Posts Tagged ‘Kayak Trip’

 September 18, 2011 – Let the Journey Begin!!

LEE COUNTY- Two men are to begin their expedition tomorrow to raise money for the Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail and Clinic for Rehabilitation of Wildlife.


Sean Fitzgibbon and Jeff Fabiszewski are experienced kayakers from the Tampa Bay area who have formed Team Sweetwater. The two plans on paddling the 190-mile marked and unmarked paddling trail in Lee County.

The Team is paddling to raise awareness for the Paddling Trail and the Clinic for Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) which is on Sanibel Island. The public is encouraged to visit to make a donation to both organizations. The expedition blog will be updated daily.

Team Sweetwater will return to Lee County on November 4-6 to teach a rescue class and speak about the expedition during the Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival and Symposium.

The expedition starts tomorrow, September 19th at 8 a.m. and goes until October 2nd.

Check back for updates on their paddle.

(Posted 22:00)

September 19, 2011 – They’re Off

Today is the offical first day of the trip and everything went well. The overnight pre-departure camping went without incident and they launched from Caloosahatchee Regional Park, which is located near Alva. Their first planned detour from the Caloosahatchee River was the Hickey Creek. Hickey Creek is actually a mitigation park implemented by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conversation Commission (FWC). This mitigation area gives developers an alternative solution to creating mitigation areas on their development site. For additional information and a map of the area check out the Hickey_Creek_Information brochure.

WP Franklin Lock

After completing the creek and finding their way back to the Caloosahatchee, the journey continued downstream until they reached their first obstacle, the WP Franklin Lock and Dam. These locks were constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1965 and are located approximately 33 miles from the Intercoastal Waterway. Their primary purpose is for flood control, water control, prevention of saltwater intrusion, and for navigational purposes. This is one of five locks the Corps constructed and maintains along the 152 mile Okeechobee Waterway.  Unfortunately they were not able (allowed) to pass through these locks, so this became the first portage of the trip. Camping at Rock Creek Resort.

Trip details: Day 1: Caloosahatchee Regional Park to Rock Creek Resort via Hickey Creek.  Miles covered –  20.1

September 20, 2011 – Downstream and Into Open Water

Picnic Island

The journey continues by heading downstream to the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River and beyond. The destination for today is Picnic Island. Picnic Island located about three miles southwest of the mouth of the Caloosahatchee and about 1.5 miles southeast of Saint James City on Pine Island. If you are tracking their progress on Google Earth, it can be found at latitude 26°29’23.46”N, longitude 82°02’57.20”W.

For the most part it was a very uneventful day on the water, although their paddle was interrupted by an afternoon Florida rain shower. Both Jeff and Sean were surprised by the variety of marine life they encountered today and hopefully photos will follow when they return.

Trip details: Day 2: Rock Creek Resort to Picnic Island. Miles covered 19.1

September 21, 2011 – Heading North

A highlight of today’s trip was the bald eagle they saw during today’s northerly trip. Otherwise the trip was uneventful except they had to perform some minor repairs to the boats. According to Jeff, the skeg on his kayak was sticking and would not function properly. The skeg on his kayak is rope operated and its mechanism is a combination of rope and bungee cords. So to resolve this issue he exited the kayak, flipped it over, pulled the skeg mechanism apart, washed it, and then reassembled it.  He also said Sean’s boat, being a custom two piece design, needed to have the bolts tightened that connected the two sections together. Since this was not critical and since they did not have tools for this repair, they opted to delay repair until the end of today’s paddle.


If you are interested in tracking their journey you can go to Google Earth and download their software. Once you have the program running Lee County Parks and Recreation offers a free KML plug-in that overlays Google Earth with the all of sign posts on the trip. You can either access the Lee County Parks and Recreation site and look for the KML files or click here to download them directly. Trip details: Day 3: Picnic Island (54) to Sun and Moon Inn (83). Miles covered 11.2


September 22, 2011 – Heading North

Heading off around 9:30 a.m. this morning from the Sun and Moon Inn, Jeff and Sean were headed for their next destination, Bokeelia Island by way of marker 99 in Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park. Marker 99 is the northern most point of the Calusa Blueway Trail and is located in the southeast corner of Charlotte Harbor on the mainland. Just a note about the park itself, it is not simply one land mass but rather multiple land masses that encompasses some 42,000 acres in Lee and Charlotte Counties. Unfortunately with weather moving in the northern leg of today’s journey was cut short when a decision was made, somewhere between markers 96 and 97, to head directly for Bokeelia Island. If you are following the journey on Google Earth and have downloaded the plugin from the September 21st posting, there is no actual sign post number giving you the location of Bokeelia Island. Bokeelia Island is located at the northern most tip of Pine Island, which is at the south end of Charlotte Harbor.

