocean into quite a frenzy. It was out there in 3 to 5 foot whitecapping waves that I paddled for an hour and a half to make it across the sound. It started out quiet enough but as the first mile passed behind me I came into some of the roughest water I’ve had to deal with on the trip so far. The conditions didn’t allow time to stop paddling for a break instead it was continuous paddling to move forward toward more sheltered water miles away combined with frequent bracing to remain upright.
Out of the wind at last
When I finally did make it to shore I was very tired but happy to have the crossing over with. I really didn’t want to run the risk of doing the crossing with head winds into equally sloppy conditions tomorrow. In order to get a little relief from the wind I set up camp in a cozy spot amongst thick low palm trees. It is a relief to not be getting blown around any more.
Yesterday and today have become R&R days as I get myself organized for the run up to Charleston, SC this week, and on up to Norfolk, VA by mid May. Originally I had plans to be back on the water by today (Monday) but fairly strong winds, a great town to hang out in, and very cozy accommodations at Marsha and Ronnie‘s house, have kept me land-bound one more day.
While I was at the kayak store sorting out maps yesterday, a young couple stopped in looking for a seat cushion. They looked as though they’ve been on the water a while and someone asked where they were headed. It turns out that they started a couple weeks ago in St. Augustine, FL and are on their way as far north as they can get by Memorial Day. Like me, they’re taking advantage of a “between apartments” and “between Jobs/school” moment in their life to do their trip. Traveling with a 16 foot sit on top kayak and a 13 foot plastic sit inside they’re going a bit slower than me but, much like the turtle and the hare, they’re slow but steady progress allowed them to catch up with me here in Tybee. It was fun to swap notes on the route from Florida to here and interesting to see how many of the same places we ended up visiting. They’ve been utilizing marinas a fair amount to gain access to showers and a bit of civilization. After learning how well it has worked for them, I may be doing the same when the need arises.
Regan and Ashley taking boats to demo
Yesterday wasn’t spent completely off the water for me. A young man named Ashley stopped by the store to look at some kayaks and I accompanied him as he demoed a couple. It turns out that he has aspirations to paddle the length of the Missouri River (and possibly beyond). By hooking up with a place like Sea Kayak GA and folks like Ronnie and Marsha, I know he’s on the right track.
On a borrowed beach cruiser bike from Ronnie, I’m now on my way to explore the town. With luck I’ll find a post office and lunch along the way.
Start: 8:00 AM- Little Tybee Island, GA
Finish: 10:00 AM - Tybee Island, GA (Alley Number 3)
Daily dist: 6 miles
Total dist: x miles
Companions: Mark Gibbs
Weather: Rainy with 10 mph south wind
Notes: A short run in to Tybee where I met up with friends Marsha and Ronnie at Sea Kayak Georgia
Today Mark and I paddled only two hours to arrive at Alley Number 3 on Tybee Island. From the boat launch we walked up to friends Marsha and Ronnie’s house and borrowed a couple of boat carts to wheel our boats and gear up off the beach. It was a busy day for local kayakers out on the water. As we came in to the landing we saw three different tours out on the water and at the boat launch itself we met up with Marsha herself about to launch on a lesson with some students.
After wheeling our boats back to Marsha and Ronnie’s house we sorted our gear and got the wet stuff hung out to dry then walked over and celebrated a couple good days on the water with lunch at a local seafood restaurant.
Needing to get caught up on some long neglected administrative work, I borrowed a computer at the Sea Kayak Georgia store. Then later added a few recent photos to my slideshow which I showed to some local paddlers that met at the kayak shop before we headed out for pizza and beer (sweet tea for me anyway). It was a great day and I’m happy to be amongst good friends in Tybee.
Start: 8:45 AM- Obassaw Island, GA
Finish: 2:45 PM - Little Tybee Island, GA
Daily dist: 20 miles
Total dist: x miles
Companions: Mark Gibbs
Weather: SW wind 10-15 mph, clear skies, temps in the low 80s
Notes: Mark paddled six miles down from a marina to catch up with me for an overnight on the way to Tybee.
Way back in early February while I was still paddling around the Big Bend area of Florida I go an e-mail from Georgia paddler Mark Gibbs. Mark had learned of this trip and the blog when he was at the Sea Kayak Georgia symposium last fall. After following along with the blog for a while, Mark got inspired enough to want to join up with me as I passed through his home paddling turf in Georgia. He first suggested a route on a local river but over time the plan changed to simply paddling a leg of the journey up the Georgia coast along with me. Being a moving target that isn’t always easy to catch up with, Mark moved mountains in order to meet up with me this morning in order to do an overnighter on the way in to Tybee Island (the northernmost of the Georgia barrier islands).
As I made camp on an island last night Mark got a ride in to a marina about six miles inland and slept there so he could get an early start and ride the tide out to meet me this morning. Right on time at 8:00 AM Mark cruised in to where I was waiting and after a short break we were on our way paddling up the open coast.
The weather held for most of the day but the wind did finally build enough to give us some interesting water as we passed over a few shoals on the way north. We had considered breaking the 26 mile run to Tybee up into two short days by camping on Wassaw island. However, because Wassaw island is a wildlife area where camping is not allowed,we were forced to skip past that island and press on all the way to Little Tybee Island just six miles from our ultimate destination at Sea Kayak Georgia on Tybee Island. The resulting 20 mile day for me was shorter than my average but Mark’s 26 mile day nearly doubled his previous longest mileage and gave him the new experience of paddling the open coast and with some rough water to boot
On Little Tybee we set up a nice campsite (albeit windy and sandy but bug free) and enjoyed some pleasant conversation as we watched another beautiful red sunset while eating our camp dinners.
