Monday, April 13, 2009
A Windsurfers Guide to Cayo Costa and Cabbage Key Cont.
The sail from Placida to Cayo Costa was a long one. Only 9 nautical miles as the crow flies, but having to sail up-wind the whole way made the trip 20 miles long. The winds varied from 10kts in the early part of the day to about 15kts in the afternoon. Having the ability to carry supplies and safety gear provides a whole new prespective to adventure on a windsurfer. The photo above shows one to the many islands that I sailed past. This one had a seabird rookery.
The park rangers office and dock are located on the east side of Cayo Costa. I pulled my Expedition Windsurfer up on the small sandy spot in the background. Behind me is Pelican Bay. A small lagoon protected by Punta Blanca Island to the east and Cayo Costa to west. It provides a great anchorage for boats cruising up and down the west coast of Florida.
This is the gift shop on Cayo Costa. It is small but has all that any traveler might need including cold drinks. I especially appreciated that since all I carried with me was warm bottled water...no cooler. The park rangers and the staff are all very helpful and attentive. I arrived 30 minutes after closing and did not have any reservations. When I told the park ranger I had just windsurfed 20 miles to get here the look on his face was perfect. I could just hear him thinking "you poor soul, why on earth..." He and his staff went out of their way to help me get my gear to the camp ground 3/4 of a mile on the other side of the island. Thanks guys!
The trail from the ranger's office and gift shop on the east side of the island takes you through the various natural habitats. From the mangrove swamp on the east side through the hardwood hammocks pictured above, to the coastal grasslands and pine forests on the west side of the island. The park consists of over 2,400 acres that make up one of Florida's largest unspoiled barrier islands. For those interested in learning about the natural environment this is a real paradise.
If you look closely you will spot a bald eagle on the beach.
Just a short two miles from Cayo Costa is Cabbage Key. Cabbage Key is a real special place. It was originally built in the 30s as a winter home. Oops, let me start over. Originally built by Calusa Indians as a year round residence, then into the winter home and now as a restaurant with cottages. Famous around the world, you never know who you might meet at Cabbage Key.
Jimmy Buffet, author Randy Wayne White, Florida's current govenor, Charlie Crist and many others have visited this rare gem. I recommend the cheese burgers, they are world famous. Hey, an expedition does not have to be all work, right?
Thats right, those are dollar bills taped to the walls, ceiling, just about everything. Legend has it that an old fisherman came in to wet his whistle at the bar and taped a dollar bill with his name on it. He said that he may not ever make any money at fishing but he would always be able to get a drink at Cabbage Key. Today people from all over the would tape up their dollars. As much as $70,000 is on the walls at any time. The owners of Cabbage Key donate the money to a charity.
I will send a special gift from Florida's ancient history to the first person who correctly identifies what I wrote on my dollar bill.
The trip was a blast. My sail home was a dead down wind run with winds in the 15kt range. It only took me two hours to get back to Grande Tours. I will mark this expedition as one to do again soon.