Angle to Key West: Wreckage of a Bad Night (5/16)

Not a good place to sleep

Okracoke, NC – May 16, 2013

The smell of bird shit woke me up. I could taste it in the air. The baking sun cooked it thick enough to chew. I pulled myself up and peered over the edge of the duck blind. The kayak floated in the water below me, tied to the blind’s rotting stilts with every rope I had.

Half-a-mile from shore, nothing stopped wind from racing up the sound, roaring, battering, howling against the thin plywood walls. The blind had rocked all night. I hardly slept. Every few minutes I sat up to shine my headlight down in the darkness at the boat, half expecting to see her upside down or broken ropes dangling in the water.

Yesterday, the whole sound disappeared in the falling tide. Mud and sand rose out of the water, the kayak’s hull caught and slid across dirt a mile off shore. I had to paddle so far away that I couldn’t see anything but the vague outline of marsh and dunes in the distance. Near sunset, I walked the boat a mile to the shore and found nothing but a maze of head high brush and marsh channels with no way through.

I stood in the mud listening to waves wash up the beach a hundred yards away, but too far for me to reach through the wall of tall grass and shriveled trees. All I could do was walk back through shallow water in the darkness, soaking wet, dragging the boat behind me, searching for an old duck blind I’d seen a half-mile off shore.

I climbed the tilted ladder, squeezed on a bench half the width of my shoulders, and almost choked on the smell of bird shit piled on the floor. I barely slept. It took me an hour to get up this morning. I lay on the bench choking on stale air, exhausted, not wanting to sink into waist deep water to pack the boat.

Then I drifted north, half conscious, almost asleep, until I found a long dry sandbar and collapsed in the wreckage of the day.

6 thoughts on “Angle to Key West: Wreckage of a Bad Night (5/16)

  1. Wow! Another Hotel Wilderness! Did they turn down the sheets and leave some chocolates for you? What a scene you paint for us! I’m so glad that the ropes held. You are one tough cookie!

  2. Daniel, About your turtle photo “I made a friend. Or perhaps a bitter enemy. I don’t speak turtle”. You did make “friends” …with a young-of-the-year Diamonback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin). The Diamondback Terrapin is the mascot of the University of Maryland and inhabits the brackish water wetlands of the Atlantic Coast. Although you found this little guy in NC, I believe your current location is north of Maryland, probably the Jersey coast, fast approaching NYC. Are you making a left turn up the Hudson to the Erie Canal or onward to the St Lawrence?. I have followed you since NW Angle and regret only that I was unable to meet you as you passed thru Maryland. Carry on safely!

    1. Very cool! It was definitely a cute turtle! Thanks for the info on it! I’m going up the Hudson to Montreal! Sorry I missed you in Maryland! Assateague was very pretty!

  3. Hope your lungs have recovered from breathing in all that bird crap dust. Not good. Be safe.

  4. Looking at the map (linked from your blog) to locate this difficult section I noticed, on the NW of Portsmouth Island, a spot in the water called ‘Daniel Swash’ which sounds very appropriate!

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