The 2007 trip report is courtesy of Team Navigator, Bob Linfors.
A Long Strange Trip, Indeed.
Trip Log - June 1, 2007.
Jeff, Greg, and I followed the incoming tropical storm on the Internet. All signs were bad. And the ones that weren't bad were because they were worse.
- Within twenty-four hours of the journey and all heck is unbound. The weather forecast is awful and Patty is having some serious health issues involving her pregnancy so Patrick is heading back home.
Trip Log - June 2, 2007.
- Tropical Storm Barry is churning, my backyard trees are whipping about and there's plenty of rain about. So, it's off to the beach!
- Where a decision was easily reached - the wind's blowing out of the due south at twenty knots - gusts up to thirty. Angry boiling water. Now, I write this from my easy chair, day one scrubbed. We'll leave tomorrow from Black Point. The system is at its tail end for us and should be blown by and past late this afternoon.
We stood on the beach looking out at Biscayne Bay. Waves broke onto Hobie Beach, a beach which hasn't seen breakers since the last hurricane whipped in off the Atlantic. Kayaks strapped to the roof of our vehicles, we had no dissension. The Skipper nodded like Chevy Chase at the Grand Canyon and said, "Six am, tomorrow morning. Black Point. Don't be late." Then he hugged Sandy and hauled ass.
Trip Log - June 3, 2007.
- 5:15 am. Day Two is now Day One but it will happen. Forecast is infinitely better. Leaving out of Black Point Marina. Push off point for 2000 and 2005.
- 2 pm at Alabama Jack's. The old cliché - what a difference a day makes - is most apt. We began with an odd west wind across the bow and took full advantage. Took breaks at Turkey Point and where the cooling canals end, marked as "Closed to Navigation" on the map.
- Nearly stepped on a small ray that had dug down under the sand.
- Ah! Here's comes the first beer.
- The row from Alabama Jack's to here, Short Key, lasted an hour and a half and it successfully kicked our butts. Well, not really, but the wind was dead straight into our faces. The wind, though, means the start to our evening is pleasant and not so bug intensive.
- Adam suggested we form a boy band at OB's suggestion of harmonizing. We'd call ourselves 'N Da Drink.
- Patrick left a long message on the voicemail for us.
The Skipper said it right to Pedro. "You think today was fun? Wait until Patrick rejoins us. He's constant entertainment. He's the heart of this trip." And though we had a good day, our own hearts were with the old boy missing.
Trip Log - June 4, 2007.
- All told we slept a pleasant night on Short Key. We camped in the most open spot on the island so until the breeze died away we were Bug-Light. Good campfire, humorous tales and several beers. Greg's iPod for further entertainment. OB busted out with a can of Badger Balm and the site transformed into Brokeback Kayaking - Rainman massaging our crannies, nooks, and divots. Barnes Sound this morning never awoke - the Sergeant snored peacefully.
- In the channel I had my little joke - named a skinny little fellow in a skiff Tim Hemingway, Ernest's long lost lesser cousin - well, Tim Hemingway threw a left-handed cast from his flat boat and immediately, upon the very instant, jerked back his rod which bent into a question mark. I said to Jeff, "Idiot just caught a mangrove root." Ha ha, right? Ten seconds later ole Tim reeled up a squiggling three-pound bass-snapper. He must have sizzled his cast right into that fish - hit it in the darn mouth - as it swam between mangrove roots. This is why I never gamble. Las Vegas would be a bore to me.
- The sound, Blackwater Sound, also slept off its Tropical Storm Barry hangover. In the same place we saw dolphins last year, a spotted ray planed the surface, mini rooster-tails off its wing-tips. Now breaking at FBO.
At FBO, Adam got out, Nick got in, and I, suffering from gear envy, bought a half-skirt at OB's suggestion. It would prove to be a wise investment. No more half-moon sunburn on my inner thighs. It also doesn't heat you up like a full skirt would. And to complete the advertisement, it's got a zippered pouch for your sun-block, snacks, pesos, and Russian phrase-book.
At Toilet-Seat Row a family saw us and when they heard who we were, the wife said, "Yeah, we know who you are, you guys are rock stars." The husband, a retired Miami Beach firefighter named Lynch, said he heard Patrick on the Paul and Young Ron show a few days before. We gave their children some of our reminder bands.
Trip Log - June 5, 2007.
