Are you near a restaurant?

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This topic contains 32 replies, has 22 voices, and was last updated by ntaylor ntaylor 3 weeks, 5 days ago.

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  • #118716

    Jerry White
    Participant

    I believe that things happen for a reason. I believe that sometimes people or things are placed in our “path” to make us wiser. I also believe that being stupid should be painful, though not fatal. The learning curve need not be smooth.

    Recently, I happened upon a TV show that captured my undivided attention for 60 minutes. The show was “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” on Animal Planet, the show was titled “Boys Adrift”. It details a saga about 2 boys from South Carolina (Josh Long and Troy Driscoll) that were swept out in the Atlantic while fishing from their oar powered boat. They could see shore when things started going wrong. They were missing for 6 days. They lived to tell the tale.

    Here’s a brief write-up about the ordeal, but I encourage you to search for the show and digest it. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7706851/

    This show had me riveted because my wife and I were in a similar situation a few years ago. Our saga didn’t last 6 days (more like 4 hours), but still gives me a bad dream every now and then. I hate waves.

    This is a true story, and a long read. Hopefully our misfortune can help you avoid a similar situation. Hold on to your hat.

    A few years ago, I was working out of state and coming home on the weekends. When I was home, we would usually do Florida things, which almost always involved being on the beach or kayaking somewhere. On this particular Saturday morning in August, we decided to launch from the beach and paddle across the Pass-A-Grille channel over to Shell Island. We’ve done this many times in the past. The outgoing tide can be pretty stiff, but we’ve managed it before, today shouldn’t be any different. This reminds me of a song:

    Just sit right back
    And you’ll hear a tale
    A tale of a fateful trip,
    That started from a Florida beach,
    Aboard two tiny ships …

    I had consulted the tide charts and the “plan” was to be paddle over on the incoming tide, and to be back before the outgoing tide started, which would be around 2 pm. We loaded a cooler, some beach chairs, fishing stuff, and away we paddled. The song continues:

    The mate was a mighty paddlin’ lass,
    The Skipper brave and sure,
    Two paddlers set out that day,
    For a three hour tour,
    A three hour tour …

    Based on Google Maps, the paddle is around a half of a mile from point A to point B. In the grand scheme of things, that’s pretty easy to accomplish.

    We set out around 10 am, paddled from point A to point B, the trip was fairly uneventful. Most of the boats that saw us gave us plenty of room and were mindful of their wake. The water was like glass. I made a few casts along the way.

    We arrived at point B, pulled the boats way up on the sand and started walking up the beach. I fished, we picked up shells (mainly sand dollars), we had a great time – I didn’t want it to end. That moment of selfishness undermined the “plan” and led to a series of unfortunate painful events.

    We should have been back at point A by 2 pm, 2:30 pm at the latest. It’s well after 3 pm and I finally decide we better head on back before the outgoing tide really gets ripping. By now, the boat traffic has picked up a lot causing lots of waves, and there’s a pretty stiff breeze blowing out of the East. It was hard to gauge how strong the tide was from shore.

    As the picture above shows, the water drops off immediately from the beach, which equates to that being where the largest volume of outgoing tide is. Once our boats got snagged by that, we had no chance of padding back to shore. I put on my lifejacket. Back to the song:

    The weather started getting rough,
    The tiny ships were tossed.
    If not for the courage of the fearless mate
    The paddlers would be lost.
    The paddlers would be lost …

    The wind and the outgoing tide soon had their way with us. With a LOT of effort we did get across the channel, but were also carried quite a ways offshore due to the outgoing tide. No problem, we can paddle parallel to the beach and eventually outrun the flow, hang a right and hit the beach. I thought wrong.

