A dozen or more slipholders at Harbour Cay Club gather dockside on Tuesday morning to bid us farewell and assist with our docklines. Our departure is akin to leaving a family reunion. Waving goodbye, we make sail at Fanny Key and enter the shallow waters of Florida Bay. Just north of Marathon, we pass the lighted daymark at John Sawyer Bank. This is the last aid to navigation that we will see for the next 8 hours as we sail to the Little Snake River, 37 miles to the north.
It seems counterintuitive to travel north from the Keys in January. But today, the skies are sunny and the wind is from the east at 8 to 12 knots, beckoning us to sail north on a comfortable beam reach. We refer to these idyllic passages as “free days” because the favorable wind eliminates the need to run the diesel engine and the solar panels provide 100% of the energy needed to power the refrigeration, instruments and other boat systems.
By mid-afternoon, land appears on the starboard horizon. It is Cape Sable. Rounding the Cape, we can barely make out foilage on the shore being illuminated by the afternoon sun. The Little Snake River is located in the Everglades National Park. It is well-marked, pristine and deep from bank to bank. This is a remote mangrove swamp, visited only by cruisers traveling to and from the Keys. Herons, egrets, pelicans and alligators call this place home. There is no FM radio, television or cell phone coverage in the Little Snake. But there is an unlimited supply of mosquitos and no-see-ums, which force us to make a hasty retreat to the cabin as soon as the anchor is down in the River.
It is a quiet evening aboard Cutter Loose, reminiscent of our early days of sailing and anchoring out overnight at Pymatuning Lake in northwestern Pennsylvania. After dinner, reading and board games consume the evening hours. Tomorrow, we will continue our journey to more civilized areas of southwest Florida.