Start: 7:00 AM- North of St. Simons Island, GA
Finish: 2:45 PM - Ossabaw Island, GA
Daily dist: 27 miles
Total dist: x miles
Weather: Clear skies, 80 degrees, west wind 10 mph
Notes: Another chance to run on the outside. I had to drag my boat over shallow water at the start but it was smooth going after that.
I don’t know if it is the volcano in Iceland pumping ash into the atmosphere or what but the sunset last night and sunrise this morning had some of the deepest red I’ve seen in a while. It was under that red sunrise this morning that I dragged my kayak laden with gear over a few hundred feet of ankle deep water. The tide was out and still dropping the only way around the drag would have been to wait six or seven hours for the water to return at the next high tide.
The wind was still relatively low and out of the west so I ran the outside coast once again today. Being what I expected to be a 26 mile day I expected to be in camp by 1:30. Somehow something slowed me down (perhaps an off shore current running south) but by 1:00 a check on the map showed that I was an hour behind my normal pace. I was no big deal it just meant a little more time on the water than I had planned. At this point anything eight hours or less is a normal day.
With plans to camp on St. Catherines island I changed my mind when I realized that I’d be in the lee of the island and therefore out of the wind. Normally that is exactly what you’d look for in a camp, however bugs and heat have had me looking for camp sites in the wind so I can get relief from both. The sun has been a significant force to be dealt with lately. With very little cloud cover over the last couple days I’ve started to feel a bit like a raisin on a drying rack. With salt water splashing on my arms the evaporating in the relentless sun the sleeves on my rash guard develop buildups of salt. At times so much salt builds up that my sleeves become somewhat stiff from the accumulated brine. Part of my routine at the end of the day is to rinse my paddling clothes and PFD in the comparatively less salty ocean to get rid of the buildup.
An interesting new article of clothing I’ve been trying out the last couple days was given to me at the Charleston kayak festival. It’s called the “Buff” head scarf, instead of being made of a material that would keep you warm like other scarves, this one is made of “coolmax” material that helps keep you cooler. I was skeptical at first but after two days of using it, I’m convinced. Admittedly you look a little bit like a stylish bank robber when you’re wearing it but the thing is great. Not only does it keep the sun off your face and neck it keep the wind off as well. It is way better than the constant application and reapplication of sunscreen I’ve been using so far.
One of the reasons I chose this camp site (besides escaping the bugs) was to make rendezvousing with a gentleman named Mark Gibbs easier in the morning. Mark e-mailed me way back in January saying that he’d like to meet up and paddle with me while I was in Georgia. He has organized a drop off at a marina about six miles up the Bear and Kilkenny rivers. His plan is to stay there tonight then ride the tide out to meet me tomorrow morning. With only 23 odd miles to go to Tybee island it’s going to be two rather short days to pull off an overnighter with Mark but it should be fun. It would be nice to camp on Wassaw island (pronounced just like my home town of Wausau, WI) but that island is heavily patrolled by a ranger and is off limits to camping. Therefore we’ll have to blaze all the way up to Little Tybee Island, camp there, and then cruise into Tybee Island early Saturday morning. Not anticipating the extra night on the water I am running a bit low on water which is causing me some concern but it should work out seems how it will be such a short day on Saturday.
Start: 7:15 AM- Brickhill Bluff on Cumberland Island, GA
Finish: 3:00 PM - Small island north of St. Simons Island, GA
Daily dist: 29 miles
Total dist: x miles
Weather: Very nice, partly cloudy, 75 degrees, west wind 5-10 mph
Notes: West wind allowed me to paddle on the open ocean for the first time since reaching Miami.
I had a couple from Boston as neighbors in camp last night. They arrived just before sunset and set up camp 50 yards south of me. I went over to say hello but the visit was cut short when it started to rain. They were up bright and early though and singed my boat before helping me drag it to the water and set out for points further north.
The weather promised of light winds from the west which meant calm seas and the first opportunity to paddle on the open ocean since I scooted behind Key Biscayne on my approach into Miami several weeks ago. As much as I’ve been enjoying paddling on the Intracoastal Waterway it was nice to have the change of pace. It was also nice to not have to worry about tide flows as much either as I would have on the inside channels and rivers.
A “grass is greener” feeling has been haunting me the whole time I paddled up the Florida coast on the inside. As good as I knew I had it on the ICW I couldn’t help but wonder what I was missing on the open coast. Experience told me that I probably wasn’t missing much. What I’d see would be water on my right and a sand beach backed by trees and/or beach houses on my left. Seven hours of paddling today pretty much convinced me that I was right. The open coast is still beautiful in it’s own way but honestly, there is more happening on the narrower ICW. On the inside, with land on both sides of you there is simply more to see. The sheltered water also brings wildlife in closer. Dolphins, pelicans, and herons were constant companions on the sheltered channels. On the outside most of what you see is gulls and the occasional head first crash landing Brown Pelican diving after a bait fish.
What the open coast has that the inside channels don’t is ocean swell. There is something hypnotic to me about the gentle rise and fall of my boat as a wave passes under it. Somehow my paddling seems to fall in rhythm with the swell and the miles just pass by. That’s how it was for me today as I paddled up the length of Jekyll Island then on past St. Simons Island. I had intended to camp on the beach on the north end of Little St. Simons Island but upon reaching my destination I discovered signs warning trespassers away from what proved to be a wildlife sanctuary. Not wanting to log a ridiculously long day I turned north and crossed a channel to a small island. Unlike the ghostly silent wildlife sanctuary this island is alive with thousands of birds of dozens of varieties. The smell of so many birds forced me to camp on the upwind side of the island. As I sat in camp every once in a while something would excite the birds sending clouds of them aloft to circle the island until the call went out that it was again safe to land. It was incredible to watch so much animal life in one spot.
