My husband and I recently enjoyed a sailing adventure aboard the 34’ sailing catamaran TropicBird. Captained by Patrick Higgins, a Florida Master Naturalist, we set sail at high tide for the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. TropicBird can sail in water as shallow as 18 inches so we threaded a course through the Refuge’s protected keys. It’s a very comfortable boat providing a choice of sunny or shady lounging areas, a complete galley including refrigerator, an ample dining table, a bathroom, and plenty of storage.
We immediately spotted two dolphins before leaving the marina. Later we watched a dolphin drive fish up to the beach to trap them. Dolphins kept us company all day long with several coming very near the boat.
We saw so many birds!
Pelicans roosting on the marina pilings waiting for the fishing charters to return, a classic picture, or flying with their bellies skimming the water;
Ospreys nesting on the channel markers. Patrick explained how it is that the osprey carries fish “torpedo” style - headfirst: they, along with fishing owls, have a flexible toe that allows them grip their prey with two toes in the front and two in the back;
All kinds of wading birds including Great Blue, teal, and blue herons, great white egrets, and ibis. Whole trees were white with their guano;
Cormorants swimming and diving for fish alone and in groups;
Turkey vultures roosting in a tree; and
Flocks of Terns and Royal Terns swooping en masse through the air.
For a lunchtime break, we anchored near a beautiful white sand stretch of beach on White Horse Key. The dingy was lowered and we set off for a shore adventure. Patrick’s botany and ecology training came in handy in identifying trees, shrubs, flowers, shells, and all manner of creatures.
With the shore party safely back aboard, we sailed into the Gulf of Mexico, set a course for our return to Marco Island and enjoyed a lovely sunset. Afterwards we toasted our Ten Thousand Islands adventure aboard the TropicBird at a beachside restaurant on the Isle of Capri.
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