by Ron Hoddinott
Bill Fite, Dale Niemann, and I all launched a day early so we'd have time to explore the area around checkpoint 1 for the Everglades Challenge in March. We launched at Eldred's Marina near Placida on Thursday. The day was unusually hot. with the high about 90 degrees. We motored over to "Grande Tours" kayak shop, the location of Checkpoint One. Dale and I anchored our boats in the shallows near the second bridge and climbed into Bill's SeaPearl 21, MoonShadow. The tide was going out and we got a good look at how tough it might be to get through the bridges in the shallow waters to reach Grand Tours in the middle of the night when most people reach the first check point.
After exploring the area, we called Bill Dolan on my cell phone. Bill had kindly offered to meet us at Grand Tours and take us out to lunch! A few minutes later he was standing at the Grande Tours dock as we tied up. Bill took all of us over to the local Publix where we picked up sub sandwiches. Then we drove to his condo clubhouse which overlooked the intercoastal waterway. Thanks Bill!
Leaving Grande Tours we thought we set sail for Pelican Bay where the fleet would rendezvous the following day. Unfortunately, the wind turned out to be a southwesterly, right on the nose. We also had an incoming tide. The combination made making headway toward Pelican Bay pretty tough going. Dale's Core Sound out pointed both SeaPearls, and he passed me after a mile of so. I finally realized that I wasn't going to make it before dark if I didn't start the Honda, so I fired her up. Dale and Bill toughed it out for another hour or so, the tide carrying them further and further east, until I lost sight of them!
The entrance to the little sandbar cove at the north end of Pelican Bay had changed since last Spring. But even with an outgoing tide it was plenty deep enough to walk Whisper into the quiet cove and put out a bow and stern anchor. It wasn't too long before Dale and Bill arrived and I helped them line up the entrance to the cove. Richard Anderson in SeaNile, a SeaPearl 21 also arrived and got settled in the cove. Although it was a hot night, with little wind, I did manage to sleep below decks with a fan blowing over me.
Friday was the day that everyone was supposed to arrive, and arrive they did! Ed and Becky Combs in Minnow, Billy and Joyce VanDeusen in JoySea, Ted Jean in his new Sunbird 16, John Johns in his Hobie Adventure Island, Dave Barnicoat in Red Tag, his Potter 19, Terry Poling and son in Breakin' Wind, his Telstar 28, Roger an Kay in their powerboat, Terry and Ruth Nagel in Whisper, their Siren 17, Paul Myers in his SeaPearl 21, Brogan, Bill Dolan in his Marshall 18, Rich Janelle in his Compact 16, Michael Smith in his Hunter 26, Ross Erickson and Family in their O'Day 25, Art and Brenda in Brenda's SeaPearl 21-tri, Rosie Pearl, Paul and Dodie Waggoner in Wing-It, his SeaPearl 21 Tri, and Walter and Pat Hickson with their Marshall 18 catboat. Twenty boats in all gathered on Friday afternoon and evening, and a few more would have made it, but didn't quite. One forgot his rudder and didn't realize it until he was at the ramp. Another made it on Saturday about the time most of us had given up and were headed home.
Anyway, on Friday the appetizers, drinks and about four pounds of shrimp provided by Billy and Joyce VanDeusen appeared on the tables, and four grills were started on the beach. Folks grilled what they had, and lots and lots of beach umbrellas provided the only shade for the assembled. Several took swims to cool off, but the heat for October was really rare. Thunderstorm and rain were predicted for the overnight, and morning, so we partied when we could on Friday afternoon and evening.
Another hot night in the cabins, punctuated by thunder and rain during the nighttime, left some of us wondering what we should do on Saturday morning. The forecast wasn't the best, with a front coming through from the northwest bringing rain, and thunderstorms with frequent lightning. Some folks packed it in and headed for sheltered waters or home. Several motored over to the Cayo Costa docks and got slips for the night. Bill and Dale, and Richard and I went sailing in Pelican Bay, and then about the same time got the idea that a break in the rain made for a good chance to get across Charlotte Harbor to our take out point.
Even though it was somewhat abbreviated, it was great to see so many members in one place again. We had a fine party on Friday afternoon, and got a chance to meet some friends.
Lake Harris is November 17th and 18th, so get your gear together and plan to meet up at Hickory Point on Saturday morning about 9:30 AM !