Everglades and Beyond
23 February 2016 | Little Shark River, Florida
Winds were forecast to turn east and fair for several days, so we decided to say good-bye to the Keys for a while and explore something completely different - the Everglades. It meant saying good-bye to many friends we had made in Boot Key Harbor, and I was surprised by how reluctant I was to move on. A month earlier one of our friends had simply left at first light without saying a word. We awoke to find their mooring ball empty. This 15-year cruising couple later emailed us and all of their friends at Boot Key to apologize and explain that they hate good-byes, and so never do them. Interesting solution I thought.
We rose at first light and sailed 40nm to Little Shark River in the southern Everglades. It was a spirited sail in 22kt winds, close hauled with heavy chop. Not at all the "fair" winds predicted. I wish I had counted the number of times I took in and shook out reefs. More than five, for sure. At the start of the sail, to our horror, winds were NE not East as forecast; our heading was Pensacola! But as winds turned East we were able to bring our heading around into Shark River, so no tack was necessary. In fact, we could have sailed onto anchor. We did not.
Once in the river, though winds were blowing a heavy chop out in the Gulf, we were sitting calmly in flat, tea-colored water. It was surreal. We sat on deck to watch the sunset over the Gulf.
The next morning, we weighed anchor and took a cruise up the river. The Little Shark River is an amazing body of water. It holds 6 foot depths for 20nm+ into the heart of the Everglades. We went no where near that far. Still, what we saw was how I imagine an Amazon cruise would be: Tree-lined, deep, dark water with animals slipping into the water as we passed. We saw sharks breach (I didn't know they did that!), manatee, dolphin and LOTS of birds.
We did a tight U-turn in the river to begin our journey to our next stop, Marco Island.
Or so we thought... More on that later.