Tag Archives: Florida Keys

To be a human in the wild

“Twenty years ago, fresh out of college, I was too poor to afford the most expensive name gear. I did have a great back pack (Lowe Alpine Contour), but a cheap tent, Walmart ground pad, and low end hiking clothes, etc. Several times on the trail, I would meet people and outfitters who would judge me on my apparel/gear. It was like the trail had become a country club and I was not welcome or good enough to be a member. I feel now, the same way I felt then. If you love the outdoors, hiking and camping, then you belong.”

/u/mein_liebchen on Reddit

It’s not Martin Luther King. It’s not Ghandi. But my goodness did this dude put it perfectly. To provide some context, people have been incessantly bitching about the movie Wild and the resultant flood of backpackers. This guy was fed up with the elitism from a portion of the hiking community. Continue reading To be a human in the wild

Overpowering fear: open ocean kayaking

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.

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Continue reading Overpowering fear: open ocean kayaking

Key West to Tortugas, Part 3

My boat glided up onto the beach as I popped open my spray skirt. The dense smell of sweat and urine assaulted my nostrils. I slipped out of the boat and fell into the water, tried to stand, and contented myself with wading. I waded in the water for minutes, looking up on the island at the campers. Occasionally one would walk by and give me a look of total confusion, but the refugee Cubans arriving moments before distracted them from my arrival, at least long enough for me to learn how to walk again. Continue reading Key West to Tortugas, Part 3

Key West to Tortugas, Part 1

It’s hard to understand the months of preparation from any other vantage than my own. They think I just though of the idea of an open ocean paddle this morning, and they think I am crazy.

He asked me how far I was going to be paddling out and I responded saying I was headed for the Tortugas. “Do you know how far that is?” he asked with a concerned expression on his face.

I laughed and said “yes, yes I do”. It is a common silly question in a long list of them that I have recently become accustomed to. Minutes later, as I prepped my boat on Higgs Beach in Key West to set off for my open ocean voyage in a standard kayak, another man walked up and asked me if I was training for something.

“Actually, I was training for what I’m about to do right now,” I responded. Continue reading Key West to Tortugas, Part 1

Kayaking in the Gulf Stream in Force 5-6

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.

Force 5-6

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

Cockpit cover

I have created a coffin but I sure as hell hope that I am not digging my own grave. I made a cockpit cover for my kayak, a kind of last resort safety capsule, a way to turn my boat into a life raft. I’m pretty proud of the design and the construction, it’s like nothing I have ever built before. But when I slid into for the first time today, with the roof less than an inch from my nose, I realized what I had done. This is an absolute minimal design so that I can store it below deck. It is cut in the middle to latch together and to break apart. On top I have installed an air-only ventilator, an incredible design that could very likely save my life. The frame is made from fiberglass which I purchased from Tapp Plastics. The latches I purchased from The Toggle Clamp Store.

First I taped down the mold which I cut from polystyrene foam using a hacksaw and an electric carving knife and then sanded down. I then covered the whole thing with plastic wrap which I then covered with mold release. Then I laid down one layer of 2oz fiberglass mat and then another layer on top of that, all the while rolling to smooth out bubbles as best I could. I ended up with an imperfect piece but good enough for my purposes. I am currently working applying an overhang on the front cover which will come over the rear cover to allow me to make it watertight. All the edges will be coated with a rubber seal.

I imagine trying to sleep in this thing will be pretty close to anyone’s worst nightmare. Alone in the ocean, no land in sight, with a twenty-one inch beam, and two inches of freeboard, crammed down in a cockpit no bigger than a coffin. But while I hope it never comes to that, it is a safety measure that I would feel moronic doing without. I would much rather spend a few hours waiting out a storm in a coffin then the rest of eternity in a coffin. It may seem curious why I would even consider putting myself in these predicaments. I’m not. It’s an all else fails scenario. The goal is to bring this trip to safer than the thousand mile drive down I-95 to the Florida Keys. Not more comfortable, just safer. And this cockpit cover is another step in that direction.

photo (4) Continue reading Cockpit cover

Zen and the Art of Freediving

Today I stood between mountains of coral that towered next to me. Beneath thirty feet of crushing water, I sunk like a rock to the bottom and firmly stood with my feet planted on the sandy ridged bottom. Beneath the turbulent waves, I felt only gentle swaying with little current. Fan corals rocked back and forth alongside me. I could walk on the sandy bottom, pressing off each tiny dune in the sand for traction. With my arms spread wide, the walls of the reef were nearly within reach of my fingertips. Several large barracuda rested just above the sand, watching my every move with their teeth spilling from their jaws. Continue reading Zen and the Art of Freediving