    Due to boat traffic and the wind, we are now being hammered by 3 foot waves, in very uneven sets, seemingly from every direction. In an effort to keep from dumping my fishing gear overboard, I lost my balance, and *I* went overboard. I was wearing a cheap XXXL lifejacket that I’d bought years ago, just to be legal, and it wasn’t adjusted in any way. So, as I went the below the water, the lifejacket did it’s job and stayed on top of the water. Now, I’m hanging on to the kayak, and the life jacket, and my paddle (not on a leash), and getting bounced by waves. I lost my hat too. My wife spun around to assist, but I waved her off. I wanted her to concentrate on her business while I got back in the boat. We didn’t both need to be in the water.

    First order of business, flip the boat back over. That proved to be a challenge because the cooler I had strapped in the tankwell is now full of water. I quickly set it free, and flipped the boat over. My rod and fishing gear was gone too. I could care less, Heaven knows I have more at home.

    Next I got back in to the PFD and adjusted it best I could. It’s tougher than it sounds, since I was hanging on to so much stuff at the same time.

    I had never practiced deep water entry on this boat. Guess today is the day I learn – NOT. Understand that I’m built like a sports car. You know, wide and low to the ground. So imagine if you will, a round little man with a huge PFD trying to re-enter the boat while hanging on to a paddle and negotiating those random waves. No, you really can’t imagine it – I won’t forget it. I could get in the boat, get situated, but by the time I could get the paddle and point in the right direction a wave would knock me out again. Do this a number of times and adrenaline starts eating calories and the result is fatigue. The more times the boat flipped, the more water got inside it, making it harder to flip and also making it ride lower in the water. I decided that I would no longer waste my energy with this exercise.

    All the while I’m doing this, my wife has her bow pointed in to the waves, and is ready to call for help. See, she had her cell phone in a zip lock bag. Originally, I had said no, since I was confident in my abilities. It was time to make the call. So, imagine this: she has her phone held to her ear by her shoulder, both hands on the paddle keeping her bow straight, and being cautious NOT to drop the phone. Thank GOD she had a decent signal and was able to dial 9-1-1. All I could do was lay across the cockpit of my boat. We had drifted quite a way from the beach by now, but I could still see the pink silhouette of the Don CeSar resort – barely.

    Alls sorts of things run through your mind when you have nothing to do but think. What if the call drops? What if the phone drops? We didn’t let anyone know we were kayaking, so who would miss us? Luckily, 9-1-1 answered the call. The young lady on the other end really couldn’t comprehend what our predicament was, and finally she asked “are you near a restaurant?”. My wife then tactfully got someone else on the line and within a few minutes the person understood the situation, and help was on the way. You can’t imagine how relieved I was. Not just for me, but for the victim of my miscalculation, my wife.

    I use comedy in tense or uncomfortable situations. This situation certainly fit, so I started singing the words from the Gilligan’s Island theme. Yeah, that was funny for about 6 seconds. We were still a long way from being rescued.

    During this time, several boats came within sight but because of the waves a
    nd wind, we were neither seen nor heard. Those plastic whistles do no good in this situation. The 9-1-1 dispatcher stated that boats from the Coast Guard, Sherriff’s Office, and the police were on the way. A local college had also been listening to the channel so they had a boat enroute as well. 4 boats on the way, I felt a lot better. I sang the song again really loud, with my inside voice.

    They wanted to know how far offshore we were. Hell, how would we know? We could still see land, though it was very faint. We said 2 miles. The boats were doing a zig-zag search but were way too close to shore. We could see/hear them, but all we could do was watch. All this time, my wife *still* has the phone to her shoulder, riding the increasing waves. She told the dispatcher that they were looking the wrong way – we were further out to sea than 2 miles.

    First there were no boats. Then suddenly we were surrounded by boats. My wife got off the phone. The Coast Guard came to my aid. The Coastie said “hey, how’s it going?”. I replied, “I lost my hat”. Everyone laughed. The Sherriff and the police went on about their business – everything is under control now.

