Updated: May 15
As it turned out, I did make it to Oleta Park on my first day. My island neighbor’s reggaetón party caught the ear of the beach patrol, and the cops swooped in on a speed both dressed for an episode of Miami Vice. The police air horn broke up the fun, and everyone was told to pack up.
“Yes, you as well sea hobo, no camping on City property.” One of the cops shouted at me with the loudspeaker.
“But I’m not a sea hobo. I’m paddling all around Florida. Can you make a one-night exception for me? I won’t leave anything behind.” I pleaded but to no avail. They pointed me to the fallen sign that clearly stated “no overnight camping” which I had overlooked.
“We clear sea hobos off the spoil islands every other week, if I let you stay, then pretty soon there will be ten of you. Pack up and get out.”
It took me an hour to pack up. For a while I considered ignoring the warning; the beach patrol motored away and on to other business. I doubt they would be back, but the risk of a second more forceful warning from the cops was something I was keen to avoid.
I paddled the rest of the way to Oleta Park in the dark. There was enough city light to see the general contours of the land and know the way, but anything on the water was almost invisible. Moored boats were like apparitions, only seen abruptly when almost at bow's length, and the seagulls flying in the night appeared to me like a cloud of bats. Whenever I illuminated one of them with my headlight the birds sometimes got disoriented and fell towards the water like a plane shot out of the sky, before it quickly recovered. They must not have liked that one bit.
I covered the 8 miles to Oleta Park and arrived close to midnight where I camped on the leeward side of another large spoil island overgrown with bushes and low trees. This place was sheltered from the wind.; the air and water were still, and I would have heard crickets if there had been any. Unfortunately, I was not quite alone here. In the dark bushes near the beach were three pairs of bright eyes that began moving with purpose in my direction. I soon saw that they were raccoons eager to beg for food. They had no man fear whatsoever, and one brave little fellow walked right up to my boat indifferent to my presence and proceeded to feel his way into the stern hatch. I shouted obscenities at the creature and kicked sand on its face and it rocketed back into the bushes like a monkey.
His two friends didn't get the message, however. While I set up camp thinking the intruders had been vanquished, one of them scared the hell out of me from on top of the trash bin lid. I shouted more obscenities and threw a handful of sand on its face, and it scrambled off. When I turned around its friend was going through my gear. More shouting and sand kicking. I felt like I was defending my property as if it was a castle under siege from all sides. Everyone who comes here must feed these little horrors.
I did not sleep well at night. Every little odd noise and creek in the night made me think the racoons were back and I would shout obscene things into the darkness, to scare off whatever thing, real or imaginary, was outside. A couple of times I even stuck my head out with the lamp to see if there was anything there, but it was all just the wind. The raccoons must have been confused, "why was this human such a prick? Where is our food?"
Sea Kayak Florida Circumnavigation
The weather this morning was as bad as yesterday. The wind shifted from East to Southeast, but one look through the narrow gap at Haulover Inlet and the sight of the screaming gale and horizontal rain was enough for me to decide to stay in the intracoastal waterway another day. This inlet has a treacherous reputation, it is narrow and the tide rushes through it like a river. Somewhere under the overpass there is a large boulder that shears the current almost 90 degrees, and can send a boat gyrating like a spinning top. On YouTube there are videos of inexperienced boaters caught in the whirlpools and some come very close to capsizing or crashing on the rock jetty, and that's when the weather isn't a raging storm.
The intracoastal from here to Boca Raton is called the Condo Canyon. Hundreds of high rises are stacked like storage boxes in a warehouse, side by side one after the other. The sunlight barely shines down to the water, except at midday, and only narrow rifts between the towers allow the air to escape. In summer the lack of air circulation must make this place hot like an oven. At times I was reminded of the time I walked from rim to rim across the Grand Canyon. I looked up to the different colored structures with their countless windows lined up in rows slowly moving past me and imagined them to be the layers of sedimentary rock towers with their tops bathed in the morning sunlight. There was a faint screech of the wind flowing some hundred feet above me, but down at the bottom of the canyon everything was still and calm.
Then suddenly I was buffeted by a strong gust of wind on my side. It lasted maybe fifteen seconds, but it hit my sail and nearly knocked me over. Then another gust hit me from the opposite direction. "What the heck was that?" I thought. Whenever there's a narrow gap in the wall of towers facing the sea the whole energy of the wind has to squeeze through it, and it creates a powerful current that reverberates through the canyon
By lunch time I reached Port Everglades. I was a little worried paddling through here. Not because of the large container ships that run constantly through the port inlet to and from the ocean, but because I heard on the news two days before that there was a sewage force main break on the New River that empties right where I was due to paddle through. Ideally, I would have headed out the Port Everglades inlet and into the relatively clean ocean, but one look at the storm thrashing just outside the jetty, and I decided to take my chances with the foul water. Fortunately, I could not smell any odors or see any suspicious floaters; I only wondered if the oblivious looking paddle boarder I passed on the way knew anything of the incident up the river. Sometimes ignorance is a blessing.