Mystery Kayak Floats 600 Miles To Key Largo

A racing kayak drifted 600 miles through shipping channels with only a barnacle or two

In the world of things that go floating by unnoticed -- a turtle with a camera, for example, or Diane Lane's career -- a kayak is an unusual object.

So when a pricey blue and white racing kayak was found bobbing three and a half miles off Key Largo, the Coast Guard did a double-take. And then began a frantic search for its owner, presumed to be in distress somewhere off the Keys.

Turns out, after a scrambled sea and air search and an Internet mystery that led all the way to South Africa to Mauritius and back, the owner was found alive and well where he lives in the Cayman Islands -- and where he had last seen his kayak, 600 miles from where it was found.

"This is certainly a crazy, crazy story. Just bananas front to back,'' kayaker Sam Dawson told the Miami Herald. "Even if you understand the Gulf Stream, it's a pretty phenomenal story of how it traveled that far. And it's pretty phenomenal how they found me.''

Dawson was out paddling in his "surf ski" kayak when he was flipped by a wave about 600 yards offshore of the Caymans. His thoughts consumed with escaping a riptide and making it back to land alive, he assumed he'd never see his kayak again.

Fast forward six weeks to Tuesday, when boat captain Michael Brooks spotted the surf ski in the Keys after it presumably floated northwest past Cuba, through the Yucatan Channel and into the shipping channels of the Florida Straits before drifting on the Gulfstream toward Key Largo. 

The Coast Guard, who didn't find any kayaker bobbing in nearby waters, was undettered. They traced the manufacturor, Fenn, to South Africa, and Fenn products from South Africa to two U.S. distributors.

A helping hand from one, Ocean Paddlesports in Costa Mesa, California, provided an inquiry to an online collection of surf ski enthusiasts, and a member in the African island nation Mauritus shortly reported his friend in the Caymans had lost such a Fenn Mako XT.

Mystery solved, and kayaker safe and accounted for. And soon, thanks to an assist from Venture Sport in Boca Raton, who originally sold Dawson the kayak, it will be shipped back to him.

"What a trip it made,'' Brooks could only observe. "The kayak really persevered.''

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