Crystal saw the perfect picture, and as she commonly did, began snapping away at the empty benches at the river’s edge. As she took shot after shot, she felt vaguely aware of Cree preparing his kayak for the trip from Pelican Point Boat Ramp to Slocum Road. Then, as she kept finding and exploring various angles, she eventually looked into the river and saw a wispy white creature gracefully moving along the water’s surface.
“What’s up Sexy?”
“Try not to get stung by the jellyfish,” She casually pointed the creature out as Cree walked up behind her.
“Seriously?” Cree stared incredulously at the water, but not where Crystal pointed. “There’s a lot of them!”
Cree stared off up the river towards his destination.
“You know that feeling you get before you do a big workout? Like you don’t really want to start, but you know you’ll feel amazing when you’re done?”
“Yeah?” Crystal answered, wondering where his line of thinking was.
“I really don’t want to do this, but I know if I don’t start I never will.”
Cree grabbed the plastic handle at the front of his kayak, and with his paddle in the other hand moved it into the water. Next, he climbed in and carefully slid into place, but the kayak froze. Crystal laughed a little as she kicked the kayak away from the shore and Cree took off. Then she kept snapping shots as he carefully paddled his way out into the middle of the river, and turned towards his goal.
Cree watched in awe as he passed swarm after swarm of jellyfish. Not just the wispy white ones, but these pretty purplish ones too. As he realized that they made way for the paddle, he began to focus on them less and less.
The river itself looked beautiful this morning. Cloud cover, rain, and a soft breeze made the temperature perfect for this mornings kayaking venture. Along the way, he enjoyed the view. Tall green reeds lined the edge of the river giving him the surreal feeling of being much farther away from civilization. The trees blocked out most sounds and provided very little variance in in the scenery on shore.
Cree paid close attention to the still water of the river, knowing well the real risk of meeting a grumpy gator. Locals called this particular stretch Alligator Gut, and he felt disinclined to meet the local wildlife.
Since kayaking upriver required him to constantly paddle, time passed quickly. Finally, he saw the shore he intended finish on about a hundred yards away and felt a rush of exhilaration.
Not Quite The End
As sudden as the elation, Cree felt an equally strong sense of dread as he heard a distinct popping noise. The kayak began sinking rapidly, and by the time he glanced down, he already knew he was chest deep in the river.
“Ah shoot,” Cree muttered as he took a breath.
The kayak capsized and true to everything he’d learned, Cree ejected along side and waited for it to stabilize. Once it looked right, he placed his arm with the paddle over the hull and began to pull it towards him. The kayak jerked sideways, and Cree realized with a sinking feeling it had jerked the paddle out of his hands.
Fleeting thoughts of diving for the paddle crossed his mind; being shoved aside quickly by his survival instinct. The kayak jolted one more time as Cree began swimming back to shore with it in tow. As his ears went under water, Cree heard the familiar sound of a motor nearby. Then, his left arm felt something soft and silk suddenly sting his left arm.
With the added pain, Cree tried to keep his voice steady as he popped his head out. Seeing a small motor boat slowing to a stop along side him, he mustered his best smile.
Two Kind Fishermen
“Help?” Cree asked in a relatively calm voice.
Wordlessly, the bigger one of two fishermen offered Cree his hand, and helped him onto the small deck. Then, the other one handed him a nylon dock line to tie onto the kayak.
“Thank guys! I’m Staff Ser… Cree!” A very grateful, if waterlogged kayaker offered.
“Jimmy,” The smaller one said.
“I appreciate your help; this was supposed to be a rowing workout, more than a swim.”
The fishermen finally chuckled a little as they pulled up next to the dock. Then, instinctively, Cree tied off the boat and he began pulling his kayak out of the river. Jimmy jumped up and help haul it the rest of the way up.
At his point, Cree graciously thanked the two fishermen as they pulled away from the dock. Then, he began assessing the damage to his kayak. He quickly figured out that the plug hadn’t been secured properly from the outset, and could have come undone at literally any point.
Counting his blessings he laid the kayak on the grass next to the dock. Finally, Cree sat down to wait for Crystal to pick him up.
Things Done Well
- Strong swimmer, and wearing a swimsuit
- Floating Pelican case w/ phone & ID, dummy corded to kayak
- Staying calm, even when things went from wrong to worse
Things To Fix
- Wear a life vest in case the kayak capsizes
- Dummy cord the paddle to the kayak
- Check the kayak entirely, to include the drainage plug
- Remove shoes and place them in a waterproof sack, along with a towel
- Turn on my GPS tracker so Crystal knows where I am, and when I’m in trouble
Count Your Blessings
- First, the cool weather making the day not only pleasant, but devoid of the large reptilian predators that gave Alligator Gut its name
- Next, the plug literally popped at the most opportune time; with the fishermen setting out, and only a short swim from shore
- Finally, comfortable swimming temperature of the water; seriously, icy cold water makes it so hard to think, the warmer water temperature allowed me to keep a clear head
UPDATE: 22 June 2019; Crystal dropped me off at the exact same departure point, and I headed out on the exact same course to try and beat it. The river looked so peaceful and calm as I set out. Almost immediately though, I felt the current tow me right to the center of the river, and it took me a second to take control again.
Once I got everything going, I managed to get moving forward with a pretty good pace. Along the way I saw a few sparse jellyfish, a couple of pelicans, and even a bunch of jumping fish (not quite a school).
As I came around the bend at Slocum I saw a couple of figures on the shore. At first, I thought it might be Crystal, but it ended up being a father/daughter fishing team. The daughter was so cute, waving hello, and then telling her dad that she’d said hi to the canoe as it went past. Then, I saw our Honda through the trees, heading toward the bend.
Pulling into the dock felt almost anti-climatic. I stepped out, towed the kayak to the side, and waited for Crystal to see me.
All together, the venture took me 44 minutes (personal best), and I learned my lessons well from the first mishap.