On May 9, 2018 former Marine Esteban Blyar pulled his kayak ashore at Fort Clinch State Park, completing his circumnavigation of Florida in just 61 days, faster than anyone else who has made the journey.

Not only did he accomplish the challenge of kayaking around his home state, but Esteban also used the trip to raise $3,380 for the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. Esteban supports the Society because, when he was on active duty he received emergency travel assistance from the Society and because his father, David, works for NMCRS Jacksonville.

Esteban averaged about 25 miles of paddling each day, coming ashore around 4pm to set up camp for the evening. After securing his kayak, Esteban would stretch and sometimes swim. He met up with his dad, and sometimes mom and wife, once a week to replenish his supplies and enjoy the luxury of sleeping in a hotel.

Flocks of migrating birds that had wintered in Florida flew past Esteban on their northward trajectory. Flamingos stood by and sea turtles swam by. Pods of curious dolphins would approach Esteban’s kayak a few times each day. “They’ll come up to you sometimes,” he said. “In the Everglades there aren’t too many people, so when dolphins see kayakers they put their eyes out of the water and look at you.” Even small, curious sharks appeared, as well as crocodiles and alligators, but none of them bothered Esteban. One of his favorite sea sightings was an eagle ray with a four-foot wingspan.

Esteban says he “got lucky” with the weather during most of his trip. Rather than rain, the biggest challenge was wind blowing his face. His favorite areas were the Everglades, Florida Keys, Mosquito Lagoon and St. Martin’s Marsh Aquatic Preserve, but he enjoyed seeing the wildlife everywhere he paddled.

“The Society helped me so I wanted to do what I could to help others.” Thank you, Esteban, for making a difference for Shipmates and fellow Marines by paddling around Florida!

Watch this video of Esteban crossing the Florida/Georgia line to finish his journey. https://www.facebook.com/kayakingtheFloridaCT/videos/921261678052431/

 

By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso

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