Jan 22 2012

New Smyrna Beach, FL and Canaveral National Seashore Camping and Surfing

To make a long story short, I had to pay a late fee in Volusia County. The closest city to me was New Smyrna Beach. So I decided to make an event out of it and go camping. Then I head surfing was pretty good up there, and I had an old board that someone threw away. It had been fighting the elements for at least 6 years, but hey, why not?  I packed everything into my old Chevy, guaranteeing this would be an adventure, and was off.



Click here for Photography pictures



The drive to New Smyrna was OK, and when I got there, pretty hungry, I held out until it was too late, and the last place left on the mainland was the JB Fish Camp. The Mahi Sandwich was awesome. Lots of bikers, tourists, and fisherman exchanging stories there. The place had a good vibe and one heck of a view.  I would like to drive up with a flats boat and see this side of Edgewater.  After lunch, I went across the street to take a look at the beach.  I could hear the waves crashing, still being about a block away from the walkway.  As I walked up, it was an awe-inspiring site.

This was the first time I had seen the Florida Atlantic Coast in Northern Florida.  The beach was large and flat, and the waves seemed to come up to shore forever.  The sky reflected on the spacious, and there was but a few people.   Unlike Miami Beach, where one would have to walk a few blocks to get to the beach.  Here, you come out of your house, and just cross the walkway.  There was a walkway to cross the dunes about every 3 houses.  After a short video to commemorate the moment, I was off to the Canaveral National Seashore National Park.

Finding the visitor center and registering was easy.  However, there was a lack of maps of the campsite, and I didn’t want to lug around all of my gear in the wrong direction.  So after a few visits to the visitor center on locating campsite 2, I went ahead and spoke to a Park Ranger.  He advised me to drop my gear and walk in through an Authorized Access only area.   Geared up and ready to go, I started towards the walkway.

Crossing over to the beach, I finally got over the horizon, and saw it.  This was one of the most inspirational beaches I have ever seen.  The fact that there were no buildings around, and not a single person that I could see, is probably what did it.

It was one of those moments, where everything aligned.   The fact that my wife couldn’t make it due to school.  The fact that it was Sunday afternoon in a small town where everyone had to work the next day.  I don’t know.  But the fact was, this entire beach, as far as the eye could see, was all mine.  I soaked that in for a moment, and began to hike.

The campsite was elevated, and had a perfect view of the beach, with the waves crashing throughout the night.  After I set up camp, I tried my hand at surfing for a bit.  In the beginning I was kind of worried due to the beach’s reputation for sharks and rip currents, and the fact that there was nobody around.  But there was no way I was coming this far and not trying.  Bottom line, I sucked at it.  My board sank, I couldn’t catch any waves, and when I did, I couldn’t climb on the board.  In the end, I practiced until the sun started going down, and then sat ashore drip-drying.

Eventually it was time for dinner, and I was excited about the skirt steaks I brought with me.  Unfortunately, the charcoal I brought was old, I didn’t bring any lighter fluid, and everything in my camp was wet with salt spray from the misty shore.  On top of that, the mosquitoes decided to come out.  Luckily, they couldn’t get through my wet suit, and I brought a little bit of repellent.   Getting the coals to light was a bit frustrating.  Even with direct fire for 15 seconds on one coal, it just would not light.  After foraging and experimenting with a few different things, in the end, it was Styrofoam that got me through it.  While cooking directly with it is a bad idea due to the release of carcinogens, they make a good fire starter.

The Styrofoam that comes in meat packaging, lights up fast, melts, and that melted substance continues to light hot for a while.   Underneath some saw palmetto leaves I found dry grass and vegetation.  I created a mini tee pee out of four matches.  I surrounded this with broken bits of Styrofoam, that came with the steaks.  Atop of the foam i built a bigger tee pee with pieces wood (which was still a bit moist), and underneath I filled it with the shredded vegetation as tinder.  I lit a single match and the reaction began.   The matches lit the foam, which together with the tinder, dried the wood.  After a few minutes of smoke and fanning the fire (more oxygen = hotter flame), the wood eventually lit up.  I covered the wood with charcoal, following a few more minutes of smoke as the charcoal dried, I had a barbecue.  The steaks took a long time to cook, but were perfect.

