An Amazing Journey

by Dave on July 27, 2009

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Key West. A breezy, sandy, laid-back land of leisure.

It’s one of America’s most beautiful locales. So it’s no surprise that Dan & Bethany Cox chose the sleepy island town as a destination for their trip from Lubec, Maine. Their method of travel, however, is a bit more unusual: the couple is paddling the entire journey in kayaks.

The obvious first question on everybody’s mind: why in the world would anyone do that?

“Everyone has something, some dream that they probably are never going to fulfill,” says Dan Cox. “Why not? They are a host of reasons that I don’t even need to name.  We had a host of good reasons not to stop working, pack up all our belongings and be dropped off in Lubec, Maine with our boats. However, it still was my dream, and if you discount your dreams this early in life you may as well give up.”

The couple’s journey down that coast makes for a Herculean task. The Atlantic Coast Joint Venture (acjv.org) says the Atlantic Ocean coastline extends for 2,069 miles from Maine to Florida.

Among their stops along the way was New York City, where they were spotted on the Today Show by weatherman Al Roker. They were holding a sign declaring, “We kayaked here from Maine.”

It hasn’t all been television appearances and smooth paddling, though. Along the way the pair has run into a bit of trouble. One such incident happened just as the couple crossed into New Jersey. Bethany tells the story on the couple’s blog.

“As we paddled along the coastline towards Sandy Hook, we could see a really long pier out into the water. When we finally got close to it, there was a small sign on the side of it saying “US NAVY RESTRICTED AREA. KEEP OUT.” We stopped cold in our tracks and got on the radio, calling them to ask for clearance. Ha. Right. Two guards in navy blue tried to talk to us from the peir and we tried to talk to them but we couldn’t hear each other. Before we knew it, to Navy men in fatigues got out of a police vehicle on the pier and WITH WEAPONS DRAWN, told us with strong scary voices to pull to the shore NOW. Yikes! We told them our story. They were shocked. We found out that we were in the “Treat Zone” where deadly force is authorized. We told them that we came from the shoreline and saw no signs at all until we arrived right at the pier and read the sign. They realized that we had absolutely no bad intentions. There were no signs on the shore. The buoys were a mile offshore and there was really no way for us to know. “We just assumed everyone knew about this place.” Yeah. So, we both got tickets for trespassing on military property. Mandatory court date in September in NJ. Great. If we have to pay for their tickets, the money better go to some new signage and buoys. THEN we had to paddle an extra 7 miles out of our way to go around the pier and the security zone. Hours later we landed at the marina where we were staying… ate bad Mexican, set up our tent between the parking lot and the docks, and fell asleep to the charming sounds of really bad cover band trying to sing Ozzy’s “Crazy Train” which was way out of his vocal range. Sigh. It sounds horrific but if the marina hadn’t agreed to let us sleep there and keep our boats, we would have been ruined.”

Undeterred, the adventurers paddled across the Delaware Bay on Wednesday, July 15th as they traveled from Cape May, New Jersey to Lewes, where Matt Carter, owner of Quest Fitness & Kayak, assisted them.

“Lewes was good to us,” says Bethany. “Matt at Quest Fitness was super helpful and down to earth. He let us keep our kayaks at his shop, drove us around town, and most impressively picked us up at 4:30am to get us to the water early.”

Apparently, Carter was the first person the travelers encountered willing to drop them off that early.

“That’s a really big deal,” adds Bethany. “It really helps to get started early because the ocean and winds are almost always calmer in the morning, plus we’ve paddled 10 miles before we wake up.”

Carter enjoyed the experience as well.

“Dan and Bethany were great,” said Carter.  “They literally seemed to just go with the flow.  They had a very loose time schedule which made the trip really enjoyable.  I was lucky to be able to sit back at lewes pizza and have a few beers and talk about their adventure so far.  They really enjoyed the kayaking and the perspective from the water but really were engaged by the people they have met along the way.  They definitely motivated me to start planning another timeless trip.”

Friday, the Coxes paddled down the ocean from Lewes to the Indian River Inlet, where they encountered a lack of Delaware hospitality at the Indian River marina.

“Today was the worst at the Indian River Marina where Bob greeted us with a scolding for landing on a public boat launch,” notes Bethany. “For boats only, not kayaks. Because kayaks aren’t boats?”

The couple did find comfort at Dagsboro’s Tuckahoe Acres campground, which is “exclusively for seasonal RV campers but they are letting us camp for the night, which they do not allow ever,” says Bethany. “Can’t complain.”

The pair set off Saturday morning for Ocean City and the next part of their inspiring journey. You can click here to follow their progress and learn more at dbkayak.com. If you’re as inspired as I am, you can leave a donation for the Coxes on the site, as well.

(This story was originally published in Coastal Sussex Weekly.)

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