    The folks in the Eckerd College boat asked my wife if she wanted to paddle in. Marshall guitar amplifiers ruined my hearing years ago, but somehow I heard that and responded, “PUT HER IN THE BOAT”. They did. I was now able to breathe again. For me, I expected I could just pull myself into the Coastie boat, but I was dead weight and pretty much helpless. They pulled me over the side and carefully brought my kayak on board, apologizing if they scratched it. Trust me, at this point I could care less. I was content to sit on the gunwale but they had me sit in the middle of the boat (so they wouldn’t have to fish me out again).

    Now it’s time to pass along some information – where do you live, etc. I was so exhausted that I couldn’t relay that simple information. Then I remembered I had my fishing license in the back pouch of my seat, so I just handed that to him. They filled out paperwork, I kept eye contact with my wife in the other boat. Once that was done, they wanted to know where we wanted to be dropped off. What the heck, take us back to point A. By the way, I asked how far offshore we were. It was a little over 4 miles (C being where we were picked up, D being where we were dropped off). From my best guess, here is roughly where the rescue took place. Sobering, to say the least.

    On the way in, the Coasties wanted to chat about fishing. I just wanted to rest, but certainly didn’t mind entertaining these guys. They told me that they saw my wife’s RED boat first before they saw my YELLOW boat. The waves were now 4 footers and the wind had picked up a little more. The sun was setting, marking the end of the day. Both boats graciously brought us up to about the same place where we launched from. We launched from 3rd avenue, we were at about 6th avenue, I wasn’t about to complain. The folks in the Eckerd College boat helped my wife back in to her boat and she scampered to shore. Keep in mind we are almost in the breakers but the boats couldn’t get much closer to shore. The Coasties wanted to help me back in to my boat, but I was so tired I knew I’d simply fall out again. So, I hopped overboard with my PFD as tight as it would go. I swam back to shore, they made sure we were standing on the beach, and both boats were gone.

    Here were are, standing on the beach, wind howling, waves crashing all around us, but to me it was almost silent. We pulled the boats way up next to the grass, and held hands walking back home. We didn’t say much.

    We collected ourselves and walked to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Neither one of us felt like cooking, believe it or not. We didn’t talk much then either. It was a lot to comprehend and soak in. Sunday, we eventually made it back down to the beach to collect our boats. We fully expected them to be stolen, but no. They were still there, paddles laying across the cockpits. We drug them home, I threw them in the backyard. They didn’t get touched again for months.

    You better believe I sent that girl some flowers on Monday. Guys, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner … I’m just sayin’ …

    WHAT HAS CHANGED SINCE THEN:
    Since then, I’ve certainly become more aware of safety and the potential results of taking calculated risks. Even the best of plans can swirl around the bowl given the right circumstances. I check the tides, I check the wind, and still despise even the smallest of waves. But now, I plan better. It’s a routine, so it’s much easier to repeatedly do.

    • PFD: I have been given 2 very nice PFD’s (Thanks Tom, Thanks Ingrid), so I have no excuse not to be wearing one, all the time. Your favorite quarterback makes great passes while wearing shoulder pads and a helmet. If my QB can do that, surely I can cast and paddle with a PFD on.
    • Radios: We now have 2 waterproof, floating VHF radios. We also know how to use them in an emergency.
    • Drybags for phones: This is a backup in case the radios don’t work – backup only. We got lucky and had cell coverage 4 miles out in to the Gulf of Mexico.
    • Safety kits: Again, thanks to a couple folks (Fox40 Marine and Orion), I have a collection of flares, smoke, light sticks, whistles, mirrors, rope, flashlight, etc. These items STAY on my boat – period.
    • Float plan: Don’t leave shore without one. A quick call or text to someone before you launch is enough.
    • Anchor w/rope: I rarely use one, but that day it would have been priceless.
    • Have a plan, stick to the plan: Enough said.
    • Deep water entry: Try it in shallow water during bad weather with a partner (since anyone can be a captain while still in port). If deep water re-entry isn’t an option, you better have a great back-up plan (like me).

