John makes progress in Florida's Big Bend

posted: Jul 11, 01:05 PM

July 8: John left the western edge of Alligator Point on Thursday morning. The wind completely died around 10am – the water was perfectly flat and he had to row for about 4 hours in 90+ heat with no clouds and no wind. He said that it was exhausting and that the heat almost killed him.

The wind finally picked up around 2pm and blew him toward his planned destination: St. Marks Lighthouse . The lighthouse was very pretty, but it was only 4:30pm and he did not want to just sit in the heat and sun. John let the wind blow him up river to the town of St. Marks. He arrived at 6:30pm, ate dinner and planned to camp in a state park area until a local told him that the alligators would get him there. This information unnerved John and he decided to row around to a marina where he could camp on the dock out of harm’s way. Everyone in St. Marks was very kind and helpful to John. The next morning, Charlotte at Sheild’s Marina let him shower for free and gave him two peaches for the journey ahead.

John is concerned about being in “alligator country”, especially with the next town 90 miles away and storms in the forecast. He is not sure that his fears are unfounded, but he is also not sure of the alternative. He wants to continue moving forward. Says, “life will be interesting for the next 3 or 4 days…”

July 9: John left St. Marks at 11:30am and it took him 4 hours to get downriver. The tidal current at the lighthouse was so bad that he almost swamped his boat. He had to drop his sails and row to get out of the current. The wind picked up and and he went about 5mph with the sail reefed for the rest of the day. He had planned to go up the Econfina River to find a place to camp, but the tide was out and oyster beds blocked his way. He continued on, sailing and drifting without an idea of what to do next. He kept running aground in very shallow water, with his centerboard up. It was nearing dark when he spotted some trees on a little island in the distance. An hour later he arrived just as the sun set. He was at Rock Island, a campsite for Big Bend kayakers. John described it as if it were paradise… there was a fire pit and a log to sit on and a freshly cut patch of grass where he could pitch his tent. He lay awake and watched the stars through the top of his tent for most of the night.

July 10: John got up at sunrise and left Rock Island at about 8am. The wind was supposed to be behind him but it was more from the south. Steinhatchie, FL was 34 miles away and the wind kept slowing down. He passed by Keaton Beach and decided to keep going. The wind picked up and he began sailing 5mph. He arrived in Steinhatchie at 7:30pm and the first person he saw was a commercial fisherman named Jim at The River Club. Storms were approaching and Jim offered to let John stay at the dock and sleep on top of the cooler in his large fishing boat, the Lil-D. Jim is based in Seminole, FL. Thank you Jim!

July 11: John is taking a break today. He became very dehydrated on Saturday and the weather/waves aren’t fit for him to go out. The weather forecast looks good for tomorrow.

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