THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT ISLANDS I find irresistible, and my fascination with them actually helped me get into boating.
Where I grew up, near Lake Monona just outside of Madison, Wis., there was a small island near
a public beach I frequented. Even though it was just a short dogpaddle away from the ropes delin- eating the official swimming area, my friends and I never saw anyone else go there. It became
our island. In order to get to it and remain dry, we built a boat, which allowed us to bring camping gear and officially assume absentee ownership of our fiefdom. It was the first of many islands I would claim as my own.
To find your own island, you could take the easy way and go to privateislandsonline.com and open
your checkbook. There’s a particularly nice one called Rangyai in Thailand with an asking price of $160 million. But there’s a better online tool called Google Earth (earth.google.com), which allows you do a “flyover” of any body of water. With it, you can scout a likely island to see if it has a sandy beach or signs of development. Often, other explorers post photos.
Sometimes, the perfect island doesn’t have to have much on it, but as the real estate mantra goes, it’s all about location. In the early 1970s, my family moved from Wisconsin to Marco Island, in the Ten Thousand Islands on the southwest coast of Florida, not too far south of the islands in our feature this month (p. 50). As the name implies, there are countless islands to explore, but the one I loved best was nothing more
than a barren comma-shaped sandbar
in the Gulf of Mexico. Called “The Hump,” it still lies off Cape Romano, which is the epicenter for some of the best snook fishing in the world. Camping there is awesome, with fewer bugs than on the mangrove islands inland, such as the one at Chatham Bend in the Everglades where “Bloody” Ed Watson lived (and killed) at the turn of the other century. Every time I camped on either, I had it all to myself.
In Florida alone there are 4,500 islands bigger than 10 acres and many times that number of smaller islands. My current favorite is in the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Fla. Called Goat Island, this slice of tropical paradise has a small beach, plenty of room
to camp and is surrounded by great fishing. Ironically, there hasn’t been a goat here for decades, but I just found out goats have recently been intro- duced to my old island in Wisconsin to help control exotic plant life. What are the odds? BW