    I’m not one to preach because I probably still won’t wear my PFD all the time. Not much need for me to practice deep water re-entry because I don’t have the upper body strength to do it. However, my phone, radio, safety gear, anchor, and all the rest will be in locations accessible while I’m IN the water – that’s the best I can do.

    Just take a few moments before your next outing to imagine the worst case scenario, and plan for it. Do the best you can do to keep from losing your hat like I did …

  • #118720
    lostsurfer
    lostsurfer
    Participant

    WOW!!!! I have read posts on this board since the beginning, and yours is the best one ever!!!! Educational, entertaining, funny, and has a happy ending to boot!!! It’s a good thing this happened in August and not January, eh? My wife and I enjoy sunset dinners on the north end of Caladesi often. The tide tends to really rip up here too some days. I guess I better hope she doesn’t see your post.

  • #118725

    flatshead
    Member

    Very upstanding of you to explain your mistake to so many but in turn could very well save many lives. Glad you made it OK with jusy a new outlook on the strength of tidal waters. Do you still hum that song to yourself as your going out fishing?

    Cudos to the help!

  • #118728
    Grandoug
    Grandoug
    Participant

    A well written piece that needs to be published in a “true story” column somewhere…

  • #118735

    John J Roche
    Member

    “Story of the Week!” movie quality.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • #118760

    Very intense story! Glad to hear everything ended well.

  • #118770

    Jerry White
    Participant

    Grandoug wrote: A well written piece that needs to be published in a “true story” column somewhere…

    Thanks … I did write it up in my column …

    http://paddling.net/guidelines/showArticle.html?360

  • #118784
    Neil Taylor
    Neil Taylor
    Keymaster

    Jerry and I talked about this one back when it happened. The success in this story was that they’re still here to talk about it.

    The reality to point A to B in a self powered boat is knowing the currents and winds (especially if they’re both going the same direction).

    I steer clear of being in pass area for a reason. But I am close enough to major current a majority of the time to tell you that Geometry is applicable. Aiming straight toward your destination may lead to more work getting there when paddling.

  • #118794

    Bob Doria
    Member

    Thanks for relaying your story. I saw that episode of “I shouldn’t be alive.” Things happen quickly and even the best preparations aren’t enough. Glad that this one had a happy ending.

  • #118919

    Thanks for sharing that story

  • #121103

    Daniel
    Member

    thanks for sharing your story. there were a couple of times were my heart was in my throat. With that being said mind all these passes paddlers.. Look how many people have messed up at honey moon island…and diferent passes that can be unrelenting..

  • #168430
    Neil Taylor
    Neil Taylor
    Keymaster

    “Gunner” recalled this story and wanted to see if this one could be shared with the group again. With all the talk on safety, it’s a good one to have people read again.

    Thank you to Jerry for sharing this story.

  • #168442

    ken morrow
    Participant

    That is a really bad pass to be caught on the south side of trying to paddle north on an outgoing tide! Add an easterly wind and you’re screwed, I don’t care who you are.

    You can’t even get a good angle coming off the island there to let the current carry you to the opposite point after a paddle upwind/stream and then turning the bow into the flow and tacking across. (geometry…as Neil says)
  • #168448

    illangler
    Member

    Amazing story, thanks for sharing this here and glad you and your wife are ok.

  • #168452

    Joe Saunders
    Participant

    One of the many things that impressed me about that story was the CG telling the guy that they saw the wife’s red kayak before the guy’s yellow one.
    One of my kayaks in Maine is white and yellow. Always thought that was a good color combo to be seen. After reading the story, my next kayak will be red.

    Joe

  • #169014

    Jerry White
    Participant

    That was definitely one of those events that will make a lifelong memory. We now live at Tierra Verde and spend a lot of time at Shell Island … on the backside.

