Boating off the Cape Haze Peninsular.
The barrier islands and warm waters of the Cape Haze peninsular offer a safe environment for even the novice boater and offer a magical half or full day of relaxation and an opportunity to see the barrier islands from the water. Discover hidden bays and deserted coves, meander slowly or bounce along at speed, it will not disappoint. It is truly magical to be able to gently boat through the the warm waters of the Gulf, teeming with shoals of small fish to schools of the mightier Dolphin.
Our trip to Cayo Costo State Park, June 2012
We had reserved a boat from Gasparilla Marina a couple of days earlier; the staff here willingly take the novice boater through the rudiments of boating, they explain the charts, provide life jackets and their boats are fitted with beacons, in the unlikely event of an emergency. They show you how to lift the propeller if you wish to beach the boat and how to anchor in the water.
The day dawned early as the anticipation of being out on the water once again pushed sleep away.
We planned the day before what we would eat for breakfast and lunch and soon we were busy filling the coolers with food and drinks.
Hats, suntan creams, sunglasses and beach towels were loaded into the car together with the coolers and cameras.
The marina is located on the Gasparilla Road so a short drive from the villa and there is plenty of parking.
After a short run through of the controls we loaded the gear and headed out. The channel is bounded by newly built condominiums on one side and the inevitable larger homes on the other but soon these are left behind and a wonderful expanse of water meets the eye.
On this trip we had decided to head to Cayo Costo it was a visit we had intended to do on other excursions but had never quite made it.
On the leaving the channel the bridge to Gasparilla Island is found to the right and Gasparilla Island itself stretches on towards the sound, a great spot for fishing and spotting Dolphins early morning.
To the left of us is an expanse of blue water with the odd boat dotted on the horizon, heading who knows where.
We gently cruise keeping Gasparilla Island to our right and breathing in the fresh salty air and feeling the warmth of the sun on our skin.
Various smaller islands come into view and there is the odd boat anchored while the occupants busily fish.
On passing the tip of Gasprilla Island there is a plethora of boats no doubt fishing for snook or maybe even late Tarpon.
We carry on waving to the boaters as we pass gently bobbed by the wake of faster boats passing by.
We gently bend to the left and head towards Cayo which is in the distance and skirted by shallow bays. The tide is in today so we have no concerns about depths as we glide towards these bays for a closer look.
We are glad to see there are no other boats docked on Cayo so we should have the beach on the gulf side to ourselves at least for a bit. Once we have docked we decide breakfast is next on the agenda, all this sea air makes for a good appetite. As we gently rock eating our fruit and muffins a visitor appears. It is the park ranger and he chats about Cayo Costo and explains how often the tram or golf cart goes across to the beach side. There is a small charge for this service and it takes about 15 minutes. Travelling through the natural vegetation, we pass wooden huts where if brave enough you can stay and live in isolation for awhile. There is no electricity, the basic washing facilities are communal and cooking is on a charcoal grill; my fear of certain insects and snakes would prevent me from experiencing this most basic but natural beauty and the thought of my lovely air conditioned villa with all mod cons beckons from the mainland.
The beach as we hoped is deserted and soon Bob heads away for his solitary walk whilst I wander amongst the shallows searching for shells and sharks teeth. It is silent apart from the surf gently breaking on the sand and I savour this feeling of intense inner peace as I circle and see no buildings, people or anything apart from the natural landscape and sand between my toes. Bliss.
After an hour the tram returns and this time brings a family who will now experience this same solitude as we did. We now head back to the boat for more time on the water. We gently loose the ropes and reverse the boat out into the bay and for awhile just bob without the engine and watch the birds swoop into the sea and enjoy the gentle lapping of water against the hull. Lunch now seems to be the order of the day as a good couple of hours have passed since breakfast so we linger over our feast of shrimp and salad and watch the waters, wondering what lies beneath.
This trip the tide is in so whilst we see less shoals of fish there is a better chance of spotting Dolphins.
Soon Bob is eager to put this boat through itís paces and we head back into the open water where he opens her up and we speed along but I much prefer a slower pace so I sit in the sunshine and let him enjoy the speed.
We pass other boats and everyone waves, it is friendly out on the water and soon we spot a solitary Dolphin and head towards him but a couple more glimpses and he is gone.
Now Gasparilla Island is ahead of us on our left and we head towards the sound to get a closer look at the boats we had passed earlier that morning. They are all congregating together and have no plans on moving from this great fishing spot.
We continue back towards the bridge with the intention of heading further up the inland waterway and into Lemon Bay.
As we near the bridge a magical sight awaits us three or four Dolphins are frolicking in the waters so we move out of the channel markers and cut the engine to watch these magical mammals of the deep.
Try as we might photos are snatched as they dive so quickly and appear as if by magic a few feet away.
We realise we are amidst a large school and there are probably ten or twelve of them. They seem to almost kiss each other as a few of them burst upwards from the water and rub their noses. One or two swim quite close to the boat and I hope by some miracle I can briefly feel one as it swims by. They seem to circle all around us and we switch from one side of the boat to the other to watch them. Gradually they move further away and head off to no doubt some well known feeding ground where they will fill their stomachs.
We feel honoured to have seen such a magical sight and for awhile do not speak, perhaps speechless or just not wanting to spoil the moment.
Then as if by telepathy we realise our time is nearly up and we must head back to the marina to return the boat.
So a gentle meander between the markers and our time on the water is over until our next trip when we plan to head to Captiva Island so we look forward to this and feel blessed we can return time and time again to this beautiful location.
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