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Topic: Tampa 2    Part 2, Paddling the Everglades 2013< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 02 2013, 2:06 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Tuesday, Steve and Bob left camp about 30 minutes before we did, so we all waved goodbye and then Roger and I set off for the Gulf.  We wanted to get an early start, since the odds of relatively flat water were better early in the morning.  We made it into the boats by 8, and reached the Gulf by 8:30.  It was calm, with a mere 6” to 1 ft swells.  So much different from last year.  The slight wind was at our back and we paddled along enjoying the views of the shore.  About 9:30, we spotted a boat on its side, up in the trees along the shore.  It reminded me of the SS Minnow, so I had the theme song stuck in my head for a day or so.  Roger and I wondered how long it had been there, how it was driven in so deep, and how they would remove it without a big helicopter or crane barge.  At 10:30, we decided to put on our spray skirts, as the waves were getting a bit bigger and it is always better to put them on before needed.  Of course that meant we arrived at our next camp by 11.

As I pulled in to the beach, 2 fish jumped right over my kayak, and one would have landed in my lap had I not knocked it away.  As it turned out, the fish seemed to like the shallows and they spent some time thrashing around in them.  Not much to say about Graveyard Creek, other than it has a nice central sandy location for tents and I found a couple of trees to hang my hammock from.  This was our last ground site, and I had slept in the hammock on 3 of the 5 ground sites.  It made my back feel so much better after a day of paddling.  I need to get another seat for that boat.  I paddled off on a small side journey up Graveyard Creek to a side channel and back around to our campsite via the bay.  I was gone an hour, and watched pelicans and osprey fishing for their meals.  After Roger and I unpacked and set some things out, we sat on the beach about 15 ft from the picnic table and he read while I watched the sea and took notes in my journal.  We both got up to get more things from our boats when I noticed a raccoon in the bush.  He had Roger’s trash bag, and my bread bag.  We scared him off those treasures and picked up our belongings.  No sense in reinforcing bad behavior.  I felt badly about rewarding him with the 4 pieces of bread he had managed to eat, as it was.  Putting the rest of my bread in my garbage and locking it away better, I was now left to eat different meals for the ones planned to use with bread.  Not to worry, as I had extra food and could easily get by.

On one of my trips to my kayak, I had it in the water rinsing off some dirt, parallel to the beach which had a steep drop off into water about 2 ft deep.  As I stooped over on my side of the boat, the fish became active on the opposite, deeper side, when all of a sudden a 4 ft shark swims right past my boat.  I clearly saw its entire body and it gave me a thrill to have it swim so close by.  It was no threat to me, but I knew why the fish had been so jumpy.  Along about 4, 3 other paddlers came in from the Gulf side.  2 men with what we later learned was a professional guide.  They set up their tents and retired quickly to escape the no-see-ums.  Bugs were so bad by 5 that I decided to eat a cold dinner from lunch supplies, to avoid having to get out of the netting and cook.  Roger was hesitant, but ended up making the same choice.  During the night, I woke up and managed to see the raccoon return to check out our camp, to no benefit.  We had learned from our earlier mistake.

Wednesday, Jan 23rd.  My morning slumber was just beginning to end, and I was barely conscious, when I heard one of the others say, “One of the boats is missing.”   That made me sit up and dress hurriedly.  Roger and I had tied both ends of our kayaks to trees, as had 2 of the others.  The third man had not had any line with him, and decided not to bother to ask anyone for spare, as we were all hiding in our shelters from the bugs.  He had pulled his boat 5 feet out of the water and figured that was OK.  During the night, the tide had come up until it floated his boat, then took it out to sea on the retreating tide.  With the tide and the wind direction, we figured that boat was 20 miles out and still going.  The guide, who was a young man of about 35, quickly loaded his boat and announced his plan.  He was going to paddle out for a look around and if he saw nothing he would return in an hour.  If this was his choice, I do not know why he bothered spending 15 minutes to load his boat before looking around.

The other paddler with a boat went upstream on Graveyard Creek, to see if the tide took the boat that direction before it changed direction.  A slight possibility was that the kayak would be found stuck in the mangroves up creek.  No such luck.  When the guide returned, he said he would leave the 2 men in camp and paddle the 60 miles to his car where he had a spare boat.  Towing it back to them so they could return to their journey.  After he left, I asked if he was being paid, and the man who had a lost red Necky told me yes.  I then asked if any supplies or belonging were still in the boat.  Empty boats travel faster in the wind.  I was told everything was in the boat except last night’s dinner, and the sleeping gear in the tent.  I realized these 2 would be spending at least 3 days waiting on the return of their guide, so I gave him 3 days of spare food I had packed in case Roger and I did some other nights out after our long paddle, and 2 gallons of water I was not going to be needing.  Roger gave him another gallon, so he had food and water for his wait, at least.  He was going to be at the mercy of the bugs, and the sun, but at least he would be fed.  I have no idea what the guide thought, or if he assumed the 2 men would share the single set of supplies.  I was not impressed with the guide.  He had made no inspection of safety gear, other than to send out a list of needed gear.  He had not made sure everyone was tied up, or even asked loudly from his tent if everyone was.  While grown men should be able to properly tend to their gear, I felt the guide should have, at the very least, checked all safety gear before they even started off.  He could have stopped at any store and had them buy some sort of line.



