Everglades Exploration Network

Good evening,

As you all know the weather in the Everglades can shift quickly. Our plan went pretty well, only an hour late after driving 14 hours, buying 2 kayaks along the way at 0300. The permit was pulled at Everglades city, and everyone loaded up for the drive to Flamingo. Stopped by Wal-mart in Florida city for water and last minute stuff. We were paddling up the buttonwood canal by 3:45 pm.

Things looked good until we got into Whitewater bay just before sunset. The wind was still up, but we all made it across to the little islands, regrouped and found our headlamps. We weren't planning on a night paddle. One of us was assigned to keep us on a 270 heading. The winds died down, the dolphins were fishing, and we did pretty well until we fell into the sucker hole on the North side of the Joe river about 1/2 mile from where we were supposed to turn North. It took another 15-20 minutes to find the real Joe river again and we were on our way.

The rest of the night was pretty easy getting into the South Joe river chickee at about 9:25pm. Too tired to cook dinner, we grabbed some snacks, pitched the tents, and got some sleep.

The next day was a pretty unevent full trip up to the Joe river chickee. However one thing was amiss, The NW winds from the previous day had shifted N, instead of WNW or W. Time to check the weather. The forcast was for two more back to back cold fronts in the next week. Resulting in a forcasted 15-20 mph winds from the North for the next week, with gusts to 25mph. 3-5 foot waves on the Gulf. We all agreed that we could carry on to Everglades City, but more than half of our group didn't want to get up real early to beat the winds.

So, plan B, paddle back to Flamingo, figure out how to get our vehicle from Everglades city, and spend a day in Key West.

You guys know what happens next. The N winds from the previous day were now ENE at 10-15 gusting to 20. 1-2 foot waves on WW bay. We left Joe river at 07:45 and pulled into Flamingo at 7:35pm, completely spent. We only swamped one kayak, check the hatch seals when buying a used boat.

It took us 26 hours to get our vehicle back from Everglades city. 1.5 hours to get our stuff unpacked from our boats and repacked into our van. We spent 2 nights in Flamingo, then headed for Key West.

Some of you might throw the sissy flag, but watching the fishing boats rock and roll in Florida bay confirmed to us that we made the right choice. Great veteran's day parade and some Key Lime Pie and we were headed back home.

In hindsight, we had 2 12-13 foot boats in our group that had trouble tracking straight in the wind. We had 2 new to us boats that didn't have skirts or hatch seals. We managed to completely swamp one of them in 1-2 foot waves, mostly 1's. I don't think we were outfitted properly for any thing close to 3-5 footers. We spent a week away from home, $150 each, didn't sleep indoors, and had a great adventure. The only thing we didn't do was make it to Everglades City.

Let the Flames begin.

JRC

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Jeremy, the most fortunate thing that happened to you was that the winds made you turn around and go back to flamingo before you got into those middle areas where there is no easy way to turn back. We all live and learn. So what would you do differently next time?

Firstly, I didn't catch the change in the forcast, we put in for time off of work 3 months ago. With the forcast the way it was, I would have pulled a permit for a White Water bay loop. Something like, SJR, JR, Shark River, North River, Lane Bay, Pearl Bay. Still get in alot of Kayaking and camping, but more protected.

Secondly, we should have have closer matched boats and gear for such a long trip. 16-17 foot and skirts for ex.

Third, half of our group had too much stuff. Full boats and several dry bags on deck.

We had a few everglades novices with us. We all learned alot.

As a side note, I have enjoyed your trip reports.

Yep, you learned a lot as we all do from all the trips we take. Will you be coming back to do another this season? Is so, will you be trying for another through trip? One thing I quickly realized is that you must have several options and make your trip plan based on weather report a couple days before departure. X2 on boat being at least 16 for a through trip.

Not this season, family, work commitments, etc. We had a severe case of tunnel vision. We had decided on one plan, and didn't deviate quick enough.

No sissy flags from me at all.  In fact I think that too many people try to "bag" the WW trip as a paddling Trophy rather than paddle the area for it's beauty.

You made the right call by turning around.

WW Bay needn't be a loop.  Joe River is a good protected route but pretty boring.  One could spend a week on the North side of WW Bay with plenty of paddling and exploring and the bonus having time to let the area reveal it's charms, of which there are many. 

TFA

Our thought with a loop being just what you suggest. We had not paddled the Joe River before, so it was new to us. In the future, we would probably do something on the North/East side of the bay.

Ahh.....to be young again
Jeremy, check out this trip the Keith made a few years ago. I am actually doing portions of it this December.

http://gladesgodeep.ning.com/forum/topics/march-2011-loop-trip

Those trips all look very interseting. Maybe someday I will get to do some of those. Since we have just done the Joe river route, We would definately plan something else next time.

I was going through that thread and noticed that I never did post the North Watson Route aerials that I promised. I'll try and do that tonight.

vivian said:

Jeremy, check out this trip the Keith made a few years ago. I am actually doing portions of it this December.

http://gladesgodeep.ning.com/forum/topics/march-2011-loop-trip

You absolutely did the right thing. People get into trouble when they make a series of small mistakes. Or a big mistake and the biggest mistake is keeping to a fixed schedule and fixed goal. My other paddling love is Lake Superior and this summer it took lives because of paddlers keeping to a fixed goal and schedule for the day.

Your instinct is rarely wrong. It does not matter what others think ( though everyone here is in agreement), because its your and your friends butts on the line, not someone  with a keyboard.

I actually did my own route plan based on looking at yours and compared it with Jay's route he did it last winter.  Looking forward to see if it at all looks like my solution.
 
Keith W said:

I was going through that thread and noticed that I never did post the North Watson Route aerials that I promised. I'll try and do that tonight.

vivian said:

Jeremy, check out this trip the Keith made a few years ago. I am actually doing portions of it this December.

http://gladesgodeep.ning.com/forum/topics/march-2011-loop-trip

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