I had a terrible headache this morning. It’s almost certainly due to the air mattress. My patch fixes seem to have been in vain. It still leaks air when I lay on it, and I again woke up several times to blow air into it. I’ve ordered a new one which my friend Jay, who lives in Naples, said he could receive it. I’ll grab it from him somewhere along the way. Still I will only see him on Tuesday; that will mean another 5 nights of bad sleep.
I passed by Desoto Park this morning. The park beach is where the Everglades Challenge Kayak Race from Tampa to Key Largo starts. It dawned on me that I am only about 350 miles from being done. Thirty-four days ago, that would have seemed an insurmountable amount of distance, but now it feels close. I started to think about the things from daily life I’ll have to do when I come back home; drive to work, pick the projects I’m doing at the wastewater plant, prepare my taxes, work around the house, wax the kayak hull (I’ve done my best to not look at the scratches down below the water line, everything was so beautiful and smooth a month ago), and the other errands from daily life.
Just like starting the journey was a change, ending the journey will be a change as well. My mother said she hopes I’ll keep the weight off this time, lay off the Nutella, and maybe limit the lunches at the Chipotle Mexican grill to just once a week. Darn, right now I would easily pay $30 to get a chicken burrito from Chipotle. The sardines aren’t appetizing anymore.
Passing Desoto Park is the Tampa Bay mouth crossing. It’s about 5 miles punctuated by Egmont Key in the middle which is about a mile long. Normally there should be a great view of an enormous suspension bridge to the East called the Skyway that straddles the bay from end to end. I think it’s the largest bridge in Florida; the two pillars are easily over 500 feet tall, and container ships can pass under the road deck with ease. Today though the bridge was enveloped in a thick fog and haze and there was nothing to be seen in that direction, save for a large ship I had to give the right of way.
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The water in the crossing was choppy, the tide was flooding in from the West, and the wind was from the Northeast. Just as Jonathan had warned me, when those opposing forces meet at the north end of Egmont Key, they become the ingredients for some ferocious tidal rapids and a long conveyor belt of standing swells that break in place. If the wind wasn’t pushing me along, I doubt I could have made it past the breaker point and would have taken a long detour inside the bay. I paddled desperately and felt I was moving blazing fast against the water, but a look at the lighthouse tower revealed I was only crawling along, and barely making headway. It’s a very strange feeling; normally when paddling downwind with the sail, the apparent wind can feel almost nonexistent, here however, the moment I entered the counter tidal current the tail wind felt like a gust propelling me forward, but in reality, it was me slowing down.
Once I reached the middle of the island, the current slacked, and there was an eddy of sorts where I could catch my breath. I soon reached the south end of the island, where the tide was also flowing fast and the swells were roughing the waters, though not quite as badly. I paddled West much sooner than before and had some margin of safety to drift East and still cross the channel with a little room to spare.
The next 20 miles to Lido beach were uneventful. The Northeast wind slacked a little and the waves died down, but there was still enough push on the sail to keep me moving. I got a call from a work colleague whom I talked over for 20 minutes about one of my projects. She was preparing an updated proposal scope and I dictated a good chunk of the information she needed, though I had to dig the facts deep in my memory. I think that if I do a longer journey than this one, I may start to think I paddle for a living.
Sea Kayak Florida Circumnavigation