I don’t remember when my dad and I started talking about doing a kayak expedition. We’re both kinda fans of kayaking and during a holiday visit, we chatted about the trips we wanted to do. He told me about a series of paddle races that are longer (200-300 miles) and mentioned that he wanted to do the WaterTribe Everglades Challenge.
We talked about it very briefly in 2015 and called each other’s bluffs last year. We aren’t getting any younger. I also helped matters along by telling Dad that the paddle expedition is on the Forty by 40 list. It is officially, put up or shut up time.
My Dad is a lot like me in that once we have decided to do something, we sorta obsess over it. Dad being Dad and not having a double kayak meant that was the first order of business. The double being bought, we planned a couple of shakedown paddles for when I was in Florida for the Alumni game.
I have been away from home about as long as I was there, which is a weird thing to say. Since I left, an actual manatee park was opened nearish my old stomping grounds. The morning after the game, we headed out, hoping to see some manatees. The really cool thing about Florida is that in the winter, the manatees stay close to “warm” water. In many cases, this is in the rivers near springs and power plants.
The spring we moved to Chicago, Dave and I took Nico to Crystal River with my mom, where we rented a boat and swam with manatees. They are such chill animals. Really, “sea cow” is the only way to describe them. Nico accidentally stood on one, which you’re really not supposed to do. But he was little and the manatee didn’t seem to mind. Still, you shouldn’t do stuff like that. The weather was absolutely spot on. It could not have been nicer. Mild, with lots of sun. Being in the midwest these last four years means my skin color has reverted to factory settings. I learned my first beach trip back that the Florida sun don’t play, so I wore the long sleeves. It wasn’t too bad at all.
We saw lots of manatees. There were a lot of people on the water that day. The cool thing about the park is that it is close to motor boats and the people living on the river were pretty much all at work. It was quiet and peaceful, sunny, and breezy. We paddled for a couple of hours before heading back to the hotel for dinner.
Dad did a good job picking out the kayak. We can move it pretty well. We both decided though that we really don’t want to do the Watertribe Challenge without a sail rig though. So, that is our next step.
The next day, we headed out on the river that ran through my old stomping grounds. The day was overcast and a bit windy, waves crashed over the deck more. Both my dad and I prefer the sit on top kayaks, but for different reasons. He likes them because they aren’t as hot as the sit in models, which is fair. He mostly paddles in South Florida. He knows a thing or two about how warm it can get there. I like the sit on top ones because I have doubts about my ability to right a boat that has been tipped over. Regardless, when we actually do the challenge (next year or the year after), we are going to need to figure out waterproof gear. Of course, it might not be that big of a deal- we might just do the course, but have my mom drive as a support vehicle. So we could camp where we camp and just throw that stuff in the back of the truck, and keep water, snacks, and lunch on us.
It’s not a bad plan.