Start: 7:45 AM- On ICW 4 miles east of St Marys
Finish: x PM - Brickhill Bluff camp site on Cumberland Island
Daily dist: 14 miles
Total dist: x miles
Weather: Absolutely beautiful, east wind 10 mph 75 deg. Partly cloudy
Notes: I spent the day exploring Cumberland Island National Park on foot and by kayak
Cumberland Island is a National Park and in my opinion a National Treasure. In modern times this island was the vacation play spot for the Carnegie family who built several mansions on the island many of which still stand today. Saved from the grip of land developers in the early 70’s this park has some of the most beautiful undeveloped coast line I’ve seen on the Atlantic. Inside the island dirt roads and trails tunnel through huge live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. The roads and trails connect the old mansion grounds and new camp grounds sprinkled across the island.
Timing the tides carefully I got on the glassy smooth water at about 8:00 this morning and rode the tide in to the Dungeness dock. One of the things Cumberland Island is known for is it’s population of wild horses. I hoped that I’d get a chance to see one of these famous creatures and as I paddled up the length of the island form the south I scanned the shore line. Just as I neared the Dungeness dock I caught my first glimpse of a brown horse walking a trail that paralleled the water. After landing I saw a half dozen more horse grazing in the meadow behind the dock.
From the dock I hiked over to the Dungeness Mansion Ruins where more horses grazed in the lawn surrounding the ruins of the huge house. Further on I arrived at the beach which I followed to the north to the “Sea Camp” campgrounds which is a very pretty spot pressed up behind the beach dunes under huge live oaks. From there I walked back across the island down the coast and back to my boat.
Next it was on with the still flooding tide to Plum Orchard Mansion about seven miles further up the island by kayak. There I cooked lunch on a picnic table in the shadow of a huge Georgian Revival mansion. While I walked around the mansion I noticed a couple electrical outlets set up for sump pumps in the building’s basement. Not being one to pass up a chance to charge my batteries I dug out my computer and phone and plugged in. It is behind the mansion with a view of a weed covered pond full of alligators that I’m writing this post waiting for my batteries to charge and the tide to switch so I can ride the flow to the north and my planned campsite at Brickhill Bluff.
Start: 5:30 PM- Saint Marys, GA
Finish: 6:30 PM - 4 miles from Saint Marys, GA
Daily dist: 4 miles
Total dist: x miles
Weather: Windy and partly cloudy
Notes: Dropped off by Russell and Nigel camp on FL side because it’s not allowed on south end of Cumberland Island
In a huge dose of irony, after finally reaching Georgia last Wednesday then taking a week off to visit the East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival in Charleston, on my first night back on the water I’m camped once again on the Florida side of the St. Marys river.
Things are very tide dependant around here which will be the case for the next few weeks. With a relatively high tide range the channels behind the islands that make up the coast of Georgia can experience strong tidal flow from the rising and falling tides washing in and out to sea. My window of opportunity to make it to the north end of Cumberland Island came and went with the incoming tide in the morning today. I knew we’d never get out of Charleston and back to St. Marys in time to catch the flood so I planned on riding the outgoing (ebb) tide to an island across from Cumberland then ride the incoming tide north in the morning. It would have been nice to simply camp on the south end of Cumberland but it’s a national park and camping is only allowed in designated camp sites. Instead my tent is perched precariously atop a very narrow (not much wider than the tent itself) strip of high ground. According to the line of debris left by the last tide there will only be about six feet of sand separating me from the ocean at high tide tonight. With that in mind I took an early nap so I could wake up later and keep an eye on the incoming water at high tide just to be sure it doesn’t flood me out while I sleep.
Knowing that I wasn’t going to paddle far today we had lots of time to play on our way south from Charleston. After a great breakfast prepared by Michael Grey in the cabin next to ours we got on the road by about 10 AM. Along the way we avoided the interstate and drove the secondary highway so we could get a taste of the real Georgia. In so doing we stumbled upon the smallest church in the United States. Russell once again stopped on the side of the highway so Nigel and I could get out and take a few pictures. Thankfully this time we managed to get our snapshots before the police were alerted to our presence.
Yesterday started early for me as I got up at 5:00 AM to join my friends Vic and Tracy, along with a group of paddlers from the festival, for a sunrise paddle in downtown Charleston. Vic and Tracy are good friends of mine whom I met and used to paddle with in Fort Lauderdale. They’re now living in Virginia and were down for the weekend. Twenty five people were signed up to attend but only eleven hearty souls braved the wind and chilly early morning air. It was a nice paddle and afterward we stuffed ourselves on a big breakfast. The rest of the day was spent helping out in the Sweetwater tent. After the last lessons of the day were done, it was time to start tearing down the tent and loading trailers for the long drive home.
The East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival is going well. I’ve never seen so many paddlesport shops, manufactures, outfitters, and paddlers assembled in one place. Festival attendees started arriving yesterday and a steady stream of folks meandered past the display tents while others tested boats of all shapes and sizes on the lake. I hung out in the Sweetwater tent helping Russell out with sales and talked to curious people about the Portage to Portage Project gathering more signatures and even more info about the Georgia and Carolina coasts.
After a huge dinner we sat in on Marcus Demuth’s presentation about his attempt to circumnavigate Tierra del Fuego (on the southern tip of South America) to raise awareness for disabled paddlers. He and his partner made it half way before they were shut out by fierce winds. After waiting for two weeks with the Argentinean coast guard unable to get to them they got a lucky break when a helicopter happened by and eventually gave them a ride out. Because the helicopter couldn’t haul the kayaks they were forced to leave them behind. In Marcus’ partner’s words in the presentation video “it was like shooting a horse.” After spending so much time in my Ikkuma I can relate to what they were feeling.
After watching Nigel and Russell’s morning cappuccino ritual I wandered down to the lake to roll out the store and start another day of the same fun as yesterday. Throughout the day I did take advantage of a couple quiet moments to try out a few of the hundreds of boats that are here to demo.
