Wilderness Waterway in the Everglades

Trips that you have taken, planned, are planning etc. and suggested paddle locations.

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OysterBay
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Location: Gulf Shores, AL

Wilderness Waterway in the Everglades

Post by OysterBay » Tue Dec 10, 2013 12:11 pm

I'm planning to do the Wilderness Waterway in a couple of weeks. Has anybody done this trip in an inflatable? I'm 90% sure that I will take my AE Convertible but am a little concerned about oyster beds. A Folbot is my alternative. Any thoughts?

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PJohanson
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Post by PJohanson » Thu Dec 12, 2013 11:22 am

About oyster beds, my thought is that the Convertible is a better choice than the Folbot.
If you did scrape your kayak's bottom on an oyster bed, the Convertible has its tough outer hull and its floor that would have to be pierced before the shells would get to the inflation tubes in their tough fabric cover. Sure, water could enter, but the kayak would retain its buoyancy. My AE kayaks can float even when they're full of water and me, something I've done during safety practise.
The Folbot's tough cloth hull is something like the outer hull of a Convertible... and once the Folbot's hull is pierced, water enters the kayak. Folbots float by displacement only, so you'd want to have a couple of big air bags in the bow and stern.
I've run my Expedition and my old version of a Lagoon onto barnacled rocks while paddling and found only light scratches on the outer hulls.
My thoughts are: take the Convertible, and your patch kit.

OysterBay
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Good Thoughts

Post by OysterBay » Thu Dec 12, 2013 11:50 am

I am inclined to agree with you about taking the Convertible rather than the Folbot. The Convertible will be easier to handle and I will have to be careful in either one about oyster beds. Another member of the party is taking a Folbot so we will have a good comparison. I am taking the AE repair kit plus Tear-Aid Type B patches. Should be good to go.

OysterBay
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Another question

Post by OysterBay » Thu Dec 12, 2013 12:39 pm

What do you think about taking the backbone with it? The instructions warn not to use the backbone around oyster beds. But, the Wilderness Waterway goes through many small bays. It would be nice to have the increased stability in larger waters.

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PJohanson
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Post by PJohanson » Sat Dec 14, 2013 4:37 pm

Using the BackBone means that a scratch from an oyster bed is a little more likely to pierce the outer hull right at the BackBone. There wouldn't be any "give" at the collision.

OysterBay
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Preparations

Post by OysterBay » Thu Dec 19, 2013 4:40 pm

Well, I went for a 45 minute paddle around the Bay as the sun was going down tonight. The Convertible was a delight. I was paddling along the ICW shoreline and spotted a young buck watching me intensely from the brush. Tomorrow I will pack two 5 gallon containers of water just to see how she handles and get a feel for weight distribution. I'm committed now to taking the inflatable and glad I am leaving the heavy Folbot behind.

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PJohanson
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Post by PJohanson » Fri Dec 20, 2013 9:21 am

That's a great idea. getting yourself used to the Convertible for short day trips before taking a camping trip. Smart to try it loaded, too! Kayaks handle differently when loaded.
I even practised falling over with a loaded kayak (in safe conditions, with friends at the beach) to see how hard it was to tip and how the kayak would continue right on upside down once tipped!

OysterBay
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Back from Everglades

Post by OysterBay » Mon Jan 06, 2014 2:15 pm

Just got back from an 8 day paddle down the Wilderness Waterway. It's a difficult trip but I encourage everyone to do it. We had 5 people in our party. Two were in a Folbot, two were in a canoe, and I was in my Convertible. The Folbot leaked and had to be repaired during the trip. We ran into another party whose Folbot was leaking badly after running over an oyster bed. The canoe was bullet proof plus was easy to load and unload. The Convertible was bullet proof as well. Storage is more limited than that of the other two boats. I had to take two five gallon hard sided water containers to make the trip. That took up some valuable space in the kayak. I had to strap my ground pad to the bow because of the space issue. But, I was able to take food and gear for a 10 day paddle in the rest of the boat. The Convertible rode a little higher than the Folbot so was a bit harder to handle in the wind. Nonetheless, it handled the entire trip superbly. We had to make a run the last day due to incoming weather. The sailors in the group estimated winds out of the NE of 20 knots and one foot waves. The waves looked at least twice that high to me. We had an exhilarating one mile run across Whitewater Bay going SE - it was a battle. My Convertible was open but it didn't take on any water until that last run. Then, maybe 3-4 waves broke over the bow.

One thinks of the Everglades as a sawgrass prairie and some parts are just that. But, the Wilderness Waterway is really a series of large bays connected by rivers, creeks, and canals. That means that you are subject to big winds and waves a lot of the time. Some of the creeks are unbelievably overgrown - ie, the Nightmare. Getting a 15 foot kayak through them was quite a challenge. We also had an overnight along the ocean. Tides were extremely important whenever you are close to the ocean but less so in the creeks further inland.

The entire trip is roughly 100 miles. Our last day was 20. Most days were 11 miles or so. It's a hard trip but one I definitely recommend.

ATPringles
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Post by ATPringles » Mon Jan 06, 2014 4:43 pm

Very interesting.

Was navigation a problem?

OysterBay
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Navigation

Post by OysterBay » Mon Jan 06, 2014 4:58 pm

Navigation was challenging. The Park Service has 127 markers placed strategically along the way to guide you. But, probably 1/3 were missing or fallen down. The shoreline is all mangroves except for a few spots so everything looks similar. The NPS campsites and chickees are truly the only place to stop - there is no other dry land - so navigation is critical. We paddled in the darkness some of the time but only along rivers where we went in one direction for a long period of time. Definitely not doable without a chart and compass.

ATPringles
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Post by ATPringles » Mon Jan 06, 2014 7:47 pm

I did a canoe trip in the thousand islands area a few years ago. Everything looked alike to me. I was very glad for our guides.

Did you ever get to look at tidal pools at low tide? Did you see manatees?

OysterBay
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Post by OysterBay » Mon Jan 06, 2014 10:16 pm

We didn't see any manatees. Usually there was some wind and waves in the areas where we saw Manatee Zones. Maybe we would have seen them on calm days.

There weren't tidal pools in the Pacific NW sense. Low tide meant oyster beds and mud flats. Lots of birds came out to feast on offerings from the beds and flats so that was cool.

One of the coolest things we saw was horseshoe crabs mating at high tide on the beach. I even got a picture of a threesome. They all disappeared at low tide.

Oh, and we saw the remains of the Pilot whales that were beached on Highland Beach several weeks ago. I noticed turkey vultures when we paddled up to the beach and wondered what they were doing there. A walk along the beach produced 3 or 4 skeletons. One still had the tag on it.

ATPringles
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Post by ATPringles » Tue Jan 07, 2014 4:44 am

Neat sights. Any pictures? I enjoyed walking through the mud flats. We could see the outlines of where rays and horseshoe crabs had been.

Thanks for the trip report!

OysterBay
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Joined: Sat Dec 07, 2013 12:20 pm
Location: Gulf Shores, AL

Another thought

Post by OysterBay » Sun Jan 12, 2014 10:34 am

PJohanson helped me clarify my thoughts about which boat to take. Just as a follow-up, I elected not to take the backbone because of the risk of oyster beds. There are definitely a lot of oyster beds but you can easily avoid them if you are careful. Still, I didn't miss the backbone even in the larger bays. I always used the backbone in the bay where we live but I was surprised how well the Convertible handled without it in the Everglades.

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