The Shark River is a midway stop between Marco Island and our first access to the Keys at Marathon on Boot Key. It is another long day to Boot Key, forty plus miles, (could be eight hours or more of sailing) so we decided to spend a second night on the Shark River anchorage and explore the Everglades during the day. We put together a picnic and fishing gear and were ready to set off for a day of gunkholing. Just to prove we picked the right name, Sea Alice wouldn’t start. John pulled and pulled until his blisters had blisters. He blew on the spark plug. He changed the spark plug. He wiped the diaphragm thing. He shook the gas tank. He ended up taking apart Sea Alice’s engine and putting it back together for most of the day. I hung out with a new friend of mine, Monster. He was the biggest dragonfly I’ve ever seen. I bet he was six or seven inches. I have seventy three pictures of him. Here are a couple.
Dragonflies eat other flying insects. They love mosquitoes. This island has mosquitoes of the likes I have never seen before. This is coming from a Minnesota girl. The Minnesota state bird is a mosquito. When we anchored inside the river last May we watched a neighboring man on a sailboat doing the oddest thing. We called over to him. What are you doing!? He yelled back, I’m taping up my boat!! Sure enough, he had blue painter’s tape and was taping all of his ports (windows), lazarets, anything with a crack. His wife (No, he wasn’t taping her) was inside the boat taping all she could on the opposite side. He scrambled around and then muttered blasphemies while ducking inside. Then, the brown cloud of mosquito hell came. Within seconds my arms looked like Chewbacca’s. I did not sleep one minute that entire night. They were biting my scalp through my hair under my sheets. I itch and tense just telling you about it. No wonder Monster was so huge. I love Monster with all of my heart.
Dragonflies are eaten by birds, frogs, big spiders and fish. What kind of spider could eat Monster? I hope I never meet him.
After hours of foreplay, coaxing, sweet talking and being sworn at, wallah, Sea Alice revved his engine again.
A gunkholing we will go. Mangroves are curious freaks of nature. They survive in salt water and produce fresh water resources for birds, manatees and a host of creatures. They are barriers between the sea and land. They create their own islands by dropping leaves which get stuck in their roots and produce their own soil and nutrients to sustain themselves. Many fish, birds, mammals and even the land depends on this barrier ecosystem. Being in the Shark River reminded us of exploring the Boundary Waters in Minnesota and Canada. It is a vast and wondrous wilderness.
John and I had originally planned to do many miles of exploring but did not want to count on Sea Alice’s stamina. We did have oars, a VHF radio, water, tools, sunscreen, bug spray, a tablet with navigation, beer and a change of underwear with us. However, there really wasn’t anyone to radio for help and rowing miles in a river, or worse, in the gulf is a daunting and possibly futile task. Currents and winds can make a short paddle seem like an Olympic event but they were favorably on our side so we crossed our fingers. Someone in our party suggested we turn around. Someone wanted to check navigation to see if we were close to a loop that would circle us back a new but longer way and might be a great “experience.” Someone put senior senor Sea Alice in idle to fire up the tablet. Sea Alice balked, sputtered and died. We were at least three miles from our boat.
John’s blistered blisters were bleeding. I informed him he was going to have to start sharing his high blood pressure meds with me. He pulled at, screwed and played with inner workings but nothing would make Sea Alice turn over. I’ve never seen an man’s forearms sweat before. We paddled to a mangrove to tie off and let both John and Sea Alice rest.
We floated, contemplated two stroke engine design for the umpteenth time and ate our salami (again) sandwiches. And then we had a visitor.
Agatha Dolphin was a curious sort. She was fishing in the shallows around us and was most interested in what type of gray bottomed creature we could possibly be. She would come by us and leave and return again.
After her third or fourth swim by us she got up the nerve to swim right up to us. I got the chills when we met eye to eye. I think she was saying HI! HI! HI! and smiling just like I was.
She was the highlight of the day. Thank you, Agatha. But we were still worrisome. So bleak that nary a beer was cracked. But, we thought, maybe Agatha was a good omen. So John pulled his six hundred and seventy one thousandth time, seventy two, seventy three…eight eight, eighty nine and then, money. Old Sea Alice woke up. We did not mess around. We talked dirty to him the whole way back to the boat. He would start to sputter and we would think up new encouragement for him. We should call you ten stroke, you are so manly!
Happy Swampy Selfie!
And it is not a worthy post without a cool bird pic. These are cormorants. John asked when we saw them, Don’t you have a cormorant about this?
I promise. There is no chapter 4. On to Boot Key.