For the most part it was mission accomplished for me today. As I said in earlier posts if there is any place one could go to get information about paddling the East Coast it would be at the East Coast Kayak Festival, and part of my reason for being here is to do just that, and of course to have a little fun. Russell gave me a ride into town where I was able to purchase maps of the coast from the FL/GA border all the way up to the tip of North Carolina. It’s with those maps (and the rest of the coast if I can get to a bigger book store) that I plan to sit down with folks and get as much information as I can about camp sites, things to see, things to avoid, etc in their areas. In just one day I’ve already touched base with a dozen people full of excellent information that is going a long way toward putting the picture together for what lies ahead.
What’s especially fun at events like this are the constant “isn’t it a small world” moments when you bump into old friends, and meet new ones, that know people you know on the other side of the country and sometimes world. Today I had a nice conversation with Ken Fink who I had first met six years ago out in San Diego when I was attending the Southwest Kayak Symposium as a student. Ken is a great friend of Jen Kleck who, of course, I know quite well. Ken was disappointed when he learned that he missed me as I paddled past his new home in Southwest Florida. When I told him that I’d paddled with a gentleman named Doug Gilliland in that area a spark of recognition ignited Ken and he said, “Hey I believe I sold him a boat nearly 20 years ago“. It turns out it’s the same yellow Valley Nordkapp that Doug is still paddling today. A small world for sure.
Start: 7:00 AM- Fernandina, FL
Finish: 9:00 AM - St. Marys, GA
Daily dist: 7 miles
Total dist: x miles
Weather: Beautiful, I beat the building NE wind under clear skies
Notes: I caught my first glimpse of something other than Florida at about 7:30 this morning. It was Cumberland Island GA across the St. Marys river.
After catching my last glimpse of Alabama on January 20th and paddling over 41 days in Florida, on April 14th I finally arrived in Georgia. To celebrate this momentous event I hopped into a car and drove to South Carolina. Seriously it’s almost like that. Way back when I arrived in St. Petersburg and stayed with my friend Russell Farrow at Sweetwater Kayaks he got the idea that if I was interested he could help get me to the East Coast Kayak Festival in Charleston. Seems how he’d be driving up from St. Pete with another friend Nigel Foster anyway he could swing over to the coast (wherever I was) and pick me up.
After taking most of March off the trip I wasn’t sure taking five more days off to hang out in Charleston would be the greatest thing. Yet I thought that if there was any place where a person kayaking up the East Coast could go for information about doing just that it would be this event. Besides that it would be a great opportunity to catch up with some old friends and meet new paddlers as well. There are some blank spots on my boat that do need to be filled with signatures after all. With all of this in mind I decided it would definitely be a worthwhile break and made arrangements with Russell to get picked up.
By the time I contacted him last week my daily mileage (with a good tail wind) showed that I could easily be in Georgia when he was driving through. The catch is that there are not a lot of places one can easily drive to the coast of Georgia so I started planning my route to land me in an easy pickup location. Even though it’s a couple miles inland St. Marys Georgia became the natural choice and became my destination. So this morning I said farewell to Cal and Nancy once again and paddled a few miles up to the very top of Florida then turned west and ran with the incoming tide on the St. Marys river and landed at the city boat ramp. I immediately phoned Russell to let him know I had arrived and learned that he was running a bit late and had yet to leave St. Pete. This was good news to me because it gave me a few hours to dry my gear and see the town.
The old part of St. Marys is a fairly compact town covering only about two square miles. It’s streets are lined with huge trees dripping with Spanish moss and many of the buildings date back a couple hundred years. I found the local kayak shop - Up The Creek Expeditions- and visited with the owner Tom Monahan a bit picking his brain for what to see on Cumberland Island and further up the coast. I then walked up the street at Tom’s recommendation and found a bight to eat at a local coffee/sandwich shop.
A while later, after wondering the town in search of an ice cream cone, Russell and Nigel arrived and I loaded up my gear and headed north to Charleston.
Along the way Russell stopped by the Navy’s submarine base where they have a life sized concrete replica of a sub that you can climb on. While Russell stayed in the car along the road Nigel and I jumped out and climbed around on the structure to take pictures. This “suspicious” activity aroused the interest of the base police and the next thing we knew we were being approached by a rather large police officer with an even larger “don’t screw with me” expression on his face. Nigel quickly explained, in his smooth British accent, that we were simply taking pictures. Seems how it was placed there to be well…um… photographed… the officer let us go without incident. It’s good to know that our parks are so well protected.
Start: 7:00 AM- Atlantic Beach, FL
Finish: 3:00 PM - Fernandina, FL
Daily dist: 21 miles
Total dist: x miles
Weather: WINDY - Mostly cloudy, to clear, to rain, to partly cloudy - temps in 70s
Notes: It was a long slog against a heavy head wind with an average speed of barely 3mph. But I can’t complain because I’m back on the sailboat again.
After studying the charts last night I realized that only about 26 miles separated me from the Florida/Georgia border. An average eight hour day takes me 32 miles so I logically figured that I’d be celebrating at the top of Florida after a shorter than average day. It suffices to say that the wind and currents had other plans.
For the last four days the wind has been blowing out of the northeast at a minimum of ten miles per hour often much harder. That wind direction is directly counter to the nice tail winds I had last week. Because the Intracoastal south of here is fairly narrow and tree lined I’ve been able to hide from the wind and still make good time over the last couple days. That wasn’t the story today. North of Atlantic Beach the Intracoastal runs through wide coastal marsh areas. While the channel itself isn’t too wide the wide open tidal flats don’t do much to block the wind. Consequently, today I had to work hard just to maintain a three mph pace (well below my four mph average). To add insult to injury the tides worked against me for most of the day as well.