After a good meal under the stars, I got myself organized and settled in my tent.  A little down because I didn’t bring any dessert.  I forgot that I had stashed 2 Oreo’s in by backpack on a whim.  That was a good find.  The two best Oreo cookies ever.  I made a goodnight call to the wife, a few emails, and I was out. I woke up around 2AM, but the shore put me right back to sleep.

I woke up around 6AM, at my traditional cereal and Lil’ Milk breakfast, and took some pictures of the sunrise.  After an argument with myself on whether I should stick around and enjoy the day, or head early to the courthouse, I decided on the latter, packed up, and left.

Dec 22 2011

Just another day on the Hobie 16

It was a nice day, not too calm, not too windy.  A good day to get out there and dust off the sails.


Dec 18 2011

Florida WMA Duck Hunting STA1

It’s late Sunday morning.  You’re driving North, Miami to your back,  camouflage canoe or kayak hanging out behind, stuffed with palmettos or coconut palm leaves and whatever else you could find to make yourself a blind.  Drivers pass you and wonder if you’re a landscaper and why you have a camouflage canoe in Miami.  It’s fine, they don’t need to understand, because you’re in the zone, thinking to yourself, “Did I bring everything”?

Do I have my shotgun? Shells? Decoys? Permits? Waders? Suddenly, a pickup passes you with a camo canoe in the back! No way he’s getting there first, so you’re stay on him, and the suspense begins.  If you’re lucky you already have a spot waiting for you because you thought about duck season months ago.  If you’re like me, you’ll just have to take the leftovers.

You get there at 12, sign up for leftovers, and start preparing any last-minute things, and talking about the last duck hunt, and your planned strategies for today.  At 1PM it’s raffle time, at this point the anxiety is at its peak.  The fact of the matter is, even after this long drive, you might have to go home if you don’t get picked…But your name gets called! You pick a great spot, you’re on your way to your truck, number in hand.  Drive passed everyone with a final good luck salute, and get on the dirt road along the levy.  It is here, where it’s official, you’re going duck hunting.  Put on a good country song, kick up some dust and drive on over to your spot.  Get on your waders, drop the canoe into the water, spread out your decoys, and get in.  Settle in with the coots, and soon enough, right on schedule, the ducks start coming around.

A flock nearby is obvious as all the hunters begin to serenade them with their own “best” calling style and decoy placement. Soon enough, they come around and you better be patient, because if you move, they’re outta there.  As they come towards you, you must sort out everything you know about their colors, wing-flapping patters, and sounds. Identify the bird, figure out if you can take it, and fire!  Dinner on the table, or another lesson learned?

This is a Wildlife Management Area public duck hunt on Florida Water Management District STA1.

Dec 17 2011

Smooth Sailing from Hobie Beach Miami Florida

As a follow-up to this post: http://joatsblog.com/2011/05/hobie-16-tipped-flipped-and-de-masted-by-a-thunderstorm/

We (my wife and I) sailed today in 5-7 knots on the Hobie 16.  We went out of Hobie Beach which is great in high tide.  During low tide, it’s difficult to bring the boat up to the trailer without beach rollers, but the 16 is light enough to inch along by dragging it.

The day was smooth, there was just enough wind to cruise around the bay, and build some confidence.

Nov 13 2011

2011 Archery Season Opening in Bear Island

Mucho Mosquitoes, that’s for sure.  Season opened to a Doe and her fawn walking right in front of me.  The buck stayed back.


Aug 28 2011

Bear Island WMA Scouting Session

After a 2 year hunting hiatus, I decided to get back in the saddle, or “back in the boots”, better said, and decided to go hunting last year.  With school, rebuilding my home, and work, I had no time to put into the woods.  Hunting Florida Wildlife Management Areas all of my life, you’d think I’d remember, but I forgot, that in order to get in on the hunting you had to apply for quota hunts early.  So I was officially out.

I spent my time carefully mapping out the quota permit application dates, and areas I wanted to hunt.  I applied for Alligator, and was denied.  This gave me more fuel for the regular season.  So come application day, I was on it! Apparently, so was everyone else, because I got slim pickings. I was unsuccessful left and right, except for a couple of permits, one being in Bear Island, for Archery.  So I packed my gear and headed out.

