Jan 20 2011

Cape Sable Expedition

Cape Sable is the one of the last remaining natural beaches in the United States.  While my heart is set on final frontiers like Alaska, my pocket will settle for the final frontiers and no-mans lands in my state.  Not only one of the last remaining beaches, but Cape Sable is considered to be the southernmost part of the United States landmass.  The Florida Keys are connected by man-made bridges, so “it don’t count”.  Anyways, being that I admire all things tradition and “the hard way”.  I decided to leave the boat at home, and see it like the Calusa indians did, by Canoe.

Two adventurers, one REALLY old canoe, one beach awating.  This trip was cooked up and supposed to occur in 2009.  At the time, I had my sailing canoe conversion in full effect, and could wait to send it off.  Some of the oth

er guys were getting kayaks, etc.  And as adventure plans usually go, everyone is excited, but not everyone follows through.  The drawing was made, everyone had their edge.  Mine was, my old canoe, loaded up with gear, with a PolyTarp sail.  Another was taking his boat (cheater), and another was taking his kayak with a downwind sail…

So that’s as far as that trip went.  It was rescheduled for 2010, and by the time December came around, 3 people canceled, and then there were two.  As usual, I was juggling things, so after laying two pallets of grass, and preparing my front yard and driveways for permit inspections the day before, I packed at the last minute, slept 3 hours, and was off.

At this point we used my sailing canoe, without any sailing gear, since my leeboard thwart snapped in the shallows about a month before.  But equipped with a couple of Kayak paddles, we loaded that sucker up with cans, water, jerky (what else do you ned in life right?!), live shrimp, etc.  and were on our way out of Flamingo, Everglades National Park. Day 1.

Day 1 Begin
We checked in with the ranger, loaded up, got an encouraging comment from a local fisherman “both of you, and all that stuff in that canoe? brave men, I’ll tell ya”. And we were gone.  The ranger mentioned it might not be a good idea to cross through the inside of the island, because of the tide, but we were pioneers, so we decided to play it by ear.

Mud Flats
Low and behold, we got stuck in the mud flats.  It took both of our efforts to push at the same time, to move 1 foot at a time.  Tide was gettin lower, so unless we were going to camp in the mud, we needed to get outta there.  An hour and a half later, exhausted, and paddles creaking from the force, we made it out.  Aimed for the first Cape (which we thought was Cape Sable) and went for it.  After we got around the first bend, we realized that this 3 hour paddle after the flats wore us down, was only a halfway point.  So we took a 15 min. break.  Give or take 20 minutes to heat up some soup :).

After that, we set off for the real Cape Sable (East Cape).  Following an ohur long attempt at moving, against wind and tide, it felt like we were going nowhere, and the flats really wore us down, and <cue some more excuses>, so we decided to pull back in for camp.

First Camp
First camp was nice, but windy, I had to make stakes out of nearby wood and hammer them deep into the soft sand to keep the tent from flying away.  We caught some small catfish and a redfish, and ate it for dinner with some soup.  I took the guts and put them into some crawfish traps I had which I opened up to make crab traps and left them for the night.  In the morning, the tide went down about a block away from us.  The traps were washed up on land and had crabs, and the shrimp were in a mud puddle but miraculously still alive.  We heaved the canoe through the mud/quicksand, and were off again.  We had a nasty cold front come in that weekend.  It was great for rowing, but bad for sleeping.  Especially since all of my clothes and my sleeping bag, and change of clothers (sweats) were all moist.

Destination Cape

We left at daybreak and arrived at East Cape in about 3 hours.  We had the rest of the day to relax, make fire, fish, and best of all, DRY CLOTHES. It was indeed a breathtaking view.  The beach was covered in shells. Corals of all kinds of colors would wash up on shore, some still in their soft, jelly-like state.  Inland was very thick, and an extra day would have been necessary to explore it.  As with most situations when I spend a lot of time away from civilization, boredom sets in, and self-entertainment is necessary.  Thus was the purpose of the pelican feather.  Which I forgot I had on and almost made it to the marina with it on.  It happens.

Final Camp
At night, the full moon made the beach visible with little or no light.  Little black critters moved in the distance, which turned out to be racoons scoping the area.  At about 1 in the morning, we were awakened to a racoon reaching in the shrimp bucket and enjoying the rest of my live shrimp.  The fishing wasn’t all that good from the shore, but I’m sure a little East into calmer water would’ve been good.  Then again at aroun 3:30AM, the same coon was trying to get inside the tent (where all the food was).  He was shood away finally settled down.  We made a big fire the last night to celebrate and get warm, because come morning, we were shooting for all the way home.

East Cape campsite

Rowing Home
Setting off about 5:30AM, I would divide the trip back into three segments.  Getting past the canal took what seened like forever to pass.  Then we hugged the shoreline and made it to the halfway point.  The successful method was picking points in the shore and setting goals and rewards.  “When we get to swan log, well eat an apple”.  “When we get around the halfway bend, I will brin out the jery, etc.”  I believe it was that, that mentally got us through an entire day of rowing.   For lunch, one person rowed while the other had a 20 min. lunch break.  We ran aground 15 minutes away from the channel with the marina in site.  But the tide was going up this time.  So not pushing through, or getting off and pulling like last time.  This time we relaxed, I carefully heated a soup on my little Coleman stove, and before we knew it we were floating again.

Ariving at the marina, we got a few remarks from tourists about the canoe, but other than that, it was a regular day in the park after that.  The trip was over, It felt like a huge accompishment, and I feel proud to have see such a pristeen beach, unsculpted by man.