- 5:30 am wake-up. Yesterday proved to be a long paddle as we didn't make landfall at Holiday Isle until 6:45 pm. The wind remained out of the south but since it was light it kept the hot heats off, though it slowed us down.
- Left Rum Runner beach at 7:15am, Dad saluting us away - light chop. Dad sent us off because Patrick is with us! The news from the doctor was positive, so he stood waving us in at Holiday Isle - a round of the frosty cold ones waiting for us. Now we're brunching at the Hungry Tarpon.
- Today we didn't make landfall until 7 pm and we did not slack on long breaks. The wind and current were contrary. We rested at Anne's Beach for a half-hour, a most invigorating stop, and then again just before the Long Key Bridge.
- Rolled with three dolphins this morning, all three between me and the nose of my boat. I could have reached out and touched one of their blow-holes. (These would be the only dolphins we saw the entire week - a very low number in our experience, so it was exceptionally special to have such a close encounter.)
Upon finding the Gulf View Resort on Grassy Key, Frank, Monica, and Adam were there! Adam worked magic at home in the form of slouching and grumbling so much his wife said just go back and find them. He called Frank and Monica and to Grassy Key they came with a kayak strapped to the roof. With the comings and goings we now stood at nine paddlers in eight boats. Our biggest entourage ever. Nick commenced to do yoga sleeping, curling up completely in a cocoon of a bag on the floor so all of us old dudes could sleep on beds.
The proprietors of the Gulf View are gracious hosts. They put us on their welcome sign and signed on again for next year on the spot. They gave us two names to add to our list of honorees. Good people.
Trip Log - June 6, 2007.
- The facilities at the Gulf View were excellent. They put two cages out front and put in two parrots, an iguana, a flock of cockatiels/cockatwos/parathrees, you know, those spastic noisy birds of color. We ate at The Wreck, slept the sleep of the nearly dead and our 5:30 am wake-up came at 4:45 am. OB managed a polite apology and a "Carry on" when his mistake was pointed out. I wanted to throw a Buick at him.
- 11 am at Sombrero Beach. A front is passing over us and it's got lightning in it. Pressure and temps are down and now the rain is pounding. Admiral Boom says it in Mary Poppins, "A bit chancy, I'd say. The wind is up and the glass is falling! I don't like the look of it! You're steering into a nasty piece of weather, what!" We're halfway to the quitting point but we could be in for a long afternoon.
- 4pm at Sombrero Beach. Our mission for today is scrubbed. Frank, owner of long-time sponsor Florida Bay Outfitters, is driving down to take our boats down the road to Pedro's parents home on Summerland Key. There was a lull of just about an hour and a half, but we couldn't have made it across. Any other stretch and we would have tried it - by hugging the coast and pulling in when it got bad. But this is the Seven-Mile Bridge. Deep open water… and Moe!
Unlike day one a decision was not easily reached. But with the information that the storm was moving northeast and the southwest looking like purple death, we aborted. And since, now at 4:45pm, the pavilion is swaying to the beat of thunder claps, we made the right decision. Though the Skipper is suffering the disease of Irish frustration. "But what if…?"
- "Committee: a group of men who individually can do nothing, but as a group decide that nothing can be done." - Fred Allen.
- Pushing 9:30 pm. Pork, chicken, potatoes for dinner at Pedro's house on Summerland. His parents are fine and gracious hosts.
We got three rookies on the trip. An all-time high. This includes the first trip in 2000!
Pedro is a firefighter that heard of us through Monica, Frank's wife. He has made his own kayak of some super wood he purchased in Georgia. He can do rolls and gets all his gear below decks. He appears to be on a day trip while the rest of us are paddling jitneys piled with bananas, mangoes, pill bottles, and little furry objects. He's got a GPS. And then there's me, the navigator, with a compass: I look to the right and shout, "Land!" He has been nicknamed Fireplug.
Adam is a teacher with OB and me. He has helped us raise money since the get-go and has always said he'd go. He tells a good story and keeps the four o'clock blues away with his tales. A fisherman, a Grateful Dead fan, an Explorer in many ways. He has been nicknamed Hemingway.
Nick is Frank's son. He's due to start his senior year at Coral Shores High this fall. He looks like Captain Jack Sparrow without the metrosexual-pirate make-up. His wrist hurt much of the first two days, but he hung tough. So for his appearance, and his fragile teenager joints, he has been nicknamed Sparrow.