You won’t hear me complaining tonight though because once again I’m staying aboard the “I -Nida Wind II” with Nancy and Cal. With only about four miles to go to my finish line for the day, while I slogged into a strong head wind and now steady rain, I thought I recognized a boat moored to the side of the channel. As I neared the boat with the burgundy sail cover and deck enclosure I knew it could be no other. Just then a small inflatable boat came zooming up through the rain containing Cal and Nancy shouting and waiving hello. I stopped to say hello as they climbed onto the sailboat and they once again offered me a place to stay. Unbelievably I didn’t say yes right away, I just didn’t know how much further I needed to go to be within striking distance of Saint Marys to catch my ride to Charleston. As the rain beat down and the wind tossed my kayak around I studied my map and realized that it was only a difference of three miles. With the morning promising to have much better conditions my mind was made up and I decided to once again join Cal and Nancy aboard their cozy thirty six foot boat.
I can’t help but think that if anybody ever asks for advice on how to do a trip like this I won’t know what to say, other than never turn down an offer of a hot meal and a soft bed.
Start: 7:00 AM- St. Augustine, FL
Finish: 3:30 PM - Atlantic Beach, FL
Daily dist: 34 miles
Total dist: 2,552 miles
Weather: A little chilly with a persistent head wind
Notes: I ended up staying on a sail boat that had passed me earlier in the day and I caught up with just before I was going to pull off the water anyway.
If you were watching my SPOT locations today you would have noticed that after I left the beach in St. Augustine this morning they never made it back to land. That is because I’m currently on the “I NIDA WIND II” a large sail boat owned by Cal and Nancy from Moretown Vermont. The two of them, along with their two dogs, are on their way back from the Bahamas where they spent the winter.
Earlier in the day they had passed me on a narrow section of the ICW as I crossed under the bridge that goes from Jacksonville to Atlantic Beach I recognized that boat and another that had passed me earlier. Both were anchored up in a quiet corner to spend the night. As I neared Cal was on deck and remarked how he had seen me earlier and that I’d come a long way and he asked where I was going to spend the night. I explained that I was looking for an island just a half mile further shown on the Florida paddling trail guide. Because I was going to be so close, Nancy invited me back for dinner then Cal up the offer and said I may as well just sleep on the boat. Not being one to pass up an offer, I quickly accepted and moments later my kayak was tied to their dingy and I was in warm dry clothes enjoying Nancy’s home made beef stew.
Most of the time Nancy and Cal sail their boat on Lake Champlain and stay in their home in Moretown VT. But over the last twenty years they have made several winter trips to the Bahamas one year even taking their eleven year old son with them. As Cal puts it, they aren’t rich by any standards they just have their priorities right. I have to agree.
Start: 8:30 AM- St. Augustine spoil island
Finish: 9:30 AM - Anastasia State Park campground
Daily dist: 2.5 miles
Total dist: x miles
Weather: Windy from the NE mostly cloudy and high in mid 70s
Notes: A day off to rest my body and to see the town.
After six days of paddling the time for a day of rest was due. Within the next couple days range, St. Augustine proved to be the best option as a place to spend off the water. Anastasia State Park (within walking distance of town) offered all the amenities I needed in the way of a hot shower, laundry facility, a secure place to store my kayak, and a power source to charge up my batteries.
Not needing to put on a lot of miles I let myself sleep in this morning and got a slow start on the water. A simple steady paced one hour paddle down Salt Run brought me right to the Anastasia kayak and sailboat rental beach. Not knowing how exactly the park is laid out I discovered that luck was with me in that my camp sight was only a hundred yards from the beach through the woods. To move my 50 pounds of gear to my camp site I violated the rules of walking off of designated nature trails. But when a park is laid out with as little thought for pedestrians as this one is that is bound to happen. To have followed the “stay on the trails” rule my 100 yard walk with all my gear would have been a mile long walk (a half mile to the entrance and a half mile right back again).
Check-in time is 3:00 around here and I was way early, but after visiting with the folks that were in my assigned camp site the night before I learned that they were going to be leaving within an hour. The timing was perfect for me to return to the beach, secure my boat and return with all my camp gear. While the previous campers rolled up I took a shower and started a load of laundry (which meant a mile long round trip walk to acquire quarters). After getting cleaned up I quickly set up camp and got all my electronics plugged in to charge while I grabbed my camera and walked the two miles into town.
Having been to St. Augustine once before (about 8 years ago with my friends Neil and Heather) I knew I wanted to tour the inside of the fort around which the town was settled. After grabbing a burger and shake for lunch I took a tour of the fort complete with a cannon firing drill reenactment. After talking to one of the cannon reenactors I learned that the cannons that defended the fort could have landed a 12 pound cannon ball, with considerable accuracy, right in my campsite about two miles away. It was those cannons, all 77 of them, that helped the fort survive 15 attacks while never being taken. The drill lasted almost 15 minutes which I thought must be slowed down for effect. The fact of the matter, I learned, is that that pace was calculated to allow the fort to survive months long sieges without running out of ammunition. While the firing pace seemed slow, with 77 cannons surrounding the fort there would have been at least three going off at any given moment. With all that smoke and noise it must have been quite a sight to see.
From the fort I walked down St. George street which bisects the town with an array of restaurants, bars, and touristy shops selling “I Love Florida” T-shirts, twisty straws, and jumbo pencils in some of the oldest buildings in North America. With the day already drawing to a close I hustled back to Anastasia and walked up to the beach to catch what was my first view of the open Atlantic coast since I arrived in Miami way back in late February. Paddling up the Intracoastal, as I’ve done, does offer sheltered water, easy camping, and more to look at, but it keeps me far enough away from the coast that I just don’t get to see it.
The wind blew fairly strong today and is predicted to stay up over the next two days so even on the inside it’s going to be a bit of a slog to work my way north toward Jacksonville and then the Georgia / Florida border. I’m currently working on plans to be picked up by friends driving up to the East Coast Kayak Symposium in Charleston later this week. So as long as I end up in a place where they can get to me there will be no need to kill myself making big miles against persistent head winds. We’ll see how the week plays out.