As usual, in this time of year, the Everglades welcomed me with lots of water to slosh through, check out a video here:

All in all, it was a nice to be out there.  The strange thing was, I didn’t see any tracks or traces of deer around (or hog for that matter).  I have some other areas in Big Cypress where I frequent and the deer tracks are around.  I found what looked like a good area to put my tree stand, and I’ll be there, Walden in hand, waiting for the game to show.  Here are some point and shoots of the area.

And a video:

Aug 18 2011

Smoky Mountains National Park Chimney Tops adventure

After a delicious breakfast served at Creekwalk Inn on Whisperwood farms, the plan was to cover the two popular Smoky Mountain locations, Newfound Gap and Clingman’s Dome.  Being that Clingman’s is officially the highest point in the Smokies, it was a must.   With all the tourists in Newfound Gap and Clingman’s Dome, there wasn’t exactly a sense of accomplishment.  Yes, we had been hiking daily, and our legs were sore, but this was due only to our habits obtained in regular life.

The plan was to head over to Chimney Tops Trailhead.  It was a decent swimming hole, and a great study area.  It would work out perfectly, I could leave my wife studying peacefully on a large rock, listening to the rushing water, while I checked out a short trail.  Then I could come back from the trail, take a dip, and we’d call it a day.  I remember seeing a young man fly-fishing the stream, and wishing that I had a fly rod so I could try it on my way back.  There was no time for that today, however, figuring it was a 1.1 mile hike, I said, “I’ll be back in about an hour hunny”, and I was off.

I stopped a hiker early in the hike and asked her how long it was.  “It’s not that long, it took me an hour and a half on the way up, but it depends on how good you are, I myself am not used to the altitude”.  I figured I’d have to hurry it up, and started at a fast pace.  Now, keep in mind, when I hike, I take lots of gear.  I carry a gallon of water per day minimum in case of emergencies, which I had in bag minus the difference in my waste-bound canteen.  I also carry my Canon 30D, a knife, basic survival gear like water tablets, etc, a flashlight, and my heavy camera tripod, which I hang out of the back of my bag.  On this hike, I also had some extra weight, which I’ll get into later.

So about 20 mins into it, after passing beautiful flora, I gazed upon what looked like one of the nicest open-shutter stream shots I’d seen in TN.  I remember being exhausted, and thinking, I’ll get this on the way back, when there’s even less sun out.  I was basically jogging up the incline, and was dying.  I decided to sit down to catch my breath, which was wheezing, and about 25 lbs in the package of two stones I had in my bag.  I’m also a hunter, and have some very long hikes in my plan, so any hike is considered training.  This is how I convince myself that it doesn’t matter how much my gear weighs, but this was an exception.  I was stressing myself with speed rather than weight.  I crossed a sign that pointed out the Appalachian trail, and remember thinking on how I also wanted a picture of that.  I stood there for about a minute confused.  The sign said 1.1 miles.  I was under the impression that the entire hike was 1 mile.  I decided that the sign was giving me the entire trail’s length, which was pure denial despite a clear mind.  There was no way I was turning back. 

I crossed another group of hikers who alerted me the more strenuous part was up ahead.  I looked at it as motivation and pushed on.  As I got closer, this fit woman in sweats is resting and I don’t remember what I asked her, but I remember her reply, in full southern accent, “You got about fourth of a mile, pretty much, straight up, if you can get through that I think you’re alright.”  Again, more motivation, without hesitation, I continued to ascend.  If I can explain that terrain in few words, I’d say this.  If you take a staircase, made of stone, remove the stairs and replace them with rocks randomly poured down, for about a 1/2 mile, that’s about it.  I took a slow pace, and would set goals every few trees to hold on to.  I didn’t want to sit down, because I didn’t want my body to lock up.  I pushed it for as long as I could, and received some more inspirational words by some guys coming down.  “You’re almost through this part, then the incline stays the same, but the rocks turn into gravel, so it’s easier on the legs”.  About 10 minutes into it, with the breaks becoming more frequent, I got to the gravel.  Then, 10 mins later, I start feeling the breeze.  That was by far the most inspiring feeling.  The wind, near the top of the mountain.  I got to what looked like the end of the trail, a tree, rooted up, and a peak behind it.  The trail disappeared for a second but it was nowhere near the top.  I started walking faster now, the rough part was over.  I had been hiking for about 45 mins, I had to be close.  Then there was about a 1 min. descent, which was frustrating to know that I climbed it, and would have to climb it on the way back.  Finally, a sign, I could see the chimneys.  The sign said the trail ended, something along the lines of, “the trail is closed due to improvements, to get to the top, you must climb the rock face”. 

