The Nightmare first caught my eye last February as an old friend and former crewmate, Steve Cannon, and I leaned over three sweat-stained charts of the Everglades National Park trying to muster a plan. We were at the Keys Fisheries Marina, a backwater basin in Marathon, halfway down the Florida Keys, where a stone-crab fleet docks and a waterfront fish market serves up the world's freshest claws. Spread out on the dinette table of Pagan Charm, the 26-foot Balboa sloop we'd chartered for seven days, the charts depicted one of the last great American wilderness areas accessible to a shoal-draft cruiser, with seven navigable rivers slanting southwest into the Gulf of Mexico, tear-drop shaped hardwood-covered hammocks carved by the Shark River Slough, and thousands of mangrove islands clustered at the river mouths. Fancying ourselves explorers, we tried to make sense of the maze, but the stone crab, cold Budweiser, and Florida sun soon brought out our true nature. By lunch hour, I'd proposed that we never leave the slip.