• Dillon Hearns

Post Hurricane Irma, A Kayak Photo Op.

Upon Irma's fall, there were photographic ideas constantly circulating through my mind. One project in particular was a constant; Irma's impact on the coastline & mangroves of southern Miami-Dade. Most specifically, the Coral Gables / Deering Estate area. An area accessible almost exclusively by kayak, I knew whatever the damage might be, the initial sights would belong to those select few with a kayak. I had this feeling that I might just find something.

So, I set off.

My initial launch point at Chapman Field Park was curtailed after finding the entrance of the park blocked by a locked guard rail. An accompanying sign of "Park Closed" also helped me understand their message. South, I went. My launch point took me farther than anticipated.

In the morning's heat, it was incredibly tranquil on the bay. Just 17 days earlier, a category four Hurricane ripped through these shallow waters.

The first thing I noticed was how barren the mangroves had become after Irma's wrath.

What was once a dense coastline of lush vegetation, was now an intertwined jumble of wood and sticks.

The second observation, the trash.

Irma churned up debris from the bay and flung it with vengeance. As the winds forcefully blew west, the mangroves involuntarily caught overwhelming amounts of junk.

The coast dejectedly suspended an assortment of debris above the water.

It was like a sad, unenthusiastic, tinseled Christmas tree.

The mangroves were blasted by a canon of people's shit. Laundry baskets, marine rope and a never-ending supply of Publix plastic bags were just some of the items that

stuck to the bare wood like glue.

I paddled and paddled among this monotonous landscape of dangling plastic bags. I passed the Cutler channel and continued northward. The scene was the just the same there too. Trash and barren wood. Not exactly what I had hoped to find. There had to be more. Coconut grove was filled with sunken boats and damage. There has to be a story down here too, there has to be something to document I thought. Just as I approached Shoal point, I saw something; a larger boat in the distance. It was moored near a cluster of mangroves. It's not uncommon for fisherman in flats boats to access the shallow coastline. Well, this has been uneventful. This area isn't as untouched and unexplored as I had originally thought. People are out here fishing, I thought. With a dejected spirit and sore arms, I paddled my way toward this boat. I kept my paddles sporadic to listen for voices from whomever was on the boat.

Not a sound as I neared the vessel.

Something was off. There was no audible sounds other than my own breathing. I was now about 20 feet from what now appears to be a daysailer of sorts. As I round the boat, a jolt of shock hit me. The illusion I had been paddling to was simply an intact siding of a boat. The hull was split in two with an assortment of fiberglass and debris in the surrounding area. The majority of the craft laid in knee high water.

My first instinct was to keep an eye out for, well, a body. People do it all the time; ride out Hurricanes on their boats. Thankfully no one was to be found. The "Makani" must have had one hell of a last ride. The vessel realistically could have came from any place. As far as Key Biscayne, or as close as Matheson Hammock, whatever the point of origin was, she was dragged through an abundance of shallow water till she ended her Irma-induced ride at this location. I'm sure by this point, Makani's owner has been notified by someone. If not, your boat is here, in bad shape.

Sorry, man.


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