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Ten Thousand Islands: January 4

Following the Coast

Route I paddled this day

Route I paddled this day

I had another lazy morning before my coastal journey from Turkey Key to Jewel Key. Paddling along the Gulf Coast was a little odd. To one side was open water extending well beyond the horizon, and to the other nearby land. The water underneath me was only a couple feet deep as well. The slope of the land, even after it reached the ocean, was very slight, like the rest of Florida.

I continued along the shoreline, once again being mindful of which island was which, so I would not mistake my position. A GPS would have made navigation much easier, but seemed like cheating, even if hyper accurate maps, store bought food, and ultra light equipment was just about as high tech as a GPS. But I also hate worrying about batteries, electronics on waters, and still need map backups anyway.

Some islands were so small and short they did not have any trees and were merely a mass of sand. Spotting them on the horizon was difficult, save for the flocks of birds that loved inhabiting them for the afternoon.

Jewel Key’s beach

Jewel Key’s beach

At one point while determining which island was which, my deck compass indicated I was traveling in the complete opposite direction of what I thought. I took a double take as to how I might be traveling south when I was almost positive my boat was headed north. Although I have historically had navigation snafus, I knew I was going in a northern direction and could not possibly be turned south. I took a step back, not wanting to override my objective instrument with “what I know to be true,” which often is not. For once though my instincts were correct. The magnetic bottom of the Gorillapod in my deck bag was too close to my compass, changing its reading. I moved the camera stand, and the needle turned back to a direction more in alignment with my expectations.

Jewel Key

A lonely palm tree

For the most part the paddle was enjoyable and uneventful, against a slight headwind, but no rough water. With my longest day paddling (still only about twelve miles) and all of it over big water, the day seemingly stretched on. I saw my final destination on the horizon, but knew it lay hours away. I could only watch it grow bigger ever so painfully slow, which made the trip seem to take for ever. Countless strokes eventually brought me to the shore of Jewel Key. I ate dinner and sat on the beach watching the sun set into the endless expanse of water. The sunset was not that impressive, but that fact I was sitting on a beach in January made it great.

With a warmer evening I stayed outside in the darkness under the stars. Their show was nice, but an almost full moon shown bright enough to hide much of their glory. The light was enough for a moon shadow, and I could easily walk the beach without the aid of a headlamp. I woke up during the night for a nature break though, and by then the moon had set, freeing the stars for a much better performance.