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Mile munching, I’m now in the middle of the space coast.

March 10, 2011

March 5, Peanut Island

I write this 100 km from North Miami. I’m at the edge of the urban sprawl or so I hope.

Bruno came with me to help me launch my kayak. I loaded everything I thought I would need for my entire trip and headed north, leaving my car behind four a few months and saying goodbye to any sort of normalcy. Emotionally, I did not feel much except the joy of finally being on my way. This joy lasted the entire 42 miles and I would have continued sailing at night if the wind had cooperated. The first 20 miles were really long since I had to go through a long tortuous canal not large enough to let the wind in. I pedaled for hours looking at the mansions, then the houses, then the cottages, the residences mostly shrinking as I was getting away from Pompano.

Again I noticed how even on a Saturday, there was nobody anywhere on those expletive patios. Many residences had multiple chairs and tables, sometimes rotting a hammock was suspended but no one was home, anywhere. I started in the morning and got to Peanut Island at 8 pm, I covered a lot of ground and saw a great number of residences, and this was the weekend: people are just not outside on their pretty patios.

Going 42 miles (that’s the birds flight distance) I learned that I can do long distances in any circumstances. It’s just a matter of heading in the same direction for a long time. I move at a minimum speed of 2.2 miles per hour but I average about 4 mph in normal circumstances. It’s not unpleasant to let the hours pass while pedaling. Daylight is not really a problem either since I have signaling lights. As long as I can keep my bearing moving at night is a lot of fun.

I got to Peanut Island at night. 8 pm, that’s late for me now. I pitched my tent, said hello to my fellow campers partying next to their tents and went to bed feeling guilty for not registering although there is no fee for primitive campers according to the paddling guide.

Peanut island
Peanut island

March 6, Ste-Lucie (on the haunted spoil island)

I woke up at Peanut Island at 6 and was on the water by 8.  The wind was favourable and the intracoastal was quite wide for a while but even as it narrowed the wind was always present. I looked at the inlet to see if I could go out to sea but the waves were just not inviting, confirming the VHF marine forecast.

On my way, both sides of the intracoastal were lined with mansions, especially around Jupiter. Very few were for sale and the boats attached to those houses are simply huge and they looked brand spanking new. After seeing all these houses for sale in Florida, I was expecting to see something similar amongst the mansions of the intracoastal.

I haven’t done any outside research on this but I’m sure some people think that these folks have prospered during the crisis. The boats are new, the houses well kept and the gigantic boat dealers on the intracoastal seem very busy. I think that that sort of thinking can only stem from jealousy. I believe that the very rich are just keeping appearances for our benefit and really did need the Obama tax break after cashing in all that bailout money. Moreover, it’s just so plain to see how the fate of their fellow Americans is affecting them. The huge boat owners are so chagrinned by all this that they could not find the energy to wave back when I waved hello from my kayak. These are sensitive people and seeing all their servants suffer is just more than they can stand. We should all be more considerate.

As I was getting to Ste-Lucie, it dawned on me that I was now 150 km from North Miami. In three days, using only the intracoastal, I did 30 kilometers the first day to get to Bruno’s house, 70 km the next to get to Peanut Island and 50 km today. I could have continued another 50 km with the winds I was getting during the evening but I was already so tired that I chose to take a break. If the winds are as unfavorable as they are forecasted for tomorrow, I may choose to remain here for one more night. The South Beach dormitories have drained my energy and I need to sleep some of those lost sleeping hours.

This island is a bit creepy. Not too far from my tent I found an abandoned tent with rotten sleeping bags in it. A ghost tent was a bit strange but then I stumble upon a shovel and a grave sized hole in the sand. The only thing missing was a body. The hole was covered with some palms, perhaps to keep it hidden until it was needed.

ghost tent
scared yet?
hole dug, check

March 7, Ghost island, Ste-Lucie

The winds were straight in my face so I remained on the island for an extra day. I really needed to catch up on sleep and give my body a break. I started reading a new Bill Bryson book about little towns in America. It has to be the funniest thing I’ve read in years.

I ate lunch and decided to go on a water expedition to a nearby park. As I was leaving a bunch of young people beached their powerboat close to my tent. I was a bit worried but they seemed a joyous bunch so off I went anyway.

I had to sail against the wind, take water and sail back. It took me only 40 minutes. The boaters were still around. I introduced myself and I was promptly offered rum and ice since they had forgotten the chaser. It was a very welcomed diversion. The girls were very, I mean very pretty and the guys were all in good spirit. We chatted about all sorts of things and somehow I got an education in Ste-Lucie’s finest colloquialisms. I will not put it in writing since we made the following educational video.

I was left to my Robinson Crusoe performance at around 4, still buzzed by the rum, I tried getting back to reading. That was one hell of a way to spend a mandatory, but oh so boring, rest day.

March 8, Spoil Island near Melbourne.

