I can honestly say this was our most difficult trip. I think we were nervous anyway because this was our first saltwater trip and we would not have our calm, peaceful, tree-covered creek. Salt marshes cover a majority of the wetlands around the mouth of the St Johns so we needed to explore. Our put in was at the Ft George Inlet boat ramp on Hecksher Drive, right before you cross over to Big Talbot Island (going north). It is 1.5 miles to the mouth of Simpson Creek over what seemed like the Atlantic Ocean, complete with sand bars and flowing water (against us). The tides are a big deal here, and we paddled hard. The sun was up and there were no clouds to protect us, no trees to shade us, no breeze except for the head wind. If I had any sense I would have turned around. Gray seemed to be having a good time, so when the trip quickly turns out to be a photo bust, you turn it into a workout session.
Originally we were going to put in at Kayak Amelia, which would have put us in the middle of the creek where we wanted to be. For some insane reason we chose not to do that. Just too easy. We reached Kayak Amelia after 3.5 miles of tough paddling and we continued another half mile to the A1A bridge. After a long rest in the shade our alternative was to turn back, or leave our boats and hitchhike. It had taken us about 3 hours to get here, the return trip we knew, would be harder since the tides were coming in. Of course the temperature was in the 90s.
I really don’t enjoy paddling my boat for the sake of paddling. There’s no inner joy or zen release to move my paddle through the water, or to know that your destination is 3+ hours away and there is nothing you can do to make it shorter. Sometimes you play games like playing you’re on Hawaii-Five-O and one of the guys paddling that dugout canoe racing through the water. Other times you try to keep each stroke perfect so that you might just shave a half second off your time. Or you hope for that tailwind to push you along. Then a speedboat comes by, waves, and creates a wake that jostles your balance and spins you around. Curse you! But I’m having fun, enjoying the Florida sun, getting a great tan, and an awesome shoulder workout. Gray stated yelling at his boat about it going in the wrong direction when he stops paddling. Huh? I think he was losing it.
When we exited the creek and headed towards the bridge we had a new focal point. The only problem was that after 30 minutes the focal point seemed to be in exactly the same place. Was it possible that the combination of wind, tide, and exhaustion actually kept us in a stationary position? A few paddlers were going in the opposite direction, happy as clams, drinking beer, and doing very little paddling. Hmmm, they were riding the tide. Smart. I wonder what they thought of us, obviously struggling. Fellow kayakers can always tell when things aren’t going right, it’s the secret kayak intuition. “Hi, beautiful day to be on the water!” “Catch any fish?” “No, we’re photographers.” “That explains why you’re a moron trying to paddle against the tide at noon!” “Enjoy your day!”
When we returned the first thing I told Gray was to cross this trip off our list. “Done!”