Today I woke up at 1:30 am with the rain on our tent fly and immediately took to the internet in search of, what seemed like for the tenth time, lodging in Panama City, tonight’s stop. The CT trail guide would have us camping at St. Andrews State Park but said State Park was booked – and booked for the next two months solid. And I haven’t been able to find a hotel with access from the Bay. Nor have we heard from the local area Trail Angel who often helps paddlers through this section, so John and I have been stressing about our next camp. Then it occurred to me – airbnb! Since we need to resupply we can do two nights so maybe there’s an airbnb on the water. And sure enough, look at what we found! An airbnb pleasure craft! We’d be doing Panama City in style!
This morning as we were savoring our coffee, a dark band of clouds appeared and headed our way. We jumped up and moved fast, quickly loading Miss Pink and Baby Blue as the squall let loose on top of us. Our stuff was already packed in dry bags so mostly our harried motions to keep stuff dry was psychological, but we still moved fast as the two of us got soaking wet. We donned our paddling jackets and rain hats just to keep ourselves warm.
And then the squall passed. And the seas calmed. And the owner, Chuck, of the 35’ Sea Ray texted back confirming our airbnb booking. Woohoo! We were in fat city!
The following 14 nm sped by fast.
The current was in our favor for the remainder of the almost 4 nm we still had in the ditch, and for about a mile into our first crossing. The breeze was light and at our side. We passed under the bridge where we would’ve camped had we gone on last night and were glad we’d camped at our delightful camp instead. We even stopped at BFE (Best Food Ever) for hot coffee since we were still drenched, but despite their flashing OPEN lights, they were Closed.
So out into West Bay we went.
We expected rain and thunderstorms. No rain. No thunderstorms. We expected wind and waves and chop. Instead the sea was pretty darn mellow with some rollers and a few lazy whitecaps. We felt strong. We were in the flow. We passed our first 100-mile mark on the trip and just kept on paddling. Having a nice “camp” to go to is very inspiring! And the weather suddenly just couldn’t have been better.
Now, going ashore in between crossings for a break or for lunch was a totally different matter. No sooner did we pull up to a wild beach, climb out and drop our drawers to piss than the bugs announced “dinner time” and descended upon us in droves to feast. We couldn’t pull our pants up fast enough. Nor jump in our boats and paddle fast enough. And they followed us out to sea.
We just kept paddling. And as such, we did 14 nm, including three crossings, in 4.5 hours. A record!
And our lodging! How cool is this! We unloaded Miss Pink and Baby Blue on the Sea Ray’s swimming platform, pulling wet dry bags out of soppy hatches and plopping them on the boat’s spacious (by our standards) back deck.
Then Chuck, the gracious owner, treated us to the use of his main home’s luxury Master Bathroom to shower, despite the boat’s own shower. He treated us to cold beer. He treated us to the use of his fancy front loader washer/dryer. He treated us to his generous spirit.
And then we had a guest: Remember Tim the Baker, who recently became the 24th official person to complete the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail and who visited us in Destin just a few (long) days ago? Driving back through the area, and knowing for himself the bitch of finding water-accessible lodging here from when he’d paddled the CT himself, he came looking for us to offer some assistance. Instead, he hung out on the boat with us, drank a beer, and drove us down the street to a Mexican Restaurant for a late lunch/early dinner. A fellow adventurer and kindred spirit, he’s now heading north to New York with his yellow kayak, but we hope/expect someday our paths will cross again!
We are alive.
We are healthy.
We are adventurers.