Trip Log - June 7, 2007.
- Slept soundly in a comfortable bed - beats the hell of the hard ground and buggy air of Bahia Honda. But I did miss the sinkhole.
- Tenzig Norgay. Sherpa that led Sir Edmund up the big hill. OB tagged me with that after twice I climbed rock formations to gaze at man's attempt to ruin two islands. On Cudjoe and Sugarloaf. Patrick filmed me climbing the Cudjoe hill. 40 year-old monkey. Neat views: salt marshes and a half-ass attempt at colonizing the Pineapple Coast… the dudes that smoothed that one-lane passage are dead. For sure. Their bones are bleached brittle and provide nothing but ribbons of shadows for hermit crabs.
- 5 pm, well, a bit before, and we're saddling up to the bar at the Sugarloaf Lodge, another sponsor. Nancy remembers us from last year. She truly makes the best Rum Runners. This year I'm not going to lose count.
- "That's why so many Italians marry Irish. They're not German." (Some lady at the bar)
- Playing chess. Drinking Rum Runners.
- The Skipper swallowed a hunk of "salad" at dinner, begged me to know what "that green s***" was, and bugged his eyes and ran for a defibrillator when I told him he'd eaten whole a thumb-size portion of wasabi.
- Somebody from one of our boats said, "I was on the phone for 59 minutes and 40 seconds and you were on the phone for 40 seconds. What's up?" That somebody else said, "Welcome to Ninja Marriage."
A straight shot from Summerland Key to the Sugarloaf Lodge would have been a mere seven miles. I mapped out a new route to circumnavigate Cudjoe Key, thus adding 12 miles to the day. New water is always welcome, and the north bound trip along Cudjoe was a paddler's dream, fair winds and a following sea. A loggerhead with a cantaloupe head made an appearance and then a fast departure upon seeing us sea-hippies, but Pedro and I got a good look at him. We snacked at the tip, knowing Neptune, Triton and those other dudes needed their giggles at our expense. And they would laugh long and hard, those sons-of-...We got sprayed, delayed, and sashayed on the water as we labored south along Sugarloaf's eastern side. The Pineapple Coast strikes again. Banshees called from deep in the mangroves. The Hound of the Saddlebunch barked from the distance. New demons to excise.
When we did make the channel cut, we were rewarded with the current that we'd just fought for an hour. Rainman and I shared my last Espresso Double-shot in the drift.
Trip Log - June 8, 2007.
- A mostly successful mission ended in fine fashion as both Sophia and Hailey awaited my arrival on the dock!
- Hilarity and fun ensuing.
I never write much in my journals on the day of arrival. The first few hours after landing are whirls of activity: the ACS greeting at the pool bar, unloading the gear, stripping the kayaks, humping all of it up the beach and to the hotel rooms, hanging in the pool with the team, each guy showing off his various scrapes and scars. Before we know it, we're in the bag and none of us is too concerned about recording the ongoings. And this is all thanks to another of our long-time sponsors, Jim Frigo who provides us with the rooms at the Casa Marina.
Trip Log - June 9, 2007.
- Dinner at the Half Shell, a beer at Finnegan's, a good night's sleep. My 40 year-old frame wasn't up for carrying on to Margaritaville's, another of our sponsors, to see Bill Wharton and the Ingredients perform. Patrick ended up on stage stirring the gumbo. Watch the video and you'll be hard-pressed to pick which of the two are the bigger performers.
- Breakfast at Ricky's Blue Heaven. The chickens are poking about, the roosters making themselves heard. Hailey loves the chickens, Sophia loves the eggs benedict, and I love the bloody Mary.
- This journey, in hindsight, will qualify surely as a long, strange trip. So many personalities, and comings and goings, and interesting folks - all of whom had good will. There were the folks in Toilet Seat row; then there was Bruce Trout who was walking his dog on Sombrero Beach. We were holed up and he drove to a store and bought us two 18-packs of Coors Light and a few bags of chips.
Yesterday between Long Point and the island in Boca Chica Channel, I saw five sharks, one reef and four nurse, bringing the total for the trip to six.
Adam, Greg, and OB were on walkabout in Key West early Saturday morning when they came upon an old dude wearing a purple robe and sitting on the street with his pointy hat beside him. He exchanged glances with the three kayakers and said, "What? You've never seen a wizard take a break before?"
You've read the story.. now see the Pictures!
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