Posted by: floridanature | April 22, 2008

Boca de Rio: Adios, Mi Carbon

Yep, that’s Mouth of the River, folks. The place where it meets and mixes with the sea. I was there on the “grand and noble San Juan” on Sunday, watching my friend Michelle complete her sojourn of several hundred miles in which she paddled her way from a lonely marsh way downstream, up and north to the sea. The Boca of this river is east of Jacksonville, beyond where the auto ferry crosses the St. Johns at Mayport. It’s one giant Maytag of a river here, currents and winds and tides and the churn of a hundred sport boats all conspiring together to make it seem as chaotic as possible. The auto ferry is named, with no irony, Jean Ribault, for the Frenchman who once tried to settle this river before the Spanish sliced and diced the little colony on its shores.

A boat ramp in Florida under any circumstance, is usually a bustling place to be; but on a warm Spring Sunday afternoon near the Atlantic, it’s a cross between Hunter Thompson and Herman Melville. The later author once wrote that the “sea and meditation are wed”, and they likely were—and often, still can be. But the only wedding here today is a shotgun one, with the bride doing shots of Jack Daniels and the groom windsurfing on a skateboard, and well, you get the idea…

I’d read early reports of the river mouth here. Two centuries and more ago, it was shallow, barely more than seven feet, and the channel itself was shifting as the inlet constantly redefined itself. Humans built long jetties, dug the channel deep and straight, and the river’s never been the same. Paul Theroux once wrote the best places are found at the end of the worst roads. The St. Johns in 1700 was a tricky place to sail your corsair, and upriver was remote, hidden. Today, any one with a bit of money can zoom out here, passing the oceanic freighters and carriers, in a fit o’ spray and carbon exhaust.

Michelle\'s kayak vs. Oceanic Ship

It was fitting that two days before Earth Day, Michelle Thatcher, a lone woman in a single kayak paddled here, right through the maniacal middle of it all, and kept on beyond the tip of the jetties, into the open sea. It’s a reminder that when we run out of fossil fuel and our carbon imprint becomes a shadow of itself, that those with courage and bull headed determination, can still find their way around on the water. The vehicles to carry them will be long, narrow, log-shaped like the dugouts that inspired their design, and the engines will be their arms and shoulders, and the long, fin-tipped sticks they grip and wave. They will be fully wed to the sea, and will be better for it.

All the rest will be standing on the shore with their powerless power boats, eating the dried beef from their last bag of Slim Jims, and wishing they had planned a bit more ahead…


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