September 10th: Destin Marina to Point Washington

joans photo of me leaving destin
Leaving Destin Marina. Photo courtesy of Joan Vienot!

After a wonderfully huge and tasty breakfast, Joan drove me back to the marina so that I could finish the mileage that I was supposed to do the day before. The wind was still up so I decided to hug the coast and carefully work my way to Point Washington. Joan graciously offered for me to stay at her place another night.

Doe standing along the shore of Choctawhatchee Bay.
Doe standing along the shore of Choctawhatchee Bay.

I worked my way down the bay and ended up battling into strong winds and breaking waves. My chart was full of ominous warnings about submerged metal stakes in the bay that could potentially damage any boat that encountered them. Thankfully, I was able to avoid these even though the were not marked.

I cruised past a sunken sailboat and even saw a deer standing on shore. The bay was mostly undeveloped with just a few homes hidden amongst the pines. The wind continued to howl and my progress was agonizingly slow.

Paddling along a marsh...
Paddling along a marsh…
Sunken sailboat...wonder if he hit one of those submerged stakes...
Sunken sailboat…wonder if he hit one of those submerged stakes…

I crossed under another huge bridge and was nearly blown into a large construction barge by the wind . I swear the workers on the barge were taking bets to see if I would make it by without getting flipped by the huge wind driven waves that were rebounding off the bridge and barge.

I made it past without going over and called Joan to let her know where I was. She was worried about my slow progress and had seen the nasty conditions out in the bay.

As I slowly made my way to the public dock near her house, I saw a kayaker in the distance. The boat looked strangely familiar and I realized that it was a fellow watertriber Ken! Ken and I had paddled across the Everglades and Florida Bay in severe storms during the Everglades Challenge race earlier this year. He had been following my progress on my SPOT tracker and paddled out to meet me. He even brought me a cold

Ken!
Ken!
Boats at the Point Washington landing
Boats at the Point Washington landing

 

Gatorade. Sweet! As we paddled towards Joan’s place, he told me about how the local area was featured in the movie the Truman Show. I want to go back and watch the movie again to see if I can pick out all the places in the film. He also mentioned that some of those fighter jets that  I had seen the day before might have been looking for me…wait what?! Ken is an engineer that works with the Airforce and told the F-18 pilots he works with to keep an eye out for me…which is pretty awesome :)

September 9th: Fort Walton to Destin Beach Marina

I got up early and launched before sunrise. I had 35 miles to reach my destination in Point Washington. I was fighting a powerful incoming tide but decided that I needed as much time as possible to reach my destination. In retrospect, I would have been better off leaving much earlier to beat the tide..

Beautiful Destin Pass
Beautiful Destin Pass

 

I battled against the wind and tide and slowly worked my way towards Destin. Along the way I passed a sailboat with a dinghy called “Row vs. Wade”…Hmm. I chatted with a few people who had just cruised from Key West aboard a large cruising sloop and they tried to call the local news about my trip but no luck. As I passed under a large bridge and out into open waters, I was nearly slammed onto a lee shore by a passing powerboat.

I finally reached the beautiful waters of Destin Pass. It was like paddling in a giant swimming pool. There were even giant pool floats and floating jetski rental places out in the middle of the pass. The pass was also full of giant jellyfish. I stopped for lunch at the Big Red Truck ( https://www.facebook.com/harrysbigredtruck ) and had an awesome lunch. Mike who worked there was very friendly and let me charge up my eternally dying phone battery.

The photo took of me as I crossed Choctawhatchee Bay. I am the little speck on the right!
The photo Diane took of me as I crossed Choctawhatchee Bay. I am the little speck on the right!

Instead of heading out the pass, I turned into the giant Choctawhatchee bay and aimed for a massive bridge on the horizon. I had a fantastic paddle to the bridge and grinned as the boat flew across the waves. Every now and then a fighter jet would scream across the sky above my head. I tried stopping at a marina on the other side of the bridge but there was nowhere to safely pull the kayak out of the water.

My day rapidly started going downhill. I aimed for a large point across the water that I knew I had to paddle around in order to reach my contact Joan Vienot in Point Washington. By aiming for the point, I was paddling nearly four miles away from the coast. However, the weather seemed calm and I was used to big open water crossings.

Aiming for the point was a mistake.

Diane's photo 3
Grinning after spending the last 30 minutes clinging to that dock and puking…I was happy to be alive after the terrible crossing.

As I paddled across, the wind began to rapidly build and was hitting me directly on the starboard bow. I paddled as hard as I could but was going backwards and sideways out into the middle of the bay. I began to panic. I was already tired from paddling against the current in the morning and now the waves were beginning to break over my head. I decided to down a bottle of five hour energy to try and give myself the boost I needed to reach the shore. I paddled and paddled but seemed to be making little progress. I even tried to wave down a jet skier to tow me to the shore but he didn’t see me. After what felt like hours, I made it to the point. There were a few houses but nobody around. I saw nothing but seawalls and nowhere to get out . I saw a flash of light on one of the docks and realized that there was somebody taking my photo.

I eagerly paddled over and met Diane who had taken my photo. She offered me some cold lemonade while I held onto the dock. I felt horrible and clung to the dock and threw up. No more five hour energy for me. Eventually I began to cool down and feel better as I chatted with Diane. She said I was pale and shaking when I had pulled up  to the dock but looked better after resting. The sun was beginning to sink and I knew that I did not have the energy to make it to Joan’s place. I called her and she offered to meet me at the nearby Destin marina with her kayak trailer.

Diane took this photo of me as I paddled off into the sunset towards the Destin marina.
Diane took this photo of me as I paddled off into the sunset towards the Destin marina.

As I paddled to the marina, a group of people partying on a dock offered me beer and cookies but I had to politely decline 😛 I was incredibly relieved to see Joan waiting for me at the marina. We loaded the kayak and she drove me to her house. I got a hot shower and a huge home cooked meal.

I was overwhelmed be her kindness. We had never met in person before. My friend Richard had contacted Joan’s friend who in turn contacted Joan. After a phone conversation and some facebook messages, she agreed to let me stay with her. She was one of many trail angels that I would encounter during my journey.

Joan is an incredible artist!!! Check out her blog at:

http://joanvienot.com/