Arriving around 5:00 p.m. all is well and they will be staying at the Jug Creek Cottages for this evening. The next leg of the journey is to be to Cayo Casta; however, with the forecasted weather there is some discussion about making the trip tomorrow or whether a “weather day” would be in order. As of this blog no decision has been made. So at this point they are on schedule and where they should be. All of the boat repairs have been made and everyone is safe.

Trip details: Day 4: Sun and Moon Inn (83) in Matlacha to Jug Creek Cottages on Bokeelia Island. Miles covered 8+.

 September 23, 2011 – Off to Cayo Costa

They left Jug Creek Cottages on Bokeelia Island and have traveled west to Cayo Costa State Park. During their trip they saw dolphins and a variety of other marine life. When they arrived on Cayo Costa they came ashore on the northeast corner of the island. The park service was gracious enough to provide ground transport for them to the Gulf side of the island. So for the next couple of days they will be enjoying the sun and fun of Cayo Costa.

Trip details: Day 5: Jug Creek Cottages to Cayo Costa State Park: Miles covered 10

 September 24, 2011 – Day Off

Today was a planned day of rest with an extra day on Cayo Costa. This is their fifth day on the water and of promoting the Clinic for Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) and the Great Calusa Blueway Trail to all they have met. Overall the response to those they have spoken has been excellent with many wanting additional information. In case you don’t know about CROW, they rely 100% on your charitable support. Their mission is to save wildlife through compassion, care and education. Donations and more information about CROW can be found at

It rained last night and much to their amazement they found that Jeff’s tent leaks around the skylight. However since there was no mention of how bad the leak was or if they were going to try and repair it, it’s probably not bad but rather an inconvenience. When I spoke with Sean he was quick to point out that his hammock and tarp combination were dry but he also had a concern for this accommodations. It appears a nest of bees has appeared relativity close to the entrance to his hammock, so he is being very careful when he enters and exits his hammock so as not to disturb his new neighbors.

During the day they have met some of the other tourists and campers on the island. One couple was kayaking around the island geocaching. “Geocaching is a real-world outdoor treasure hunting game. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using GPS-enabled devices and then share their experiences online.” If you want to find out more on geocaching, click here.  Another group of five individuals was celebrating one of their members birthday. Being tourist to the island and festive, they extended an offer to Jeff and Sean to partake of their hospitality and libations.

Jeff is teaching Sean how to play a game called Hive. Not quite sure if this is a board game or a card game. Check back on tomorrow’s blog for an answer and maybe how it’s played.

While not a long or particularity treacherous trip thus far, they are finding that day six away from family brings with it thoughts of missing kids and family members.

Tomorrow’s float plan is to break camp in the morning and head for the northern end of Sanibel.

Trip details: Day 6: Staying put.

September 25, 2011 – Turning South and on to Sanibel Island

They are on the move again and heading south. A special thanks to the park service on Cayo Costa for transporting Team Sweetwater (Jeff and Sean) back to their boats on the east side of the island. Heading south their destination is Sanibel Island. Along the way they will also pass North Captiva Island and Captiva Island. A brief history of the islands states “… these barrier islands were dominated by the fierce Calusa Indians.” “The [Spanish] conquistadors nearly wiped out the entire Calusa population in a series of battles and enslaved the remaining few in Cuban prison camps, where they eventually died.” Jose Gaspar also used these islands for the repairing of his ships. It is rumored that Jose may have buried his treasure on Sanibel Island.

Castaways Beach and Bay Cottages

They arrived on the north end of Sanibel Island earlier today without any on water incidents. The only comment Jeff made was that it was HOT!! Temperature, according the Weather Underground, was in the high 80’s day.

