This was my twentieth trip (!) to the Everglades and as always it was eventful. I was accompanied by my Brother Mark from Sacramento. We headed out on a beautiful day but storm warnings were on the horizon. [Gallery]
This map shows our planned four night route and what actually happened! The third day it rained several inches and behind the front came 40mph winds! We made the best of it and sheltered in place at Watson Place on our last night.
I also pieced together a seven minute video with clips from both our cameras. [Note there is mild profanity.]
The first day was a lazy sail out to Rabbit Key where we camped on the point under arching mangroves. There were signs everywhere of the recent super high tide that flooded parts of Everglades City. On the plus side, the campsite and beaches had been “enriched”.
We took a walk around the island and enjoyed the evening breeze on our first night. [click image for large panorama]
The second day we sailed around the outside of Pavilion Key (a place I’d never been). By the time we got there the wind had risen to 20mph out of the southeast and became a direct headwind, so we landed, took down the sails and ate lunch. We then peddled the six miles or so across Chatham Bend to Mormon Key. Since the wind was still adverse and no one was there we decided to stay. We had another pleasant evening and watched a band of Brown Pelicans circling and diving [see video].
The next day started out grey as we headed up the Chatham River with the incoming tide. We stopped at the Watson Place for the requisite photo by the sugar cane caldron and met three fishermen who said they’d be staying there. [Notice how overgrown it is!]
Just before we got to Sweetwater Chickee the heavens let loose a deluge. Everything was wet, Wet, WET!! Fortunately it was still reasonably warm.
This is the first time in twenty trips I’ve had to make camp during a storm. We tied the tent down before we put it up and added extra lines to keep the poles from bending too far. One useful insight, we put the ground cloth (which was mostly dry) on the inside so we had a dry floor to spread out our stuff. Once we were inside laying on our pads it was quite comfortable.
By evening the storm had passed and we enjoyed a nice moonrise.
In the morning the wind had shifted to the north and intensified. As we were preparing to leave we had a visitor, an Immature Brown Pelican…
We were too busy to take any pictures, but the short story is we turned back after a quarter mile on the first big bay. It was serious wind and our boats were being high-centered and turned by every other wave. (With the ends out of the water the rudder stops working!) We retreated back down the Chatham to shelter at Watson Place. It turned out the three fishermen were just the advanced guard of a group of nine friends over from Jupiter for their annual getaway. Nice guys! They gave us beer and leftover BBQ pork. We had another Brown Pelican visit us, this time a gorgeous mature adult [see video]. [click image for large panorama]
The next day was long but uneventful. The wind had died back to something manageable and we crossed the big bays without incident. My brother was a bit anxious to be off the water so we returned by the Turner River and Chokoloskee Canal. I was reminded of why I avoid that route, two tour boats almost ran us over! Ironic that the most dangerous part of this trip turned out to be the last two miles!!