On my ghost island, I went to bed at 7:30 but I still would have slept in later than 6 am. I think I’ll have trouble getting out of my tent as long as it’s dark and cold outside. It doesn’t matter how long I’ve slept. I would have made a very poor farmer.

By 7, I was passing the under the bridge where I got the water the day before. Many thoughts about the previous day were circling in my head, images of bikinis mostly. The wind was good and I was very inclined to try to get some mileage done. The first twenty miles went by really fast and when I approached my intended destination, I simply selected the one for the next day as my new destination… another 29 miles.

The wind was alright for a while. I was getting a bit bored so I invented a game. It’s called old men gaze jousting. The premise is very simple. You wave at the people coming your way as you should always do. Some will wave back some won’t. Most will, but some old men will not even recognize your presence. That’s when you’ve found a participant! The old man is going to stand stiff at the controls with a tight grip on his steering. You will notice that he’ll looks like he’s trying to squeeze something out of his controls or strangle them. I imagine it’s a way of keeping a hold on all the frustrations of a long dull life. Maybe these old men think they’ll keel over if they let go. In any case this has nothing to do with the game… Again, you need to start by waving once or twice, if the old man does not wave back or look at you then you start staring at him. I call it jousting because there is an element of danger for each participant. This works best on the intracoastal because of all the obstacles: signs, posts, boats, etc. Once you start staring at him, you will notice that he will look straight ahead without ever moving his eyes. He could drift into anything during that time but he’s not about to give any sign of weakness. During that time you have to stare at him. This leaves you only your peripheral vision to avoid signs, boats, and crocodiles. It gets worse as he passes you and you have to stare at the back of his neck. If he turns around and you get eye contact you’ve won! Gazing at the back of his neck is pretty much the only chance you have. It’s highly entertaining, if you spend enough hours on the intracoastal.

The last ten miles were really hard since the wind vanished. Fortunately, the houses on each side of the intracoastal were interesting. The boats were no bigger than 25 feet and rather old. Most houses did not have a boat. The mansions were now Mc Mansions… meaning 5000 square feet monstrosities with cheap roofing, unpardonable vinyl siding, amateur landscaping and 1950s gardening… all the approval seeking signs of a real mansion at a fraction of the cost.

I got to my spoil island at around 5. I was so tired. The island is really pretty. The ground is mostly shells. I set up my stove, tent and hammock in minutes. It’s now 7:50 and I can barely stand up.

March 9, Spoil Island at the beginning of the space coast.

During the night on the spoil island near Melbourne, I heard the wind coming from the south. In the morning the surface was full of white caps. I headed out at 7. My first stop was the grocery store marked on the DEM map paddling trail map. It turned out to be a Win Dixie. Amongst other things, I was able to get a new phone card and batteries for my light and GPS.

I took off to a campsite 55 miles away. I broke my rudder pin less than 5 minutes on my way. I changed it and hoped that that one would hold for some time. If pins break every 300 miles, my 3 spares will not last very long.

The conditions on the intracoastal were dire. The white caps and tall swell made my progress very tiresome. The boat would pitch into the waves every few minutes, often swamping the boat to the point that I would start to float off my seat. The mast itself would hit the water has the boat would pitch in. Fortunately, the boat reacted gracefully by simply stopping and slowly coming back to the surface. At first it made me nervous but soon it became a game. If it wasn’t for the loss of speed and the need to empty the boat every hour, I could call it entertaining.

I saw a dolphin up-close. Everyone is going to believe that but I not sure about the second part and I don’t blame you. I bumped and literally scooped a shark on my bow in one of my pitch dives. The shark got right on my bow. It was dead center. The shark hit my mast as it struggle, in panic, to get away. My mouth would have been opened in awe had I not been frozen by the fear of getting hit or having that thing pushed all the way back in the cockpit!

The wind was howling all day. It was straight behind me. Still it was not easy to get any mileage done. The conditions were so difficult that it was stressful. One sailboat skipper showed me the international sign of “are you crazy to be out in that thing in these conditions”. I agreed with him. So after 37 miles of dreadful and scary sailing, I chose to stop at one of the alternate campsites.

The spoil island already had a sailboat docked to it. The father and son were stuck on the island because of the conditions. They just could not make it back the last 8 miles to their marina. We had a chat and later talked around the fire. They live in Montreal but are Americans. Perhaps we’ll meet again in Montreal.

  1. Lunkerbuster permalink

    Pretty amazing journey man. Really enjoying the updates. Just letting you know you have a lot of folks sailing with you. Paddle strong friend

  2. She DOES look like Alexandra… a bit… quite a bit 🙂

    After this clip I see your footage from a new point of view! LOL

    And I sincerely regret I could not follow-up on your invite to do this with you!

    • It’s not too late. I’m about to do a very interesting part of the coast: Pamlico Sound then Chesapeake Bay.

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  1. Pas de place pour deux « De Miami à Montréal en kayak

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