Friday, July 8, 2016

A Day on the Blackwater River

My Aunt Ree flew in from California for a visit and mentioned to my Dad that she'd like to go on a kayaking trip with us.

He told me about it and I planned a trip on the Blackwater River.

The past few times we've been down the Blackwater we put in at Bryant Bridge – which makes for an eleven mile paddle. It's an easy paddle but because of the distance there isn't really much time to stop and play on the sandbars.

So for this trip we put in four miles upstream at the launch Blackwater Canoe Rental uses so we could stop and play on as many sandbars as we wanted.

The Oldest Island Boy and I were to meet everyone at the launch site that morning so I went on Google Maps and Google Earth to make sure I knew where it was and how to get there.

There happened to be a geocache at the entrance to the road leading to the launch so when we got up there I pulled over and found the cache. As I was getting back into the truck my Dad drove by. The Island Girl was in her car behind him and he said they were taking her car to the pick up spot and would meet me at the drop off.

No problem. The Oldest and I drove down the road to the launch, only we didn't see a launch. There were several trails leading off the road but none that looked like what I'd seen on the map and considering the fact that I was pulling a trailer loaded with yaks I didn't really want to “explore” each trail until I found the right one.

We called my Dad and told him I wasn't sure which trail to take so he said to come back up to the “graded road” and wait for him.

Well, the part of the road we were on was gravel so we traveled back up the road until we hit blacktop – thinking that was what he meant by graded and pulled over to wait.

The Oldest and I are sitting there and after a few minutes I see a truck pull off the main road quite a ways from us. I couldn't tell if it was Dad or not so we continued sitting and waiting.

Until my phone rang and Dad wanted to know what we were doing. I told him we were waiting on him and then I asked if that was his truck I could see off in the distance.

He told me it was so I asked why they were just sitting up there and he said “Because you aren't on the right road.”


I drove up to where he was and then followed him to the actual road the launch is on.

I don't know how he knew where to go because Google Maps and Earth have to be wrong or else I would have been on the right road.

We got our yaks in the water and were off.

It was unbelievably hot but the water was nice and cold so we stopped on just about every sandbar we passed to swim and cool off.

There were tons of people on the river in tubes, kayaks and canoes so we got to do some people watching as well.

It was a great day of paddling, swimming and visiting and I think my Aunt enjoyed her time on the river with us.

About 4:00 we decided we'd had all of the sun and heat we could stand so we decided to paddle on down to the landing.

I pulled up the map on my phone to see how much farther we had to go and was shocked to realize we still had many miles to go.

Not believing that was possible, Dad took my phone and then started laughing. Turns out I was looking in the wrong direction.

Good grief! I can get lost even when I'm looking at a map with a blue dot showing where I am!

Luckily the landing was just around the next bend so off we went, making it back in about 5 minutes.

The Island Girl's car was there and she was going to drive Dad and I back down to pick up our trucks.


When we got to the landing she realized that the keys to her car were in Dad's truck – miles away.

Which wasn't surprising - she is my daughter.

We talked for a minute about how to retrieve the keys but considering the fact that we were pretty much in the middle of nowhere the only solution was for us to WALK back to the trucks and drive them to the landing.

Holy cow!

So Dad, my Aunt and the Oldest Island Boy waited with our stuff while the Island Girl, E, and I started walking.

It was still really hot, we were sun-baked and tired and now we're hiking down a dirt road with zero shade - and NO breeze.

As we were walking I told them that maybe we'd get lucky and a good ole boy in a pickup truck would come by and give us a ride.

After about 20 minutes my wish came true and a guy and his daughter drove up.

He was coming from the launch but he stopped and said “You aren't walking all the way back to the launch, are you?”

Yes we are. I explained about the keys to our pick up car being left in our drop off truck so he told us to hop in the back and he'd drive us down there.

The Island Girl, E, and I jumped in the back of his truck – happier than I think any of us have been in years. As tired and hot as we were it would have taken at least an hour or more for us to walk down there.

He turned around and drove us the 2.5 miles down to the launch.

We thanked him profusely and off he went.

The Island Girl and E got in Dad's truck, I got in mine and we drove back to the pick up spot.

Sadly, that wasn't the end. We now had to haul our 6 yaks and all of our gear up a long, sandy hill and then secure them in the trucks before we could leave.

Finally, everything was loaded and we were ready to head home.

I hugged my Aunt and told her that I was sorry she'd had to wait while we retrieved the keys but that is just how things work in my world.

She reads my blog so she knew something would happen and told me not to worry about it. She had a great time and fully expected something to go wrong.

It was a long day but we really did have a good time and as soon as I recover from this trip I'll be ready to do it again.

Only next time I'm going to make damn sure the keys to the pick up car are with us.

Thanks for going on an adventure with us Aunt Ree – we really enjoyed spending the day with you!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

4th of July 2016

We spent the 4th out in our boat, playing in the water, grabbing a geocache hidden on the Island and having dinner on the beach.

