Recently, Ed and I took a trawler ride along the Caloosahatchee River and beyond with Captain Glenn. I learned so much, and got to see up close the condition of their waters.
The first thing that hit me was just the sheer size. The St Lucie River/Southern Indian River Lagoon, in comparison, seemed like the tip of a pen.
Flying in, one sees sprawling Cape Coral, once scrub and swamp, now carved with canals and spotted with endless houses. Like Port St Lucie on steroids. On the ground, four lane highways run through neighborhoods walled with strip malls. But old Florida houses are here and there, and one can tell this place was once a quaint hometown tropical paradise.
Remnants of Old Florida remain, a double-headed cabbage palm greeted us along Silver King Boulevard and the adventure began: P102, Inland Powerboat Cruising at the Florida Sailing and Cruising School.
As the old Grand Banks rounded the ben, the conversation went to Punta Rassa. It took me awhile to remember the areas historic importance in Florida and Cuban trade as the destination of the Florida cattle drive, as prominently featured in Patrick Smith’s famous novel, A Land Remembered.
So a trawler goes slow, and the dolphins liked playing in the wake of our bow. I was happy to see them after reading about the many killed due to red-tide and blue-green algae outbreaks this past summer. There were dolphins everywhere! Calves and mothers too.
When we finally turned north into Pine Island Sound, again, the scale of the waterways and surrounding lands was amazing. I cannot imagine what a fishing haven this place was in its day! There could not be a more perfect combination of rivers, sounds, bays, and barrier islands.
Eventually, we made it north beyond Useppa, the once fishing camp of famed Florida developer Barron Collier, and up to Cayo Costa, a seven mile long state park. We anchored in Pelican Bay and then Ed and I made to the park’s dock. Looking down into shallow salty waters I saw what Captain Glenn said was turtle grass, along with drift algae. There were minnows and a few bigger fish. A good sign, but not particularly healthy looking.
Ironically, our pilot friend, Dave Stone, had sent us an aerial of Cayo Costa showing visible red-tide a couple of days before, so I was curious what Ed and I would see on the Gulf of Mexico side of the island. Thankfully, it was beautiful. I collected shells, admired the bird life, saw a manatee, and got lost in the simple beauty of the place praising those who must have worked miracles to keep it from turning into condominiums and green lawns belching nutrient pollution into the waters.
As much fun as that day was, I was getting sick at the beginning of the trip and now I was coughing out of control. I went to bed early and when I awoke the boat was moving; the sound of the engines humming along.
I peaked my head out seeing a huge expanse of water thinking we were going through the pass between Cayo Costa and Boca Grande.
“Is that the Gulf of Mexico?” I yelled from the cabin excitedly.
“No, it’s Charlotte Harbor,” Ed yelled back. “We’re turning around to visit Useppa.”
The wind blew and the sun shone…
“God, I’m an idiot,” I thought to myself. I just thought Charlotte Harbor was the Gulf of Mexico.”
Things are bigger on the west coast and there’s a lot to learn around here!
Altering the Caloosahatchee: http://nsgl.gso.uri.edu/flsgp/flsgpm02003/flsgpm02003_part4.pdf
Lee County Watersheds: http://www.leegov.com/naturalresources/WaterQuality/watersheds/caloosahatchee