Don’t Mess With Me !!!

It is amazing how a little break recharges the mind and body. I felt totally spent after the crossing of Tampa Bay but after the break I was feeling pretty good. The wind was still blowing but I was making progress and in this particular area there were lots of structures to act as a wind break. As I made my way down Anna Maria Sound I saw another Watertriber who goes by the name of CWolf about a quarter of a mile ahead of me. CWolf and I had paddled together during last year’s EC across Florida Bay. We had the unpleasant experience of getting hit by a front that had winds up to 50 mph in it.  I really enjoyed paddling with him last year so I started to increase my speed to catch him. There are probably as many strategies in paddling one of these events as boats. I had decided that for today I was going to follow a course which would give me as much protection as possible from the wind even if it was not the shortest or most direct course. As I exited Anna Maria Sound, I noticed that CWolf was on a different course heading than myself. He was going for the shorter route but in the teeth of the wind. I was on a course which would follow the western shoreline of Sarasota Bay. Another lesson I have learned in these events is to never turn down a tip from a local. Well, as I was clearing Sister Keys, a rower in an open water rowing shell came up to me. I was shocked that he was out in these conditions and how fast he was going. He was a very personable guy and he told me about a canal that was well protected and followed the edge of the Sarasota Bay. Hey, at this point in the day I am all ears for a tip that gets me out of the wind.  So I started heading for the location he told me about. As I got closer I realized I wasn’t the only one heading for this canal. There were four kayakers just ahead of me and I knew they had to be Watertribers. No one else would be out in these conditions! In any event, they sure made it easier for me because all I had to do was keep them in sight and follow them. The canal did provide some nice protection and as I was making my way through it  I came across a veteran Watertriber who had beached at a marina that was just off the canal. This particular Watertriber is a veteran of multiple Watertribe events, is a class winner in an EC, and is known for being extremely tough. So I was surprised to see this individual beached. Since I was running low on water I decided to also beach at the marina and get some water. This beaching was the first sign that I had somehow left what grace I had at FT Desoto and had become the King of Klutz. As I got out of the boat I slipped on a rock, fell into the water, and took a chunk of skin out of the side of my knee. Great, just what I needed!  An open wound in a wet boat on the first day of the challenge. Open wounds in a boat when you are doing a multi day event is not a good thing. Trying to keep them dry to heal is a challenge and then there is the fight to keep them from getting infected. Needless to say, I was able to get it to heal, but today I have a scar to remind me of it. After getting myself composed and my boat secured I went to talk to the veteran who was not feeling well at all. The veteran had decided to call it a day and was going to get some sleep and see how they felt in the morning. I felt sad for them but knowing how tough this particular individual is I didn’t want any part of what was making them feel bad. I got my water bottles filled up and pushed off (without falling all over myself–but I would reserve that for the future). As I paddled away I prayed that this vet would feel better in the morning and could finish their challenge. The rest of the evening and into the night I kept paddling ever so slowly towards the end of Sarasota Bay. It was an emotional uplift to paddle under the big bridge to Bird Key marking the end of Sarasota Bay but it was dark and the wind was still blowing. Do I keep going and fight the wind or do I call it a day and get some sleep to fight another day? Oh and there is the deadline to get into CP1. I decided to keep pushing ahead. Two hours later I was in Roberts Bay and paddling right next to a nice looking island that had camp site potential. Finding a campsite in the dark from the water is a real trick and you can waste a lot time searching for one. So when you find a good one you better take it. The winds were still out of the south which would mean I would want to camp on the south side of any island so I would have the winds to keep any bugs off me. As I started to get to the south side of the island low and behold the mangroves parted and there was a nice sand beach. Hey, maybe God is trying to tell me to get some sleep. I decided I had had enough for the day, paddled for the island and pulled the boat up on the beach. As I got out  I noticed a signed that welcomed me to the island but also stated “NO CAMPING ALLOWED”. Hmmmm, it is late at night, the winds are howling, there is rain in the air, I will be gone before daylight and I am tired. I AM CAMPING! So I started to unload my gear and that is when I noticed a flickering light and realized I wasn’t the only one on this island. Shoot!!!! It is not a Watertriber. They would never take the time to build a fire unless they were having hypothermia problems. What do I do now? As I thought about  I decided I would rather find out now if it is someone who is going to run me off the island versus after I get my tent setup. So I started to make my way through the woods towards the flickering light. I am sad to say that I am probably responsible for scarring three teenager boys who live in the Sarasota area for the rest of their lives. I mean they were just sitting by their fire, minding their own business, listening to the wind howling, and doing what three teenage boys do in the woods (I will leave that to your imagination but I don’t think it was legal).  Then this kayaker, dressed in all his gear, and with a look that could kill, comes busting into their camp site. All I heard was screaming, a bunch of low crawling and words like  %@%$&, *&%@&, %#@%&. After a very brief and pleasant discussion, I was pleased to find out they didn’t mind at all if I camped on the island since they were camping also and they assured me that they wouldn’t bother me at all. It is so nice when we can all get along. I know that there were three of them, but I was in no mood to be messed with and I think I made that clear — and I didn’t even have to use my Parang either. I think I got my tent setup in record time, got a meal in me, some dry clothes on and called Lisa. The winds were increasing in strength and Lisa said it was supposed to storm all night with winds staying out of the south. Glad I checked for widow makers (tree limbs that can fall on you)  and that I have a good tent. Sleep came fast…………..