Sunday, November 30, 2014

Kayaking Bokeelia, FL - Where To Launch?

Pine Island, in southwest Florida, is a great place to kayak. It is just west of Fort Myers and just an easy 40 minute drive from town. We have always called Pine Island the 'Redneck Sanibel', as it seems to be way more about fishing than letting rich folk relax in the sun.
But, the population on Pine Island is growing. I'm pretty sure that most of the people living there now were not born there. The problem is that it must be troublesome trying to make a living from fishermen. The result is that it is about impossible to get into the water without paying somebody for the opportunity. As as November 2014, I could not find a single place to launch a kayak that didn't have a sign wanting money for that.
Pineland Marina, in the middle of the island (picture above) is a great place to launch, with a large parking lot and a nice ramp. From here, you can do some serious paddling. A trip to Cabbage Key for a cheeseburger in paradise is about a 2 hour paddle one way, and Cayo Costa is about 4 hours one way (good place to camp). The two dangers are wind and the boat traffic. Pineland Marina wants $8 to launch your kayak (or $13 for two kayaks) or $10 just to park your car there. A few years ago, you could launch for free about 1/2 a mile down the road, but that now has a chain and a no trespassing sign.
Bokeelia is on the northern tip is the island and this is my favorite spot. Unfortunately, all of the free launch spots are gone here as well. Even the old secret spot shown here, now has a sign. There are several boat ramps and all of them either charge for parking or for launching. Bokeelia is pretty famous for not being friendly about this stuff. Remember, we are dealing with the descendants of commercial fishermen that lost their jobs when the government got a little bit picky about how they were decimating the fish population with their inshore netting methods.
The best bet for the kayaker or boater is to rent a place to stay that is on the water near where you want to paddle. For us, one great location is the Beach House in Bokeelia. It rents for about $100-$140 a night (cheaper in the summer) and is a perfect place to launch your kayaks. It is right on Charlotte Harbor, a short paddle to Jug Creek, adventurous paddle to the sandbar and the Oyster bar is a nice long fishing trip. There are many other places to stay where you can easily keep your kayak right on the beach and see the water from your window.
The Beach House also has a couple of kayaks that you can use. They are just cheap plastic 10' kayaks, but we used them this weekend and had fun. I caught a few fish and Pam just relaxed out in the water. The problem with kayaking in the winter here, is that a North wind can kill your thoughts of boating and there was a lot of north wind this weekend. It would have been better to kayak around Pineland Marina, but I choked on the launch fee. Just being here is great, and you can walk to two restaurants nearby: The Lazy Flamingo (sportsbar/diner) and Captain Con's. Both places have good food and can get busy.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ed the Possum Trapper

We got a new member of the family last week. An opossum moved into our garage. He didn't cause a lot of fuss, but when my garage door quit working because SOMEBODY chewed up the wire, the list of suspects was quite small. I wasn't sure, until I started noticing things knocked off my workbench and then decided to clean the garage. I discovered him while picking up a dogbed and thought it was pretty heavy for an empty bed. A quick look inside and I see these innocent-looking eyes saying 'wassup?'. I'm thinking what big teeth possums have, so I dropped the bed and he ran for cover. After that nothing would coax him out where Pam could snatch him up by the tail, so I bought a trap. Don't worry, no possum's were harmed during this story.
We found out that opossums are one of the few marsupials in North America (that means they have a pouch like a kangaroo), and that they are not aggressive in spite of the sharp teeth. They are nocturnal, so I was pretty worried that I would be waking up at 12am in the morning with an animal going crazy in my garage. Instead, my daughter woke me up and I went out to see a forlorn-looking animal holding onto the sides of the trap (possums have opposable thumbs!), seeming to say to me, "I didn't do nuttin!'. I see how it is. Them dogs and cat can do whatever they want, but I knock over one small can of WD40 and I'm doin' time". My wife begged me to drive him to Ocala and release him into the wild. Me at 12am? I made it to the big tree in the front yard and said, "Tell it to the squirrels, Possy!" and released him into the general population.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Different Sort Of Kayaking

This a view from our stop of the Outfitters at Nantahala. It was a beautiful, clear November day and I was surprised to see kayakers going out to practice on the rapids. I mean, this water is cold in the summer! I suppose if this is where you live, this is what you are prepared for. I noticed that each of the kayakers would get totally covered with wetsuit and spray skirt on their kayak and then, at the last minute splash riverwater on their face as they slid into the water. My idea is that this is to wake them up and make it so that the first surpise in the trip is not how cold the water is. It was amazing to see what you can do with those little kayaks, even just finding an eddy where you can sit still while the water flowed around you, looked like it took serious skill. This is the kind of sport where I'd rather watch!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

If You're Comtemplating Complaining about the Weather

Morro Bay is a nice tourist town in California. It is pretty far away from the large crowds and you hit while traveling to Big Sur. What I noticed is that the photo here is the surfing beach. The day we arrived was weather was just about like it is right now in Florida, cool and sunny. The waves were like the waves we get here as well, except they had a dirt beach and full rubber on in September. Yep, this was the really cold water, not the stuff I surfed in down south. There were plenty of surfers in the water, on a weekday and in 2' shorebreak. Surfing is definitely the kind of thing that you take what you get, and not everybody gets nice warm water. So when you start to complain about the waves in Florida, think of the surfers in other parts of the world, even California, that get what we get for waves, only they have to wear big wetsuits to get in the water in the summer...