Plight of the Navigator - Choosing
a route for the Everglades Challenge.
Challenge is a ~300 mile paddle/sail race along the Western
coast of Florida, from Tampa Bay to Key Largo. For 2011, sailing
buddy Mike and I will be in a 12' SCAMP sailboat.
Mike and I in last
year's Everglades Challenge and Preparation
for this year's Everglades Challenge
It is my hope to do as many things differently this year. I'm not
really interested in traveling 3500 miles to do what I've already
Stage 1: Launch to Placida
There are pretty much only two routes: In the ICW our out. If there
is any component of a North wind, we'll run the ICW. Sure, it's
a ditch, but it is a heavily populated ditch, so we might get to
see something interesting.
If we go outside and it gets hairy (like last year,) we can re-enter
at specific passes: Longboat, New Pass, Big Sarasota, Venice, Stump,
and Gasparilla. These are varying distances apart and each has its
own problems. We'll have to keep a close eye on the weather so we
don't get caught outside.
Stage 2: Placida to Chokoloskee
Again, it's an Inside/Outside choice until we get to Point Ybel
at the end of Sanibel Island. I can't see any use to going outside,
no matter what the wind direction is, the inside route is a huge
sound and I don't think the outer island interrupts the wind that
much. We'd have more protected water and the route looks a little
shorter. We did inside last year.
Once past Pt. Ybel, I don't think there is an inside route until
you get to Marcos. We accidentally took the Marcos River last year,
lopping off Cape Romano and entering into the 10,000 islands from
It appears everyone enters into Chokoloskee from Indian Key Pass
and crosses the 1-3' deep Chokoloskee Bay. The 10,000 islands are
a taste of the Everglades and are very confusing. We had no problems
last year, but one boat had entered into the islands and stopped
for a nap. When they woke up, the tide had changed, so when they
started sailing the direction the boat was pointed, they sailed
back out to sea.
Stage 3: Chokoloskee to Flamingo
Last year, we went outside. We sailed out of Chokoloskee Pass (got
turned around twice) and sat baking in the bay, becalmed for 13
hours while we drifted slowly southward 9 miles. When the sun went
down, the wind picked up and we weathered Cape Sable in the morning.
I'd like to do as much of the Everglades Wilderness Waterway as
we can, but all reports say we can't do it as spec'd in the rules
in a sailboat.
The first stage goes from Chokoloskee up the Lopez River (WW Marker
126) through a series of creeks, lakes, and small bays until we
exit back out to the ocean at Broad River (WW Marker 25.) To complete
the Wilderness Waterway (and satisfy the rules to earn our Gator
Tooth) we are supposed to reenter the Water Way at Broad Creek,
but everyone says it is impassible for a boat with a 17' mast and
20' oar width - and even very difficult for kayaks. The "Nightmare"
is another dubious option, more likely to cause us trouble than
to save us.
For us, the second stage would be either re-entering at Harney
River and rejoining the Waterway at WW Marker 12 OR continuing down
to Ponce de Leon Bay, and pick up the trail following the renumbered
and colored Coast Guard signs at 69 or 65 Green.
After that, it's battling our way West, then SouthWest until Flamingo,
where we'd have to make a short portage.
Stage 4: Flamingo to Key Largo
Florida Bay has me terrified. Last year was howling wind from the
SouthEast - our intended direction of travel. The whole damn bay
is just a few feet deep and the channels are just marked with white
There are 3 basic routes:
- Outside (which we took last year) where you sail back the the
East, then down to the Keys where you follow the ICW (72 travel
miles to go the 30 or so "crow flies" miles.
- Middle Passage: We tried this one last year, but got stuck right
off the bat. Same basic idea as the outside route (run down to
the protection of the Keys and join the ICW) but without the big
- "Straight Line" is supposed to be the quickest, but
it is a difficult maze of channels and passes.
As prep for navigation for this, I used parts of 9 NOAA Booklet
Charts and am carrying 1 full sized charts (Florida Bay) and I have
256 waypoints stored in my GPS (140 for the Wilderness Waterway,
56 for Florida Bay.)
My Google Earth file of all the waypoints
we'll be using for this trip
I am using parts of nine charts for this trip. These charts are
free and available online from NOAA
Booklet Charts. I've printed the relevant pages onto waterproof
paper, organized them, and put them into a binder for easy referencing.
The charts I am using are: 11415, 11425, 11427, 11430, 11432, 11433,
11452, 11463, and 11464.