Everglades and 10,000 Islands Cruise
by Ron Hoddinott - December 26th - Jan 2nd
This was originally two different cruises. One to the Everglades, starting in Flamingo, and going through Whitewater Bay, Shark River, and then back around the capes of Sable to Flamingo again. As it turned out the Flamingo part of the Everglades National Park was closed due to damage from Hurricane Wilma. Bill Fite and I decided to keep our departure date of December 26, but leave from and return to Everglades City. The rest of the Squadron made Jan 29th their departure date, with most of them launching at Port of the Islands resort on Hwy 41 east of Naples. The plan was for us to go south to Lostman's River, and then return in time to meet up with everyone at Picnic Island in the 10,000 Islands on the 29th, or 30th.
The Rod and Gun Club in Everglades City was our jumping off point, with a good ramp only encumbered by a tree which made raising the masts AFTER launching a necessity. Thanks to Ted Jean for getting the details on the Rod and Gun Club. Not only is it easier to launch and retrieve in Everglades City, it turns out to be cheaper by a factor of three! There is only a $20 charge which includes launching, hauling out, and storing your vehicle while you're gone. The ramp in Chokoloskee at Outdoors Resorts charges $10 for launching, $10 for hauling out, and $10 for each day that you store your vehicle. That can amount to a bundle when you plan to be gone for a week!
Bill Fite and I had great winds on Monday. We sailed on a broad reach at 7 knots from Indian Key Pass to Rabbit Key where we spent the night. Two steaks cooked on a beach grill, some Guinness Stout, and Chicago hard rolls, tasted really great. There were some kayakers camped on the island who were quite interested that we were self contained aboard our slender SeaPearls.
Tuesday we headed south again with not quite as much wind in the morning, but still a fair wind. We made good time to Pavillion Key, where we took a walk and checked on the camping area and anchorage for future reference. Then we continued south, for a while we thought we weren't going to make it to Lostman's River, and changed our destination to New Turkey Key, where there was a deep anchorage on the east side. But after noon, the south winds increased until we were reefed again. We made it to Lostman's River before 3 pm. After one mistake on an oyster bar, we backed off and located the channel that led into First Bay, just inside the mouth of the river. Bill located a great spot near the north shore behind three little islands that would protect us in a south wind. We anchored and I cooked shrimp creole left over from Christmas Eve dinner.
During the night we were visited by loud splashing and huffing noises three times. I couldn't identify the sounds, and thought we were being visited by the famous Florida Swamp Ape, but after the third visit at 3:30 AM... a really close one... I realized that it was only dolphins that were unable to surface in the shallow waters around our boats. They were digging up critters under the sand with their snouts and chasing them through the shallows - huffing and puffing without expelling any water from their blowholes... hence the different sound.
Wednesday we had to travel north to the rendezvous point and there was NO wind. The gulf (actually Florida Bay) was quite glassy, and we motored along at just above an idle with our 2 hp Honda engines. We filled up our .26 gal integral tanks at the same time and ran steadily along at 4.7 knots for two hours and fifteen minutes on 1/4th of a gallon. That works out to 40 miles per gallon folks! That's better than most economy CARS get! Those SeaPearls are just so easy to push along.
We finally made it back to the Indian Key area, but it was getting late, so we put into a cove on the south side of Kingston Key. Bill had some hot dogs to grill, so we gathered some driftwood and cooked them over the coals. Later that night a south wind blew into the cove and we knocked around a bit before the tide went down, which kept the seas out of the cove.
On Thursday we were expecting a cold front, so we decided to hunker down in a cove on the other side of Kingston, and just relax. We called Art and Brenda on the radio, and they answered. They were heading up to the Rod and Gun Club for lunch (good but expensive). They also agreed to bring us some much needed ice later in the day, or on the next day when we would meet them. Ted Jean showed up with the ice a few hours later. The three of us stayed together on Thursday and that night in the Kingston Key cove. Not much actually happened as the front moved through.
Friday we sailed/motored around to Tiger/Picnic Key and rendezvoused with the rest of the Squadron! And what a gathering it was! Here's a list of who was there:
Mike Stewart and wife - Solus - ComPac 23 - Orlando Florida
Dave and Mary Forrester - Part 2 - Mac 26 from Ontario
Jim and Ellie Sullivan - Ellie May - Skiff America - Havana Florida
Terry and Dawn Poling - LunaSea II - ComPac Eclipse - Havana Florida
Stin Linkert - Lily P (potter) - Potter 19 - Lake Eustis, Florida
Ted Jean - Hunter 19 - Lake Wales Florida
Bill Fite -MoonShadow - SeaPearl 21 - Tampa Florida
Ron Hoddinott - Whisper - SeaPearl 21 - Seminole Florida
Art Gregory and Brenda Bell - Panacea - Nimble 20 - Clearwater Florida
Ed and Becky Combs - Minnow - Potter 19 - Tampa Florida
Ted and Sher Sliwinski - Sundancer - Precision 21 - Punta Gorda Florida
Everyone had great stories of their trip to the outing. The dogs got to run on the beach, and everyone enjoyed a sunny day on Friday. Friday afternoon, a Park Ranger came along and told us that we couldn't have dogs on the beach, and we couldn't camp there because we didn't have the permit. We told him we weren't going to camp there, but were going to stay aboard our boats. Then he told us we'd have to be at least 1/4 mile away from the camp site. Hmmm.. Never heard that one before. Anyway, we had a great time, even though we did all motor around the corner and find anchorages farther up into the islands.
Bill and I had to leave on Saturday, but I have heard that there was a great party on Camp LuLu, with fireworks and everything! If you know more about this part of the trip, please write a description, and I'll put it here on the web site.