Yes, I’m afraid of heights, but I also have a deal with conquering my fears.  The rush is much more grande due to the primal fear.  So I decided to start climbing, with my backpack, water, knife, tripod, etc.  About halfway up, it started to rain a little.  And I started to think about how slippery the rocks were when wet, so I found myself a little ledge, took off my backpack and gear, and leaned back to see what the weather wanted to do.  A climber started coming down from the top.  His shirt said something rock on it, and he had nothing but a bottle of water in his pocket.  He says, “well you have it all to yourself”.  I said something about the rain and he answers, “yeah I wasn’t gonna stay up there to find out”.  So I rested for a while and realized, I was up there, all by myself.  Once the initial awe-inspiring view feeling passed I began to look immediately around, and realized, how a slip down the side would be a nasty fall.  I heard voices from the trail, so I decided to wait and see if I’d have company climbing up.

They settled in about 10 feet under me and one of them uttered something like, “I’m not too fond of them rocks up there”.  I decided to make conversation and said, “well I feel like a chicken shit, but I don’t think I’m goin’ any higher than this, with this rain”.  I don’t know if I was more afraid of the heights than the rain, but the rain sure seemed like a more respectable fear.  Who in their right might, afraid of heights, climbs up a freaking mountain.  One of them responded, “I don’t blame you, me neither”, and with that it started pouring.  I took a few pictures, packed it up, and started getting down to a safe zone.

Once down there, I took off my shirt, wrapped my SLR in it to somewhat protect it from the rain, and began jogging back.   I realized, then, that I had the car keys, and my wife, was stuck by the river, with no roof to protect her or her books from the rain.   I even began pacing through the roughest part of the trail, picked up too much speed, and almost spilled all over the rocks.  I realized, then, how that was a stupid risk, and slowly made my way down.  My wife would have to wait.  Of course, the best things and the worst things happen during the worst times, as life shall have it.  On the way down, I ran into a doe and her fawn walking the trail in the rain.  She wasn’t bothered too much by me and by the time I took out the camera and setup the tripod due to the low light of the sun going down, they calmly made their way into the bush, and the shot was over.   I decided to take that beautiful stream shot, however, in the rain.  I didn’t even check it.  I also stopped and loaded my rocks back into my pack.

Finally, on my last run, crossing the second to last bridge, I spot a young man about my age, with something on his fly rod.  I wanted to take a picture, but it was pouring and all I could think of, was my wife, the camera getting wet, etc.  In about a 30 second conversation I shared that I was from Florida, and he told me this was the first fish ever he’d caught on a fly rod.  He was so excited he must have dropped that rainbow trout on the ground about 5 times.  I told him I had to take a picture and took one with both my camera and his.  He was also from Florida, it turns out.  He asked me what I was doing in TN, and while I wanted to stay and chat, I said “I’m just up here hiking, taking it all in, but I gotta go my wife has no keys man!”, and I was off jogging again with my water, rocks, SLR, knife, tripod, etc.  It was a great example of payoff on both of our sides.  See, that was the same fly-fisherman I’d seen earlier.  And all those hours I spent on the trail hiking, he was fishing.  Even when it rained he was still at it.  The trout was no more than 4 inches long, but it was a trophy.