Start: 7:00 AM - Spoil island in ICW near Palm Coast, FL
Finish: 6:00 PM - Spoil island in ICW in middle of St. Augustine, FL
Time: 11:00 (4:00 spent re-supplying in town)
Daily dist: 24 miles
Total dist: x miles
Companions: Michael Shugg a friend from Orlando
Weather: Partly cloudy with 10-12mph NE winds temps in the 70’s
Notes: Michael drove over an hour and a half from Orlando and worked a bicycle shuttle so that he could do a one way run with me today. A lot of effort to be a part of the trip and I appreciated it.
Today I had the pleasure of being joined by Michael Shugg who is a paddling friend from Orlando. The two of us met on a BCU Level 2 coach training last spring and touched base again at the Sweetwater Symposium in late February and again two weeks ago out in San Diego at the Southwest Symposium (It is a small world after all). I can’t think of anybody who has gone through such great lengths to be a part of this trip. To make today work Michael got up at 4:00 AM drove an hour and a half to Fort Matanzas (our rendezvous point) where he dropped off his paddling gear. From there he drove up to Saint Augustine and parked his vehicle at a boat ramp. He then hopped on his bicycle and rode the 13 miles back down the coast to lock up his bike and get in his boat to catch up with me. Meanwhile I was comparatively sloth by sleeping in until 5:30 and paddling only 7 miles to meet up with Michael at the state park.
After meeting up with Michael we paddled into a bit of a head wind for 16 miles back to the St. Augustine lighthouse where his vehicle was waiting. I wanted to stay at the Anastasia State Park campground just a mile further on but, being a busy spring break weekend, the campground was filled beyond capacity. Thankfully there is a spoil island (a bit exposed but passable) just inside the inlet where I am camped tonight. I was able to make reservations to stay in the campground for a rest day tomorrow. A hot shower, clean laundry, and rest for my body will be greatly appreciated after these first six days back on the water after the long break. To save me the effort and trouble of running re-supply errands on foot tomorrow Michael offered to chauffer me around town in his truck to get groceries and charts for the next leg of the journey.
Having some of my chores out of the way is a relief and will make my stay in St. Augustine tomorrow much more restful. It’s especially nice to have proper charts for the next month or so I’ll be traveling up the coast. As I paddled around Florida over the last two months I had been navigating via the DeLorme Florida State atlas. The maps are not designed to be used on the water but they provided plenty of detail for what I needed (ie. Keep Florida on your left). What made it work was the on-line “Florida Circumnavigation Trail” guide that provided info about camp sites and other details that made travel around the state much easier. Within a couple days I’ll be passing out of Florida waters into Georgia and I won’t have the trail guide to help steer me in the right direction. North of here the route gets much more dynamic and will require much better maps, actual navigation charts in fact, to allow me to paddle safely and efficiently through the tidal rivers and channels that lie ahead. I had a month off where I could have acquired the necessary charts but, true to form, I procrastinated to the point where I was back on the water two days away from the state line without any maps showing what lie ahead. It’s a relief to have that info now.
My food bags are stuffed, my water bags are full, and my gear is in good repair and ready, mentally I’m ready to push on but my body is asking for a day of rest, so that’s what tomorrow will be.
Start: 6:45 AM- Spoil island in ICW near South Daytona,FL
Finish: 7:45 PM - Spoil island in ICW near Palm Coast, FL
Time: 11:00 (3:30 hours spent in park charging batteries and cooking dinner
Daily dist: 37 miles
Total dist: 2,492 miles
Companions: A gentleman named Scott found me close to where I camped and joined me for the first three hours.
Weather: Rainy turning to clear and breezy with a NW then NE wind
Notes: Scott brought doughnuts for me
This morning, just as I pulled away from the island I had camped on, I spotted another kayaker in the pre dawn light. I figured that anybody up and out in a kayak had to be either crazy, fishing, or looking for me. It turns out that Scott was two of those three.
Scott has been following along with my progress for a while and when he saw that I was getting close he posted in the blog that he’d like to paddle with me a bit if we could make it work out. It just so happens that I ended up camping on an island that he is familiar with (which he could see from the SPOT locator) so this morning Scott put in a mile or so north and paddled down to see if he could catch me. Luck was with him as, sure enough, he did find me. Luck was with me as he brought a half dozen doughnuts with him. We paddled together for about an hour until he had to turn back so he could get to work just a little bit late.
Just after we parted ways the skies opened up and I paddled through about a half hour of warm Florida rain. After four straight days of blazing sun I didn’t mind the overcast skies and freshwater rinse. The relief from the sun was short lived and within a couple hours the sky was clear and the wind had shifted to the northwest which meant a slight head wind which was just enough to keep me cool as I paddled.
It appears as though I’ve joined the ranks of the dozens of yachts heading north. Today a gentleman on a passing boat called out to me and said that he’d seen me yesterday. I told him was I was up to and he was dutifully impressed and wished me well as his large yacht pulled away leaving me back in the peace and quiet of the water around me.
Just before I pulled off the water for the night I spotted a county park/boat launch within a half mile of the island I intended to camp on. With a hunch that there might be an outlet that would allow me to charge up my laptop, I entered the park and after checking in with the ranger’s wife and kids found an empty outlet near a well head that would allow me to put some life back into my computer batteries which had run very low. While I waited for the batteries to charge I cooked dinner and came up with a battle plan for the next couple of days.
Island camp at sunset
With the sun setting and my batteries still not fully charged I re-packed my boat and set out across the channel to where I put my tent up and called it a day.
With the sun setting and my batteries still not fully charged I re-packed my boat and set out across the channel to where I put my tent up and called it a day.
