Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Down to Marathon

It has been a while since my last post. Having left Palm Island Marina we have traveled about two hundred miles and are in Marathon for a week to get into the Keys mode. We had some wonderful experiences on the way down. Cayo Costa State Park is a real treasure with a beach on the Gulf miles long. Ft. Myers Beach has a personality of its own and can be crowded, but fun to see the shops and walk the beach. Naples is a great town with a Saturday morning farmer's market, big label stores and a bank and brokerage firm on each block. 
As you meander south the hustle and bustle slowly subside and you start to enter a new world. Goodland, which is northeast of Marco Island is a small fishing town with a bar and a few eateries that hop at night. This area starts to take on the look of the Everglades. At this point we have to go on the "outside", which means the Gulf of Mexico, so weather and winds are important to watch. The Gulf is shallow until way out so winds can turn it up pretty good. 
From Goodland we made our way down to Everglades City. This City has a lot of history behind it. The Rod and Gun Club has had many Presidents come here to do fishing. I myself had come here years ago to fish for Tarpon, redfish and snook. This was before GPS and if you did not know the area you could get lost if you turned your head the wrong way. I used to have the Mayor of Everglades City, Snapper Butler, take me out as a guide. He told me once, " Mike, it's only me and the devil who knows where you are right now". I made sure I always paid him well! We stayed at a marina called Everglades Isles. This is actually a park for class A RV's that has slips that they rent out. The facilities are among the best, spa, bathrooms and showers with plush towels, free laundry, beautiful clubhouse with pool and gym. When cruising these type of amenities are rare, so when you get them you enjoy. In two days we will be heading into the Everglades, so this is kind of like the last hurrah before being anchored out and fending for yourself against nature. 
After our respite in Everglades City it was off to Little Shark River Inlet from the Gulf. Everglades City is on the western edge of the Everglades, so it isn't too far and you are in the boundaries of the park. From Everglades City to Little Shark River it is about 30 miles in the Gulf heading southward. Once you enter the River  you are in a different world. You are surrounded by Mangroves, egret, porpoise, an occasional turtle and as you get deeper in, crocodiles. The wildlife is abundant and so are the bugs. Mosquitos and noseeums love to pierce your skin as dusk descends. It can be torturous if you stay outside. So once the sun comes down you retreat into the cabin with windows closed until dark. Even though you have screens the noseeums can penetrate through the small holes, hence their names NO-SEE-THEM. I guess "them" was abbreviated to "um". In any event they are the worst biting little devils around. After dark you can open the windows, but don't use lights! When you wake up in the morning your boat is now covered with a carpet of dead bugs. And the ones that are still alive are out to get you. So after eating breakfast it is a mad dash to the bow to pull up anchor and get moving. Once on the move they can't catch you and you start cleaning the mess off.
There is a Wilderness Waterway from Everglades City to Flamingo through the Everglades. It is about 90 miles long and should only be transversed by a canoe or small boat less than 18 feet without a cabin. Our friends Rich and Cheryll Odendahal, who by the way are out boat buddies this trip,  joined the waterway a couple of years ago off the Little shark River and said it was doable. We did it with them this time and it was great. There are spots though that the depts go lower than 2.9 feet  and our boat draws 26 inches. The depth sounder alarm did not like that and screamed a few times along the way. 
Our three days exploring the Everglades was enchanting. Anchoring out in the wilderness is one of the greatest experiences in boating. You are one with nature. The sky at night is magnificent. You can see every star as far as your eye can see. It isn't often that one can look up and see a shooting star, but in the Everglades it is almost guaranteed. Anchor just off shore and you can see the most beautiful sunset. I even got to see the infamous green flash as the sun went down. I always thought that people were lying about it, but I finally saw it! Is it possible that the wine I was drinking from a green bottle helped me to see it?
We are now in Marathon where we will rest, re-provision and take in the local culture. Today we go out to Sombero Reef and do some snorkeling. 

More to follow. 

A buch of us Ranger Tugs anchored out in Cayo Costa State Park

At the dock in Everglades City

Jess and Cheryll outside the Rod and Gun Club. 

The last leg down the waterway into Flamingo

Rich and I on the beach at middle Cape Sable. You can see our boats anchored out in the background.

This is a manatee. Far cry from that cute guy you read about and see in aquariums.

This is a crocodile. They can only survive in fresh or brackish water. The Everglades is one of the few places where you will see crocks and alligators. Swimming anyone??

One of the best sunsets off of Cape sable!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

On the move

After taking a five week respite and staying at one marina during that time, we are on the move. I was co-chair of a Ranger Tug Rendezvous at Palm Island Marina in Placida Florida. We had 21 tugs at the 3 day event and it culminated with a cruise and overnight anchorage at Cayo Costa State Park. Anyone who is in the area should make an attempt to get there. There is a ferry from Pine Island that can take you there. There are great trails with either a 3/4 mile walk to the gulf or a free tram ride. Entry is $2.00 per person and it is on the honor system. The southwest coast of Florida is one of our favorite cruising spots. 
We are currently at another Ranger Tug owners dock at Sanibel Island and will be leaving today for Ft. Myers Beach. Our plan after that is to hit Naples, Goodland, Everglades City, Little Shark River (a spectacular waterway that works it's  way through the Everglades to Flamingo) then Marathon, Key Largo, Key Biscayne and then on up to Vero Beach. After that a short run south to Stuart where we will catch the St. Lucie River and cut across the Okeechobee to the Calooosahatchie River and then back up to Cape Haze to end the trip. 
As things progress and things of interest arise I will post, so stay tuned.

On our charted Catamaran in St. Maarten  with our group of friends.

Looks like I am grabbing a cloud, doesn't it? Can't find snow here!

Our penthouse view! Pretty scary seeing your living quarters on a lift. 

Our group of Ranger Tug owners at our Rendezvous we are also known as Tugnutters.

Ranger flotilla leaving for Cayo Costa

Rangers on the move

Sunrise on the hook at Cayo Costa State Park.