So I made it back, and there was nobody at the swimming hole.  Exhausted, and wheezing again, I jogged my way to the car, and there she was, sitting on the ledge, under a tree, studying in the rain.  I wanted to tell her the story, but she was so mad I left with the keys, I knew better than two spill it during that time.  So I caught my breath, drove towards town, and processed the adventure to myself.  See, just like the trout, this was not a major hike or climb. It was a simple, two-mile uphill hike, with a small climb at the end.  Not a big deal at all, Touristy, even.  But for me, after misjudging the distance, starting the hike sore, alone, adding the excess gear, excess pace, and the rain, this was a great Chimney Tops adventure.

Jul 30 2011

Sail to Hobie Beach

I sailed out of Matheson Hammocks and into Hobie Beach today.  There was decent wind for a cruise.  What I learned…

1) Hobie Beach allows you to bring your trailer.

2) A milk jug makes a great Baby Bob.

May 9 2011

Hobie 16 tipped, flipped, and de-masted by a Thunderstorm

Sailing beach cats on vacation, sailing a canoe, and sailing in a kayak.  Those three sets of experiences pretty much sum up my sailing track record as a whole.  I have been a mariner all my life, yet my experience with sailing vessels is minimal.  The latest attempt at sailing a canoe taught me a lot.  I know the concepts and terminology well, and the reflexes are there, but not at all that of a seasoned sailor.  Two weeks ago I accepted an invite to go sailing on a Hobie 18.  I was given the chance (as well as having no choice at one point) to sail it on my own, and it was an unforgettable experience.  Comparing to the only thing I could (my sailing canoe), there was a power at work with this vessel not experienced by a smaller one.  When you catch the wind just right, the subtlevibration on the main sail produces a low frequency felt throughout the boat, and if the conditions are right, the pontoon beneath you begins to lift.   This force not stopping until the sheet is let back a little, which de-powers the boat, therefore bringing the boat back down.  This was such an exhilarating experience I found myself looking for a Hobie for the next two weeks.  I was able to find and buy a Hobie 16 in the area after quite a bit of searching.  Now I had the boat in the yard, and the adventures was to begin.

Maiden Voyage
The first sail was a learning experience.  It was interesting to learn all of the rigging, and most of all, realize the weight of the mast.  After setting the boat up for about 45 mins, and organizing the rigging, we were off again.  In comparison to the Hobie 18, the 16 is a wild horse.  Weighing in close to 300lbs, it’s light as a feather and overpowered.  The Hobie 18 may very well be a faster boat, but it doesn’t feel like it.  The 16 is very sensitive to your actions.  It requires a faster reaction time, and is a lot of fun to sail.  What was supposed to be a 2 hour test run, turned into a day of fun-sailing and practice.  We purposely capsized and righted the vessel numerous times for practice, and I was confident in my ability to get out of a sticky situation.

First Warning
Sunday morning came, and I was to take my wife, Vanessa sailing for the first time.  This was a nerve-racking experience.  First impressions only happen once in lifetime.  If that was the case, this was my only chance of getting the wife into this both relaxing and exciting lifestyle that is sailing.  On a calm day, one could open up a bottle of wine, sail over to an island somewhere and have a romantic picnic.  On a “windier” day, and I’ll use this term loosely, sailing can be a challenging sport.  This day was a gloomy one, literally.  The morning was calm, there it was a bit cloudy, but the rain clouds were nowhere to be seen.  It took about 30 minutes to set up boat boats.  And as we began to take them towards the water, a far rumble of thunder was heard.  The sound came from West.  I quick look South (where the wind was blowing from) revealed clear skies.  The first warning had been issued, and we ignored it.  The wind had a slight breeze in it, and I remember thinking how a little shower may be beneficial to us, as long as the lightning kept its distance.  As we set sail, it started sprinkling a little bit, and went away after about 5 minutes.  The sky opened up to the South, and that’s where the wind was blowing from so we were free and clear.

