Today January 18th 2009, 3 friends have left for a kayaking journey to circumnavigate the Florida Keys. They are doing this to raise awareness of our “Wounded Warriors”. Sean Fitzgibbons who is an amputee himself and works for “St. PetersburgLimb & Brace” along with Jeff Fabiszewski is performing their 2nd circumnavigation for this cause. You can read more about their efforts at http://www.liquidrhythmkayaking.com/ and http://topahonu.wordpress.com/. Bryan Doleman who is a paramedic for the St. Petersburg Fire Department, and an avid paddler and works part time for one of our local kayak outfitters, as well as a guide for a local paddle club. He has an ACA certification, and is a veteran himself. Jeff got his ACAinstructor/guide certification withBryan a few years ago has a history with the Boy Scouts of America. He is currently employed by EckerdCollege. He currently volunteers for “Team River Runner” a national program to bring water sports to our wounded veterans. His passion is Greenland style kayaking as well as his family.
Bryan, Sean and Jeff
I know that it is hard to leave your daily routines, wives and children to make this trip. I am sure that you also join me in wishing them good luck and a safe journey.
They will be starting from Key Largo on the Atlantic side and returning up the gulf side. You can follow their daily progress here at http://kayakkev.wordpress.com/
01/18/2009 I just got my first report. The boys had a great drive down other than the jitters are setting in. They are staying the night at Key Largo Kamp and fixing a crab pasta for dinner. Sean and Bryan are sleeping in their “Tree Hugger” hammocks, Jeff is using his one man tent. They have plans of being on the water by 8am EST. Jeff is using my Expedition Single and a “Tuktu” paddle, Bryan is in his “Eddyline Night Hawk 16″ using a “Bending Branches” paddle. Sean is in his “Atlantis Mist T” with his favorite “Bending Branches” paddle.
01/19/2009- Day 2 The first leg of the paddle andthe boys made it to Windy Key. A distance of about 22 miles. They fought a 18mph head wind for most of the day, 1 – 1 1/2 foot swells. Had rain for most of the afternoon, and was very impressed with their “Columbia Omniwear” and “Kokatat” jackets. Luck was on their side first thing this morning when the people camping next to them last night, followed Bryan to where he was leaving his truck for the trip and gave him a ride back to the launch so he didn’t have to walk. Thank you kind people.
01/20/09- Day 3 They are facing their first encounter with Mother Nature. The Keys are being affected with the same Artic Blast that the rest of the nation is facing. With a west wind of 25mph gusting to 35, they are needing to hunker down. They are having problems as to where they can do this. Tomorrow the winds will change out of the north which will put it to their backs and riding the swells instead of getting hit by them breech. Lets hope someone on Windley Key, or Islamorada will help them with a 6×6 piece of land.
Okay, after much grumbling they got a late start and faced the weather to paddle about 6 miles to Indian Key. Here they met a fellow paddler that knows the area very well and gave them a map of all the areas in which they can camp. You know this Gentleman whos name is Paddler Ron from Wisconsin is a good guy cause he has a black CockerSpaniel named Gala as a paddling partner. With Rons help they found a location that is protected by trees that they can set up camp and wait out todays bad weather. Hopefully the wind direction will change tonight and they can continue in the morning.
(Ron and his partner Gala)
01/21/09 Day 4 Today was not a good day. This Artic Front blew it’s worst today andwas a trial for all mankind. The Boys found themselves in 30 mph winds, swift hard currents, strong tides, and 4-5 foot swells. In crossing two bridges, they had to paddle right at the bridges to be kept from being swept out to sea. All this hard work netted them only about 12 miles to Long Key. They are staying the night on a famous Florida chickee. Spirits are still up even though they froze last night, and muscles are sore from fighting the water all day. All 3 admitted that the bridge crossings was very scary, but so far, so good. I was glad to report to them that the weather only improves for the next week. The worst is over.
Jeff called me later this evening. Again spirits are high and he is ready to complete this journey. He did admit it was hard with sleeping bags rated for 50 degrees and the nights being low 40s, the rats running all over his tent to the point it was unnerveing to see and hear them outside while he was inside. And then to paddle the day with his yak (actually all 3 yaks) at an angle to the direction he was aimed. His tricep is tight from using a constant right hand sweep stroke.
01/22/09 Day 5 Just got a call from Sean. The weather has not improved much if at all. They are all freezing with the temps being lower there than they are in Denver CO. As of 10 AM they are going to sit tight one more night on the chickee and see if tomorrow the winds let up. Remember that the Keys are experiencing record cold with strong winds. Plus they can’t even make a fire to warm up (chickees are wood platforms).