|by Julio Perez and Hank McComas
This was anticipated to be a hard day of paddling. We left late because tides were so low: a mild breeze was blowing from the south.
We took our usual circuitous route to deeper water and headed for Ponce de Leon Bay. Good progress for the first hour, then the breeze turned mean. Southerly winds of about 20 mph with gusts over 25 made us work for every mile. As we approached Ponce de Leon Bay the higher winds were more steady and there was no place to hide from them. The bay was white caps everywhere and blowing foam. Keeping a course required one correcting stroke out of three. We changed the plan of entering between the Shark and Little Shark Rivers and swung east to the first channel that appeared to join the wilderness waterway farther SE. Paddling between islands provided some respite but in the open channels we were drenched by spray and bumped along slowly on the wind waves. The chart showed a route that would protect us from the wind for the most part but it was longer and was not along the path of the marked, Wilderness Waterway.
Normally I can drive into headwinds well. I am used to it because everywhere I go seems to be upwind. But today it was kicking my butt. Paddle paddle paddle and it didn't seem like we were getting anywhere. The change of direction half way across Ponce de Leon Bay, angling off the wind, was the right move. Without the direct onslaught of winds and wave, progress was more discernable. The shore looked to be getting closer and my mood improved. Somewhere across the bay I lost the coil of rope I use to get up on the chickees. Placed under the bungees on my foredeck, I never noticed its disappearance over the side as the waves repeatedly swept down the foredeck. Oh well, I had another.
We followed the NE coast of Oyster Bay, keeping the islands to our right and eventually entered Whitewater Bay. And it lived up to its name. We stayed in Whitewater Bay just long enough to decide that we were getting the hell out. The tactic of keeping the islands close and to our right, as a shield, worked.
We reached Watson River Chickee with some daylight left. This was another chickee on the edge of the mangrove; so more mosquitoes but less wind. ( It is small too! ) We burned mosquito coils to keep the little varmints down, set up camp and I was so hungry that I would have gladly eaten the crappy meal I had prepared the evening before. A daily water check indicated that we might run short so we drew and treated with iodine several liters of river water in case we might need it.
Julio lands topsail catfish
With a belly full of cous cous with chicken and an orange and the little vampires under control, I decided to try my hand at fishing. A handline, weight and petrified beef jerky for bait and I was pulling in the catfish. You can see in the pictures that they were enormous.
On this day we earned a good night sleep and were anticipating the next day’s adventure.
On to Day 9..................