A perfect 4th of July day.

Just before dark we decided to move the boat from where we were off of Okaloosa Island to the beach at the bridge so we'd have a better view of the fireworks.

There were about 1.4 million boats out so finding a spot was challenging and as we were cruising along it got dark on us – which made it even harder to find a spot to pull up.

We spotted an empty patch of sand and pulled in. At this particular spot you have to throw out an anchor on your stern as well as a bow anchor so the current doesn't slam the back of your boat onto the beach.

As we were pulling up, a man from the pontoon boat next to us pointed out his stern line and then walked up to the bow and told the Island King he'd pull us onto the beach so we wouldn't hit his line.

It's common for locals to help each other out like that so we gladly accepted his offer, cut the motor and then he and the Island King secured our boat.

After the fireworks the people in the boat to our right were getting ready to pull out and since we had a stern line out as well, the Island King offered to push them off so they wouldn't hit our line.

They were an older couple and I think he got a little confused because as the Island King was pushing him off the beach he put his motor in reverse and promptly ran over our stern line.

The guy from the pontoon on the other side of us came over to help and after taking a look at the line they realized it was too tangled and had to be cut.

We had extra line so we tied our anchor to that line and reset it to wait for the crowd to thin out before we headed back to the boat ramp.

Then the people in the pontoon backed off the beach and as they were trying to pull their stern line the current caught the front of their boat and slammed it into the boat on the other side of it.

The Island King jumped out to help them get their anchor up and between him and one of the guys from the pontoon they managed to get the anchor up and they were on their way without hitting any more boats.

After they left we sat there for a few minutes talking about what a bad night for stern lines it was.

Thank goodness none of these people were drunk and everyone was able to work together to get their boats off the beach.

Then it was our turn. The Island King pulls the bow anchor and I'm backing off the beach when the current grabbed the boat and instantly I knew I was going to hit our stern line before he could get back in the boat and pull that anchor.

I turned the motor off just in time and the stern line did wrap around the prop a few times but since the prop wasn't spinning it didn't cut the rope.

I jumped off the bow and pulled us back on the beach while he went to the back of the boat to unwrap the line from the prop.

I got back on the boat and then heard him yell and then say he needed a light.

As I was getting the light to the back of the boat I asked if he was ok and he tells me that he cut his finger but will be alright.

I got the light and shined it in the water so he could see to unwrap the rope and I swear there was blood pouring off of his hand like you wouldn't believe.

There was so much of it that it wasn't even dissolving in the current – just a steady flow of blood streaming out with the tide.

I told the Island Girl to get the first aid kit out and told him to him to get out of the water to take care of his hand while I jumped in and finished unwrapping the line.

I unwrapped the line and back into the boat I go only to see that there was blood EVERYWHERE.

The Island Girl has taken a bucket and is throwing water all over the boat trying to get rid of the blood, he's sitting there looking at his hand – which is still spurting blood everywhere even though he'd put a compression bandage on it – and I'm in we're going to the ER mode.

Straight back to the boat ramp we go, drive the boat around the corner to the house and then the kids cleaned the boat while I took him to the ER.

Which required a LOT of work on my part. He refuses to ever go to the doctor so he kept saying “it'll be ok” even though blood is still pouring out of his bandage.
I told him we weren't going to fight about this and to get in the damn car because we were going and we were going RIGHT THEN.

We got really lucky and the ER was empty when we got there so they stitched him up and we were in and out in under 30 minutes. I told the ER doc that I was surprised they weren't busy and he said it had been coming in waves all day. We got lucky and came in between waves and as we were leaving 3 different ambulances were on the radio telling the ER they were on their way in with patients.

It's his right index finger which is his shutter and mouse finger so working may be painful for a few days but he'll live.

At the ER the nurse asked if the prop was running when it hit him and I laughed and said “No, if the prop had been spinning he wouldn't have a hand anymore and we'd be in a trauma room right now.”

She looked at me kind of funny and that was it. I'd been in the boat for the past 10 hours, stern lines caused the people on either side of us to have trouble and then our own stern line got tangled and now we're ending the day in the ER.

So I started laughing. Hard. She looked at the Island King like “you poor man, your wife thinks this is funny” and then he started laughing too. And neither of us could stop.

We laughed all the way home about the comedy of stern line errors and were both thankful that he wasn't hurt worse than he was.

We got home, relaxed for a bit and then went to bed.

It was an amazing day on the water, an entertaining night on the beach and even though he got hurt it wasn't anything major.

Now I've got to go outside and make sure the kids got all of the blood off the boat – right after I explain to my Mother that he didn't blow his finger off with a firecracker. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Summer Solstice and a Birthday

The Youngest Island Boy is our summer child. His birthday is on the Summer Solstice so naturally we celebrate his birthday on the water.

This year his brother and sister were both out of town but he wanted to spend the day with his girlfriend, Miss B, so it was just them and the Island King and I.

