In the spring of 2007 Sean and I, with the help of Todd Salley and Brent Suto, did our first expedition. We circumnavigated 100 miles around Pinellas County along the Blueways Paddling Trail to raise funds for the O and P College Park 2007 Extremity Games. Todd left the cool waters of Michigan to enjoy three sunny days in our local waters. Brent did a few logistical things for us.
Some memorable highlights:
- Drinking too much of our sponsors 180 Energy drinks on the first day produced a strong and frequent need to relive ones balder. At least we were well hydrated 🙂
- People are very curious and sometimes too helpful. We stopped at Gators Cafe & Saloon on the water of Johns Pass to grab lunch. The food was great. And the waitress and guests were interested in what we were doing; unfortunately, all of the discussions delayed us by three hours 😦
- Sleeping in a bivy bag by the water gives you dreams of being washed away by the crashing waves. Odd dreams 🙂
- Sean realized not to have gear on the deck of his kayak.
- Dolphins jump as part of a mating ritual
- A person who has never paddled in a warm environment gets effected by temperatures faster than locals. Todd had heat issues.
- I used a Greenland Paddle. Great in deep water, not fun in shallow water. Awesome in head on winds; I moved easily, where as, Sean and Todd struggled in the wind.
- A juvenile Eagle Ray jumped to see Todd eye to eye. Sean and I were amazed, Todd was startled
- Sprinklers in public parks turn on automatically around 3 am.
- Bull sharks move silently, and seeing a Dorsal Fin rise out of the water between kayaks gives one pause.
- I (Jeff) do not do well with a combination of exhaustion, muggy heat, and biting insects. I gave up eating on the third night.
- Our big hats worked great when the wind was not blowing.
- Opening a beer as the sun rises is awesome.
- The last mile, is full of emotion. You can see the end, yet it takes forever. You want the paddle to end, and yet you want it to continue for one more day.
- Day 0ne:
- Map 1 We put in at Anclote River Park, 1119 Baillies Bluff Rd. Holiday, FL 34691 And we paddled into the Gulf of Mexico and then south past Honeymoon Island State Park.
- Map 2 Around the Dunedin Causway, between Honeymoon Island State Park and just north of Caladesi Island State Park, our local news channel was attempting to take pictures of us from their helicopter. We could see them; they could not see us. It was a clear and sunny day. And we were speaking with them over a mobile phone. We successful got their attention with a flashing mirror. After they got their video and a few pictures we traveled south to Gators Cafe & Saloon 12754 Johns Pass Drive Treasure Island, FL 33706 Map 3
- After a long meal we continued south passing War Veterans County Park. We found a little spoil island in Boca Ciega Bay to make camp. Map 4
- Day two:
- Map 4 In the morning we paddled down the inter coastal water way. Then under the Pinellas Bayway, past Indian Key and Eckerd College. Rounding Eckerd College we hit a strong current and winds. We also had a record heat index. Consequently, we made the choice to stop at Bay Vista Park. We made a few phone calls and got permission to spend the night at the park. Map 5
- Day three:
- Map 6 In the morning we timed the tides to make our trip up Tampa Bay less challenging. We made good time and quickly got to Gandy Boulevard Causeway Map 7. We had a funtime meeting and paddling with friends near Gandy. They even treated us with pizza and beer. Granted we saved the beer to enjoy at a later time.
- After leaving Gandy we paddled north west we made quick time going through the 4th Street North/Gateway Preserve. We were treated to the unique sighting of an average sized bull shark. Looking at our chart we picked a heading to S.R. 60 Courtney Campbell Causeway. As the sun was setting we reached the causway and chatted with Sean’s father.
- We slept at a mangrove island near Cooper’s Bayou. In three words it was hot, buggy, and humid. Not a fun night.
- Day four:
- Map 8 We woke and broke camp just before dawn. And we made excellent time paddling north past Philippe County Park to SR 580. We paddled up the Lake Tarpon Canal and portaged over the Lake Tarpon dam. The winds were strong from Map 1 John Chesnut park up Lake Tarpon to A. L. Anderson Park.
- At Anderson we met with Sean’s family and we transported the kayaks to the U.S. 19 bridge over Anclote River. It was a relaxing and scenic trip down the river past the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks. It was nice making it full circle to Anclote River Park; and yet, we all wanted one more day on the water.