Updated several months later, so it is all off my trip log and hopefully makes some sense…
The gear in & out of the kayak:
Day #1 Left Everglades City around 8:30. After a couple of days sorting gear and booking the Wilderness Trail camp sites; I was up at 6:30 and lugged the new Folbot Cooper 5m folding kayak to the launch ramp. Night before, the bar crowd was informed that I was from Oz and heading out in the morning. So after what I thought was a simple clear explanation of me, why and how led to a cry of ‘photo.
The Glades Haven Cozy Cabins is basic for backpacking and had all the essentials for a wandering Oz Kayaker. All set and I handed in my keys as I asked for another cup of Coffee – which was on the house. The staff were great as I’d arranged for the new Kayak to be delivered there in advance of my arrival from Oz. As it was peak season there was a lot of boat launching traffic, with quite a few queries as to what I was doing and in ‘that!’. “Reedge”, who tended the marina, took time to check my kayak, stowage and that I had a tide chart… his farewell comment was “Well won’t see you again, so have a safe trip” and he walked off.
Ran down the channel, under the bridge and south around Chokolokoshee Isla heading for Turner River and the Hurddles. Averaged around 2.8knts so far and making good time though with around 155kg on board I had little free-board, so I’ve taken the inevitable water on board. The Hurddles is a series of channels linking Shoal & Cross Bays into Lopez River and Crooked Creek. Passed by 3 kayaks on the Hurddles run, one of them was a Melbournite (Oz) so a few words on life, great water and paddling.
I’d planned a short day to be able to check my gear and new kayak, so pulled up to Crooked Creek Chickee by 13:00. Camp set up and it was time for a Red. Later in the day two kayakers have setup on the other Chickee landing. Turns out they plan to hit Darwin’s Landing the next day, so I’ve company for two nights… Great people and help in Everglades City especially Glades Haven & the Oyster Shack.
Crooked Creek – Darwin’s: its a bit of a non-run as it is just crossing 4 inland bays, nevertheless I created challenges. Set off at 08:00, checked the chart and 5 minutes later was heading due south down Lopez River rather than NE up Crooked Creek – memo to self “use chart & compass in tandem” (I’ve all the back info preloaded into my GPS which I’ve planned not to use). SO across Sunday, Huston, Last Huston and Chevelier Bays via markers #126 to #87. The channel leading into Huston Bay is about 6m wide and with turn of tide I’ve gone from 2.4knt to minus 2.5knts before I realised what has happened. So a solid push for about 500m at less than 1knt and I’m through and that ‘zen state’ I was in has dissipated. So tide turn, wind and I fit the skirt as the lack of free-board is a concern. Change of bay and change of tidal flow lifts to 3.6knts for awhile. Arrived at Darwin’s around noon, just finish setting up when Rocky Ranger eases by with a weather change expected “a NW front with 17-24knt winds and rain over the next two days” Hopefully it will have eased by Thursday/Friday as I’ve an open water leg in Mexico Bay to do. Should be 24kg lighter by then! Met another kayaker who has a sister living in Sth Australia, the link back home continues.
So John & Sveta arrive and I learn ‘big mobs’ just by observing: All their change of clothes are in zip-lock bags – one item comes out and the other goes in – explains why my clothes are already damp from one night. Sveta ties straps around the hatches on his kayak once his tent and gear are sorted – this a land base camp with water & food hungry Raccoons on the loose – I feel reasonably safe as all my gear is in new dry bags aboard the kayak which has been set afloat 2m off-shore with “no food smells on-board” John sets his tent so he has a clear view of the full length of his kayak while lying down, assures me he’s a light sleeper and will be active with his 1200 lumen torch during the night. So there I am with ravenous Raccoons anticipated, a flashing lighthouse beam and the inevitable ground shaking snorer already rumbling as I lay down to sleep… In the dawn I get John to take a selfie for my memoirs:
Darwin’s – Plate Creek: 09:00 start across Cannon Bay into Tarpon and Alligator Creek where I spot two of the blighters at a distance. Alligator Creek is what I was here for – 2-4 metre wide with lazy bends, drop back to <1 knt to savour the surrounds… actually “smelling the roses” here. So with the skirt back on its across Alligator Bay running basically west on the marker line across the bay. The wind and chop shift my line and I’ve hit a south bound course which is easier than side-on chop, so having run to the southern side of the bay its northerly bound and the wind shift and tidal turn sucks me along with a 1 knt boost. Jumped across to Dad’s Bay and hold the north aspect of the bay to stay out of the increasing chop, sadly further east the elements are against me and the last nautical mile (nm) I’m punching into 10knts with a 15-20cm chop.
With a mindset on paddling into it! I’m now slightly disorientated as I think I’m on the south side of a bay island. I’d mentally arrived too soon as the channel marker appears and I’m on the northern side of the island leading into Plate Creek. I could’ve just rudder-ed its length, the southerly wind is pushing water into the channel and I’m floating along at ~1knt. Into Plate Creek Bay expecting to run 1-2nm SE before bearing due south to the Chickee. It is there across the bay less than 1nm to go. Even though it is semi-sheltered I put up my fly sheet as a windbreak. Set up camp and decide to string the kayak across the angle of the deck and walkway when the ‘poop brigade’ arrive. Move the kayak while the Rangers do their thangy with the Porta-Loo. Barely a 3hr run but planned as an easy day to relax and stretch.
Plate Creek – Rodgers River: After sleeping poorly (I was cold!) and the rain started around 03:00hrs I was awake 05:30 and on the water by 07:00 with an unplanned day of misdirection ahead! With two charts & a Compass I still managed twice to head SW rather than SE. I mean to say there are Channel Markers out there to be seen. One moment of inattention and I’ve swung SW which was great because with the NE front I was hooting along at 3.7knts. The I had to about face and punch into it! Not once but twice. The second effort was just foolishness as I saw a marker of obviously a different shape and colour and assumed it was #43 and headed onwards into oblivion… as I didn’t register my surroundings, I neared and altered course as per the chart note: no Compass check). I paddled due south 1nm. So when I change to SE to open water there’s a freaking Island ahead. put about, head NW and the East to find the ACTUAL Channel Marker #43 I needed. That kind of explains why a 10nm leg turned into 13nm.This is the second day/night solo; so with a cool breeze, no book its time for headphones, mixed nuts and a Red.
There’s a ‘gator floating about 2m off my moored kayak… mini concern as there’s a floating dock here… thoughts go towards ‘gator heaving onto dock, then Chickee to say “hi”… managed to get a few photo’s the 2nd time he surfaced – he’s around 2.5 – 3m…
the menace factor is high – its all mental & visual as he disappears if I move too quickly or heavily across the Chickee deck… will I sleep 2nite?