Just had hot breakfast of bacon and eggs, ready to pack up for a second action packed day...this may be my longest day at 20 miles. My thoughts were to get a lot of backcountry miles in early on while heading north so I could spend more time at the beach sites on the way back south.
All packed and ready to go...the chickee is much cleaner then when I arrived. I am a little better prepared today after being caught in a rain storm yesterday with the covers unlaced. It is very difficult to lace up the covers from the canoe while underway on the water. I don't really have a good loading/unloading system down yet and my back is struggling with it. I had back surgery 4 years ago and have had to take pain meds to cope with it after the first year. Lacing up the covers requires bending over in awkward positions for an extended period of time, this is the worst case for my back. I dreaded lacing up from the boat the most - even shore lacing required some extended bending. without these covers I would be sunk, and fast, in waves to come. I installed an aluminum awning track to fit under the existing rail the full length of the open deck. I then sewed (or tried to sew) heavy boat canvas to soft PVC track slide material that fits in this track. This sewn side is fairly water tight while the opposite side is laced with line to accommodate the outrigger connecting beams (aka's) and support lines. This system worked fairly well but it was a time consuming backbreaking task I did not relish, and two times or more times each day, pain!
Watson River Chickee all cleaned and ready for the next tenant. With Chickee's you are only allowed one night's stay, other ground or beach sites permit more but all have some max limit up to 7 days but most are 2-3. Click here for information I enjoyed the Chickee's which are the only place to set a tent in these areas but beach sites are really my thing, along with a nice campfire. Without a NPS provided Chickee or site you must sleep in your boat. Watson River Chickee is located at the far Northeastern corner of Whitewater Bay.
I leave Watson River and sail west behind some islands pointing high as possible to make Cormorant Pass. Cormorant Pass connects to Shark Cutoff via a series of mangrove islands like most of the Everglades although the first half has markers that will get you to the Gulf. The second half narrows into Shark Cutoff before opening up to Shark River. The winds have been somewhat favorable all morning but a paddle/sail has been in order thus far. Upon entering the wider Shark River the winds increase from the Gulf which puts me in great sailing conditions. I consistently hit 5 knots in a full run - this is what it is all about...fun and exciting travel on a beautiful day!
This photo was taken as I blasted past the Shark River Chickee, set slightly off of the Shark on a connecting artery it looks inviting but I'm on a mission and continue on at full speed.
Hit 6 knots as I past this little stand of mangroves in the Shark River. I am covering some serious ground and in the best of spirits. Really hamming it up with Steve now, wishing he was here to enjoy this thrilling moment. I have not seen or heard a person or a boat since yesterday and loving it.
As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end... As I turn the corner from the Shark River North onto the Harney River West the wind and tide are against me. Most any destination in the back country travel requires anything but a straight line to reach. I tried my best to sail directly into this 2+ knot Harney River current with 15 knot wind in my face but ended up making so little headway that it was not worth the effort. Testing every conceivable angle of attack using my sharpest sailing tactics I give up in near exhaustion wrapping a line around a stationary mangrove. I also tried poling with Steve's glades pole but it barely touched the bottom which felt like smooth rock. The pole would promptly slide even when I could touch bottom, tied back up.
While resting up and contemplating the next move I spot this snail on the underside of the mangrove Calusa is currently tied to. I then notice a few more and wounder what part of the Ecosystem these land shells play. They must serve a purpose such as cleaning parasites and such that could harm the leaves. All the trees I noticed them in appeared very healthy. These mangrove areas all look pretty much the same from a distance but upon closer inspection are quite diverse. Both plants and animals seem to work in harmony.
A Deer Fly dined on my ankle as I observer the local ecosystem. I did not expect to get this involved. This little bloodsucker did not get away. They pack quite a bite and you know it when they are almost finished. It is difficult to detect them until midway through their quick liquid meal.
American Ibis are the workers of the Everglades. Around every corner, on every waterway bank, in every mangrove forest, there is an Ibis. Ibis must outnumber any other waterbird in the Glades by the hundreds. They do not seem all that intelligent either...as I approach they fly to the next dead tree up the waterway in the direction of my travel. This repeats itself sometimes for miles or the next connecting artery gives them an option out. Few are bright enough to just circle back overhead and enjoy the rest of their life. It is comforting to see them feed on the mangrove and mud banks all day. There is a wide variety in color but most are pure white with black wingtips.
After resting up and feeding my body some energy I lower the mast and put paddle in hand. Knowing the current is least on inside corners of bending rivers I head off with that in mind. I also must stay as close as possible to the mangrove banks to help block the wind gusts. With the hours creeping by I keep chewing away at the miles toward my destination, Harney River Chickee. At some point the tide finally eases and my progress increases. It seems like I have a rhythm going now and the next thing I know the Chickee is on the horizon.
It is almost dusk when I finally arrive and question if I have energy enough left to setup camp. Soon as I stop moving and tie up at the chickee, out comes the no-see-um's like none I have ever experienced before. I mean 100% DEET applied thickly would not stop the little flying teeth.
Fighting off biting flying insects of many flavors, I quickly regained reserve energy and setup camp. From that time on, no more shorts...I wore long pants with socks and shoes. Too tired to cook bugs I grabbed some finger foods and into the tent. Really can't remember the last time I had been this tired and could only imagine how sore I would be in the morning. On top of a rough ending to an otherwise great day I was heading into the most challenging section of my entire adventure tomorrow 'The Nightmare'. This place has it's own special notation on marine charts. I will find out if it lives up to it's name. Hasata manana.
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