Into the Wind
Sailing towards the wind, we were off and picked up speed in no time.  I remember having some issued locking one of the rudders into place, but other than that, we were free and clear.  I remember Vanessa saying, “wow we’re going fast!”.  I said, “I told you”.  But inside it was more like, “this is nothing, wait until we get this thing to stand up”.  My buddy with the 18 foot Hobie was sailing beside me and it was just a matter of time before we were flying over the water and I was out over the trapeze.  I made the trapeze ride look difficult due to my inexperience driving the boat by myself, while hanging, and when I asked, “Are you ready to get out here?”, Vanessa responded with, “I don’t think I’m ready for that yet”.  At this point we are about 1/4 the way from, Matheson Hammock marina to Stiltsville (near the Biscayne channel), and the wind was extremely gusty.  The seas were surprisingly choppy for the bay and everything started to pick up extremely fast.  My buddy was about a quarter mile away from me and began to turn around.   I decided to follow, but there was too much wind to Jive.  A jive is when you turn away from the wind in order to come about.  Coming about is when you turn your vessel resulting in a sail direction change.  So I decided to turn into the wind.  The first attemp failed.  By this point the waves were about 2-3ft and were right after each other.  It was extremely gusty, choppy, and in general the wrong conditions for a beach catamaran to be in.  I made a second attempt to turn around, and was put into irons, and back to a tack within seconds.  Not even getting a chance to try again, as I was getting out of irons, a wave swung us up, and a gust finished us off.  The boat had flipped sideways, and we were both waterborne.

Capsized in the Storm
As the boat tipped over, the pontoons lifted us into the air, before sliding down the trampoline. I remember the boom staying parallel with the surface of the water, and my wife’s chin going straight for it.  With the speed of light I thought, broken teeth, blood, sharks, etc.  But she managed to dodge the Boom.  I expressed my plan, “Hold on to the boat!, I’m going to release the main sail, and flip this thing back over!”.  The thought of which seemed like a simple action we had accomplished the day before.  But these conditions were changing everything.  The trampoline became a sail and began to blow the boat East towards the Sea, the incoming tide was in full force, so we had a cross current dragging us in the opposite direction that the boat was traveling in.  I managed to pull myself to the top of the mast (which was sideways and on the surface), and couldn’t unhook the sail.  It was at this point that I realized that if I let go of the boat I was going to be in trouble.  So I held on to the sail for dear life.  I pulled myself back down, realizing that the tension in the boom was holding the sail down.  So I untied the boom and left all the rigging dangling.  This was an emergency situation as was no time to organize rigging.  I new that eventually the submerged pontoon would fill with water and make it difficult to right the vessel, let alone sail it.  So after loosening the sail and giving an initial tug to see that the sail was loose, I exerted the last bit of energy (I thought) to bring the sail in.  My wife got caught underneath the main sail, but I was able to pull her out of there.  “Whatever you do, don’t let go of the boat!”, I yelled.  At this point, the storm is fully on top of us.  We are rolling around in the white-capped waves, it’s raining, it’s gusty, it’s gray all around, it was cold, and there was no end in sight.  I used the last bit of energy I had to climb on top of the submerged pontoon and tied an old docking rope to the high shroud.  Keeping constant communication with Vanessa, kept her safe.  This means that me yelling at her and getting a response every minute or so let me know she was still with me.

Righting the boat
Seeing that she was just hanging on, I didn’t want to make her climb, so I tright righting the boat on my own.  I leaned back, and held it steady.  After about 10 seconds, it began to come back.  I yelled,”when it comes back, don’t let go of the boat!”.  It was the most exciting and hopeful part of the disaster.  As usual I let the pontoons surround me, but with more force than it came down, it flipped in the same direction.  The jib caught a gust of wind that lifted the entire Hobie out of the water, and it capsized again.  Feeling beaten, defeated, and tired, I decided to lower the jib, and try again.  After loosening the jib, I decided to reposition myself to right the boat again.  All of a sudden, and loud “SNAP!”…And the boat turtled.  Both pontoons were now on the surface of the water, upside down and the mast, was floating next to the boat.  At this point there was nothing to do but sit on top of the pontoon, and wait for the storm to pass.  Luckily, there was a sailing vessel sticking around us.

