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/

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