Everglades Camp Sail Trip Report by Scott Birdwell:
Day 1, Monday 19 Oct. started out from Jim's place in Cape Coral. Just had three boats out of seven planned.
To travel and launch from Calusa Island Marina, out on the water just after 1p, at low tide. Wind was about 22 kts out of the NE, so a bit of motoring and tacking back, to get out into the channel. I did have a reef tucked in. Jim and Travis under full sail.
Once on the channel the cruising was quite nice in the lee of the mangroves out to Coon Key Pass. Getting out of the pass and on the Gulf, the first destination was White Horse Key. On in the Gulf water was 2-3 ft swells, wind about 22 kts, gusting 27. We kept to the lee of the shore, water was smother, but required more that an few tacks to stay in 1 ft or less waves all the while minding the water depth. Very nice sailing, partial cloudy, 82 deg day with that occasional splash over the bow. Good to have that Hans shield in place. Made landfall about 4p at White Horse Key and decided to camp there.
Day 2, target Picnic Key. Much like Day 1, winds about 20 to 23 kts out of the NE. Again I kept the reef tucked and was level sailing at good speed. Stayed on the lee shore for smoother water. Occasionally out in the Gulf for some bumps, overall very nice sailing. Lots of dolphins to watch out for. We camped on the channel side of the key. There were kayakers on the gulf beach. Travis tossed his net and caught a few pompano. Made for nice filets.
Day 3, target Jewel Key. Sort of thinking about trying for Chokoloskee in the next day am from there. Nice sailing as the winds let themselves down to about 15 kts. I shook out my reef on Picnic at the out set and was able to maintain level sailing with some good sprint runs to 12 kts. We got to Jewel on the gulf side, raccoons on the shore saw me clip a mangrove trying to test the shore approach. Realizing the difficulty with 3 boats, decided to blow off the Jewel Key camp. We regrouped at an islet off Jack Daniels Key,
noshed on snacks for a late lunch and decided to head back to Panther Key for camp. Very nice sailing on sunny clear sky, 85 degree day, and nice ride to the NW on E winds.
Nice spot to camp on South East side of Panther Key.
In the am there was a very brief spritz of Florida sunny showers. Provided for a nifty am rainbow pointing to the pot-o-gold right on our next trajectory. Was gone before we loaded up and headed out.
Day 4, target Cape Romano. Decided to pay the dome homes a visit. Sticking to the lee shore on 20 kts east wind provide an enjoyable sail. Again a nice sunny day, 83 deg and with some clouds. Got in the obligatory photo op with the domes.
Wind was E, variable from 10 to 15 but provided for a nice reach to Marco Island resorts on the gulf so off we went in search of a beach bar. Took a while to figure out where to park and not to interfere with swimmers, jet skiers and cat rentals.
But we found a spot, headed to the Sunset Grill for pub grub and cold ones and bonus of better mobile reception, could check in and all that stuff, plus eat from someone else's kitchen.
We then headed back to Cape Romano to camp. Somewhat like old ladies looking for a spot in the Walmart lot, after five choices we landed. High tide brought the water to about 2 feet from both Jim's and my tent.
Next morning was grey with some showers on the eastern horizon did burn off before to set sail and again the sun prevailed for a beautiful day.
Day 5, target Calusa Island Marina. Again sticking to the lee shore, the water was smoother than the Gulf. East wind at about 15 kts was nice, although a lot of tacking to get back to Coon Key inlet to the marina. Over all a delightful trip, very nice sailing, no rain and warm weather, the best beaches to camp on; couldn't have been better.