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Mid-life Critical Crisis

It all started after recently turning fifty years old and reading the morning paper's article on average life spans of men in the USA. It appeared that over half my life was over and I was on a steady decline to the inevitable. I needed a quest, a mission, an adventure worthy of relating to generations to come.

Being an outdoorsman of average capabilities and means, I thought of climbing Denali... nope. What about floating the Amazon?... nope. I had just upgraded from an eight foot recreational kayak to a twelve and a half foot "recreational/touring" kayak, and had done a couple of overnighters on local Mississippi streams, so I envisioned that I was an "expert" sea kayaker.

Being from Mississippi, I knew well the stories of the artist Walter Anderson and his trips to Horn Island in the Gulf of Mexico, and decided that was the ticket - recreating Walter's voyages. Being of sound mind, I knew I perhaps needed just a little more experience, so for my trial run, I decided to go for Deer Island first.

When I arrived at the beach on the morning of my quest, there was a moderate breeze and occasional showers... nothing that a great adventurer like myself couldn't handle. I loaded up the boat, got in, looked out at the sea and with a soaring soul headed across the great abyss to the Island, a full half mile away. I was proud as I reached the beach of the Island and began to set up camp in increasing wind and rain. It was wonderful to be so brave in the face of adversity.

As darkness approached, the rain was coming in vertically which I learned did nothing to alleviate the hordes of Black Flies and sand fleas. I retreated to my tent and turned on my weather radio. I heard "Winds of 40 knots", "small craft advisory" and "water spouts", all west of my location and headed to a spot with my name on it.

Decision time... ride out the storm or haul ass?

I leapt out of the tent, wadded my gear onto the boat, and paddled as if Satan were behind me. Lightning was raking across the sky and appeared to hit the water in the distance. I paddled halfway to my put in at the Hard Rock casino, when my energy ran out. I accepted death. The wind was blowing me (luckily) towards the beach about a half mile from where I needed to be.

I finally reached my truck after wading and pulling the kayak the distance. I arrived back home later that night.

I since have increased my skill level, bought a "real" kayak and made it to Horn Island.

Note to self... Know your limitations!

Written by: Steve Tew - Madison, MS

For more great stories: See the Archive!

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