All systems were a go after a few boat projects; with the weekend approaching and the potential for an even more crowded anchorage, we left Marco Island on Friday morning with our sights set on the Florida Everglades. This would surely bring us a change in scenery. Because the Everglades encompasses much of Southwest Florida, we decided to head first to Indian Key Pass, near Everglades City. Dogs napped for much of our trip as we came to Ten Thousand Islands. For more protection, we dropped the hook in Russell Pass just inside Indian Key Pass. Other than the occasional flats boat passing by, we had the anchorage to ourselves. The winds were calm enough for Troy to get the drone up. After taking a few shots of the boat, he flew over the mangroves where we spotted a few other cruising boats anchored up river. So, even though we had very spotty cell service, we weren’t completely alone. Thanks to the abundant sunshine that day, our sun shower warmed up nicely…we suited up and showered on deck before devouring tacos and a few strawberry margaritas.
Before picking up anchor the next morning, we fueled up on pancakes with syrup and strawberry jam, and of course, hot coffee. If you haven’t noticed by now, food is pretty high-up on our list of important daily activities! We knew ahead of time winds wouldn’t necessarily be in our favor and that we would need to motor most of the day, yet we pushed on to our next stop in the Everglades. About 35 nautical miles south of Indian Key Pass was the entrance to Little Shark River. Thankful to see the mangrove opening come into view, we had just finished the most uncomfortable passage yet. Rocking, rolling, and being blasted by endless sea spray was the summary of our trip. Thankfully, Salty Tails and her beefy ten-ton body kept us slicing through the rough chop.
As we entered the river, we knew we were in a special place. A 60-foot-tall mangrove forest lined the river as we dropped the anchor about a mile upstream. It was like a step back in time, the same scenery could have greeted sailors a hundred years ago. Other than mangroves and the expanse of the river, there was nothing in sight…no docks, stores, or any sort of infrastructure. Other than the half dozen cruising boats lining the sides of the river, this place is completely uninhabited. The lone bar of a cell signal we got at Russell Pass had completely vanished here. We were completely isolated. It felt…exhilarating, calming, and maybe even a little unnerving. Before our trip, we purchased a Garmin InReach, a GPS communication device that can send text messages or emails from anywhere in the world. This allowed us to send our nightly “we’re alive” text to Mom. With a half hour to spare before sunset, we explored a nearby creek in the dinghy as dozens of groups of birds made what appeared to be their nightly return to roost.
Just before the mosquitoes and no-see-ums swarmed us, we rolled down the cockpit enclosure. The only thing getting inside tonight would be the breeze! Maybe they were enticed by the smell of our grilling. Soon, with our bellies happy from bacon cheeseburgers, we crawled in the v-berth for some much-needed sleep.
On Sunday we discovered the dolphins…it was hard not to, they were everywhere. Up and down the banks of the river countless dolphins searched for food. At times an individual dolphin passed, but more often than not, groups of two or three would slowly meander up and down the bank, I’m guessing, poking their noses through the mangroves for hiding fish. Even at night with the front hatch open, we could hear the blow of air from the passing dolphin. During the day, my workouts were frequently interrupted, and I found myself staring, hoping to spot where they might surface next. I really lost count of my reps the day I spotted the passing manatee. There weren’t nearly as many manatees as dolphins, but they still brought us lots of excitement.
We weren’t necessarily in a hurry to leave Little Shark River, so on Day 3 we headed off in the dinghy to explore the inner waterways of the Everglades. There are miles upon miles of interconnecting waterways to explore. We made it as far as Oyster Bay. We read in our Waterway Guide that it could be easy to lose your way and that was obvious with the little exploring that we had done so far, so we brought along our iPad with Navionics charts. We made it back in time for dinner!