Nothing in my life has ever sparked such overwhelming fear as sitting alone on a beach in the early, early morning, long before sunrise with intentions of paddling a kayak across an enormous body of water to a foreign island. There was lightning on the horizon, too distant and sparse to be a sure no go, but not clear enough to make me feel confident to paddle out. The wind was blowing from the north and would launch me down to Cay Sal on an open ocean kayaking voyage in under 12 hours. I would arrive there before dusk and set up camp on the uninhabited island in the Gulf of Mexico. I could see the tall palms swaying high overhead behind me and knew the wind coming from the other side of the island was strong. Within the first mile of paddling the wind would catch me and launch me faster and faster from the island until eventually I would not be able to paddle back. It was a commitment that gave me chills.
Here is a video showing what it was like out there on my last attempt. Might try again tomorrow or the next day with the wind dropping and the weather clearing. May has been absolutely hellish weather so I gave it a shot and this is what happened. It was incredibly fun, just not conducive to the first paddle from The United States to The Bahamas.
“The worst part of an expedition was over when the preparation was finished.” -Robert Falcon Scott, The Worst Journey in the World.
It’s showtime. Shoving off from Key West at around 4 AM tomorrow. Follow me through live tracking on my Spot Shared Page. I am looking to paddle a kayak from The United States to The Bahamas. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. I get overwhelmed at times about the proposition. But I know it will be a blast, an adventure full of suffering and wonder, absolute awe and absolute agony. To see the world from the vantage that I do is a privilege and one that I won’t walk away from easily.
Looks like I’ll have NNW winds starting at 10 knots and rising to 20 knots by the end of the day. Slight risk of thunderstorms early. Seas 2-4 feet and building to 6-9 feet by the night. Big, big waves. Should make for a fast and exciting ride to Cay Sal Bank.
Big, big waves out in the Atlantic right now. Not conducive for fast kayaking, which I certainly need in order to make a 90 mile open water crossing. I went out today for 2.5 hours in a force 5-6 and got had an absolute blast. Towering, towering waves. Fun going downwind, brutal coming back. Once again the boat handles great but the limiting factor is going to be my endurance in such brutal conditions. I’ve been checking the weather every few hours just hoping I’ll get favorable conditions soon. It looks like we’re getting east winds for the next four days until it lines up perfectly with 10 knots coming from the northwest on Thursday. It doesn’t get much better than that but I wouldn’t mind doing without the isolated t-storm warning. Strong chance of dealing with a squall along the way. Should make for some exciting times- deploy sea anchor and outriggers and hang tight till the weather calms down. Continue reading Force 5-6
Trying to put this whole trip together for a perfect run is seeming absolutely impossible. I am going to need to settle in some way, but in just what way I am unsure. The reason this trip is so tricky, and part of the reason it is so appealing is that a oceanic river, the gulf stream, runs directly through the middle of it. Currents from the Atlantic pump into the Gulf of Mexico, pump around for a bit and then swoop south and race by the keys on their way by and up the coast of the United States. At its fastest this current moves at four knots, a speed that is felt by all vessels, big and small. My trip is especially tricky with a small target and only human power and a little bit of wind.
Here is the link to the page where you can follow me through live tracking for my adventures over the next three months. First up, a kayak trip to the Bahamas! Just waiting for the right weather at this point.
I landed on the Man o’ War covered Smathers Beach on the south end of Key West at around eleven in the morning. I jumped out of my kayak in front of dozens of tourists trying to tan their wintery white skin. My face was coated with zinc oxide, my eyes sunken in from lack of sleep, my clothes wet and smelly. I sat on the beach in the warm sand for a moment reflecting on what I had just done. I had paddled a kayak the same distance it would be to paddle to The Bahamas. The absurd goal, an unfathomable distance, didn’t seem so crazy anymore. The only difference, no bugs to fend off, no unpredictable currents, just open water and solitude. Continue reading Middle Keys to Key West
I joke that for a trip to become an adventure you must be absolutely regretfully miserable for some amount of time. It is not necessarily designed into the plan, but is very likely unavoidable. I am planning my next great adventure, one that will take me from the civilized world to a marine habitat for several months. My vessel is a 2006 NDK Explorer, british racing green. The proposed route, follow the Antilles from Key West to Puerto Rico. There are stretches that will take me out of sight of land for an entire day, left only with the company of the flying fish, dorados, and sharks that will accompany me and likely occasionally provide me with a meal. I’m outfitting my boat as a home, with electric bilge pump, sleeping pad inside the cockpit, fresh water supply spitting from the rear hatch, cockpit cover to lock down and survive even the worst storms, and a small sail for the favorable breezes. It is not a suicide mission, it is a vacation in fact. In may seem crazy but in fact it is a deviation from my usual course of venturing into snow-covered sub-zero forests. I will have my challenges, most definitely, but they will be winds and wildlife, baking heat and water water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.
I am using a lot of ideas from the greatest adventurers, Ed Gillet and Andrew McAuley most notably. Gillet paddled from California to Hawaii while McAuley paddled across the Tasman Sea from Australia to New Zealand, both in production kayaks. My adventure will be hugging land and will be much different from their trips into vast open water. But mine will carry the risks of Caribbean storms and entire days out to sea. I have obtained most of my knowledge from sailors, however, seeing as they are the most often to make trips like this.
This is a documentary on Andrew McAuley’s adventure. Take note of his kayak modifications, especially the cockpit dome, Casper. But most importantly, try to understand Andrew, to see where he was coming from. Please try to not be quick to judge him and instead try to imagine his life, how exciting it must have been and understand that there are many ways to live a life, and maybe one where we don’t fear death isn’t so criminal.
Full documentary: http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/ifhx2EQEubk