Boat Tour to Fakahatchee Island Highlights Wild Past and Present

Posted: March 21, 2013  |  By: Lance Shearer [Naples News]

Surrounded by our creature comforts, it can be almost unfathomable just how rugged and isolated life was for the pioneers who lived in this area just 100 years ago. There is an excursion boat, though, that can give you a hint.

The Friends of Fakahatchee runs an “Island Cruise” during the winter season, but only when the tide is high enough for the boat to get through, to Fakahatchee Island. Departing from the Everglades National Park ranger station between Chokoloskee and Everglades City last Wednesday, the Starfish threaded her way through the bays and narrow passages between the mangrove cays that make up the 10,000 Islands. Twenty-five souls set out, shades of Gilligan, on “a three-hour tour.”

The captain of the Starfish, a 45-foot aluminum open catamaran powered by twin outboards, pointed out the lockers where the lifejackets are stored, but advised passengers not to worry. The water is so shallow, he said, “all you have to do is stand up.” The captain, Terry Smallwood, is a piece of local history himself, a direct descendant of Ted Smallwood, whose Smallwood Store in Chokoloskee would have represented the closest link to civilization for the early settlers on Fakahatchee Island.

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