Can we come aboard?
At this point, realizing there was nothing else to do, I gave the distress signal.  Not a flair or a mayday call.  The international sign of distress, when you wave both arms in the air.  The sailing vessel came toppling beside us and I asked if we could throw a line.  So he came around the side, and I readied and threw the rope, it didn’t reach.  A few minutes later, the chance came again, and this time the captain’s wife grabbed onto the rope.  He yelled, “tie it quickly!”, and she tied the roped to a cleat.  I remember thinking the pull was going to be hard enough to tumble me off of the pontoon, so I went into the water.  I instructed my wife to walk accross not letting go of the rope.  She proceeded to do so, and made it to the side of the boat, but it was a about a 4 foot climb to get onboard.  I remember yelling, “is it in neutral?”, as I saw the boat, still movine, and pictured my wife losing her legs due to the prop.  She heard me and tucked in as well, and the captain then put the boat in neutral.  I pulled myself beside her and pushed her up.  And then proceeded to pull myself, but was completely out of strength.  The captain gave me a hand and after a couple tries, I was onboard.  I remember knowing that we were safe at this point, and asking to be towed to shore.  I remember liking the sailboat, which had a cabin, and was very cozy.  Definitely something I’d like to have in the future.  So after giving us towels to wrap ourselves and warm up, we chatted a little while the captain turned towards shore.  My wife was shivering and went into the cabin, and I stayed on deck with the captain, it just seemed right.  It looked like we were home free, then he says, “we’re not making any headway”.

At this point the storm was still kicking strong.  Wind, rain, and waves surrounded us and there were no longer any boats in sight.  Anyone in the area earlier had already fled.  We, however could not.  The wind was pushing us East, and dragging my boat, sideways was not allowing us to go anywhere.  I realized, that we had to change the placement of the rope on the catamarat.  It was tied to the shroud which is the best place for righting the boat, but not for towing.  I attempted about 4 times to convince the captain to let me in the water, and change the placement of the rope, to a towing position.  He wasn’t having it.  As much as I wanted to fix the situation, regardless of how nasty the water looked, I was in no position to argue with the captain of the vessel.  He made the call, to call the Coast Guard.

The Party
After attempting to anchor, keeping the cat away from his boat, and a few other unexpected mishaps, the Coast Guard shows up.  At this point we are dragging the anchor, and both vessels are heading towards the StiltsVille flats.  Sailboats have a very deep keel, and shallow water means trouble for them.  The Coast Guard shows up in their fireboat, which is suprisingly rocking back and forth pretty bad.  The shallow waters were creating 3-4 foot waves in conjunction with the storm, and a very heavy chop.  They asked if everyone was OK.  I mentioned my wife was cold a feeling a little bit seasick.  She was ready to go with the Coast Guard, so I know she was in bad shape.  The time she spent in the cabin, took her over, and she was clearly pale and feeling sick.  For about 15 minutes a dance ensued, the Coast Guard was there, Coast Guard Auxilary was there, SeaTow, and Boat U.S. were on the scene, but nobody was doing anything.  Meanwhile, we had drifted a few feet by one of the Biscayne Channel markers and were headed for Stiltville.  At this point I realized that if we didn’t do anything quick, this ship, who pulled me out of the water, was going to run aground.  So I decided to untie my boat, and figured worst case, I’d jump in and stick with it, while he left.  As soon as I left my boat go, the sailboat’s anchor who we had been dragging for about 20 mins, grabbed, and we were anchored.  My catamaran, on the other hand, drifted away.  So I helped the captain pull the anchor, and we were off to shore.

Are you a Boat U.S. member?
What happened after that was by far, the most frustrating event of the story.  First, Boat U.S. didn’t wan’t to touch my boat, until they verified I was a member.  Then, becuase it was upside-down, they wanted to charge me $300 an hour to right it.  I agreed, thinking it would only take an hour.   So we boarded their boat and the Coast Guard forced them to take us to shore, since my wife was cold. She was willing to go get my catamaran (what a trooper!).  So after taking me to shore they basically hit me with a $1500 quote to go pickup my boat.  I said I’d settle for $300 since they took us to shore.   After trying to charge me $600, willing to take me to court for it, and two days later, they finally settled on the reasonable price of $300.  I wonder what SeaTow’s service would have been like?

