The extra day spent in Flamingo was rejuvenating. Wes and Carol drove back bringing breakfast, extra white gas for our stoves, and an inexpensive tent for Merv since his is falling apart. We were all happy for the trail magic. We part ways with Merv now. He has charted an interior course that will snake him back towards Everglades City. Our time together was fun.
Now we focus on crossing Florida Bay- our largest open water crossing, about 26 miles. We set our course for Little Rabbit Key which lies roughly in the middle of the bay. Another storm front is moving in and the Rangers warned us of blustery seas. They were right. The rough chop was a challenge but nothing compared to some of the stuff we’ve experienced.
Our GPS units get checked often on this leg. We make out the Johnson Key Chickee off in the distance and know we’re on the right course. Eventually a small dot of an island appears in the distance- Little Rabbit Key. There’s a boat dock and small beach landing on the North side of the island. We made it!
Now Little Rabbit key is tiny and barely above sea level. There’s a picnic table and we see the high water line on the metal legs. Most of the high ground here is hard packed mud but there is a circular patch of course grass where others have set up their tents. We decide to locate our tents there too.
Afterwards we walk down a mud path to the other side of the island and find some spotty cell reception there. Just enough to call home and check emails.
The approaching storm front has whipped up the wind. Luckily the mangroves that surround the island provide a decent wind break throughout the night. Drizzling rain is intermittent during the night. By morning the temps have dropped. Putting on damp paddling clothes in the wind and cold is never fun.
We set off and catch another tailwind that pushes us towards the Keys. We maneuver through Barnes Key channel and divert our course for a heading that will take us near mile marker 77. There’s a public beach ramp there where our friend Gus will pick us up. Before we know it we see the Keys and the bridges of US 1. As we land our yaks and step out another milestone is accomplished.
Gus has already checked into our efficiency motel (The Breezy Palm). So all we need to do is unload the kayaks and throw our gear inside the bed of his pickup truck. He can haul up to four kayaks using a trailer and roof rack.
The first order of business is to stop and get some grub then take a hot shower and wash clothes. Laying out all our dirty gear takes time too. A quick trip to the grocery store will get us dinners and breakfasts for the next several days. Whew!
No rest for us, we paddle tomorrow. Time to get some sleep……
Marc and Jim