    We like to enjoy a good meal at Island Grill on TV, and always sit outside when available. Sometimes we will see a kayaker making that same crossing, and that will take away my appetite. But, it has given me the chance to see how well red and yellow boats stand out from a distance. Yellow gets washed out some by any sort of wave action but red still stands out. My wife has always had a red boat, I still stick with yellow. But, now we also each have Horizon floating VHF radios, I have flares, whistles (worthless if there’s no one to hear it), phones in dry bags, and a float plan filed with someone. Most importantly, I *try* not to make any more bad decisions.

  • #169151

    david maddox
    Member

    have you become able to re-enter your kayak from deep water? i think that would be a priority to me. thanks for the update post.

  • #169395

    Jerry White
    Participant

    I *have* tried with limited success. So, KNOWING my limitations, I don’t give fate the finger.

    I have wind chimes on my balcony – if I hear them in the morning, I don’t go paddling. Waves are bad, okay?

    SInce I live at Tierra Verde, Fort DeSoto is my oyster. And, as much as I like Shell Island, I don’t paddle the Gulf side because that is where *IT* started. I’ll fish from the beach all day long though …

    99% of good safety is knowing your limitations and having a solid plan “B”.

  • #169419

    ken morrow
    Participant

    gunner wrote: One of the many things that impressed me about that story was the CG telling the guy that they saw the wife’s red kayak before the guy’s yellow one.
    One of my kayaks in Maine is white and yellow. Always thought that was a good color combo to be seen. After reading the story, my next kayak will be red.

    Joe

    Being a fly fisherman with a decades-long background trout fishing, I have some experience in the experimentation and study of fluorescent and bright color visibility to the human eye in various types of sunlight. When fishing dry flies, terrestrials, and with tiny indicators, this comes in VERY handy. For example, white disappears in the foam line on a trout stream. It also disappears in reflected sunlight. So does yellow. Orange sticks out like a sore thumb in the foam line and low-light conditions. Red sucks in low light, but works great on clear water and bright sun. The list goes on and on, with each color having strengths and weaknesses. Overall, fluorescent orange is the ONLY color that does not appear in nature AND is the most visible in the broadest variety of light and background conditions. That is why it is used in so many safety applications. Before it came along, red was the color of choice. Yellow is the dominant color of sunlight, and fades away in bright light at a distance. But it is brightly visible at close range against a wide variety of backgrounds.
    99% of good safety is knowing your limitations and having a solid plan “B”. ~pag-yaker

    That quote from pag-yaker is the single best thing anyone can say about safety…except I’d modify it to say plan A and B. Some folks might not get that there is a Plan A implied.
  • #169421

    Nicholas
    Participant

    Wow what an emotional read. Thank you for sharing and thank the good lord your ok. Your very blessed my friend……your still here for a reason, make it count!

  • #169449

    That was a great read. Glad you are ok. Reading things like that always get me thinking and like someone said you may have saved a few lives by sharing that. Always expect the unexpected!

  • #169454
    Neil Taylor
    Neil Taylor
    Keymaster

    There are always lessons to be learned from others. This is one that should really help keep people out of certain situations. Kudos to Jerry for telling his story.

  • #169556

    Good read and thank you for sharing.

  • #169929

    Jerry White
    Participant

    Glad it was of some value – that was my intention when I shared the tale. It may come back to bite me, but I still only wear a PFD in certain situations.

    1 – If I know I’ll be covering some deep water

    2 – If expect to share waters with heavy boat traffic (the Caladesi crossing comes to mind)

    3 – If it appears that bumpy weather is between me and the launch

    I might be able to do a deep water entry back in to the Hobie because I could use the Mirage drives for a little handle. But since I’m built like a sports car (wide, low to the ground) it would be tough in any boat.

  • #169941
    Neil Taylor
    Neil Taylor
    Keymaster

    pag_yaker wrote:

    2 – If expect to share waters with heavy boat traffic (the Caladesi crossing comes to mind)

    Not a big problem. Launch 100 yards more to the east, limiting the time you are in a traffic zone. The closer you are to the pass, the wider the area that you are in boat channel. To the east a short distance the width of the boat channel is 20 to 30 yards. You could have traffic outside the channel but usually don’t

  • #169976

    bigjohn
    Member

    Had a similar adventure one evening between caladese and Dunedin causeway.

