Woke this morning to 40 degree temp and a very low tide. There was a strong Northeaster starting to blow down the Broad River, exactly the direction I needed to go to get to my next scheduled stop, Plate Creek Chickee. Another 15 mile day with wind and tide starting out against me, and it was cold. What did I do to deserve this? I have big feet but leave very small footprints. On the plus side the bugs were nonexistent so I could pack and have breakfast in some comfort. The splash bath the previous evening left me fresh as a daisy, yeah right! Well I was smelling better then before and besides, who was around to stink up anyway...still had not seen a person for days.
It is so nice to just stand still without insects buzzing around and biting. What a relief...I'm starting to think about the grueling paddle ahead, better get on with it and get some protein in me, but first a moment in time for reflections. Look at all this open space would you, with not a person to be found, its just Robinson Calusa, Steve's Spirit and me! This is the stuff dreams are made of. Right now I am at peace with nature and myself, this is my religion, this is life.
Let's see what is on the Broad River Campsite menu. Bacon, Eggs, OK that will do fine, I'll stash some health food bars in my pockets and have a bag of beef jerky in the cockpit. Will need all the energy I can gather today, looks like I am in this for the long haul.
If you did not notice in the first image the tide is super low, at least 6' below the high yesterday. It will be a little difficult to load up even with this ramp, without it no way. Starting to feel sick about all the extra things I brought along that I know will not be used. I must carry them on, nothing can be left behind, in fact I am picking up a few bits of trash left behind by others. Want to do my part plus to help keep this area as natural as possible for future adventurers. All of the NPS port-o-lets have had tissue although they all were in need of a pumpout. It was quite handy having them at these sites.
Well, finally packed and ready to get started. Look at that drop, I am standing on the corner of the dock taking this photo and it is a long way down. The boat gunwale is a good 2' below the ramp which is about 4' below the dock. You can see some of my navigation tools through the clear vinyl cover. The orange thing is SPOT, a personal satellite tracker that sends my position back to folks at home via email with google map lat/long. They are tracking me as I travel the wilderness. I press the OK button every hour so they get an update. Pretty slick little gizmo - it also has a "911" button should a life or death scenario present itself. It does require a clear view of the sky to work. My large chart kit is in the center and the blue folder contains duplicate charts and Google Earth Aerial views to scale with the charts. So far so good...not lost yet!
Wow, the wind is really picking up now! I'd better get going.
Decisions...I have struggled for an hour and a half and made slightly under one mile against this wind and current. Shoulder is already very sore and I can't see how I can possibly make my Plate Creek destination, or any others against this wind and tide today. Think I'll tie up to this remote sensing station tower and rest a bit. No, screw it, I'm turning around and heading for the Gulf of Mexico. I will be able to sail, and sail fast. I turn around and the current and wind take me away at 2 knots without paddle or sail. I pull the sail out and wham 6 knots, exillerating!
Back passing my campsite within 10 minutes with a smile and one very sore shoulder. This is fun...will be out to the Gulf in no time and should have a beam reach up the coast - Yip-Yip-Yipeee!
Within 20 minutes of turning around I'm already passing Broad Creek where I exited The Nighmare yesterday. Today the tide is much lower and I'm sure not passable at this time. It is so much fun to run with the wind at this speed, also a lot less wear and tear on my body!
Half an hour later and I'm in the Gulf. Moving too fast to observe much now but know I need to get North up the coast as far as possible while this wind is working with me.
Fly through the pass and into many shoals. The markers are taking me far South but I should be able to make up the lost ground when I am able to turn North again.
About a mile off of the mainland now and the waves are starting to grow but I still have shoals to the North and must continue on. I hope the shoals end soon before I get too far out here and must beat the way back. I'm starting to worry a bit about tacking in the strong winds. This is the first time I have been offshore with this much wind in Robinson Calusa loaded down...
Looks like just beyond this bit of shoal I can turn North.
Whoa! That was scary, when I turned North the forward motion of the boat into the wind almost doubled it. I had been running with it now pointing high into it. Starboard tack (wind on the right) is the side that lifts the outrigger, and lift it did! Had to furl the sail in to around half it's size and still hang over the side in order to keep the beast down. When I roll the sail up (furling) it changes the sheeting angle so I must improvise and put my leg over the sheet to get pressure up near the top of the sail. This square top Marconi rig has a huge roach and needs the correct sheet angle for efficiency. I would be heading to Texas if I could not get the angle better. In addition the slack at the top causes the sail to flutter wildly which will eventually tear itself apart. I could already see a batten tip control line coming loose so I had to do something fast.
I get everything squared away and head on up the coast close hauled but not having to tack. 2-1/2 hrs later I'm up to Hog Key which is one of my destinations for the trip back South. I'm pretty beat by now and decide this was enough for one day. I had stopped behind an island a few miles back to check the chart and a very strong gust hit while I was looking down. The mainsheet was locked in so the boat tipped over 45 degrees which promptly filled the hull with seawater. I climbed to the outrigger and in came back up but not before it was almost full of water. I had to bail for about 30 minutes and worried if anything had been damaged from the water. My new polarized sunglasses had a nice scrape but the GPS and other items survived a dunking for a few tense moments. So I'll just stop here while the getting is good and dry out...
Hog Key NPS sign is located beside a huge Gumbo Limbo tree (I think it is). This tree stands out over most of the others and can be seen quite a distance offshore.
First beach camp is set...been waiting for this...I can finally build a campfire tonight!!! I clean the boat out and hang a few things out to dry. Also pull out one of the two solar panels and charge some AA rechargeable for the camera.
My Hog Key Corona commercial. I did bring some Merlot in a box so tonight should be special...
View across the Hog Key beachfront.
Sunset - the ending to another exciting adventure filled day. What will tomorrow bring? I'm off my scheduled track now but should be able to catch up on it in a few days.
Campfire!!! and Merlot go well together. The day had warmed up from 40 to 85 degrees and the biting flies were out this afternoon. When dusk came the midges came to life so the fire is a welcome event, even if it is hot. It keeps the bugs away... Nothing like a good beach fire...and drift wood is everywhere. It is an enchanting experience being the only person out on one of these desearted beaches,,,alone. Although Steve was with me in spirit which kept me comforted, afterall this whole experience is about him and I wilderness sailing.
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