Dinner was at the Lazy Flamingo Restaurant again. They have managed to stop at two of the four locations. Can they find the other two? Only time will tell. As for lodging, they will be at the Castaways Beach and Bay Cottages this evening. The Castaways is located just a stone’s throw from Blind Pass Bridge.The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) was established on the island in 1968 and is towards the other end of the island from the Castaways. “It is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of sick, orphaned and injured wildlife. C.R.O.W. has a complete wildlife hospital at the middle of its 12.5 acre sanctuary. The clinic focuses on education in an effort to prevent injuries to animals caused by human interference. Guided presentations are given year around.”

Facts and Figures: Today’s travel was 16.2 miles and it took them about 5 ¼ hours. This amounts to an average of 3.1 mph, which has been about the average thus far for the trip.Trip details: Day 7: Cayo Costa State Park to the Castaways on Sanibel Island: Miles covered 16.2

September 26, 2011 – Visiting CROW and Hitting the Road

Welcome to CROW

Most of today was spent visiting at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW). As mentioned previously CROW is located on 12.5 acres on Sanibel Island, south of the Castaways Beach and Bay Cottages, on Sanibel-Captive Road. While there Jeff and Sean were given a tour of the facility and met some of the current patients, which included raccoons, turtles, and birds.


The clinic is fortunate to receive donations of fruit and vegetables from the local markets. While this helps to reduce the cost of feeding their patients, they still need tax deductable donations to purchase the mice and fish protein that is needed. Some of the new arrivals included several seagulls. According to the staff the birds fell out of their nest and were brought to the center in a McDonalds’ happy meal box.

So hitting the road, not paddling, they find themselves on San Carlos Island this evening. Transportation was courtesy of a fellow kayaker who was kind enough to drive them off the island and shuttle them to the San Carlos RV Park and Island Resort (marker 44).

Once at the RV park and island resort the next major decision of the day was food. Do they head next door for the all you can eat blue crabs at Maria’s Backwater Bar and Grill or venture to the Nuauti Turtle. Just for those of who are were wondering, Team Sweetwater will not be visiting all of the Lazy Flamingo locations, they skipped the one on the southern tip of Sanibel.

Just a great thanks to the San Carlos RV Park and Island Resort for rescuing Jeff and Sean from the downpour last evening by upgrading them to a SUPER RV. They really enjoyed watching television while sitting on nice comfy (dry) furniture.

They are back on the water tomorrow and headed for Koreshan State Park. Koreshan is located upstream from Estero Bay.

Trip details: Day 8: Sightseeing and shuttle ride

September 27-28 2011 – Koreshan State Park

Mound Key

They arrive at Koreshan State Park early this afternoon. The plans for tomorrow include staying at Koreshan State Park for second night. This does not mean a day off the water, but rather a chance to go and visit Mound Key Archeological State Park. Mound Key is located near the mouth of Estero River and is believed to have been the capitol for the Calusa tribe.  More on Mound Key tomorrow.

If you are tracking Team Sweetwater’s trek on Google Earth you can look for markers 24, 25, and 25a. Can’t find the markers, download the plug-in here. Thursday will have them moving to Big Hickory State Park.

Trip details: Day 9: San Carlos Island RV Park and Island Resort (44) to Koreshan State Park. Miles: 11.1 Averaged 3.1 mph.

September 28, 2011 – Day Off

Team Sweetwater (Jeff and Sean) spent most of Wednesday the 28th, exploring the sights, sounds of Koreshan State Park.

Trip details: Day 10: Explore Koreshan State Park.

September 29th, 2011 – Onto Big Hickey Island and then Home

Today we find them back on the water and headed for Big Hickey Island with a planned detour to Mound Key Archeological State Park for some exploring.   The wildlife on and around the water was abundant with the sightings of manatees, dolphins, roseate spoon bills, night herons, and loons. Upon reaching Big Hickey Island they both commented on how new the campsite was as it was recently cleared and still contained piles of ashes from the clear cutting and burning.

Tomorrow will mark the end of the trip when they take out at Imperial River boat ramp. What to know more about the journey? Come to the Calusa Blueways Paddling Festival, November 3rd to the 6th off the beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel. Check out the schedule of events and be part of the festivities.

Please don’t forget about Team Sweetwater’s sponsor of choice Clinic for Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) and how desperately they need donations of either money or supplies. If you have the opportunity and have some spare time volunteer at the clinic.

