Text and photos by Martin Jägersand
Floridas Everglades is one of my favorite places. It is a vast area of sea and wetland wilderness, inviting exploration by canoe or boat.
A beach catamaran is an ideal craft for these areas. It's shallow draft lets you go places closed to bigger craft. Being quiet it makes little impact on the wildlife and allows you to get close up. Besides there is that special thing to sailing, which the motor boaters never get to experience.
Here we have loaded it for a trip from Flamingo on the south coast, around the capes on the west coast, and into Oyster and Whitewater bay in the Everglades interior. A weeks supply of food and water goes in the hulls, and the lighter gear goes in drybags strapped accross the hulls in front of the tramp. We had thought it would be easy to tow the canoe behind the cat, just as a sailboat tows a small dingy. This turned out to be a big pain though. When the wind picked up the canoe would quickly waterfill, and go submarining. Rescueing a swamped canoe from a similar size cat was not easy.
We tried putting the canoeas a third hull inbetween the pontoons, and assign one person to keep bailing it. This worked to a point, but with increasing wind, and higher seas the bailing would be too slow. As a last resort we strapped the canoe upside down on the windward hull. Since then I've learned a better way of towing the canoe.
The capes on the southwest corner of Florida are enormous, uninhabited beaches. The sand rises a few feet above waterlevel forming a 10-40 meter wide and several kilometers long ridge. On the inside is the swamp, and on the outside the Mexican gulf.
Setting up camp involves getting the cat above the tide and waves. Setting up the tent between the hulls gives some wind protection. In more serious wind we tried to use the canoe as a windbreak. That gave better protection, but it is tricky to anchor the canoe securely.
Oyster and Whitewater bays have ample room for sailing around. On calm rainy days the canoe comes handy anyway. The setting is like a swedish lake archipelago, except that when you get close to the island you notice there is no land, just mangrove tree roots, sitting in about 0.5 meter deep water.
Further into the swamp vegetation gets dense, and you canoe in narrow channels. The park rangers have marked some of these. In unmarked areas you better know exactly where you are, and how you got there.
An air plant, growing withou contact with the ground. It collects rainwater funnel it with the leaves, to the middle of the plant.
Hammocks are patches of elevated dry land enclosed by the swamp. A dense tropical forest grows here.
Everglades NP covers a large part of Florida bay. In the outer parts vast areas of shallow sea is occationally broken by windbeaten low islands. Further east, in the area enclosed by the Florida mainland and the Florida keys, islands get dense vegetation, and sailing is often restricted to narrow tide water "rivers" through the shoals.
Birds at Sandy key.
Shoals outside Carl Ross key. At high tide the Hobie sails easily in through the 0.5m deep water. At low tide large areas of mud are just at the waterline. Birds come and feed on the small creatures living in this tidal zone. The shoals reaches westward to near the sailboat in the background, and an even larger distance eastwards.
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