Start: 6:30 AM - Walker Island in Perdido pass AL
Finish: 12:00 PM - Pensacola Kayak and Sail, Pensacola FL
Daily dist: 22 miles
Total dist: 1,359 miles
Weather: Mostly cloudy with slight east wind with storms once I got off the water
Notes: I took out at the kayak shop just as a very wet thunder storm came through. I’m storing my boat and gear there while I stay with the aunt and uncle of my friend/coworker Alicia.
That was, of course, everything up to this point. As I neared Florida all of the skull and crossbones warnings were replaced with smiley faces as people gushed about of all the wonderful beaches, clear water, and sunshine I’d experience once I got here. In my mind Florida became the promised land of all things pleasant and I looked forward to making it. So it was this morning when I passed by the last piece of land that was anything but Florida I took a picture, noted the time (8:00 AM), and started looking for the beautiful mermaids.
Of course there are still risks that I’ll face over the next two months in Florida as I will for the entirety of this trip. But there is a lot of truth to the beauty that Florida has to offer (especially to a kayaker like me) and especially on the west coast of the state. Because of the sheer amount of coast line that Florida has and because of the tourism industry (which is geared toward people using the water) Florida’s waterways are designed less for heavy industry and more for recreational boat users. There are pockets of industry where high sea walls and heavy machinery prevail, but those areas are easily avoided and accessible beaches are never too far away. There are sections of coast, just like what I saw in MS and AL, that are almost continuously developed with beach houses and condos, but here state parks are sprinkled throughout meaning there will almost always be a place where I can pull off the water and not be under the watchful eyes of a ten story apartment complex.
What’s really great for a kayaker traveling along Florida’s coast is that the path ahead has already been paved. An excellent guide has been written for the entire coastline highlighting the camp spots, re-supply points, take outs, points of interest, etc that a paddler could need. In addition, in what would be the most tricky spots where sand coast gives way to mud and dense mangrove forests, actual canoe and kayak trails have been established complete with marked and maintained camp spots and even elevated platforms making the passage much easier.
It’s no secret that Florida has a lot to offer sea kayakers and other water enthusiasts add the fact that this state is where I started kayaking ten years ago and I must say it feels good to be back.
A highlight of the evening was when Dale (a very close “like sisters” friend of Jamie back in Baton Rouge) presented me with a Marti Gras bead (medalian) and a very rare pin showing the insignia of the Molly Rogers Pirates of which I have now met two of the select few of this very exclusive group. It wasn’t until I was all set up in camp last night, and started studying my maps, that I realized that I was only a few miles short of Dale’s house right on the Intracoastal. She had offered up the apartment above the garage to stay and I was a little frustrated that I missed the opportunity. Not because I missed a bed to sleep in but because I missed the chance to meet with her a little more.
I also didn’t get much of a chance to talk to Banana Tom but we made plans to meet before I left which should be easy because (small world that it is) it turns out he lives in the same neighborhood as the Blackingtons.
Florida truly is the promised land.