Great, the UFC is tough enough without having to deal with some turkeys who wanted to mess with us!!! I think there are different ways of dealing with confrontation. Some guys feel that it is best to give a verbal warning. Something like, “You mess with me and I will become your worst nightmare!” They hope that the verbal warning will convince the aggressive party to back off. Then there are some guys who are fairly large physically. You know, like the Incredible Hulk type, and they can just show themselves to the aggressive party and that is all that is required. Then there are some, such as myself, who are not as fortunate and don’t have an Incredible Hulk build, who take the strategy of walking softly and carrying a big stick. Now by big stick, I don’t mean actually having a big stick, although that wouldn’t hurt. I mean having a plan, which is the big stick, to deal with the aggressive party. So once I heard the intention of our new party friends, I wasn’t trying to figure out what to say, but trying to figure out how to turn the tables on their intended fun.
Engaging a drunk has a positive and a negative. The positive is that they are not very coordinated and you can land some good shots on them. The negative is that they don’t feel pain and don’t have any fear. So you better make the shots you land count. So this unfortunately means shots that are debilitating. My first assessment was they were drunk. Oh yeah, and I think one of them just learned a curse word because that was the word he used for every third word. So how many? Sounded like three. I knew Rod had to be hearing them but I just assumed it would be a three on one fight until he got up. Hmmm, I don’t have my contacts in so they have a visual advantage. Hey, I have two bottles of foot powder that squirt out pretty good. Great, that will cause visual and breathing problems for two of them and maybe a third. I don’t have my shoes on. Will just have to ignore any pain in my feet. Hope there are not any sand spurs out there. They will most likely be coming from the front of my tent but I have a back entrance. Start opening the back tent flap. If one or two of them do come around to the back side, they will be between me and the sea wall. Not a problem. Blast out of the tent, spray powder in their faces and push them off the sea wall into the water. They’re drunk so their reaction time is going to be slow. The more of them we can push off the sea wall and into the water the easier it will be to manage the situation. Foot steps are coming……….. “Hey man, lets not do this. What the $%#2&!!!!! Really?! Let’s go back to the boat. Are you sure? Oh $#@%$ you!!” Footsteps leaving. Gee, for drunks they got smart all of a sudden and I am glad. Rod sleeps with a paddle in his tent, he is built like a little tank, and is strong as all get out. In the end I think the drunks would have gotten the worst of it if it had gotten physical. Plus, my father used to always tell me that cursing indicates the imagination of a fourteen year old. Maybe they were just young teenagers, I don’t know. Lesson learned… if in an area you think you will get hassled, sleep with a paddle.
The rest of the night went without incident and my trusty 4:30 AM alarm signaled the start of another day. I think both Rod and myself were anxious about the 12 miles of open water in front of us. I did notice a slight wind but it was coming out of the east-south-east. Hey, we are heading north-east which means my big sail would work. For once we will have the wind to our advantage. If only it would stay slight and not increase in strength. We really didn’t want a bunch of big waves hitting us broadside on this crossing. As we were getting ready, one of the many lessons I learned was administered to me. I have always had a habit of pushing my boat into the water from the bow. The rudder is up so what’s the big deal? Well, the big deal is when it is dark, and you cannot see how far your rudder has been pulled up, and you are on a concrete ramp with grooves in it, your rudder might be just low enough to catch one of those grooves and then bend as you are pushing your boat down the ramp. Yep, now I have a rudder with a 45 degree angle in it. Great!!! Thankfully, my rudder is made out of soft aluminum so we were able to bend it back to about 15 degrees off-center. The disadvantage of soft aluminum is we were risking that it would break when we were forcing it back into shape. Lucky for me it didn’t.
As we headed out, Rod and I had agreed to stay together. It would be safer and besides, we were enjoying each other’s company on this journey. I would be faster with my big sail but there had been multiple times that Rod had been faster than myself and he had stayed with me. This agreement was one that both of us honored throughout the UFC. This 12 mile stretch of water was really a weird one. We were a long ways from shore but even with that we would come across these very shallow areas where you could see the bottom very clearly and then we would cross over into these very deep cuts of water. It just wasn’t a place for a small little watercraft to be for long. If the weather turned nasty there was no bailout anywhere close by. As we were approaching Miami we did see something very odd. We saw these structures out in the water. It was a place called Stiltsville. Interesting history associated with these structures and I am amazed that the structures have survived all the hurricanes. This link will take you to a description of the place. http://www.nps.gov/bisc/historyculture/stiltsville.htm I know they had no trespassing signs on these structures but if it was real bad and that was the only bailout option, I am afraid we would have become temporarily illiterate. I think both Rod and I were feeling better as the buildings of Miami started to get closer and closer. I kept thinking all we had to do was get into Miami and we will have the protection of the inter coastal waterway (ICW). We would have it made if we could just get into Miami. Especially since the winds were starting to pick up and the waves were also starting to get bigger. It just seemed to go so slow which is how it is in a kayak or canoe. You are moving at 4mph at best and you can see these structures for several miles out. You think you will be there is 30 minutes when in reality it will be a couple of hours.
We started to get into the ICW but were we in for a surprise. In doing the UFC, Rod and I got a feel for the different types of boaters in different areas. Miami has to be right up there for having the most inconsiderate boaters in the state. They could care less about their wakes. It seems like the maritime rules of the road they follow are, “I have the biggest boat so I have the right to the water way and I can run my boat however and wherever I want.” Oh, and then there were the boats that had so many people lip-locked and other various states of being spread out on the boat that I don’t know how the Captain could even see us. Hey, they couldn’t see us, that’s why we had so many close calls. What I thought was the most dangerous stretch of water, the open water of Biscayne Bay, was a cake walk compared to the waters of Miami. Now I was wishing we were transiting these waters at night because the boat traffic would be down. We finally got through to Miami and stopped at a spoil island in the Miami Shores area. We needed a break but this island seemed no different than what was happening on the boats. It was party central with radios blaring, jets skis running all over the place throwing wakes up, and couples…….. They must sell a lot of lip balm and sunscreen in Miami to address all the lip-locking and to protect skin that doesn’t normally see sun light. The sad part was all the trash on the island. I guess they expect someone else to pick it up and that someone else never comes.
After a quick snack and some readjusting of gear, we were back on our way. The further north we progressed up the ICW, the better protection we got from the wind due to the narrowness of the ICW. It was kind of odd paddling past these nice restaurants with these open docks that over look the water. Couples would be having a candlelight dinner overlooking the water and then silently Rod and I would paddle by only a coupe of feet from them. The looks that we got was priceless. The narrowness of the waterway was great but now that we were in a populated area we had another problem. Finding a camping site. There were no open stretches of land to stop and camp on. After last night we wanted something secured that would give us some comfort that we would not be messed with ( either by the local police, condo security or the local homeless community). I thought we were going to have to paddle all night when Rod noticed a boat ramp that was part of a park. It was late, we were tired, sp the park it was. We pulled our boats up and started unloading our gear. The place looked ideal. There was fresh water available by a fish cleaning station, there were bathrooms that were open and a coke machine. The place wasn’t near any major roadways that we could see. The we saw the headlights of a truck coming. The truck was white and had a symbol on the side of it. Great…………..