Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Stranded in the Everglades

The last Florida post.

On Saturday, we headed out of town and deep into the flat, swampy loveliness that is the Florida Everglades. We wanted alligators, anhingas and snail kites (well, I wanted snail kites). And we wanted to ride on an airboat.
An air boat is just a shallow (knee-high depth) boat that is run by a very small outboard motor and one or two very big fans. Hence the name air boat.
We were assured that safety records for air boats are very very good.

It started out well. The girls were wearing life jackets and it seemed that the thunderstorm we skirted on the way in was going to hold off.
Half-way into the ride, we made a scheduled stop near a swamp apple tree. We learned that swamp apples were poisonous 5 months out of the year, and the guide wouldn't tell us which 5 months that was. Lesson: DON'T eat swamp apples.
We learned about saw grass. He pulled a stem from a nearby plant and passed it around. Yes, it is shaped like a saw. If you handle it the wrong way, it will slice you. Lesson: DON'T handle it the wrong way.
Please click on the photo to see the little barbs along the stem. They are really, really sharp.
Sawgrass macro

What it feels like to skim above water and grass in an air boat:


Thunder. Very very close to the boat. And the rain began.


So the driver (captain, whatever) said for everyone to hang on so we could get out of there.
Choke, choke...
We all started looking around at each other. Isn't the engine supposed to start when you turn the key?
He stuck his head down into the boat and told us that we had lost the right engine (thank goodness we weren't on a damn plane) and he was calling in an SOS for a rescue boat.
Holy cow.

It was a tense 10 minutes. We were in the middle of the freakin' Everglades. In a big metal boat. With an intense thunderstorm over us.
A boat came along (not our rescue...just some more tourists) and we had a nice, pleasant moment chatting with the folks. You know they were thinking, "Glad that isn't US!".
waiting for a rescue boat

Soon enough, a rescue boat came to get us. We then had to transfer out of the disabled boat and into the new one, which scared the crap out of me. What if one of the girls had fallen in? With freakin' ALLIGATORS everywhere? There could have been one under the boat the whole time.
We got the rescue boat going and finishing our tour in one piece.
The captain said, "Well, at least you all can go home and tell people that you were actually stranded in the Everglades."
Yeah. Thanks, Gilligan.


Mary said...

Thanks, Gilligan! LOL!!!!!

Hey, Susan, it was an experience. Now you can laugh. I would have been a little tense, too - sitting ducks, you were. But at least you weren't sliced by saw grass. I was sliced once and it's ain't good.

Lynne said...

Like Mary said, at least you can laugh about it now. I would have been a wreck about moving from one boat to another.

John said...

I'll try to remember not to rub saw grass the wrong way if I encounter any.

So did you see the snail kites?

Susan Gets Native said...

Geoff actually TIPPED the guy when we got off the boat. I tend to look away when Geoff does stupid things.

A mess. I was. A big hot mess.

No snail kites. I think I may have seen a swallow-tailed kite, but it was real far away and the overcast sky tends to blur out field marks. All I could make out was a forked tail on a big dark bird. Dammit.
But come to think of it, what else could it have been? In southern Florida????

KatDoc said...

So, Ginger, did you take a shit-load of evening gowns along on your "3 hour tour?"

Oooh - I remember my air boat ride. Like a motorcycle on water. With alligators.


At least, mine didn't die during a thunderstorm.

Was I supposed to tip the driver? Whoops - another travel faux pas.


NCmountainwoman said...

"If the skeeters don't get him then the gators will." That song ran through my mind while reading this. What a nightmare!

Having the kids along is a good and bad thing. You worry about them, but they help keep you calm since you don't want to upset them further.

Great story now that it's over. Not so great while you were living it. Glad it had a happy ending. It will be an even greater story after a few glasses of wine.

kristin said...

At least you didn't have to also contend with a DIRECT HIT from Tropical Storm Fay....just imagine, being in an airboat, in the middle of the Everglades...with alligators all around...AND 50 MPH winds and driving tropical rains. :( See, it can always get worse than we could imagine.

Glad you guys got out okay. And that you had such great photos to share with us! :)

RuthieJ said...

Wow Susan, what an unforgettable adventure! I LOVED the movie--it was like Kathi said--a motorcycle on water.