Sunday, April 1, 2012

Ten Thousand Islands and Goodland Florida

  The Ten Thousand Islands is an area of small mangrove islands located on the southern part of the state of Florida. It stretches from Marco Island all the way to the Florida Keys, an area of over 200,000 acres.  A large part of the Ten Thousand Islands is located where the River Of Grass, or what is commonly known of as The Everglades, empties into the Gulf of Mexico and is included in the Everglades National Park.  The islands are forever changing.  From the tides, hurricanes, and the constant pounding of the surf, the islands either grow larger or disappear altogether. It’s an area of intrigue, mystery and adventure.  Stories abound of people getting lost in the tangle of islands that mysteriously move, of wild monkeys that attack the unsuspecting boater, of old drug runners and pirates and of course the alligator eating pythons.  This is just the kind of place to go for a few days on the KULEANA Expedition Windsurfer.
I began my trip in the small backwater town of Goodland.  Goodland is a unique town that seems to somehow avoid the high priced development that took over Marco Island just to its west.  The town still has the flavor of old Florida, based on fishing and with a hint of tourism to keep it interesting. 
I launched from the new county boat ramp, and had to park my truck at Stan’s restaurant.  I asked the owner if I could leave my truck for a few days while I went exploring into the islands.  His only request was that I come in and eat a meal when I got back.  Not a problem.  After a few days out in the wilds a good cheeseburger always tastes great.
Stan's Restaurant on Goodland
Once loaded and paddling out into Coon Key Pass it occurred to me that I forgot my harness.  With a two hour trip back home out of the question, I would need to press on without it.  As it turned out the winds came up and filled in and I wished I had actually used my check list…for a change.
My goal was to sail to Panther Key.  Rumor has it that the pirate Juan Gomez spent time on this island in the 1870s.  I wanted to make this island my base camp and sail and paddle into the back country, fishing and exploring.  With my boat loaded heavily with plundered gold and jewels from the king of Spain…. I mean water, food, shelter and a rather large cooler filled with Jamaican Rum… I mean ice and cold water, the slog up wind was taking its toll on my old body.  It is amazing how much we windsurfers have come to appreciate a good harness.  As the crow flies Panther Key is only about seven miles from Goodland.  But with the winds coming out of the southeast and blowing in the neighborhood of 15kts I was only able to make it to a small island about 4 miles up wind of Goodland.  My GPS showed I had sailed over six miles to reach it.  The winds were perfect for a trip like this, if only I had my harness. 
My base camp
This Bald Eagle kept watch over the island all morning
The Island I landed on was made up old oyster shells.  It had a nice beach landing on the back side out of the wind and waves.  Here is a satellite view of my camp taken using the SPOT tracking device.
Mangrove jungle on my island
I set up camp, collected the needed firewood for the night, and cooked a good meal.  As I sat watching the sunset and the flames from my camp fire, I had to keep an eye out for scorpions.  I learned from past experience that the wood we find on these islands makes nice homes for scorpions.  Its aways a good idea to keep a stick handy to flick the little critters away or you may be sleeping with one.  With a nice breeze blowing across the beach and the waves lapping at the shore, I was fast asleep and had a great night’s sleep.
Whit Horse Key

The next morning after breakfast and a couple of cups of coffee I set sail for Panther Key.  As was the case the day before the winds were blowing out of the southeast and building to 12-16kts.  It was only 9am and I was headed for Panther key tacking out into the open water of the Gulf and then back into the lee of the islands for some needed rest.  My arms and lower back were beginning to let me know I am not as young as I once was.   With spray from the white caps splashing over my bow I kept fighting the tendency to hook into the nonexistent harness.  How frustrating!
Wade with a 30lb sting ray

 Along the way I sailed in behind White Horse Key for a much needed rest and to explore the island.  I met four guys from the Tampa area who were spending five days on the island shark fishing.   After telling them about my unique mode of transportation they invited me to stay for lunch.  I guess they felt sorry for the old man.  One of the things I have noticed about the people I meet out on my adventures is that we may all come from different places and have different backgrounds and cultures, yet we are all kindred spirits.  We all seem to have a great appreciation for the natural world and enjoy being out in it. 
The KULEANA Expedition Windsurfer always attracts attention
Back row:  me, Wade 
Front row: Darren, Brian

After spending some time on White Horse Key, I headed back to my camp.  I reached camp just in time to cook dinner as the sun set into the Gulf of Mexico.  I made the decision to head home on Saturday rather than staying an extra day.  Without my harness and work piling up at home, I thought it best to leave a day early so I could at least give my kids some kind of indication that I am a responsible adult. 
Sunset over the Gulf

Stan's on the water in Goodland...the cheeseburger was great!
The sail back to Goodland the next morning was great.  The winds were out of the south east and blowing in the 12kt range.  I was much more relaxed with less weight on the boat, and running with the wind and waves was a blast.  As I sailed past the mangrove islands I stirred up fish and birds alike.  Once back at the boat ramp and having loaded the boat, I was able to shower off in the outdoor shower and change into a set of fresh clothes. (No I did not change outside; I used the men’s restroom for that.) 
The Ten Thousand Islands begs for further exploration on the KULEANA Expedition Windsurfer.  I still have much to see and treasures to find.  On this trip I sailed over twenty miles without my harness, I wonder what I will forget on my next trip.  I bet it won’t be my harness.


Anonymous said...

Trey, I am interested in your Kuleana. I would like to get your opinion about using a Kuleana for the Everglades Challenge. I finished the EC this year on a Hobie Adventure Island, but I would like to try something different. My name is Josh (tidetraveller). Please give me an email at

Frank said...


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Thanks and have a great day!