Start: 7:30 AM - Spoil island in ICW near Titusville
Finish: 5:45 PM - Spoil island in ICW south of Daytona
Time: 10:15 (with 2:00 of break time) 8:15
Daily dist: 41 miles
Total dist: 2,455 miles
Weather: Very nice, partly cloudy with a good tail wind and warm temps
Notes: Landed at River Breeze Park and took advantage of beach shower to clean up and fill water bottles. Also cooked lunch.
With a somewhat later start than I had hoped for this morning I broke camp and headed north under the railroad bridge I was camped near then veered east toward the Haulover canal that links the Indian River to Mosquito Lagoon. I learned from a sign there that the location got its name from the days when Native Americans and early Europeans dragged their boats from one water body to the next. Conveniently some industrious folks dug a ditch a long time ago and I was able to paddle through.
Once inside the Mosquito Lagoon I enjoyed a soft tail wind as I kept pace with a sailboat for two hours as we both made our way north. That sailboat was one of dozens of yachts (sail or motored), like flocks of geese, heading north to summer waters. The Mosquito Lagoon starts out wide at the Haulover Cut but within eight miles is squeezed into a maze of mangrove channels. The ICW flanks the west edge of the mangrove area with numerous “fish camps” set up on the main land side. These RV or trailer parks cater to people who come to enjoy the river each with its own dock to allow guests to tie up their boats. It was on one of those docks that I encountered three men from Canada who commented on my heavily loaded boat. A quick explanation of my trip prompted an offer of a cold beer from one of the group. Being a non drinker and in need of putting in a few more miles I politely refused and moved on.
Jake with Richard & Glenda
About a mile or so further up the river I heard my name being shouted from a dock I’d just passed. A hurried question “Are you the Wisconsin guy?” followed. I stopped and turned to see a gentleman running down the dock, camera in hand, to get a picture of me. It turned out that Richard and his wife Glenda are the parents of a kayaker from Mobile, Alabama who told them about me and my trip. When they checked my SPOT location last night they were surprised to see that it was only miles from their place in Titusville. Today they made it their mission to try to catch up with me. It was a thousand to one chance that they would, but after stopping at likely spots all along the way they finally managed to catch up with me.
It is encounters like those I had today that I had envisioned when I decided to share this trip. It’s great, now that the weather is warmer, to finally see people out and about and to get a chance to say hello to people I cross paths with during the day.
My day ended on a spoil island south of Daytona. With a view of dozens of high-rise condos across the channel it is far from wilderness camping but the city lights have their own beauty and it is a nice camp spot just the same.
Start: 7:00 AM- ICW near Malabar, FL
Finish: 6:00 PM - ICW near Titusville, FL
Time: 11:00 (one hour for breaks)
Daily dist: 48 miles
Total dist: 2,414 miles
Weather: Windy from the SE mostly cloudy to start becoming sunny and warm
Notes: Had intended to do 33 miles but the island that was shown on my map was not there.
The forty miles I paddled today were relatively uninterrupted and uneventful aside from the bridges that crossed the Indian River portion of the ICW on which I was paddling. Early on I did have to make a decision on weather or not to stay on the Intracoastal or take a detour up the Banana River to check out the Banana River Aquatic Preserve which is home to numerous manatee and other wildlife. The Banana River dwindles out into a dead end near Cape Canaveral but a barge canal connects back to the Indian River and ICW. After considering the fruit for which the river was named and the extra miles the canal would add I opted to stay on the ICW.
It was my intent today to paddle a normal eight hour day and camp on an island only about 33 miles from where I was last night. It was about 3:00 when I realized that although the island in question was shown on the maps I’ve been using, in reality it was simply not there. A quick look at my maps showed that the next available camp was another eight miles further to the north so I tried to ignore my sore rear-end and hunkered down for two extra hours of paddling.
Thankfully the sun doesn’t set until 7:40 so the extra paddling wasn’t a concern, however the warmer temperatures I’ve been experiencing the last three days have had me drinking a lot more water which actually became a concern. After a full day of drinking huge amounts of water to stay hydrated without Gatoraid, or some other means to replenish my electrolytes, I was feeling quite run down. About an hour from the finish line, with an insatiable craving for a bottle of Gatoraid and a cold Coke, I cruised the shoreline on the outskirts of Titusville scanning for anything that looked like it might sell said beverages. Luck was with me and I spotted a gas station and quickly found a gap in the shore rocks to haul out. Twenty minutes later I was appropriately refueled and on my way with an extra bottle of sport drink to last me through the next couple days. My next food re-supply is going to have to include a powdered version of sport drink mix so that I can keep something like this from happening again. The warmer weather is also causing me to re-think other food options such as my trail mix which had included chocolate chunks. The three jars of mix I’d left in Neil’s shed while I was in CA had completely melted coating the containers and making a gooey mess of everything inside. My mix is going to have to go without chocolate until I get to a place with cooler air and water temps. For the time being less thrilling dried fruit will have to take the place of chocolate. While the changing weather is posing some interesting changes and challenges to my normal routine, you will never hear me wish it was cold again.
Start: 9:30 AM- Island in ICW near Vero Beach
Finish: 6:00 PM - Island in ICW near Malabar FL
Time: 5:30 spent paddling 3:00 dropping Neil off
Daily dist: 21 miles
Total dist: 2345 miles
Companions: My good friend Neil for the first 15 miles
Weather: 80 deg.- ESE wind 10+ mph - mostly clear skies- beautiful FL day
Notes: Dropped Neil off for bus back to Vero at 1:30 back on water at 4:30
Neil was looking forward to sleeping in a bit so I spared him the alpine start this morning and instead got yesterday’s blog posted while he got an extra hour of rest. With the last bus running south at 3:30 we couldn’t dally all day however so at 8:00 AM we made breakfast, broke camp, took a couple pictures and were on the water by 9:30.