Trip details: Day 11 Koreshan State Park to Big Hickey Island via Mound Key Archeological State Park. Miles: 8.44. Averaged 3.1 mph.

Good Day Paddlers,

Here it is Post #3 in our expedition series! In this post I am going to cover our initial arrangements to get where we are going, who is taking us to the launch site of our journey; why we chose them(shuttle), and a brief description of our start time and place. Followed by where we hope to be by the end of the first day of our paddle! Also a brief summary at the end telling you where we hope to be each day of the trip, and the # to call to arrange your Rivercamp places to stay!

Jeff and I bounced around many thoughts & ideas on how we should get up to the Suwannee River area(about 4 hr. drive from Pinellas Cty.-our home). Originally we were going to drive separate vehicles and park 1 in Branford & 1 in White Springs so we would not have to spend money on a shuttle service. After much bickering like an OLD Married Couple we decided that we not only would spend more on gas than if we only took 1 vehicle, we would also have to worry about safe parking of 2 vehicles- not to mention thats twice the pollution-( not that we are totally green, but we try to keep our impact on the environment down as much as possible).  We agreed(not like a Married Couple) that we should price out the shuttle service and see if we could get up to White Springs from Branford(1 hr.5 min. give or take), thus only leaving 1 vehicle to worry about and saving gas/money & lessening our impact on the environment.

I made a few phone calls and we soon settled on AMERICAN CANOE ADVENTURES as our outfitter of choice for our  shuttle ride.

They are very fairly priced not to mention Mr. Wendell Hannum  the owner was very accommodating & they have a very informative website and can even do all the planning of an expedition or a day paddle for you, I also must mention that I called a couple of weeks earlier and spoke with a very nice young lady who gave me the initial price- her name Corinna (hope I spelled it right). I will be giving them half with my credit card by phone and the other half when they come get us in Branford on Dec. 27th.   Price: less than a GOOD PFD (life jacket)!   Distance:  like 40 or 50 miles!

So as it stands now we will be leaving Pinellas County at O4:00 or O5:00 hrs. “What does the “O” stand for? O my [Gosh], it’s early! (Adrian Cronauer: Good morning Vietnam)


On Dec. 27th and heading to Branford in one of our vehicles. We hope to arrive at our safe parking destination and ending point of the expedition at between 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. Mr. Wendell should arrive to pick us up around 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. , to whisk us off to the starting point of our expedition. Hopefully if all goes well we should be in White Springs at the U.S. 41 bridge within an hour or so to launch and begin the trip down the AWESOME Suwannee River, as stated on American Canoe Adventures Website- the Paddle of a LIFETIME!!

Jeff and I hope to be at the Woods Ferry Rivercamp by the end of the first day,(paddling distance 12-13 miles) remember we only have half a day to make it to camp/dinner and sleep! We will be up bright and early the next day for a full day of paddling!

Our chosen  schedule, if you want to call it that should be as follows::

  • Day One-  Woods Ferry Rivercamp
  • Day Two-  Holton Creek Rivercamp
  • Day Three-  Dowling Park Rivercamp
  • Day Four-  Peacock Slough Rivercamp
  • Day Five- Adams Tract Rivercamp

All of these camps should be roughly 20 miles apart from each other, in the event we do not make it to the camps; we will be primitive camping on the side of the river bank.  To reserve the camps the # is 1-800-868-9914 or go to the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail website.  I hope you all enjoy the latest post in our series and please keep reading, YOU the Paddler/Reader are why Jeff and I write!

Excited!  -Sea Turtle Sean

Next Post in 8 Days- Expedition Planning : The Menu!


Well here it is post #2 in the Expedition Series, just as promised. This post is going to focus on the actual route we are going to be paddling and how the choice to paddle the section of river we are doing came about.

When Jeff and I first decided to paddle the Suwannee River, we thought about doing the entire length- a distance of 213 miles. Starting in the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia and ending at the Gulf of Mexico, in the Big Bend region of Florida.

