Everglades Cruising at a Glance
Seasons and weather: Time your
visit for the dry season from mid-December to mid-March, when
temperatures are cooler, prevailing easterlies are stronger, and the
mosquitoes are less voracious. Heralded by a southwest wind, cold
fronts pass through about every week in winter. Rain typically precedes
frontal passages, and winds intensify and clock around until settling
in from the northeast. The strongest winds are typically
north-northeast and are rarely greater than 22 knots.
Charts and guides:
Five NOAA charts--numbers 11429, 11430, 11431, 11432, and 11433--cover
the park area in great detail. Sailors on boats approaching from the
north will also want numbers 11426 and 11427. From the Keys, use chart
number 11451. We found digital charts from Garmin's BlueChart series to
be as accurate as any paper chart.
Special navigation hazards:
Fish and crab traps cluster tightly just outside the park boundaries.
Fast backcountry fishing boats zip around on weekends, so avoid
anchoring midchannel on rivers, and always keep your boat lit. Unmarked
The Everglades National Park boating website (www.nps.gov/ever/visit/
boating.htm) provides a link to websites with tide data. Treat all
times and heights with caution, as heavy rains and strong winds can
have tremendous influence over the tides. We found published tidal data
to be unreliable. Time your river entrances during slack tides if
possible; the Barron River current is particularly swift.
Many islands are off-limits, and outboards are prohibited on some lakes.
Large stretches of water are no-wake zones. Details on these and other
rules are available on the Everglades National Park boating website
(listed above) or by calling visitor information (305-242-7700). If you
plan to camp at the Wilderness Waterway sites, reserve a backcountry
permit 24 hours before your trip by calling the Everglades National
Park permit line (239-695-2945). You don't need a backcountry permit to
sleep on board.
The Everglades are world famous for backcountry fishing, particularly
for tarpon and snook. Fishing regulations (http://marinefisheries.org/
lines.htm) are strictly enforced, and closed seasons apply to many
species. Obtain licenses from the Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission (888-347-4356, http://myfwc.com/license/).
Lodging and marinas:
The Flamingo Lodge and Marina (239-695-3101, www.flamingolodge.com)
offers lodging, a waterfront restaurant, and a small bait-and-tackle
store that serves ice, sandwiches, and drinks. At the northern end of
the park, The Rod and Gun Club (239-695-2101, www.florida-secrets.com/
Bed&Breakfast/SWBeds/Rod.htm), near the Gulf Coast Visitor Center
in Everglades City, has marina hookups, a nice restaurant, and a
Some companies limit park access, so before reserving, confirm the areas
where you can explore. The perfectly suited Balboa 26 that we used for
our trip came compliments of Pagan Charters (305-743-0090, www.florida
keysbareboatchartercompany.com). Based in Marathon, Pagan Charters also
charters a Catalina 30 and a 40-foot Island Gypsy trawler. Southwest
Florida Yacht Charters (800-262-7939, www.swfyachts.com), based in Fort
Myers, offers trawlers and a shoal-draft 32-foot Island Packet. In
Islamorada, Treasure Harbor Marine (305-852-2458,
www.treasureharbor.com) has a shoal-draft Watkins 25.