You’d think my previous misadventure with a sea kayak would’ve taught me to stay away from them, but I guess I’m a slow learner because last week I once again did something stupid in one.
It was my last morning in Cape san Blas, Florida, where I was enjoying spring break with my family. I wanted some activity before facing the long drive home, so I rented a kayak to take out on the ocean.
A thick fog had rolled in, but it soon cleared so I headed to the beach and paddled straight out a fair ways. After about 15 minutes I paused to look back towards the beach – just in time to see the fog rolling back in. Within seconds the beach disappeared in the fog and my visibility dropped to near-zero.
I didn’t have a compass or GPS with me (yes, that’s the dumbass part), but I figured I could just head back towards where I saw the beach before the fog came in. A half-hour later I was still paddling, no beach in sight. Turns out it’s very easy to lose your orientation with no landmarks for guidance.
At that point I decided to stay still and wait the fog out, but before long the clouds above me turned grey so waiting wasn’t an option unless I wanted to risk getting stuck in a storm. I couldn’t see anything except water, and I heard nothing except waves, so at first I wasn’t sure how I could find my way back. I hadn’t been out nearly long enough to panic, but I have to admit I was feeling quite vulnerable and stupid in my little kayak.
The fog was very thick, but luckily not so thick that it covered the sun. I remembered watching the sunset the night before, so I used the location of the sun to make my way back. I paddled hard for maybe an hour, wondering the whole time whether I was really headed in the right direction or just putting myself further out to sea.
And then the fog cleared, and way off in the distance I could see land. I was stunned at how far away from shore I was – I must’ve drifted and paddled in the wrong direction for a long time to get that far out. It took another half-hour or so of paddling before I reached the shore.
So after all that, do you think I’ll avoid kayaks in the future? No, probably not – I’m much too stubborn for that. But next time I’ll be sure to take a compass and stick closer to shore.
And I’ll also find something else to do if I see any signs of fog.