When the alarm went off there wasn’t any problem getting up because I knew if we paddled well today we would be at Fort Clinch, checkpoint 3, by late afternoon. I got right into my routine eating, doctoring my body, and packing my sleeping gear. Packing camping gear can be ok or it can be something of a bummer. Like when the gear that was exposed to the outside is dripping wet from the dew and sand collects on everything. I carry a little brush to brush the sand off but the wetness is what it is. So you end up stuffing all this wet gear into a compartment that is going to be sealed so it sure isn’t going to dry. Well that is what was waiting for Rod and I when we got outside of our tents. I am just thankful that I had bought a high quality tent that was both breathable and very waterproof. Otherwise, the night would have been like sleeping in a light rain shower from the dew seeping through the rain fly. Getting all my gear cleaned up was one more thing to add to the list of why it will be so great to get to the checkpoint.
We had two big crossings in front of us, the St John’s River and Nassau Sound. The crossing of the St. John’s River was pretty non-eventful and was really kind of neat in that we paddled in front of a shipyard that had several large US Navy vessels in dry dock. I was kind of surprised that we were able to get as close to them as we did. I was fully expecting a security boat to be coming out of nowhere but it never happened. After the crossing we entered a waterway called “Sisters Cr.” I assumed that the Cr stands for creek but it is not what I would call a creek. It is a river and the current was flowing against us in a big way. We had been so lucky hitting the tides and current but today was not starting out that way. It was going to be one of those put your head down and just paddle hard. Hey, at least the wind wasn’t in our face.
As I have stated in previous posts, most of my experience had been in open water and Rod’s experience has been in rivers. Since most of the water we had been paddling in was open I had taken the lead in navigation. No problem. I had my GPS, my routes and my charts. I also shared in my previous posts that the manner in which I had organized my resupply bins didn’t help and, in fact, created some chaos. Well, no different on my charts. I had all the charts marked with each stage that they would be needed and had carefully put them in each stage resupply bin. I had just failed to put the chart that was the end of one stage and the beginning of the next stage in the proper bin. So as we paddled through Sister Cr and off the chart for that section I didn’t have the chart to get us from Sister Cr to Fort Clinch. That was sitting safely in my resupply bin at Fort Clinch. Great. Now up to this point in our journey I had not seen Rod pull a single chart out, change charts at the checkpoints, or even fire up his GPS. I mean, why do that? By keeping his safe and dry we had a spare GPS. “Hey Rod, do you happen to have a Jacksonville to Brunswick Area chart?” You know, because the guy with all the open water experience here doesn’t! Rod looks at me and I could tell by the look on this face he was thinking, “What??” Well Rod started digging through is stuff. Some time passes and Rod is still digging through his stuff and then, “Hey! Yeah I got it!” Oh what a relief.
After getting my charts organized, the paddle up to Fort Clinch was a pretty one. Passing through marshes, sea grass, Amelia City, and Fernandina Beach. We even got a low-level fly over from a US Navy Blackhawk chopper. I guess the pilot was bored, or as Rod and I decided, it was our welcoming committee. Nice of the US Navy to do that for us. The checkpoint at Fort Clinch was a large boat ramp just south of the park. It is real easy to lose your space awareness when you are looking at a chart and then trying to compare the landscape that you are seeing to the chart. That is why tacking a couple of fixes is so crucial to getting your bearings. When you are excited about the destination, you are very susceptible to getting your bearings messed up. Well that was happening to me as we approached the checkpoint. I had to keep telling myself to trust the GPS and ignore the thoughts of, “Hey, the structure over there is it, no no no… not that structure, that structure there. Hey, wait a minute, no that is not it, it is that structure over there.” None of those structures that we were looking at were the boat ramp. As we got closer and trusted the GPS the boat ramp came in to view and not only did the correct beach area come in to view, but there were people on the ramps structure waving and hollering at us. Man it was a great feeling and the best part was Lisa was there. This is a picture of us right after we had landed. There is a reason why my hands are on my waist. I am trying to keep my pants from falling off. I had lost so much weight my pants would fall right off me when I stood up. Lucky for me, or should I say lucky for the rest of the world, most of the time I was sitting. As with the other checkpoints, Lisa had some great fresh food for us. I know my body needed protein but fresh fruit (watermelon, grapes, apples, and oranges ) was what I couldn’t get enough of. Oh and the cold cokes were wonderful. Funny, at home I am not a big coke drinker, but on the UFC, a coke was my go-go juice. Just as we were finishing up Salty Frog, who had come to greet us, started hollering about our boats. Our boats were pulled up on the beach and were on the other side of the boat ramp so we really couldn’t see them. Now in this part of the state, the tides are very strong and large so we had pulled our boats up a far way on to the beach. As we went running down to the boats it became clear we had a problem. My boat was still on the beach but Rod’s boat was floating away. The tide had come in and floated it in just a few hours. Thankfully Salty Frog had walked over to check on them because Rod’s boat wasn’t that far away. So off I went paddling like a mad man to catch his boat. After this incident our boats were not only pulled up a far distance, but they were tied to an anchor. With all the excitement over, it was time to get to cleaning gear, repacking, and get some rest. I hoped the rest of the evening would be non-eventful.
This is a video that Salty Frog made of Mosquito Magnet another UFC contestant ,Rod and myself at Ft Clinch. Thanks again Salty Frog for documenting this for us.