Open water: Kayaking to the Bahamas

A fishing captain looks at me, his thirty-two foot boat getting thrown about ten miles off shore in giant swells, and asks “What the hell are you doing out here?”

Me in my kayak bobbing around like a piece of Styrofoam, “I was asking myself that same question.”

Today was awesome. One of the coolest experiences of my life, and why I came down here. What prompted this whole thing was a scenario I proposed to a coworker, “Think about being out on the open ocean… by yourself… with no sign of humanity in sight.. in a kayak.”

She responded, “That sounds like my absolute worst nightmare.”

I fell to a crouch, held my hands out like Atlas holding the globe, and said with an ear to ear grin of total awe, “But it would be so coooool!”


I finally got to feel that today and it was absolutely as fascinating as I thought it might be. And scary. Very scary. But not scary in the sense that I was actively afraid, rather in the sense that I knew I should be. My mind was on overdrive, trying to figure out exactly what to do, how to balance among the massive swells, trying to decide where my limit would be. No time to be afraid. Besides, it was exhilarating, freeing. It was exactly where I wanted to be.

My face is a little toasted, my hands ripped to shreds. It was eight hours out there total, two-thirds of the time that I would have taken me to make it while kayaking to The Bahamas. But today, in those conditions, a kayak could not have made it The Bahamas. And you know what? It feels pretty damn cool to be the only person who can say I know that for sure. Is it possible? Hell yeah. We have had unrelenting winds for the past three weeks and I am getting tired of waiting. I may stay down here, continue paddling, and keep waiting for that perfect day to cross the gulf stream. But I am getting a little antsy to see the world in these next two months before I head to med school.

I have been a fairly nervous, impatient wreck these past couple of weeks. The thought of going out into open water solo in a kayak, paddling away from shore with full intentions of hitting a distant, foreign, and unseen shore is really, really freaking scary. Like uber scary. More scary than actually being out there as I learned today. So now I know, and I am thrilled about it. It is overwhelming for sure, but not once did my heart race at the thought of keeping going. I was ecstatic. But when I began to see the tops of ten foot swells being chopped off by the 30 knot gusts, crashing down like a giant breaker on a shoreline, I thought I’d better turn around. I hit deep, deep water, nearly a mile of it beneath me, and the waves launched skyward quickly. I’d love to do that again. Right now of course the thought of sitting my butt in a kayak again makes me cringe. I paddled back to shore for a four hour trip, but unfortunately was nearly twelve miles seriously downwind from home. I paddled head on into the wind along the coast for four hours, cursing it the whole way.


I learned a lot these past couple weeks, and had an absolute blast toeing the waters. I learned that success in a trip like this requires a little bit of stupidity and a lot of wisdom, some courage and a lot of patience, some naivete and a lot of experience. It takes ignorance to get out there, but it is knowledge that carries someone across. Maybe I am lacking a little bit of that patience but I have seen open water and I am happy. The thought of open water scared the hell out of me but I knew it was not a rational fear. Every morning I would wake up with the dread of paddling over the horizon. Some mornings I just sat there looking out, cortisol flowing, shaking my head. This morning I said screw it, packed up my stuff, got in the boat, and didn’t look back until I was four miles out. That is what it takes, months of preparation, and as little time as possible to second guess.


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