What about the Hobie?
So here I was, back at shore, with no boat.  And my keys were wet, so there was no way of disarming my alarm.  My friend was nowhere to be found, his trailer was there, but his Hobie 18 wasn’t anywhere on the horizon.  I had a cop send a radio call to look for him, and I called….no answer.   Finally, he called back, and had a heck of a story of his own.  Apparently, the storm pitchpoled him forward (this is where the boat does a front flip), and he had his own issues in the storm.  A fishing vessel came by and help him right his boat, and his story is also a good one.   So back on shore, I called my old man, who came with my mom and took us home.  I called my cousin, who had a truck, told him I needed a hand, and he came over to pickup my powerboat.  We all went back to the marina, launched the Chris Craft, and were off to Stiltsville,  to try to recover my Hobie.   By that time, the tide had changed and was coming back in, so I was screwed.  The closer I got to Stiltsville, the worse I felt when I didn’t see a thing in the water.

Floating Bananas
All of a sudden, close to one of the houses, I spot a couple of floating white bananas.  Could it be?!, could my boat actually still be here.   It was.  It was floating right next to one of the houses.  So we docked, and the current was incredible.  I put on a snorkel and went in the water with a rope, in case the current was too strong.  As a swam under the Hobie, I realized why it was still there.  Somebody, maybe the Coast Guard, maybe Fish and Game, but nonetheless, somebody, had tied my boat to a piling!  And while the current was trying to have its way with it, it was hanging on.  I dove to the center of the trampoline where I had strapped a dive knife.  This was just in case of an emergency.  So I tied a rope between boats, and cut it loose from the piling.  Then, using some geometry, leverage, and patience, I swam around organizing the ropes in key places of the cat.  Two people pulled from on top of the house’s platform, and I sat on one of the pontoons.  Together, we managed to flip it over, and it was mostly intact.  After about an hour of organizing rigging, sails, and fighting with the current, we were ready to tow.  Good thing, because the sun was going down, we had no anchor lights, or deck lights on the Chris Craft.

Tangled up
As I carfeully back tracked away from the house, someone forgot to pick up slack on the rope, and it got tangled up with the prop.  Then I hit the throttle instead of putting into neutral.  And the engine shut off.  So now both boats are disabled, and drifting into the flats, and the sun is going down.  After about 45 mins of diving and rope cutting, I finally cut it free, and we were off again.  Towards shore.  The bay was choppy so we had to go slow, about 7-8 mph slow.  Eventually it got dark, and if it weren’t for the final marker blinking red, we would have had to search the shore for the marina entrance.  But it blinked, and I made it back.

Lessons Learned
All in all, I made it home, with all persons, vessels, and trucks by 11:30PM.  I was bruised, beaten, salted, and tired, but relieved.  A few slices of pizza for everyone that helped, and the day was over.  I hugged my wife, who was happy to be alive.  The sea had humbled me, but she didn’t take anything of mine away, so all in all, it was a good day.   So what did I learn from this experience?  There were numerous lessons that I took from it, but here are a few that I can share, and hopefully others can learn the easy way:

1. If it’s stormy, stay close to land.
2. If you flip in bad weather, lower the main, lower the jib, and evaluate the situation.  If it is too windy, wait for the storm to pass, it will always pass.  And when righting the boat, be ready to hold the submerged end down by hanging on to one side, in the case she wants to continue to roll over.


Some of the damages…

May 5 2011

Fishing for Oscars in Cacita Pond

With the 1 week of rest between classes coming to a close, I had to stock up my Aquaponics tank.  With nothing left but 2 Koi’s and an overgrown feeder fish, I needed more meat in the tank.  As planned in my previous post, I wanted to get some Oscars.  Off to the Glades.

My last hike to Cacita revealed lots of fish in this dried up pond.  So after trying to fish with bread by the canals near the Mikosukee Gaming resort, I made a quick run to Dade Corners, who supplied me with a fresh batch of worms.   After trying my luck again with the worms, and striking out, I decided to make a run for Cacita Pond.  An hour later, with 1 clean hour to fish, I made it.  And the result was some Alligator Gar, some Oscars, a couple Bream, and 1 lonesome Bass.  Oh yeah, and a whole lot of peace and quiet.

I stayed there until sundown in order to take a few long exposure shots.  Best one here.   Enough to see the gators come up from the bottom and start moving around.  Then back to civilization.  Here are a few pics of the catches.  I took home 1 Bream and 1 Oscar, which barely made it home, but survived.