December 5


By far the earliest I have been up the entire trip. I was packed up and ready to paddle before the sun was up. I had to wait for the sun to rise to see the water conditions to decide if I was going to take the ocean or the bay. At first light I decided to take the side which was my first choice. I had forgotten how beautiful this key is. While there are houses and hotels, none of it is tacky. I continued down seeing only a few people on the beach. I actually counted them, 100 in the 10 miles of beach front. That included about 30 at the resort at the south end of the island. Another reason I love this island. It was like a paddle down memory lane. I finally paddled up to the resort where I used to work. I was the Recreation Manager. Or as my friends called it The Director of Fun. I was responsible for the beach, pool, water sports, and kids program. The resort has since closed and fallen into disrepair. It was once the number 1 beach and tennis resort in the world. President George W Bush was staying there when the 9/11 attacks happened. It was hard to see what used to be a thriving resort, fenced off and rotting. The only part you could see were the parts I was responsible for. The place where I spent a majority of my time while living in Florida. The pool that I got licensed to operate and fought day in and day out to keep spotless now growing 5 foot weeds in dark slimy water. The palm leaf tiki hut that I shared a beer with celebrities under now just stick frames.  A beach where I once led an egg toss of 200 plus people completely empty. It was a surreal feeling. I instantly wanted to start cleaning. I would have never thoughIi would see it look like that in my entire life. But then again I never though I could or would be able to live my life with out drinking. After several pictures and even more head shakes I climbed back to my boat and paddled on down the beach in silence. I reached the end of the island and turned inland. I pulled off at the New Pass Bait shop to talk to my old bait shrimp dealer. When I pulled up I heard some one yell my name. I should have been alarmed but by now nothing really surprises me. It was a guy who was sitting next to me yesterday eating after I crossed the bay. He definitetly knew all the hot spots around the islands since we kept running into each other. I went in and caught up with the shrimp man as I always do when I’m in the area. I didn’t stay long as I was meeting a friend next door for lunch. I paddled over to the restaurant and tied up, taking prime dock space up and pissing off people in $100,000 boats but I figured I earned it. It was great catching up with a like minded person who kept reminding me to enjoy the journey and just go with the flow. I think the waiter might have been getting upset as we were taking the table up for too long but we weren’t going anywhere. I wish I could have stayed longer but I needed to get going to find a campsite as the map made them look far and few in between. I cut through the bay paddling under the Ringling Bridge right next to the Sarasota skyline till I got to a narrow channel. It took me a while of paddling around to find a break in the mangroves and dry land to set up. Luckily I saw a perfect spot to set up. The bugs were back and I’m pretty sure you aren’t  supposed to camp there but it was tucked back far enough that no one would bother me.