August 19

I almost died today. I honestly don't feel like that is an exaggeration at all. I'll get to that. I should have known the day was gonna be bad by the way my launch went this morning. I had to slide my boat down some steps then release it off the rocks. A guy from Texas, I had been talking to, helped out and once I had it in the water I went back to give him one of my cards. In the time it took me to hand him a card, my boat was getting pounded with water and turned sideways. I dove in and paddled out. After a quick pump and sponge job I had a dry boat. It was 15 miles to the intracoastal. 5 miles to a point then 10 miles across to a half mile wide clearing in the shore that is the intracoastal. Nothing I couldn't handle. The wind was blowing me off course but I made it to the point and took a break. There was a small beach that I could land on but the sand in the water was mucky so I couldn't really wade out to cool off. This didn't help my mental state since heat can be a major factor. I sat there for a while not wanting to paddle but knowing that the boat wasn't going to move itself. About a mile in I was barely moving in the direction I wanted. In fact I was moving in every other direction. I still couldn't see where exactly I was heading just paddling into the bay. My mind kept getting worse. It has been 80 days since I started this journey. I will be honest. Paddling is not fun anymore. I knew that this point would come. When I was hiking the Appalachian Trail I remember getting to the half way point and being excited that I had completed half of the trail. Then realizing that I still had half to go. It was the same thing. I started getting frustrated with myself more and more. The worst place you can be is in your own head. And I was deep. I started questioning why I was even out here. What's the point. I kept paddling a stroke at a time and felt like I wasn't getting anywhere. The wind kept blowing and I could see a storm starting to form on the north end of the bay. I was heading west to east. It didn't seem to be coming towards me. I checked the radar and it didn't show it coming towards me either. I could finally see the break in the trees I needed to get to camp before the intercostal. As the storm rumbled in the distance it only made me more upset than I already was. At one point I yelled at it to shut up. This was in the middle of me yelling at my self and everything else I could think of. I was aware enough to know that I was in a bad mental place but being about 6 miles from where I needed to be, if I could just make it there everything would change. All of a sudden I knew something was changing. The wind shifted. The water got choppier. About 30 birds, sea gulls, pelicans, and others flew over me at the same time coming from the north. It was like something out of a movie. I knew this was not a good sign. But in the state I was already in, I was not surprised. I looked north and could see a wall of rain and clouds coming towards me.  It started sprinkling. The sprinkling lasted less than a minute before I was in a complete downpour. I had to make a decision and fast. Fight out the 5 miles east and stay on course or tuck tail and head 2 miles south to shore. I thought about it and if I did the 2 miles to shore I would still need to them paddle the 5 miles to get where I needed to be. As I pondered the decision a lightning bolt and heavy thunder made the decision for me. Get the heck off the water. And as fast as possible. I made a 90 degree turn and pointed towards shore and dug in. By this point I was in the middle of the storm. The waves had no rhythm to them. They were throwing me up and down and all around. Every 5 feet I would paddle towards shore I would get pulled back 3 feet. I was catching a rough wave every so often that would soak me. Not that I wasn't already wet but it was filling my boat. By this point I could barely see he shore. I focused on a cell tower that had a flashing light and went for it. The waves were increasing. They were about 6 feet from top to bottom.  At one point I was paddling air because I was on top of a wave then paddling with my arms as I was in the bottom. My hands we burning from gripping the paddle.  I kept my eye on the flashing light of the tower and I would be to my right one second then on my left the next. The closer I got to shore the stronger the waves got. They were picking me up and surfing me towards land about 30 yards at a time. As much fun as this was I knew the outcome that would happen if I got turned slightly. I braced my paddle with everything I had to keep the boat straight. I had to catch myself a few times to prevent from over exhausting my body to the point where it would shut down. When I could finally see land and knew I was close enough that I wasn't going to die, I had to figure out how to land. The whole shore line was a sea wall and docks. There was about a 5 foot gap in the wall that had collapsed and was sharp rocks. There was a larger wall about 3 feet behind that. It was my only option. I knew it wasn't going to be an easy landing and the real work would start then. I struggled to get my sandals on.  I paddled like hell towards it and slammed into the rocks. I jumped out. When I splashed into the water I felt a sharp rock dig into the ball on my ankle.  There wasn’t time to feel the pain. I crawled over the rocks on my hands and knees and tried to pull my boat up. It was about 3/4 full of water and with all my gear impossible to lift. I got the nose up on shore as the waves kept crashing into the boat filling it more and more. I realized I needed to lighten it if I was going to have a chance of getting it out of the water before it completely sank. I pulled the knife off my life jacket and cut the strap that holds my bags in the boat. I started chucking my gear over the wall to solid ground. First a bag or two.  Then a water bottle. My speaker, drybox, Spaulding my Basketball, the tire from my cart and so on. I would love to have a video of all this random stuff flying over the wall with no person in sight. Some random stuff in my boat was washing out of to sea. I kept digging my hand down in the water looking for my tracking device but couldn't find it. I didn't care at this point, I just needed to get the boat out of the water and secure. I was able to get it emptied of gear and flipped over to get most of the water out after a 15 minute struggle. While I was making a last effort to pull it up on the rocks I felt my foot slip between the rocks and get trapped. I felt that pain now. I finally got my boat secured and climbed over the wall. I laid on the ground exhausted. When I was able to pull myself off the ground I limped over to a covered dock and looked out in the water to see if I could see my tracking device. All I saw was debris from my gear. About 15 tangerines, my bug spray and a few random items. I walked the shore looking to see if I could see the tracking device but no luck. The last point that uploaded showed in the middle of the bay where I started taking on water. I realized it was gone but was grateful that was the only thing missing, including my life. As I sat there collecting myself I realized that I was still alive and that when I looked at the whole situation it was kind of fun. Even though it was scary and intense at the time and I wasn't sure how/if I was going to get out alive, I made it out the other side. And surprisingly I was in a lot better place mentally. It made me realize all those small things I thought were a problem weren't problems at all. With a new outlook on everything I climbed back down the wall to the rocks and started loading my boat. You would think the last thing I would want to do is get back in the boat. And it was. But I knew I had to and not just because I had dumped all my gear all over someone's back yard. I had got knocked down and had to get back up again. I made one last look around for my tracker and pushed off to continue to where I had planned on camping. It was perfectly calm seas. The sun was setting and the sky was as pink as I have seen in 80 days since I started. It would be a lie if I said I wasn't a little timid with every stroke. I pushed on as the sun went from setting to set. I was still a little ways away so I turned on my light and got out my headlamp. But of course the headlamp shut off after a few minutes. When I finally got to the sand bar where I was camping it was low tide. I had to pull my boat quite a ways to get it to a safe place when the tides came up. I started putting up my tent and was getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. And since my bug spray was floating in the water there was nothing I could do about it. I finally got in my tent and had a moment to relax and treat my wounds. As I rubbed alcohol wipes over my legs and arms, they burned constantly. I had cuts and scraps all over I wasn’t aware of. I know it is only 4 miles to Gulf Shores, AL. I decided that it would be best to get there tomorrow and pull my life back together. I laid down and could feel my body aching and feeling like I was still on the water. It had been a long day and I was still wide awake. But the key thing is that I'm alive to tell about it. Thank you River Gods, or Mobile Bay Gods in this case.