Cayman kayak sparks search in Florida

Lost kayak drifts 600 miles to the Florida Keys

When a boat captain discovered an
empty kayak drifting off Key Largo in Florida last week, it sparked a US Coast
Guard sea and air search to determine whether its owner was in trouble in the
water.

In fact, the owner was sitting in a
law office in George Town.

Lawyer Sam Dawson lost his surf-ski
kayak after he was washed out of it in rough seas as he rounded Sand Cay island
in South Sound six weeks ago.

One wave knocked him out of the
19-foot Fenn Mako XT kayak and another one washed the vessel away from him, he
said, forcing him to make a 45-minute swim back to shore. “I had to contend
with a rather risky rip coming in from the South Sound,” he said.

Six weeks later, he got word from a
friend on the island nation of Mauritius, off the coast of southeast Africa,
that an alert had been posted on a surf-ski Yahoo group message board of a
kayak that had been found in Miami.

“It’s a crazy story. I don’t know
what is stranger – the fact that it drifted all the way to Miami or that the
post online about the kayak was noticed by Eddie Stafford in Mauritius.

“He saw the online alert that a
kayak had turned up in Key Largo and emailed it to me to see if it was mine. I
said ‘No way could it be mine.’ How he put two and two together, I don’t know,”
Mr. Dawson said Monday.

He had earlier told Mr. Stafford
about losing his kayak during a southeasterly in Cayman.

He said he had notified local
police that he had lost the kayak. “I warned them it was out there.”

Boat captain Michael Brooks found
the blue and white kayak drifting a few miles off shore on Tuesday morning, 27
July. “I was mostly concerned someone had fell off it,” Mr. Brooks told the
Miami Herald.

The surf-ski, a sit-on-top kayak,
was in pristine condition despite its 600-mile journey from Cayman to Florida.

“The coast guard told me that the
only thing on it was two barnacles. It had no dings or scratches. Even the leg
ropes were still intact,” said Mr. Dawson, a New Zealander who has been living
in Cayman for four-and-a-half years.

He said he was amazed by the
efforts in Miami to find the owner of the kayak.

The kayak did not have a serial
number and there is no requirement to register such small sea craft, so the
only thing the Coast Guard had to go on was the make of the kayak – Fenn.

“For them to go online to contact
the maker in South Africa who contacted the distributor in the US who put it on
a surf-ski group online is incredible,” he said.

During his swim back to shore in
South Sound after he was knocked out of the kayak, Mr. Dawson raised a few
eyebrows among surfers who had hit the waves during the rough weather.

“As I came in, I ran into some
surfers I know. I had my paddle with me, I was trying to use it as a sail and
also hoping that somebody would see the paddle sticking out of the water and
save me. The surfers said they’d seen me but said they thought it was some
crazy new sport!” he said.

“I was lucky I was wearing a life
vest,” he added.

The owner hopes to soon be reunited
with his kayak. The US distributor for Fenn surf skis, Bruce Gibson from
Venture Sport, from whom Mr. Dawson originally bought the kayak almost two
years ago, has told him he will drive from Boca Raton to Key Largo to pick up
the kayak and ship it with Seaboard from Miami to Grand Cayman.

“The kayak nearly made it right
back to where I bought it,” Mr. Dawson said.

“My biggest concern now is
convincing Customs that I don’t have to pay duty on it,” he said.

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Sam Dawson and his surf-ski kayak.
Photo: Submitted
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