We left the dock in the late afternoon, bounced across the Bay and anchored at our favorite spot on Okaloosa Island.

It wasn't long before I noticed two dolphin swimming pretty close to the shore. I hurried up to the beach and ran down to where they were and waded out towards them.

They were circling a school of mullet and not paying any attention to me so I was able to get about 30 feet from them when they closed in for the feast.

I got a video but it's pretty shaky because I was walking fast through the water but I got a really cool view of them.

I guess it's weird but even though I have seen dolphin on a regular basis my entire life and have been fortunate enough to swim with them a few times, I still get just as excited as someone who's never seen one before.

There is something magical about them that always leaves me in awe.

The sun started to set and I noticed that my son was standing on the point with his girlfriend watching the sun set.

We've always watched the sunset together and even though I spied on him with binoculars last time I decided to leave them be and watched the sunset with the Island King. Not that that was a problem – I do love the old guy but it's not his birthday.

The sun did not disappoint and the sunset was the perfect end to the longest day of the year.

As an added bonus, Tuesday night was a once in a lifetime astrological event, a Strawberry Moon was expected to rise.

The moon was supposed to rise about an hour after the sun set so we spent that time making dinner.

Kabobs on the grill and a salad are always his birthday dinner choice so that's what we had.

We ate, he blew out the candles on his cake

And just as we finished the brightest red/orange moon I've ever seen started to rise.

My husband is a professional photographer but he refuses to bring his work equipment on the boat so we were stuck with Iphone pictures.

Sadly, they do no justice to just how beautiful it was.

Once the moon got higher in the sky it lost it's color (at least where we were) but was so bright it was like daylight out there.

We enjoyed the critter sounds coming from the Island, talked a while and then packed everything up and headed home.

Spending that day in the warm water next to our boat, seeing our son so happy with to be in the water and with Miss B, getting such a close up look at the dolphin, enjoying a beautiful sunset and then seeing the Strawberry Moon rise was incredible.

The Youngest had an amazing birthday and we all had an evening to remember.

Happy Birthday Son!

Friday, June 3, 2016

His First Date

The Youngest Island Boy has been telling us his wants to take his girlfriend on a date.

His first date.

He told us that he wanted to take her to dinner on the harbor and then have the water taxi drive them around for a while but that he couldn't afford both dinner and a boat ride.

I told him that his Dad and I could be their water taxi for the evening and that we'd pick them up at the docks after they ate, give them a sunset cruise and then take them over to the beach to watch the Thursday night fireworks.

He was skeptical at first. Why he thought we might embarrass him I have no idea 

but he finally decided it was a good plan.

He and his Dad went down to the restaurant he wanted to take her to and reserved a perfect table right on the water and then later the Island King dropped him off at the harbor to meet Miss B.

The Island King came home, we hopped in the boat and cruised around to the harbor to wait for the Youngest to call us to come and pick him and Miss B up for their boat ride.

I was so nervous for the boy. He's never been on a date before, he's never been to a nice restaurant without us before and he's my baby so I couldn't help but hope that everything would go ok.

We beached the boat on Norriego Point – which is just across the harbor from the restaurant and waited for him to call us.

It was a beautiful afternoon and even though we enjoyed watching the boats go by I couldn't help wondering how things were going for the Youngest.

I'm not sure if this makes me one of those weird stalker moms or not but I couldn't resist taking a peek.

I got a text message with a picture attached from the Youngest at one point that said “I can see you”

Thank goodness his camera didn't catch me with the binoculars.

They called when dinner was over and we drove over to the fuel dock to pick them up.

Once they were aboard we cruised out of the harbor and across to the jetties for the fireworks show.

Again, why would the Youngest think we might embarrass him?

We made it to the beach and they headed off, around the point, for a front row seat to watch the fireworks.

Which – as always – were spectacular.

The Island King and I hung out, watched the fireworks and talked to a drunk woman who stopped and asked if we were from here.

We told her yes so she asked if she put her rowboat in the water and then got drunk could she be arrested for drunk driving.

I told her that I'd never heard of an RUI (rowing under the influence) but that I didn't think getting drunk in a row boat was a good idea.

She then asked if she could be arrested for being drunk if she put a little motor on her rowboat.

We told her yes and then the Island King suggested she hire the Water Taxi to haul her around if she wanted to get drunk – instead of trying to row or drive her little boat anywhere.

She liked that idea and off she went, happy that she'd found a way to drink and boat at the same time without getting a ticket.

We were happy too. Another drunk boater around here is the last thing anyone needs.

After the fireworks were over we drove back to the boat ramp and then the Youngest and I took Miss B home.

She seemed to have a really good time and told the Youngest that this was an awesome date.

Waterfront dining, a sunset boat ride and fireworks on the beach – he's going to have to work pretty hard to top this date.

And I promise not to will try not to watch him through the binoculars next time.