Day 2-Feb. 2, 2018

We rose early the next morning as we had a long leg ahead of us for our first big jump down to Marco island. On our way out we were even lucky enough to discover a rookery island blanketed by an enormous flock of white pelicans. These pelicans are much larger than Brown Pelicans and enjoy roosting in greater numbers. They tend to settle on isolated islands far from humans, and it is not uncommon to see hundreds of them bedded down together in dense white clusters. Despite the massive size of these flocks, the isolated quality of their roosting sites can make them difficult to find without a boat. It's like stumbling upon a secret society meeting every time you see them.

 

While the lack of wind caused us to have to motor most of the journey, it was a glorious day with sunburn our biggest threat. As we passed under the Sanibel causeway, officially marking our exit from the island that had been our anchorage for the last three years, we were followed yet again by a group of dolphins who kindly popped up next to us and gave us a few extra goodbye sprays. The trip was long, about 8 hours, but we were able to reach the tall condos and luxurious homes of Marco Island before nightfall. We settled in the channel between Sea Oat Island and Johnson Island. The anchorage was a bit shallow, and there was some decent boat traffic during the day, but things settled down near evening as the rental boats returned home. We arrived with plenty of time to spare and quickly made our way in the dinghy to our first excursion of the trip, Sea Oat Island.

Sea Oat Island is a large Island just north of Marco Island with three fingers of mangroves that shoot out at its southern end. While most of the eastern side of the island is covered in impenetrable mangroves, its western side is a long, unhindered beach, devoid of any development, perfect for a lovely sunset beach walk. As its name suggests, the beach side of the island is covered in Sea Oats, a tall dune grass that features small green tufts at their top. These grasses can grow to be about 5 feet tall. Aside from Sea Oats, the island was also lined with dead Australian Pine, a damaging exotic that can be found on many beaches throughout Florida that tend to be near major cities. While these trees are harmful when alive, when they die, they can make for some striking scenery. Their long, white, bare branches reach high into the sky, and the seas waves and wind break away at their bark, making them look like hardened rope. The trees are equally lovely when they fall over, revealing their knotted and extensive roots. In Florida, many locals and visitors alike enjoy decorating these giant root systems by placing cracked and broken shells on their ends like ornaments.

 

Matt and I also couldn't help but notice how much whiter and harder the sand was on the beach. While most beach sand throughout Florida is made of quartz, the result of millions of years of weathering and runoff from the Appalachian mountains, some are finer than others. Generally, the finer the sand, the softer it is. Here in Marco Island, much of the beaches are made up of incredibly fine quartz sand, giving them that soft white look and feeling. Plus, the lack of people and development meant it had a greater capacity to harden, making it perfect for bare feet. Matt and I weren't the only ones enjoying the beach. We were also joined by the many Brown Pelicans, Blue Herons, Tri-Colored Herons, Plovers and Snowy Egrets that make the island their home. As we motored back to the boat, we slowed to say “goodnight” to our neighboring Ospreys who had settled into a huge nest that was barely contained on its channel marker post. Thus ending another wonderful day on the boat.

Vikki Nelson