With the morning excitement now settled to some degree, Roger and I set off for Oyster Bay.  As we traveled, we discussed our own feelings about leaving the 2 men on the shore, but we could not get cell reception or raise anyone on the VHF radio.  We were out of range, effectively reducing our choices to doing nothing, or sending out a distress call on Roger’s SPOT.  That would have alarmed my wife , his gf, and it wasn’t really needed, so we settled on a plan to hail down the first fishing boat we saw.  I saw a snout poke out of the water as I paddled quietly along an island, and after describing the size and color to Roger, he told me I had seen a Manatee come up for air.  I had seen manatees before, but not on this trip.  

We found the chickee that was to be our home that night at 11:15.  What short paddle days, especially when compared to last year’s trip.  We had chosen a route that would place our daily mileage at about 10 miles to insure we could make our goals in case the weather turned nasty.  Since it had not, we had long afternoons of relaxing, doing as close to nothing as we could manage.  I am good at doing nothing.  I can sit and watch the water, the animals and birds doing their thing, for hours.  Shortly after lunch, a fishing boat cruised past, and we flagged them down.  Telling them about the guys stranded on the beach back there, they said they would swing over and see if they could be of help.  I wrote down what I knew and handed it to them to turn over to the rangers when they went back to Flamingo.  

Shortly after they left, another group of fishermen came by, but these folks were another story altogether.  They were on a pontoon boat with piles of belongings scattered all over the place, towing another smaller craft that sported various pieces of vegetation.  The 4 men barely had a place to sit.  They told us they had swamped the smaller boat and that was how it came to be so decorated.  They asked if we knew if the other side of the chickee was permitted for the night, but we had no way of knowing that.  The 4 settled in to make themselves lunch, while asking us for directions to various spots.  They had no charts or any electronics, as far as we could tell.  Not a good thing in a mangrove swamp.  After a bit, one guy pulled out some charts from a packet he had, and the others chide him for not looking at them earlier.  They had been wandering around for the better part of a day and a half, thinking none of them packed a map.  They had somehow seen us and came our way to get better directions.  Soon, another small boat showed up, and they had the other side of the chickee for the night so the 4 fishermen loaded up the towed craft like a barge, lashing down their belongings so there was room for them all to sleep on the pontoon boat.  Off they went in search of a quiet bay to fish, looking a lot like the Beverly Hillbillies.  We called them Larry, Moe, Curly, and Schemp.

Our new neighbors were a couple from Key West and a male friend.  All of them were about 30.  We visited some, but mostly let them be.  5 people, on 2 platforms separated by about 30 feet, with a porta-john between them, provides no way to not know the other groups business.  Roger and I kept our voices low, so we shared as little as possible.  This was the first night bugs were bad on a chickee.  Most of the time, there is enough of a breeze to keep the bugs down, but not this evening.

Thursday morning we arose to more clear skies and flat water.  We had an easy day ahead, with no navigation difficulties.  Even with good charts and compasses, we had occasionally needed to turn on Roger’s GPS on the trip, but not today.  We headed for the Joe River and found the chickee at the north end quickly. Our goal was the South Joe chickee.  We arrived just in time for lunch.  I busied myself afterwards with making a list of things I wanted to change on my kayak.  Spending a week aboard had pointed out a few little things, and this was my first trip in that boat.  I had enjoyed my trip last year so much that when I returned to Portland I purchased this used boat and shipped it to Roger.  He was kind enough to store it along with his own 7 paddling craft, for the mere price of use as he saw fit.  Seemed like a deal for both of us.  

Unlike last year, we had managed to not drop anything through the boards, or over the sides, until I knocked my clip-on sunglasses through.  Not a bad record, and I had back ups.




In this picture, I am leaning over the side of the chickee, shooting the top of Roger's boat.

The water at this chickee was so calm that it truly was like a mirror.  We spent some time taking pictures of the sunset, the reflections off the water, anything that drew an eye.  The moon was full when it came up.  As I arose in the middle of the night, I stopped to take as shot of it reflecting off the bay, but as usual it failed to do it justice.



