The wind died down, but I had a long way to pull the boat to the water. The ranger’s wife had come to see me off and offered to help carry the kayak. I was skeptical that she could really do it as the boat is quite heavy and her arms were thin and skinny, but she was much stronger than she looked, and I was the one who called for a break halfway to switch arms.
When I launched, my rudder became stuck and would not deploy. I paddled back on the beach, much to the confusion of some onlookers seeing me off. When I had a look, I saw the spring box was filled with tiny shell fragments. They must have gotten in there yesterday when the waves filled my cockpit. I wiggled it down by hand, but it screeched and crackled like gears in a rusty clock. That would do for now, but the thought of having mechanical problems with the kayak really bothered me. I did the utmost to avoid the temptation to test it again, lest it be stuck, and I be left rudderless a mile out from shore.
As I paddled southwards towards Sanibel island, I began running through my plans for the next few days. The wind would be shifting to the South tomorrow, so distance wise, tomorrow would be a short day, and I would not be meeting with Jay to pick up the new mattress until Tuesday, two days from now somewhere near Naples. When I reached the northernmost point on Sanibel island, I checked the GPS and saw that Naples was only 35 miles away, and would be about 25 miles when I reached the broad south side of the island. From there I would need to paddle another 15 miles with no help from the wind to reach the campsite on the mainland. That, however, was really an unnecessary detour, just for a place to camp. I rechecked the weather for Tuesday, which confirmed that the winds will switch back to the North. “Maybe I should take a rest day,” I thought. I let the idea cook in my head, and the more I thought about it the more it appealed to me. That would be 2 nights I don’t have to sleep on the deflated mattress, will eat good food for dinner and breakfast, can check on the rudder, and hose out all the sand in the cockpit. Eventually it wasn’t even a gut feeling that made me conclude this was the right decision. My bowels told me to stop overthinking it; I pulled out the phone and credit card from the front day hatch and started looking for the nearest hotel on the beach. I can ignore my good judgement, and even my gut feeling, but never my bowel movements.
I settled on the Sundial Beach Resort. Hotels here on Sanibel Island are really expensive. At $226 per night and staying two nights plus taxes, this was one of the more reasonably priced ones. When night came, I again repeated the ritual of washing my kayak in the hotel swimming pool. Some vigorous splashing also removed most of the pesky sea shells jamming up my rudder. It seems to be working fine now.
I spent the afternoon and the next day walking and giving my legs a good stretch. I found a UPS store which allowed me to return the bad mattress before the deadline and get a refund. There wasn’t much of a town however, if there was one, it must have been well hidden as all I saw were other hotels and vacation homes. My next stop was a small supermarket with an attached restaurant that served breakfast. I had both pancakes with maple syrup and a bacon croissant sandwich. I’ve enjoyed these occasional gastronomic indulgences in this journey; When paddling 8 hours per day seven days a week no food is caloric enough to put on weight.
Late in the day as I was walking back to the hotel room, I had to cross a busy road that runs along the length of the island. There was no traffic light nor cross walk to cross, so it required some waiting for a breach in the traffic in both directions, while also being quick footed when the opportunity arose. As I waited, I noticed an elderly lady carrying a lot of packages who also planned to walk across. I offered to carry some of her things, and she was glad to receive help. When the opening appeared, I ran across quickly, but while doing so one of my sandals was caught under my foot and the toe strap ripped. It must have been on its last legs; having carried me through a good number of years of heavy use plus the 25-mile portage to St George I cannot say they were poor quality and was sad to lose them. The experience reminded me of the tale of the Argonautica I read in highschool. In it, Jason crosses the river Anaurus while carrying Hera, who is disguised as an old woman, on his back and loses one his sandals in the water, marking him as the man to undertake the quest for the Golden Fleece. Perhaps the elderly lady came as a way to mark me for a great journey much greater than this one. One day perhaps....
Tomorrow I will have an early start, and a very long day. On Wednesday winds change back to the south and I will need to be past Marco Island to have a good angle on the wind to reach Chokoloskee. If all goes well, I might even break the 1000-mile mark. I’m at 948 as of now.
Sea Kayak Florida Circumnavigation