TERRE HAUTE —
Here I sit looking at a picture of two adventurous souls standing next to a boat they’re about ready to take on an adventure of a lifetime.
I’m at awe reading a 41-page diary Rich Cope kept while he and his son adventured out to Anclote Key Island on the west side of Florida. Four-mile-long Anclote Key is the northernmost in a chain of barrier islands that stretch to Cape Romano at the southern end of Collier County.
Steven Cope is about to spend the most quality time a son can have with his dad, camping on a remote island for three days.
On Dec. 27 the S.S. Minnow left the mainland for open water with “Captain” Steven at the helm. First mate Rich writes in his diary, “I let Steven drive the boat out. He was not all that eager to go fast, so I relaxed as we proceeded to the island at 15 miles per hour.
“Upon arrival, we made a slow approach and at three feet of water I cut the engine and hopped out to walk the boat in for its final resting place. I decided to use three anchors to secure it in the shallow water, which seemed to hold it well.”
The Copes made quick duty of setting their campsite up. They have their own small two- or three-man tent, a couple of chairs, camera, tripod, two fishing poles, tackle box and bait bucket. For a taste of comfort, they took two cushions from the boat cabin to sleep on, which proved to be much better than your typical sleeping pad.
“On the mangrove side of the island the water was calm, very little air movement, and birds were plentiful. Sand cranes and egrets were common, and we even saw a great blue heron with the back royal crown of feathers extending off the back of his head.
“We decided to get the campfire going and eat some dinner. The first took a bit to get started because of the strong ocean wind, but when it did it burned the dry driftwood fast and furious. It’s a wonder that these islands don’t burn the dry grasses and dead trees, from being knocked over by storms.”
On Dec. 28, the menu for breakfast was three sausage links and three scrambled eggs each. Using Sterno to cook with sucks. Rich cheated by taking some instant Starbucks coffee.
“There were plenty of animal tracks, giving evidence of other friends on the island, but we had no sightings. The raccoon tracks were obvious. We may even have seen a canine-type track, possibly a fox, but most likely it was a poorly shaped opossum track.
“Low tide gave us a lot of seashore life to look at: coral pieces, eel grass, many sand dollars (with the largest three inches in diameter), pieces of turtle shells, horseshoe crabs, small three-inch conch shells with spiraled threads, mussels, many cockle shells, clam shells, Nassa, lettered olive, cogulia, angel wings, scallops, Tellin and slipper shells.”
Father and son got a taste for fish so they tried their luck with different baits aas well as different depths of water with no luck. But Rich writes, “While we were out, the sea birds were having no problems diving near our boat and bringing up fish they were catching. Also several schools of dolphins stayed in the area swimming and playing about, but no fish for us.”
Dec. 29 at 2:15 a.m. they woke up to hear a storm front coming, with high winds which pulled their tent stakes and robbed them of sleep. They took a walk by the light of the moon, and later the sound of rain on the tents was soothing, calming their nerves for sleep.
After not having any luck getting a fire started, breakfast still tasted good cold — even the instant Starbucks coffee mixed in a cool bottle of water with Sweet & Low. With not much luck at fishing again, they were homeward bound.
Rich says one of the cool sights they did see on the way back to the marina was a populated osprey nest with two of the magnificent birds actually looking around from their high perch. Dad told Steven with words of wisdom that the two ospreys they saw are mates for life, just like his mom and dad were. But for the birds there is no formal marriage, just an understanding.
Pretty cool way to end a trip, a life lesson using nature. Many lessons were taught by Mother Nature on a remote island for three days. Her students earned a life bonding degree.
Kenny Bayless can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.