January 31 - Day 42
When I unzipped the rainfly, I saw hundreds of irritating mosquitoes buzzing about in the dawn light. This was a perfect opportunity to try out the ThermaCell mosquito repellent. Like a few other items, it has been a dead weight I’ve carried from day 1. Incredibly, it works very well. I switched the thing on with a brand new cartridge and laid it next to the kayak while I ate canned sardines for breakfast, and though the flies were everywhere, they kept their distance and would not bite me. I can only imagine what early explorers of the Florida Everglades would have paid for a device like this.
It was a good thing that I chose to go the extra distance beyond Graveyard Creek yesterday; the winds have shifted to Southeast, and the 20 miles to Flamingo Point were all done in a headwind. I felt lethargic, but fortunately, the water was shallow, and the waves didn’t have a chance to build up.
I rounded the southernmost point in continental Florida, Cape Sable, but sadly there was nothing there to mark the geographic significance of the place. It’s just a beach like any other.
Being near the end of the journey feels strange. There are less than 100 miles to Key Biscayne. This time next week I’ll be back to my old life. I’ve become accustomed to paddling every day and paddling feels like it is my life. It’s a rhythm that will be difficult to reset. A few folks I know have joked that I should watch out for post paddling depression. Apparently, that is a condition amongst members of the Water Tribe.
I am, however, experiencing something here in Flamingo point, something I haven’t in a while; all of the sudden the weather felt really hot. No sleeping bag required for tonight.
February 1 - Day 43 A huge storm came through around midnight. The lightning bolts were like camera flashes in a dark cave; for a moment night became bright as day, followed by a trembling explosion and then complete darkness. Then came wind and rain which pounded my tent like thousands of hard pellets fired from a hundred air guns. The constant banging was deafening and all consuming like static from a television. When the worst was passing through, I decided to put on my rain jacket, pack up the sleeping bag, and put away the GPS, battery and phone. If the tent pegs failed, at least my things wouldn’t be soaked. For a while the wind even blew water from the hundreds of puddles forming outside right under the flap of the rainfly and the tent was soaked.
When morning came, I decided to take a rest day. The forecast called for more of the same thunderous rain in the afternoon. Better be in a wet tent wishing to be paddling, than to be paddling and wishing to be in a wet tent. When I walked outside I realized how lucky I was. If I had pitched my tent just a few feet to either side, I would have been in a puddle a quarter palm deep.
By 10am there was a faint ray of sunshine trying to pierce through the clouds. I took a walk around to see how other campers had fared in the storm. Mysteriously, a blue tent that was a little ways from me last night was not there this morning, and its occupants were nowhere to be seen. I wondered if they packed up during the storm before sunrise. There was a large puddle of water where their tent used to be. I hate to imagine what things were like for them.
There wasn’t much to do today except wait for the day to pass. I walked around the campsite to the RV section to see who else was here. I met a lady from Indiana who said she has been following my journey on Facebook. Her trailer looked like a turtle shell attached to the back of her SUV. She had a 16-foot kayak on her roof rack and had come down to Florida for the winter. Another interesting character I found was a man with a short school bus he converted into an RV. It was the strangest vehicle I have ever looked inside. It had a bunk bed in the back, a wooden wardrobe, a sink, and a piano. The man said he is a musician from New York, and that this is his mobile studio which he drives around the country. He bought the bus on eBay for $2,500. “These old school buses, after they reach a certain age and maintenance becomes a safety issue for the kids, get sold off by school districts for almost nothing. They’re almost begging you to take them away for free.“ I remember that some 12 years ago I rode in an old American school bus down a narrow dirt road in the Peruvian Andes . Making offerings of beer and coca leaves to Pachamama was standard procedure before taking on a steep mountain pass. It ensured the wheels would stay on their axles, so I was told. His “bus” wasn’t doing great; one wheel only had 4 of the 8 nuts and the four left looked much too rusty for comfort. He was waiting on a delivery of new nuts at the park office to drive out without fear of the wheels coming off.
I walked down to the Flamingo Point boat ramp about a mile down the road to kill some time. Last time I was here there was a big restaurant, and an observation deck in a two-store building. However, the place looked abandoned and was encircled by a mesh fence. I assume it must be another casualty of Hurricane Irma.
The convenience store and boat fuel station were still functioning. Since my last time here, the convenience store added a food truck to compensate for the closed restaurant. Their hamburgers left a lot to be desired even for someone whose hunger's been tempered with an arduous paddle through the Everglades. They have a monopoly for at least 40 miles to the nearest competition, so their service is predictably subpar and overpriced. Even so, I paid $10 for a cheese burger, and a good deal more for their chocolate bars and M&M packs.
Rain started coming down hard again in the afternoon. Dinner was chocolate cookies and twinkies as sardines are too messy to eat inside the tent. The news continues to yield dire surprises. Yesterday a kayaker was rescued in the Lopez River near Chokoloskee. Had the headwinds come earlier, I would probably have taken the waterway route and passed through there and maybe seen him. I hate to think how he fared last night through the storm. He was a man of almost 70 from Virginia on a solo trip and had been missing for 12 days. The Park Service only found him after his phone washed up on a river bank and the location record was retrieved. The images from the helicopter showed him floating motionless on the water. When the rescue boat caught up the rangers had a tough time pulling him in. He didn’t look well; maybe he was hypothermic. There were many mysteries to this story however; how did he lose his boat? How did he survive for 12 days? Why did he not try to call for help? The news would not say. It must be a harrowing story, and it made me wonder if I was as well prepared as I thought.
Sea Kayak Florida Circumnavigation