Friday the 25th was our day of exit.  We had barely made it to the open bay when a fishing boat turned towards us and stopped as they neared.  “Do you know where we are?”  Seems 2 guys from Ohio were out fishing the bay and had no navigational aids.  They got themselves turned around and could not find the channel markers.  When Roger told them it was back the way they came from, they said, ”You mean we are going the wrong way?”  I told them that would be true only if they were actually trying to find the channel markers.  We paddled on after they left and found the channel that led to the dock.  On the way across the bay, a tour boat operator stopped to ask us how long we had been out.  When we told him 8 nights, he asked what we did for fresh water, or did we have a filter for the brackish stuff we were floating?  When we told him we had left with 8 gallons of water stowed in our boats, along with all of the food and gear we would need, he seemed surprised we had that kind of storage.  I think we actually had room for 2 more gallons.

It was a good trip.  We saw alligators in Alligator Creek, sharks at Shark Point, oysters in Oyster Bay, but the Swedish Bikini team never showed up.  When I did the final mileage tally, it turns out we averaged 11.5 miles a day, and mostly managed 3-3.5 MPH.

The entertainment was not over, though.  After showering at the campground, we headed over to the Ranger Station and the restaurant for a bite of lunch.  We walked in after 1:30 to find the café had about 12 tables waiting for their food.  From last year, I knew the cook was slow, but this was a different cook.  Slower.  Enough so that the waitresses, 3 of them, were getting testy.  Ours told us it would be a while, as the cook could only handle 1 ticket at a time.  He would read 1 ticket, cook it and put it out before even looking at the next one.   Since it was obvious we had a few minutes, I took advantage by going over to the Ranger station to hear what had become of the guys left behind at Graveyard Creek.  I drew a crowd of 3 rangers, as I recounted my observations.  The man who had actually lost his boat had come back in with the anglers we had sent his way, and was in the walk in campsite there.  He was waiting for the others to finish the trip and come back to pick him up.  The rangers bit their tongue when I mentioned the lack of thought involved with many decisions made, and mentioned there would be a hearing scheduled to determine if any action would be taken against the guide.  I thought the least was his National Park guide privileges should be revoked.  They thanked me for making sure the client had sufficient food and water, and for us sending the fishermen over.  I returned to the café, to hear one of the waitresses and the cook going at it.  Seems the cook was refusing to make a pizza because it threw him off his ability to do only one thing at a time.  As they argued, I heard him tell her to come back to the kitchen and do it herself.  She walked away to discuss things with her other co-workers when I saw the cook walk out of the kitchen and clock himself out.  3 PM in a place that was open to 7 PM, and now no cook at all.  No problem.  Head waitress calmly walked back into the kitchen and started cooking.  We began to hear, “Order Up!” every couple of minutes as she cranked out the burgers and fries, along with the other items from a very restricted menu.  No idea what the cook’s problem was, but he had no skills as a short order.  We laughed with the ladies and tipped them well as we left.

For all of you folks that peak bag, beat this!



Saturday was errand day, with me needing to make about 4 stops.  I failed to find a large numeral compass, but other items were readily available.  I bought some black shock cord to address a re-routing of lines on my boat, some small black cord for loops to attach my deck bag better, and some black letters for naming the boat.  I had decided to name it Marcy Lou, as a light hearted reminder of my wife at home.  When I sent her pictures of it, she had tears in her eyes, touched by my thinking of her.  OK, I was going for laughter, but this turned out in my favor, once I got home.

Sunday the 27th we paddled the Chazz River.  It is actually the Chassahowitz or something, but Chazz will have to do.  We paddled out in a foggy morning, and right over about 20 manatees.  As we continued on out to the Gulf, we rounded a corner and found a place for lunch.  I had brought fried chicken and tossed the bones to the crabs.  It was fun watching them scurry off to eat in peace and solitude.  As we sat there, I heard a huffing sound and Roger located a pod of dolphins exhaling into the afternoon sun.  They were herding a school of fish and eating their fill.  We watched them hunt for almost 45 minutes before we headed back in.  On the way back to the mouth of the river, we saw a huger gator off on the shore.  He must have been 15 feet long and 6 or 8 feet in girth.  This is as big as gators get in the US.  I was glad to not encounter him in the water.  My kayak is 18 ft, but not big enough to make me feel comfortable passing by such a beast.



Monday we headed up to Gore’s Landing on the Ocklawaha River for a day paddle.  We would spend the night and paddle the Silver River up to Silver Springs the next day.  More gators and birds, and we saw some Rhesus monkeys on the Silver.  