Suwannee River Wilderness Trail

After doing some research the biggest factor in deciding not to do the whole river was a time limitation. The trip has been made in 15 days at a steady pace and possibly as fast as 5 days at a marathon sprint(non-stop  paddling, done by Terry Tomalin, George Stovall, Kasey LaLomia & Jon Willis, Dec. 2001 ). Jeff and I like to enjoy our time paddling so trying to do the whole river in 5 days was out of the question!!

Reason #2 is there are large class 3 rapids just north of where we decided to put in, and we do not want to destroy are precious Sea Kayaks! The 3rd reason is the Suwannee River Wilderness Paddling Trail starts just south of those rapids in a town called White Springs, and I found out it is the most scenic part of the river anyway.

The 91 miles from White Springs to the little town of Branford being the most scenic and uncrowded part of the river as well as being the best part of the Suwannee River Wilderness Paddling Trail had our minds made up!! We can average anywhere from 15 to 25 miles a day paddling, that puts us at just about 5 days worth of paddling. PERFECT!!

Another cool deciding factor was awesome camping opportunities along the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail, about every 15 to 20 miles they have either a Hub town or River camp- each camp has 6 roofed and screened decks for sleeping. At this time they are—- FREE to the paddling/camping public. The Hubs are usually at a State Park or Town where you can pay to camp. In addition there are many white sandbars/beaches to pitch a tent on for primitive camping. This makes it SOOO EASY that a Cave Man can do it!(SORRY GEICO) Ha Ha Ha Ha.

Guess What? That still leaves us 122 miles of river that we can always go back and do at a later time in life when we run out of other places to paddle- YEAH RIGHT!

So there you have it, now our destination and the route in which we will be paddling has been revealed! I hope our readers are getting at least half of the thrill and excitement Jeff and I hope to get from all this expedition stuff. I also hope this is helping and inspiring other paddlers to “Have a Thought” and “Plan a Trip”. Then GO Out and Get R’ Done!

Still Planning- Sea Turtle Sean

Next post in the series in 8 days; Expedition Planning: Making Arrangements.

Hi Fellow Paddlers,

Telephone-1-juneAs promised this is #1 in our Expedition Planning series! The title of the post I believe should say it all. This statement is somewhat of an oxymoron if you ask me, kinda like Military Intelligence or a waterless carwash-HUH? It all started when my cellphone rang about the middle-ish of August, give or take a few days in either direction. Jeff was on the other end (what a surprise) when I answered it.

He said “Hey, what you up to? (standard BRO-mance greeting).  I said “not a whole lot” and “You?” Before I could say anything else, Jeff starts rambling on about water and something about the proper alignment of the Paddling Universe— then he just BUSTS OUT with “We should go paddle the Suwannee River a day or two after Christmas!” I was kinda shocked and did not know if he was serious or just baiting me!

“Hello, Sean?” Jeff said.
“I’ m here, are you serious?” I said.
“AH, Yeah, we should take 5 days and just disappear to work on skills and enjoy a trip down the Majestic Suwannee River!”
“OK, lets plan and do it!” I said.
First we need to get permission from the Bosses at home as well as the bosses at work!!!! DONE!!

When one thinks of the word EXPEDITION and what that word means; it conjures up thoughts of weeks, even months surviving out in the wilderness living, eating, sleeping, and who knows what else; just to stay alive. All in the name of either science, research, ego, or any of 1000 other great excuses! Well an expedition does not have to be weeks or months, it can be 2 days or 2 years. An expedition simply means that a person or group of persons are setting out on a trip to accomplish a common goal- whatever that may be!

Explorer_in_bushesThe expedition could be to collect specimens for science, or to showcase a beautiful natural location.  Or “Just because its there”- sorry Burt Reynolds (Deliverance) or for spiritual reasons- “Spirit Treks” (Native American Indians).

Whatever the reason one chooses to go on an expedition, it is the journey not only that you actually take, but also the planning and getting there that also makes it what it is. The EXPEDITION is the CROWN JEWEL that you get to keep after all the planning and preparation are over. When the EXPEDITION is over, you get a lifetime of memories and accomplishments that no one can take away from you!

Bottom line: Out of a quick thought, that takes only seconds to materialize. Comes months of planning and preparation, followed by more time Paddling and enjoying oneself- then a lifetime of bittersweet memories!

Planning like Crazy!
-Sea Turtle Sean

Next Post in the series in 8 days! Expedition Planning : The Route!