Today was the fourth and final day of my training for the Bahamas. The ride was to be about 70 miles. The ocean conditions were not good and there was a small craft advisory so I had planned on taking the Inter coastal.
A few important things I didn't know about the inter coastal. It goes through many residential neighborhoods where the speed limit is 5mph. There are dozens of protected Manatee zones where you must also go 5mph.
I also learned there are numerous police boats and they are very active. The waverunner I am on is new as I just purchased it last wednesday; as such I don't have official stickers. Between the 5mph zones and getting stopped 3 times by police boats wanting to see my proof of ownership (which I had but a 20+ minute ordeal each time) It took me about 2 hours to go about 10 miles. At that rate it would take me another 8+ hours.
In addition to 8 hours just being ridiculous I was trying to make a 5:55 flight out of Miami. Logistically a pain as I needed to ride up to palm beach, get the waverunner picked up, get a rental car, drive back to Miami beach (only nonstops to LA) and get on the plane. I had figured if i could get to palm beach by 2p the plan should work. I left Miami around 9:30 so I thought 4.5 hours for the 70 miles would be fine. Thought wrong I did.
So a few hours had gone by and I had only gone about 10 miles. I mentioned to one of the police officers that I keep getting stopped and asked if there was anything I could do to stop it from happening over and over again. He gave me a form showing that they checked me out and everything was good. However he said that the next time I get pulled over (because as he informed me it would keep happening) show them the form and they wont have me go through the entire inspection.
So tough choice. Do I stay on the inter coastal and have it take forever and keep getting stopped or do I go out to the Ocean in a small craft advisory with winds at about 25mph and seas at about 6ft and try and muscle through it. You can go back and forth but there are only cut ins/outs about every 10-15 miles so you have to commit for at least a bit.
I couldn't take the 5mph and the stops so at the next cutout I ventured out into the ocean. It was rough. It was uncomfortable for sure. I didnt feel it was dangerous, just tough so I thought I would go until the next cutout in about 11 miles and then go for some refuge.
After the first 11 mile ocean run, the thought of getting caught on the inter coastal again seemed much worse. So I went and went and went. I stopped every 5 miles to rest a bit and then tackled the next 5 miles. I kept this up for about 45 miles and then with about 10 miles to go to Palm Beach I took the last cutin where there are very limited 5mph zones.
All in all the 70 miles took me about 6.5 hours. I only got off the waverunner once in that 6.5 hours and it was in the first hour to get gas. At one point my hands hurt so bad I wasn't sure I could stay out there. Then my lower back hurt and I forgot about the hands. Then that area on my arms just above the elbow, felt like someone was jamming their thumb into a pressure point right there. But I realized that these pains would subside over time as I remain focused entirely on working the waves and the swell. It became very zen like. I would go into a mode where I wasn't thinking anything. My mind did not wander. My focus was on the task at hand. I was 1000% consumer by it and although cliche the best way to ride it out was to relax and become one with the waverunner.
By the time i finished I was physically exhausted in a way that words cant describe. I was right on the verge of pushing myself too far. I was having a little trouble concentrating and was beginning to not feel quite right. I pushed to the edge and I realized that I shouldn't push quite that far. Some of it was simply how strenuous it was, some was imperfect planning on my part which I hope to learn from
I did learn several lessons including
- Bring a packed lunch. Gus from the Miami yacht club had provided me with one for the two previous days. Not for today and i was not wise enough to prepare one. I had some snacks (some almonds, an energy bar etc) but no meal. Being out there like that all day without a meal is a bad thing
- When I do these trips I should not travel far distances every single day. I traveled each of the 4 days I was here and about 275 miles overall. Each day I needed to pack everything and get it in the waverunner do the ride then unpack everything. Never spent two nights in the same place. This is just too much. Should spend a few nights in the same place and have an off day for some recuperation
- The Manatee is all powerful in Southern Florida. In addition to all of the Manatee zones, one of the police officers told me that if you hit one and kill it (which he said is easy to do if you hit them as they float with their rib cages up and exposed) its a $50,000 fine and a mandatory 1 year in prison. I did not look into this so not sure if its factual-seems odd that hitting a manatee would get you more jail time than OJ got for two murders
- If you are doing an adventure like this you MUST have a flexible schedule. Much of the situation I got in today was due to the fact that I was trying to catch a flight (which BTW I was not able to make so have to leave in the am). You cant expect yourself to physically perform like this and do it on a tight schedule. Imagine a marathon runner thinking they need to finish in 1 hour 40 minutes because the have a flight to catch. Just was not smart on my part. Travel days should not overlap with ride days.
- I would love to document these trips with photos and video as I previously mentioned. However when you are out there and its that intense, getting out the camera to snap some photos or video is just not top of mind.
- People on personal watercraft (PWC)really are treated like 3rd class citizens. I went to a fuel dock today in miami beach that refused to sell me gas. I purchased gas at a different one the other day that charges PWC $10/gallon. Yes I had no stickers on my waverunner yet but being pulled over 3 times in 30 minutes, c'mon
- While today was grueling it made me feel a bit more confident about the Bahamas crossing. While I was pretty close to shore today (a few miles offshore) the conditions were tough and I did have to plow through them for quite a distance. That being said, in a funny way, the challenge today made me both more and less confident all at the same time. You just cant predict what is going to happen and you cant control the weather. I guess that'ss partly why they call it an adventure