Immerse in an ECO-Tour and Experience Southwest Florida Islands by Boat
“Captain Brian Holaway is well versed in the intricacies of our unmatched locale. He can guide to and through a multitude of out-of-the way tidal creeks, bayous, keys and islands. More important is his passionate interest and respect for the region. With unique insights from his many explorations and his studies, not only does he identify the birds and wildlife that inhabit our semi-tropical watery land, but he explains their interconnectedness to their environment and each other. In addition, he shares the fascinating history of rugged people who came long before us: Florida Native Indians, the Calusa, the Spanish, the Cubans, early homesteaders, and the wisdom evident in the growth of their culture.
You will come away with great enjoyment and a new understanding of this beautiful place and its history.”
Historian, Betty Anholt
Author of Sanibel’s Story
Sunday, February 14, 2010
I ran through the maze of mangroves in the Shark River until I reached the Harney River. This is where I started my journey back to the Gulf of Mexico. I ran the boat along the curves of the river, enjoying the smells and beauty in front of me. The bird life was more prominent. White Ibis flew over the bow and turkey vultures were spotted sitting ominously along the river banks. The mouth of the Harney river was soon over the bow, skinny water, and oyster bars greeted me, as I made my way into the gulf. My first plan was to go to a little beach on Hog Key, check out one of my favorite trees on the island a Royal Poinsettia. The Tide told me that's not going to happen this trip. I continued farther north to Turkey Key where the water depth was more favorable. Turkey Key was a fascinating island, with all sorts of architecture on the landscape. You could see where parts of the island appeared to be, prehistoric dug canals. The island as a whole reminded me of other archaeologically significant Islands in Pine Island Sound. Turkey Key had some of the same features I have helped Document on other archaeological sights in Florida. The plant life was also intriguing, there were plants that you don't normally find unless you are on a prehistoric mound. I intend to go back and investigate the plant life closer in April, Hopefully in early April, before the bugs get bad. That will allow me to compare the plants from a few similar sights this summer. Nightfall was nearing. I needed to find a good place to anchor up for the night.I thought of running up the Huston river where I spent the first night. Then I thought of the bugs. I anchored out closer to the gulf , in seven feet of water towards Duck rock. The bugs found me even far out from shore. The tent was zipped until time to get in. The stern light was set, and I wiggled into my sleeping bag. The wind shifted and you could hear the water slapping on the hull of the boat. This rocking prompted the stern light to wobble and then fall into the water. The white light kept on shinning as it bobbed up and down farther away. I am sure by now it has made a nice night light for some Cuban family on the north coast of Cuba. Back to my sleeping bag I went. I was about to fall asleep, when I heard the sound of an outboard motor, no big deal. It was whining and close to duck rock, or at least that is where the sound was coming from. I got out of my tent closed it quickly, and looked to see where the little boat was going. NO LIGHTS! The boat was running with no lights on. That boat was running in water one foot or less around limestone and shoals. Definitely a Local. I was glad I had a back up stern light, so he or she could see me. I then watched a 34foot crab boat and its light's disappear behind the mangrove island of duck rock in very shallow water. These island's have been a smugglers paradise for decades. I went back to my tent and laid there, and tried to sleep. A lot of things were running through my mind. But my mind kept going back to an old picture, A picture of an crab boat tied up to a dock, not far from where I was anchored on this dark night. The name of the boat was "Miss Trial".
The Sunrise spoke of tranquility and whispered solitude, until my ears hurt. I don't know which one was flowing faster, the tide or my mind. The morning beach had its own personality, hopeful, radiant, and welcoming. Shells, shells and more shells. The tide was going out rapidly, when I spotted my first Alphabet Cone shell behind the transom of the boat in seven inches of water. Then another and another. I continued walking the beach picking up Cone shells at a rapid pace. The shells were some of the best I have seen in my 16 years of collecting. (The best species of the cone shell I ever found was on Cayo Costa Island, back in 1996 on a hot July day when the tide was half full and going out.The water was gin clear where the shore meets the sea.) The tide was turning, and coming in fast. It was time to pull the anchor and point my old boat south to the last outpost on the Gulf coast of Florida, Flamingo. The trip took a little over an hour. Halfway to Flamingo, I noticed the boat engine wasn't peeing water out like it should. This in turn means the engine isn't cooling properly. I promptly shut the engine down and set out looking for a small piece of wire to stick up the hole to dislodge any debris that may be in there. Of course, I couldn't find the paperclip I had stowed away for situations like this. Then common sense kicked in and I proceeded to straiten a round metal key ring holder. This worked great. It fit up the water hole and in no time the engine was peeing water again. I reached Flamingo by noon, topped off the fuel, and paid 3 dollars for a "warm" welcomed shower. I then started the journey back to the north up the southwest coast of Florida for more exploring. Whenever I get this far south in my boat, I always want to keep going south. The Florida Keys are only 26 miles away, Cuba less than 150miles, always tempting. The seas were light and the ride up the coast was pleasant. The beaches of Cape Sable were a pleasure to look at and also painful. Painful because I wanted to explore the whole stretch of new beach. The threat of weather moving in later that night made me want to be closer to Chokoloskee. I was making good time with the following sea. I decided to take a scenic side trip up the Shark River and then come out the Harney River. The Shark River is AMAZING! The red mangrove trees that grow at the basin of the Shark River are some of the tallest mangroves in the world. The river snakes through mangroves and feels prehistoric. It reminds me a lot of the Amazon River. It holds a lot of hidden mystery behind those leaves. A true wilderness treasure.