    On the trip back to our car a wave hit my kayak and turned me over, In the

    process of helping me I turned my wife’s kayak over (no good deed goes unpunished After a number of trys I came to the conclusion these little 70YO

    arms were not going to get this 300LB body back in that kayak. Luckily we were able to swim our kayaks back to caladese and reenter our kayaks. We got

    to our car a little after dark swore we’d never do that again. Before anyone asks

    we had two very good life vests and we were wearing them. Has anyone besides

    me ever noticed when your that close to the water at night that every wave looks like a sharks fin.

  • #172916
    Neil Taylor
    Neil Taylor
    Keymaster

    bigjohn wrote:

    Had a similar adventure one evening between caladese and Dunedin causeway.

    On the trip back to our car a wave hit my kayak and turned me over, In the

    process of helping me I turned my wife’s kayak over (no good deed goes unpunished After a number of trys I came to the conclusion these little 70YO

    arms were not going to get this 300LB body back in that kayak. Luckily we were able to swim our kayaks back to caladese and reenter our kayaks. We got

    to our car a little after dark swore we’d never do that again. Before anyone asks

    we had two very good life vests and we were wearing them. Has anyone besides

    me ever noticed when your that close to the water at night that every wave looks like a sharks fin.

    John,
    I teach people in navigating that area that “where you cross” can eliminate a lot of problems. The more to the east that you go to make that trek, the narrower the boat channel; the less the current that’s running in or out of Hurricane Pass.

    So, if you’re passing through between markers 9 and 10 the amount of time you are in the busy boat channel area is less. Also, the proximity to shallow water is also much less. So if you do encounter some kind of problem, getting to a shallow area where you can exit the boat is much easier.

    If you get into trouble crossing closer to the Pass, the likelihood that you are in water that is way over your head or that you are in current that is going to sweep you up the channel or (worse) toward the pass and into the Gulf of Mexico is much greater.

    Those waves that look like chark fins, get that out of your mind. The big charks that are there stay down eleven feet deep.

  • #172922

    I can see the movie description now….–Riveting says the New York Times

    That was a very good story and read….Actually, that was probably the best story I have read in 10 years. The end is what got me. You and her walking back hand in hand while leaving the kayaks…that is real human emotion right there!

  • #174615

    Jerry White
    Participant

    Now that I have waterproof floating VHF radios, I don’t leave shore without one … even if I’m on a buddy’s …

  • #200902

    Good learning lesson, especially because you didn’t drown!
    I’d make point A the causeway just before the toll both at Ft Desoto on the right next time, because there’s no boat traffic to speak of, and you can stand up if you flip while setting the hook !

    Oh yea………….you’ll be near a restaurant too !!!

  • #209943

    Ken Roy
    Participant

    First time I have read this. Absolutely riveting story. Back when Sport Fishing Magazine was publishing stories, this tale would have appeared unedited and you would have made some bucks or tackle.

    Thank you for your warning. I plan to start wearing my inflatable at all times in the yak.

    I haven’t practiced a deep water entry in a while. I ought to get to it.

  • #209945
    Neil Taylor
    Neil Taylor
    Keymaster

    Ken,
    This is a story that we want to keep around for obvious reasons. People downplay or just don’t realize the risks. I have been out every day the past five days. I encountered four situations that were potentially dangerous. All avoided because of my experience. Other people: Might have made the news.

    People need to try to learn from Jerry and anyone else who has shared an experience. But mostly: Be alert. Think ahead: What might happen given the current scenario. Being ready eliminates part of the panic factor. Knowing and having practiced Deep Water Reentry eliminates the panic factor

  • #418061
    ntaylor
    ntaylor
    Keymaster

    Safety revisited.      Learn from others.   Don’t be in this situation.

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