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Old 31-07-2015, 10:58   #1
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Beach Cruising Everglades National Park

Has anyone ever beach cruised the Florida Everglades, or thought about it?

I've been looking at ways of escaping nasty Canadian winters for a while and have considered a few options for a great vacation. The obvious one would be to sail my boat down to the Bahamas and spend the winter there, which won't work because I can't take the year and a half or so off work that I would need to do that at an enjoyable pace right now.

Chartering is outrageously expensive.

While out sailing on the week end with my brothers the topic of beach cruising came up over a couple litres of cider. We all used to do it, we all used to do canoe tripping as well, very similar to beach cruising.

After I brought up the topic I learned one of my brothers has been collecting wood working tools and plans for building a cruising dinghy for years, but has never gotten around to building one lacking the necessary motivation.

So the idea is to build three 15 or 16 foot cruising dinghy's (okay- I might just buy a used wayfarer), take 5 or so weeks vacation mid winter, which isn't a problem for any of us and trailer our cruising dinghys down to Florida and cruise the Everglades for 3 or 4 weeks. We need so many boats because each one of us has a young family.

So far we've encountered two potential challenges with our developing plan.

The first is water, The Park Service says you need to carry one gallon of drinking water per person per day- and make sure the raccoons don't steel it. This seems like reasonable advice, but a gallon per person per day for a family of 4 in a 15 foot boat, well it's easy to see why this is a problem. Of course we're aware of Katadyns water makers but they are slow and painful. Has any one done a similar trip? Are there ways to replenish drinking water in the everglades without a water maker? Any fresh water sources clean or otherwise?

The other challenge is mosquitoes and other biting insects, which we know how to deal with.

Any experienced beach/camp cruisers out there with advice or anecdotes before we start buying and outfitting boats for our expedition?
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Old 31-07-2015, 16:50   #2
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Re: Beach Cruising Everglades National Park

Hi…Yes ! I did a solo 100mi. cruise from Chockaloskee to Flamino along the Wilderness Waterway 12 years back.Great trip ……but contact the Everglades national park service and get there 2 publications:Cruising guide to theEverglades by Rauscher and The Camp Guide to the Everglades..a booklet really; not sure this is the exact title but the Nat.park book store will have it.

Beach camping where there are almost no beaches? Except on the gulf coast and the East Cape to Flamingo area…Its all mangrove and almost no dry place to stand let alone pitch a tent, so what to do? Chickasees! Huh? These a way cool elevated tent platforms that you can tie your camp cruiser to and be above the water ,gators, and snakes! O.k. I never saw a snake in my 8 day trip but did see plenty of gators, so after seeing a few of these bad boys, you will be glad to know the location of the chickadees mentioned in the pamphlet. Fish and Oysters abound but Water is unavailable ,and due to the intrusion of salt water raccoons are frantic for some fresh water and my decks always had their muddy footprints on deck at sunrise. I had my water stored in those 5 gal.collapseable containers and had to ration after the strong sun broke down the plastic and rendered the contents undrinkable. The rangers in everglades city assured me that I was probably the first person to do this trip alone in a sailboat, but i suspect this was mainly due to low overhanging vegatation that required me to drop my tabernacled mast and occasionally wade over some shallows…my gaff rigged Bay Hen drew only 9" with boards up and I had the luxury of a screened cuddy cabin with crawling headroom so i could anchor out in relative comfort. It was disconcerting however when awakened in the middle of the night with the crash of a large aquatic animal against my hull ;after that I spent more nights on the chickadees.

If you are set on beach camping,I would recommend departing from Flamingo and heading out to East Cape where you will find white sugary sand that hasn't seen a human foot print since the native americans were exterminated.
Two other book recommendations: River of Grass and Killing of Mister Watson,lots good history here on some untouched real wilderness.

Cruising World showed an interest in my adventure,but wanted photos of people having fun but I never saw another soul… …….Go ! you will have a great adventure…


…………………luv you all……………………mike……………………………...
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Old 31-07-2015, 18:07   #3
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Re: Beach Cruising Everglades National Park

Awesome response Mike. It sounds like you are confirming a lot of what the park service says, its real serious wilderness, no shortcuts available. Awesome!

We are not focused on beach camping, in fact, we would rather adjust our trip to the realities of the destination. We've been on the park service website and they describe beach sites, these sites you describe and back woods sites (which I think are really backwoods).