Wednesday was a short paddle on the Hillsborough near Roger’s house, and back so I could pack for the trip home.  We ate at some nice joints, including Skipper’s, which is famed for fish and music.  Not the chain restaurant, but a happening, run down sort of place.  I arrived home Thursday night about 8 PM.  Now, I am looking to upgrade my kayak for here.  Nigel Dennis makes a nice boat.  More than I need, but it is a pretty and very functional craft.

Album can be found here .  More pictures will be added when I get them from Roger.


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 02 2013, 3:30 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Great reading about your trip!

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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 02 2013, 5:28 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

It seems there is more to the story.  The client that lost his red Necky was notified by the Coast Guard that his boat was found on a sand bar near Archer Key, in the Keys National Wildlife Refuge.  However, the finder claimed it under maritime law and had already sold it.  The fellow whop lost it was consulting a lawyer to see if he had any recourse with the finder or the CG for allowing the finder to keep it.  There was no ID on or in the boat, and the CG only found out who it belonged to when they called the rangers at Flamingo to see if there was a report of a missing boater.  Seems there was a Flamingo tide chart in the boat, so they started there.  Once told the boater was OK, the CG seemed to back out of the entire operation.  

Let this be a lesson to us all.  Write your name and a contact inside all of your gear, so you can be contacted if it is ever found without you along with it.  I know I have my name and my wife's cell number on my PFD.  I will now put something on all of my boats with my name and cell number.  


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 02 2013, 8:05 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Great report and pictures, thanks

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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 03 2013, 2:46 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Did Roger encourage you to paddle up close to the big gator for a photo op?  :D

I fell in love with the Chaz and we didn't go as far as y'all did.  :;):

Great TR! I can't wait to go next month.  :cool:
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 03 2013, 10:59 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(cgaphiker @ Feb. 02 2013, 11:46 pm)
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Did Roger encourage you to paddle up close to the big gator for a photo op?  :D

No, but on the Silver he did get a nice pic of me while I was shooting a pic of the gator with the turtle sleeping at his tail.

Take enough time to paddle out into the Gulf and around the corner.  While the open water is nice.  We had a great time watching the dolphins feed.


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 03 2013, 12:12 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Great report!  This is a trip I've wanted to do for a long time but the logistics (and the bug reports) have always spooked me.  But your pictures are really enticing -- love the gators!  Thanks for sharing them.

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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 03 2013, 1:24 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Bugs were not bad on any of the chickees, and 2 of the ground sites.  They were mostly driving us insane at Broad River and Graveyard Creek.  Nothing quite like setting up your tent at noon, and diving in at 4 when the bugs don't even let you boil water for supper.  At least at Broad, we managed to have a hot dinner before retiring to our bug netted shelters.

The logistics are not all that complicated, but it pays to have plenty of charts and such.  Send me a note if you are serious, ever.  Roger has many books on Florida paddling, and now I have a few myself.  Might even be talked into tagging along, if invited.  


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 03 2013, 9:26 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Great report - thanks.  LOVE LOVE LOVE the big gator.  :)

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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 07 2013, 8:54 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Nice write-up! Noseeums are a pain especially if there isn't a breeze.
Glad you both had a great time!!!
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 12 2013, 2:48 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

This picture is for cgaphiker who asked if I got a picture of a gator and ol-zeke. This one was taken on the Hillsborough River.  



Gators come in all sizes.



The Hillsborough River where the gator pictures  were taken runs through a cypress swamp before it reaches Tampa.



The birds are great in the everglades but also along the Hillsborough River,   Chasawiska and other places we paddled.  The snow birds are here!  We saw large flocks of White Pelicans along with Wood Storks, Sand Hill Cranes and a lot of ducks.  On the Silver River there were a number of pairs of wood ducks and the Anhingas were starting to make their nest.  All of the typical wading birds were present with White Ibis dominating.  While we were at Graveyard camping site a Magnificent Frigate Bird flew by heading north.  Ospreys are found on most any body of water and are always entertaining to watch them fish.  There is so much water in the glades that the wildlife is spread out compared to the rivers we paddled.  

The no-see-ums are a pain.  When they are present they often are in very large numbers.  On another trip I remember waking up in the morning and looking out of the tent and seeing nothing but no-see-um on the netting.  That is the time you pack up as fast as possible and head for open water.  No stopping for breakfast.  That being said at least they do not carry diseases like ticks or mosquitoes and are usually close to shore and not out during the middle of the day.

There are a lot of paddling opportunities in Florida so if you are interested I should be able to point you in the right directions or if I am available go paddling with you.  I certainly have enough paddle craft! While you can paddle all year long the best time is from November through May with the best time for the glades being January – March


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“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 12 2013, 10:06 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

Love the babies!  Cute!!

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