Gadding about in Florida – Part One

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Indian River near Fort Pierce, Florida

We’ve been spending a few days down in Fort Pierce, Florida, at Laura’s sister’s place. Amy had to go away on business, so we cam down to keep her mom company. I brought toys. The Subaru was loaded with more camera and kayak gear than luggage.

Every morning I’ve been getting up and down a short paddling trip before the heat and afternoon thunderstorms hit. I’ve also managed to get in an evening paddle.

I brought the Tsunami because it handles rougher water with ease and is quick enough that I can go some distance. First trip out I headed out to the spoil islands. The morning was clear with a light breeze. The water was relatively flat.

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The spoil islands are on the other side of the main channel for the Intracoastal Waterway, and the trickiest bit is crossing that channel. Even if a boat appears to be very distant, it could be on top of my before I know it. When I reach the channel markers I paddle as quickly as I can to get across, kind of like crossing a busy street. Then I can relax…a bit.

The channel is a bit narrower at the island south of Amy’s place, so I headed in that direction. I crossed without incident, then paddled to the back side of the channel. There I pulled up and relaxed on the lovely beach.

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Indian River Island

I paddled along the other side of the islands from the main channel, where it was quieter and separated from most boat traffic. Heading north, I passed the island directly across from Amy’s, then the one north of that. At that point I crossed back to the mainland side, heading to the flats near the D. J. Wilcox Wilderness Area.

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I’d found another flotation attachment for my GoPro. This allows the camera to bob along under the water, capturing whatever was there. I decided to use this in the grassy areas of the flats. Unfortunately, I didn’t capture anything. For one thing, I had the Floaty back on the camera, and that forced the rest of the camera out of the water.

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It was getting hot, and I’d only had one cup of coffee. I headed on back for breakfast and more caffeine. In between cups of coffee I managed to paddle about four miles.

Paddling Trip

In the afternoon we took Laura’s mom for a drive up the coast along North Hutchinson Island. We stopped at Avalon Park for a bit, then headed up to Vero Beach. Lots of folks were out enjoying the sunshine.

Avalon Beach Park
Laura at Avalon Beach Park

We had dinner, then I took the boat out again to catch the sunset. I just paddled out past the piers, then north along the flats. To the southwest there was an approaching storm with lightening. It was a race – would the sun set first, or the storm get here? I managed to watch most of the sunset, then paddled like crazy to beat the storm.

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Oncoming Storm

Another morning, another paddling trip. This time I was interested in exploring the mangroves on the other side of the river, possibly exploring the old inlet. I repeated the previous morning’s paddle out. This time I found a group of fishermen out at my favorite island beach. They were happy that I avoided their troll lines and waved at me.

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One of the neighbors had told me I might find manatees out here. I rigged up the GoPro for underwater floating, this time using the standard case rather than the floaty back so that it rode lower in the water.

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While I didn’t catch any manatees, a family of dolphins surfaced 30 feet off of my bow. There was a baby with them, and they appeared to be feeding in the shallows. There was no way my GoPro was going to catch them at that distance underwater, so I pulled it out to get a bit of video.

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After the dolphins left I paddled on into the flats behind the spoil islands. I tossed the camera out into these shallow grassy areas hoping to catch something. I floated a long time, but didn’t spot anything.

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I paddled into the old inlet area. At one time this connected to the Atlantic Ocean, but a hurricane shifted the channel. I was curious whether or not I could make it to the barrier island. This area had lots of birds and other wildlife, though. I was content to hang out and watch things here.

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I found a passageway between some of the mangroves and decided to explore some of the narrower channels. At one point I looked down and saw a ray of some kind in the water. Immediately I tossed the camera overboard and was able to capture these images:

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I continued on into the channel, spotting a very narrow passageway to the south. There was current coming through, so I knew it must open up on the other side. I was able to squeeze through.

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Hidden Mangrove Passage

When I emerged on the other side I noticed that a massive storm cloud had popped up to the southeast. I decided it was time to head home and started paddling quickly.

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Matrixing is the tendency to try to make sense out of random patterns. Watching the waves roll by I keep catching movement out of the corner of my eye, and I’d think it was a dolphin or manatee. I can see how early mariners imagined seeing mermaids out amongst the waves.

I kept at it, and managed to make it back to Amy’s house before the rain hit. I’ve paddling in heavy rain plenty of times, and it can be a pleasant experience. I also always carry materials for emergency shelter, so I could have hauled up on one of the spoil islands if things got back. I figured it was best to get on back home, though. In all, I’d paddled another four miles or so. Here’s the track from that trip:

Paddling Trip

It was still only 11:00 am, and we had lots more to do. I think I’ve written enough for now, and another post will be forthcoming.

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