What kind of boat did you use? How were the wind and wave conditions?

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Old 31-07-2015, 19:28   #4
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Re: Beach Cruising Everglades National Park

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Originally Posted by FamilyVan View Post
Has anyone ever beach cruised the Florida Everglades, or thought about it?


So far we've encountered two potential challenges with our developing plan.

The first is water, The Park Service says you need to carry one gallon of drinking water per person per day- and make sure the raccoons don't steel it. This seems like reasonable advice, but a gallon per person per day for a family of 4 in a 15 foot boat, well it's easy to see why this is a problem. Of course we're aware of Katadyns water makers but they are slow and painful. Has any one done a similar trip? Are there ways to replenish drinking water in the everglades without a water maker? Any fresh water sources clean or otherwise?

The other challenge is mosquitoes and other biting insects, which we know how to deal with.

?
I have done many fly-in fishing trips in the Canadian north. You only think you have dealt with mosquitos. I have also walked the glades in high mosquito season when the person three steps ahead of you was disappearing in what looked like smoke. (June 20). When the bugs are there, you will find no way to enjoy anything, nor will you keep them away. Your plan of a winter visit might work.

You may find that a generator & water maker will solve your other problems and more. Likely to take less space/weight than jugs of water. How many gallons of water do you make with a gallon of fuel?
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Old 31-07-2015, 19:57   #5
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Re: Beach Cruising Everglades National Park

Nich, we plan on using sails and oars. No machinery.

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Old 01-08-2015, 06:47   #6
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Re: Beach Cruising Everglades National Park

Hi again,I did go in winter mosquitoes not so bad….I did not mention them in my post above since they are a given ,esp.w/no breeze, but never had to wear my jungle bee keepers type hat. The Wilderness waterway is really a series of wide bays connected by narrow overgrown channels that sometimes required dropping the mast and I did carry a small machete that proved useful on occasion. My biggest fear (unfounded apparently) was tipping a snake out of an overhanging branch and into my 19' Bay Hen ….where do you go then? There ain't no walkin home………..the mangrove is totally impenetrable and the water looks the same everywhere with no distinguishing landmarks or even navigational aids except a few off shore in the shallow waters that extend a long way from shore on the Gulf side. I had my first GPS (Garmin lat. and long. only) and this was helpful in identifying which particular bay I was in.Navigation however is aided by Park




Service wooden signs that are help in finding your way out of the larger bays where the exit out is obscured even if you are in front of it.
I got into some trouble in the Lost Man River in a very strong tidal current that combined with the usual N.E.ly Shot my gaff -rigged on a white knuckle ride at break neck speed thru rapids at the mouth out into the Gulf of Mexico over a VERY shallow sand bar with open water waves churning up the far side………….maybe my best sail ever,but as is said: "the adventure is never fun while you're having it" I wouldn't share that with any loved ones and there will be no one there to save your bacon.
All of which gets me to recommend going with your buddies first and only later bring the kids to the beach areas mentioned in my 1st.post, in short ,the best thing to do is favor the advice of the rangers over mine, esp. regards wives and children. Go to you tube for some good videos of this magnificent terrain and interesting confessions of some convicted drug smugglers some of whom are still active in this and the nearby 10000 islands .

………….Luv you all……………………………………………..mike
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Old 01-08-2015, 09:43   #7
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Re: Beach Cruising Everglades National Park

Kayaked from Flamingo up the Gulf around Cape Sable to Shark River then into the Wilderness Waterway and back to Flamingo with my son. The first part up the Gulf Coast was all beach camp sites awhile the interior sites were Chickees (platforms on the water where you pitch a tent...they have a porta potty too). Do not even think of doing this without a GPS and a chart of the area...you'll never find the chickees without GPS. Winter is the "low" season for Mosquitos , but be in your tent by dusk as they will follow the CO2 trail of your breath and coat your tent. Don't leave the tent until the morning breeze picks up when a few slaps on the tent wall will scatter them into the breeze. You have to file a float plan with the at the park office with the Rangers to reserve the camp sites. We were in the park for ten days and did about 20 miles a day. In hindsight , I would make that 15 to allow more fishing time. We brought water in flexible containers and ate freeze dried meals cooked on small backpacking stoves. It was a great adventure and I highly recommend this as it's a bucket list experience...the wild life experiences were memorable. Feel free to send me a private message if I can be of help.
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Old 01-08-2015, 10:40   #8
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Re: Beach Cruising Everglades National Park

That sounds like a great trip. Perfect example of how it doesn't take a lot of money to have a real memory making experience. Also, finding one of those Anacondas on your chikasee when you wake up will only add to the recollection of the trip later.

