At 6:00 am I departed. Paddling at night here isn’t like in Miami. There were very few city lights and once I was pointed into the horizon, all I saw was darkness.
The coastline makes a very wide arc and it’s possible to save up a few miles by cutting across from Sanibel and aiming right for where Marco island should appear on the horizon, however, that puts me far from land and in deep water where the wind can build up the swells. Three hours into the crossing the north breeze picked up and turned the sea into a confused washing machine. I was hitting the swells at a slight angle far from perpendicular so every time I rode down the face of a wave, I had to brace hard to keep my heading straight. I peed again in the kayak; no third hand for holding the bottle.
At midday things became dead calm. I’ve noticed that there is a daily pattern to the wind in the Gulf of Mexico. Early in the morning the sea is warmer than the land, so the air rises over the ocean and pulls the wind from the shore. As land warms up, the wind slowly dies until the land and sea are at the same temperature and the wind disappears completely. Then, as the land becomes warmer than the ocean the wind reappears but from the opposite direction as the air now rises over the land. Finally, in the late afternoon when the land once again cools, the wind disappears again. It’s a daily repeating cycle only scrambled when a cold front moves through. In the lull, I was now moving solely through my own effort as I waited for the wind to pick back up. I looked as far as I could see down the horizon to catch a glimpse of a building or something that might tell me how far I’d have to go, and every time a new structure would appear, I would wonder if it was Marco Island.
Before I set off, I had texted Jay to let him know approximately when I would catch up to him. We agreed to meet just north of Marco Island at the Capri Fish house. When I arrived, he was there waiting for me with a delicious snack of deep-fried alligator tail, and baked cookies from his wife. He was the first familiar face I’ve seen on the journey.
I first met Jay last year while looking for someone to fix the insertion point for my kayak’s rudder line. His workmanship was impeccable; not a mark was left of the deck to indicate where the old hole used to be, and the rudder now works flawlessly. Subsequently I asked him to do the installation of the Falcon Sail, and the electric bilge pump and battery I have behind the foot pegs, which when all told, required some 20 holes to be drilled on the deck. It takes a lot of courage and nerves of steel to stick a power drill to a kayak let alone one that isn't yours. He has that in spades.
Jay handed me the new air mattress, much to my great happiness of not sleeping on the bare ground anymore, and we talked for about 15 minutes before I set off again. I had already covered 38 miles, but there was still a ways to go before the sun set.
I checked the news while in the tent tonight before going to sleep and was taken back. There was a 7.7 magnitude earthquake somewhere between Jamaica and Cuba under the ocean, and tremors were felt as north as Miami. Being on the water all day I felt nothing; friends from work mentioned they felt a little shaking but assumed the tenants upstairs were moving the furniture around, which they do often from time to time. It was fortunate the tremor was a side slip rupture, so there was no risk of a tsunami. I can barely imagine what might happen if a giant wave crosses the Gulf of Mexico; the Florida continental shelf is so shallow that the pull back from the wave would expose many miles of sea floor, before sending the wall of water halfway through the Everglades.
At Cedar Key I had noticed a plot of land for sale where the sign noted there was no risk of flooding; the ground had been surveyed at 12 feet above sea level, which for Florida that's quite high. Fish would be swimming there high above high above the trees in a tsunami. In a kayak, I wonder what would happen to me; maybe my little boat would be small enough that the wave would just roll under me and I would be carried either far out to sea, or across the Everglades to Miami. I’ve paddled in Oregon where a tsunami is sometimes a passing thought, but it ever crossed my mind to think of it in Florida.
Sea Kayak Florida Circumnavigation