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Part 1 Jan. 2nd - Day 13 - Sea Kayak Florida Circumnavigation

Updated: Jan 29

Around Florida by Kayak Map

Yesterday one of the boaters strolling on the beach had a small dog with her. This morning I laid some of my gear on a small ground bush to avoid the sand, but when I began packing I started to smell dog crap on everything. It was then I noticed that I had laid the tent rainfly on top of the excrement. I cursed my carelessness and the dog; I wish dog openers would own up to the responsibilities of their pets. I’m at least considerate of others enough to bury mine… I washed the rainfly as best I could with sea water, but the smell is going to linger for a day or two.

I had hoped the forecast for a Southeast wind would boost me up the coast towards Jacksonville, but the wind never came. This morning it was dead flat, the water reflected the cloudless above; I could be upside down looking at the horizon and not know which way was up. It was just after sunrise, I had hopes that by 10am it would pick up, and I would soon be cruising effortlessly. By 11am there was hardly a breeze. I had the sail up and was full of hope that if not now, then very soon the wind would come; but the sail could hardly decide which side of the boat it wanted to be. By 12pm I was resigned to my fate; to paddle all 38 miles to Tabot Island.

The clear day gave an incredibly long view along the coast. Far in the distance I could see some tall buildings that marked the beginning of Jacksonville beach. At first they were only little dots in the horizon barely discernible in the faint ocean haze; I even thought they were not real as I would sometimes lose sight of where they were. Over many paddle hours they grew, gradually; first the dots became a little larger, and I became convinced of their permanence, then slight their contours became sharper and their colors apparent, some made of glass, others were concrete. Then, eventually I saw they had windows, first only the top floor was visible, but then slowly other floors rose from the horizon. By the time I arrived to be level with them, I had felt emotionally attached to seeing them as they were such a permanent feature of my vision, that their evolution felt as the result of my sweat. I was a little sad they were now behind me and invisible to my constant forward-looking view.

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Every so often I felt a knock on my rudder. The first time it startled me; maybe it was a shark; although I had hardly seen a fish thus far, I knew they were down there no doubt. I looked around but saw nothing. This knocking kept happening, and I became intrigued. What could it be? Only when I pecked a jellyfish with my paddle and felt the same sensation that I concluded it must have been that. The creature was round like a cabbage head and had the consistency of a rubber ball. Soon the water was filled with them like lilies in an infinite pond. Perhaps they were in a vertical migration from the ocean depth coming to eat food on the surface. I don’t know if this type of jellyfish is venomous like the Portuguese man of war I sometimes see in Miami, but I avoided any cool off rolls lest I end up with one smacked in my face.

The hours kept passing and I kept paddling. I noticed that my shadow over the water changed sides from port to starboard. I looked at the GPS and concluded that I would make it to the mouth of the St Johns river by sunset, and Tabot island, on the opposite side, by last light. When I was within view of the river mouth, I saw something I didn’t plan on. The rock jetty was so long it extended at least a mile into the sea. I’d have to go around it. That extra distance made for an arrival in total blackness. On the final approach, I could hear the waves breaking but had no idea if they were large or small. Then quite suddenly, the kayak scraped the sand bottom and I knew the rest from here onward would be on foot.

On the beach I had to decide where to camp. I left a flashlight on the boat so I would not lose it in the darkness and started walking up the sand. Very soon I realized that the tidal drop here was quite long, and it was at least 200 feet before I reached the high tide mark. There I saw tire tracks on the sand. This was disheartening. Camping here was probably not legal but I did not expect to be in the middle of a beach road. I would have to break camp as early as possible in the morning before anybody saw me here.

Sea Kayak Florida Circumnavigation


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