With a pleasant tail wind we made good time heading north up the Intracoastal Waterway toward the bus pickup point at the Winn Dixie grocery store near the Barefoot Bay retirement/vacation community about 15 miles up the coast. Along the way we enjoyed an absolutely blissful Florida day with perfect weather and beautiful scenery.
While considering how easy the local (and free) bus service makes setting up a shuttle, combined with the amazing camping and picnic spots available on the numerous islands along the ICW in this area, neither Neil nor I could figure out why more isn’t said about the great kayaking opportunities that are available in this area.
It seems as though in Florida when it comes to sea kayak camping the Big Bend Trail and the Everglades Wilderness Waterway get all the attention. They are drop dead beautiful places to paddle but can be challenging. While it’s not as remote or wild as the other two places, the ICW between Ft. Pierce and Malabar is nothing but pleasant and abounds with wildlife. For someone new to kayak camping I can’t imagine a better place to get started in the sport. You are never far from civilization via highway US1 that parallels the ICW and there are literally dozens of beautiful dredge “spoil” islands to camp on all along the way. These easily accessible tree covered islands are about as nice a spot you’ll find to kayak camp in the entire state.
True you won’t experience the solitude of a true wilderness camp and will likely be within site (as I am now) of the cars and stop lights on the highway. However it’s all far enough away that you don’t hear it, and while you listen to manatees breathing in the dark water at night (like we did last night) you are reminded of how great being out on the water really is. If there is a paddler in South Florida that is bemoaning the fact that bug free Everglades camping is behind us for the summer I recommend driving north rather than south two hours and see what kind of adventure you can find on the water up here.
The plan for the day was to get Neil to the bus stop at the grocery store so he could ride it back to where he left his truck at the bus transit center in Vero Beach last night. This morning however, I realized that my paddling jacket and pants were left in his truck. So that little oversight meant that Neil would have to drive all the way back up to the take out to get me the last bits of forgotten gear. The extra driving erased some of the efficiencies using the bus service as a shuttle provided, but it did give me one last chance to have lunch with Neil and say a proper farewell.
The company of a great friend like Neil was the best thing that I could have had while transitioning back into this trip. After having said goodbye to a great friend for the last time for a while, and am now ready to head north at full speed to discover what adventures lie ahead.
Start: 2:00 PM- Fort Pierce, FL
Finish: 7:00 PM - Vero Beach, FL
Daily dist: 14 miles
Total dist: 2314 miles
Companions: My friend Neil Baertlein
Weather: Sunny, 80 degrees, E wind 10 mph
Notes: My first day back on the route after a one month layover. Dropped off by Neil in Ft. Pierce then met up with him in Vero after he set up a car shuttle.
After more than a month off the route waiting for the weather to warm up on the East Coast, I am back on the water and headed north once again. Today I was joined by my childhood best friend Neil (who’s house in Hollywood, FL has served as my base camp for the last month). Over the last few days while I returned from California and went about the business of getting my gear and head sorted out and ready for the trip, I’ve had a perpetual “I’m forgetting something” nervous feeling. We even contemplated postponing the re-start for a day to give me one more day to prepare. However, I knew that no matter how long I had to get ready that feeling would persist until I was finally floating in my boat. The reality is that I wasn’t really worried about forgetting anything it was simply after spending the last five weeks visiting friends on both coasts I was feeling a little bit nervous (or perhaps a bit lonely) about leaving all of them behind and going back out on the trail by myself. Having Neil along this first day and night back on the trail was just what I needed to ease back into the trip.
It was about 13 years ago on a canoe trip with Neil that planted the seed of interest in paddle sports that brought me to this trip so many years later. We had convinced his younger brother Paul to give us a ride to the headwaters of the Wisconsin river where we dropped a borrowed aluminum Grumman into the water and loaded it with a few cans of soup, dry cereal, and granola bars, a tent, and two sleeping bags. Four or five days later we arrived in Tomohawk, WI a bit worse for wear but full of experiences we would carry with us for the rest of our lives. Neil had wanted to paddle part of this trip with me since I first mentioned it to him last summer. The portion from his office in Miami back to his brother’s apartment in Dania would have been ideal but work and family obligations trumped adventure and we had to let that idea pass.
Thankfully this time around Neil (and his wife Heather) were able to sort their busy schedules out to make time for Neil to join me for an overnighter on the re-start of the trip. While Neil dropped their three kids off at daycare in the morning I finished loading the boats and gear in his truck then we were on the road north to Fort Pierce.
In Fort Pierce Neil dropped me off at the Marina where my friend Randy had picked me up three weeks ago and I loaded my boat and launched back into the Intracoastal. While I paddled north Neil drove to a boat launch about 12 miles away in Vero Beach. There he dropped off his kayak and then set about trying to sort how to use the bus service that runs in the area to work a shuttle that would allow him to return to his truck the next day.
After three hours of chasing around he got things sorted out and rode a bus back to where I was now waiting for him at the boat ramp. Minutes later his boat was loaded and we paddled north to find a camp spot on one of the many dredge spoil islands that line the Intracoastal in this area. The first spot I had seen on Google Earth didn’t pan out so we paddled a mile further north and found a dandy spot on the tip of an island that gave us a great view of the sunset. It was funny how after 13 years we fell right back into the same routine we used on the river and while I set up the tent Neil gathered firewood and started a nice little campfire.
After cooking dinner we stayed up a bit longer reminiscing about the old days, pondering current events, and wondering where I lives might take us in the years to come.
It was the best re-start to the trip I could have asked for and now feel ready to head north and get this trip going full speed again.
Today was spent celebrating Easter with my friend's family and getting my gear sorted and ready for my return to the water. After so much time off the trail I'm actually a bit nervous about heading out again, but I'm sure once I'm back in my boat it will all be good.