I'm envious
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Old 01-08-2015, 11:23   #9
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Re: Beach Cruising Everglades National Park

Oh good, I was hoping I might here from a kayak cruiser or two, I've read that's who mostly does this trip.

Good tip on the tent by dusk, since we'll be in sailboats we should be able to spare the space and weight for a dining tent.

How strict is the float plan you have to file with the ranger service? Sailboats tend to have a bit of a mind of their own when it comes to scheduling.

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Old 01-08-2015, 12:14   #10
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Re: Beach Cruising Everglades National Park

The float plan with ENP is not changeable. The park campsites are basically a game of musical chairs. If you do not leave the site, the new folks have no where to sleep! Do not be fooled by seasons. The ferocity of the bugs is a function of temperature, rain and wind. Hi temps, rain and warm temps assure more bugs.

Feel free to email me directly. I have paddled the entire park and visited every site.


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Old 01-08-2015, 15:33   #11
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Re: Beach Cruising Everglades National Park

I kayaked from everglades city park office to just west of the park and camped on a beach called picnic Island, just outside the park, no fees to launch or leave vehicle at the ranger station. I got by with less water, 2 liters a day. I used an inflatable Stearns 2 man kayak because I traveled from my sailboat at Labelle on my 1966 Honda 90 motorcycle. I would not do this trip again in such a craft, even though I have paddled many miles in one, and own 4 or so, it was brutal trying to do 15 miles often against swift tidal current. I navigated with a computer printed map from google earth and a compass, wouldn't recommend that, it was a challenge, again I was traveling extremely light, made a few back tracks, at one point in the open water the wind tried to take me to key west. I used a jungle hammock, a very good choice for that country, no sleeping bag wore all my clothes instead, there are beaches on the west side (don't know anything about the east) of the park but very few to none until I got to open water where the waves have an impact on the shore. Bugs were not to bad in March. The raccoons did get some of my food. They do a multi day race called the everglades challenge often in custom sailing/paddling type cruising crafts, often with sleeping and cooking on board, you could probably find some info on their website. I've got friends that have done it.
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Old 01-08-2015, 18:18   #12
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Re: Beach Cruising Everglades National Park

Been in the glades in many ways. used to hunt and fish out of everglades city when I was a teen.

go online and look up the water tribe. they run an everglades challenge every year. you can get some useful and recent info on that site, about the area you are looking at.

as mentioned navigation is tricky. use your DR skills as you never know when you'll loose the GPS you might even bring a couple cans of spray paint. if your gonna bring kids a gallon a day water is minimum. a dehydrated kid gets pretty unruly not to mention unhealthy.
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Old 01-08-2015, 23:26   #13
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Re: Beach Cruising Everglades National Park

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.... you might even bring a couple cans of spray paint.

You are joking right!

ENP is a beautiful spot, please don't spray paint the mangroves to mark your trail.

If that is the only way you can navigate, please hire a guide.

And WaterTribe is a good source of info. Although some of us have been known to paddle the park in one shot.



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Old 01-08-2015, 23:52   #14
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Re: Beach Cruising Everglades National Park

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You are joking right!

ENP is a beautiful spot, please don't spray paint the mangroves to mark your trail.

If that is the only way you can navigate, please hire a guide.

And WaterTribe is a good source of info. Although some of us have been known to paddle the park in one shot.



Sent from my iPhone- please forgive autocorrect errors.
I haven't used paint in around 30 years, except back in '81 when we had to go lookin for some big shot know-it -all that said "Paint was for P@#$%" we found him going round in circles a hundred yards from the Commet river

Navigating in the swamps takes a lot more attention to yer passage than out in open water. So take the paint you don't have to use it... of course you don't have to use the first aid kit either
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Old 02-08-2015, 05:24   #15
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Re: Beach Cruising Everglades National Park

Spray paint to find your way back out? Now this does sound like an interesting place.

I don't think I'll need the paint, two of my team have full sized cruising boats, so we will be bringing our electronics, at least the portable stuff.


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