Days 173,thru 175 The Everglades

Leaving Marco Island for the Keys there were a few options. Kind of like the Gulf crossing from Carabelle, we could make the 90 mile run straight to Key west or break it up into 3 days to travel along the coast. The winds were predicted to be in the 15 knot range out of the east so the straight trip to Key West was ruled out quickly. Also, I have always wanted to visit the Everglades and go for an Airboat ride. We would make 3 travel days, first to Eveglade City, then Little Shark River and 3rd across to Marathon. From there we would make a decision whether or not to make the trip to Key West, probably depending on weather as the winds were supposed to pick up from the East with a cold front passing through.
The first day from Marco Island to Everglade City we were told that with a 4′ draft we could travel the inside passage through Big Marco River past Goodland, so that is what we chose.
It wasn’t long before I was second guessing my choice. Just after passing under the Jolly Bridge the marked channel made a 90 deg turn to Starboard and a quick 90 back to port. Although we had a favourable tide the depth sounder was showing only 4′. We draw 4′ so we were basically scraping the bottom. It was tense for a bit and there were a few shallow spots on the river but we made it without incident to Goodland.There wasn’t much there, it was quite different from the opulance of Marco Island only 6 miles away.
Then after a short 12 mile run out in the Gulf we entered Indian Key pass and anchored in Russell Pass close to the mangroves for protection from the wind.
We then took the dinghys the rest of the way in to check out Everglade City. There is not much there either. They suffered a lot of damage in Hurricane Irma and not much has been rebuilt yet.
When I saw the Airboats and Janet said, “I’ve always wanted to do that”, I said let’s check it out. Always better when it’s her idea…
As luck would have it, they squeezed us into a ride right away, so I pulled out the credit card and we were off. It was a blast, zooming through the mangrove swamps, not sure what was around every corner. I am sure the operator knew where he was going, but after about 6 or 7 turns I would have a hard time finding my way back out.
Of course I had a gps running in my pocket so I could have if necessary.

It was a fun ride, I’m glad we didn’t pass up the opportunity.
On the way back to the boat we stopped at the famous Rod and Gun Club in Everglade city for a drink on the patio.
It was origionally built in 1864 and in 1922 it was turned into a private establishment for the wealthy to come, hunt and fish. Many Presidents and celebrities including Mick Jagger have stayed there. The service must have been better then because when we were there it took 20 minutes to get a $7 beer and even longer for the bill. There were a lot of antiques and interesting trophies in the Trophy Room. You could feel the history. It was really dark so my pictures didn’t turn out well. I do have a nice one of Janet in the Phone Booth off of the Lobby, but she won’t let me post it.
That evening after a nice dinner on the boat, Janet and I took a dinghy ride out to see the sunset. It was one of the most amazing sunsets of the trip so far. The colours were awesome and when we got out a little further we saw a sailboat anchored and a guy out in his dinghy watching dolphins.
There were 10 or 12 in groups of varying sizes playing in the sunset. With the motor off you could hear the breaths of dolphins in all directions. You didn’t know which way to point the camera. It’s almost like they were toying with me, as soon as I was aiming in one direction they would surface behind me. It was great fun!
That night getting back to Nautoncall and the next morning getting the anchor up we discovered our folly of anchoring too close to the mangroves. Although good protection from the winds, we were assulted by thousands of No-see-ums! My legs look like I have Chickenpox from the many bites. Changing the screens was a great investment as we slept in relative comfort inside the boat.
The next morning after fighting the bugs we were on the move early headed for Little Shark River. We were told this is one of the most remote stops of the Loop and were not dissappointed. We anchored out in the entrance of the river in the wind to escape the No-see-ums. It worked a little better but in the morning they were just as bad as Indian pass.

We took a dinghy tour to explore the many channels, you could anchor almost anywhere here, there were miles of channels and mangrove islands, if you didn’t have a gps it would be easy to get lost.
We could have spent more time exploring this area, apparently Middle Cape is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Keys and visited by very few people. But as it usually works for us, we had one more good day of weather before heavy East winds came up, so we passed on stopping at the beach and made the 40 mile run due south to Marathon.
It was a great run, the only drawback was the thousands of crab pots to avoid on the way. You had to keep a constant watch for those 6″ balls that could get caught in the running gear and ruin ones trip.

Good thing I had a girl to keep watch!
She spied a couple of sea turtles on the way. About 10 miles before Marathon, the water cleared up and turned a beautiful colour of blue.
It was like we were in the Bahamas.
Then we crossed under the 7 mile bridge,
and with that Nautoncall was navigating in the Atlantic Ocean!
A huge milestone.

Sent from Samsung tablet.

Don McCulloch
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