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Free Range Human, Sailor, Writer, Artist, Videographer  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Searching for the Light - Anclote Key Florida

SV HideAway Anclote Key Light FL
We were anchored off the southeast corner of Anclote Key not far from the mouth of the Anclote River.  The crew had just returned from exploring as much of the back waters that could be navigated by row boat on a mission to rediscover an old secret trail to the Anclote Key light.

Rowing the Anclote Key Backwaters
 Docking our wood lap strake dink along side and climbing aboard HideAway takes coordination, timing and balance. The procedure includes gliding up to the boat and shipping the oars while the crew holds onto HideAway.  The next step is to secure a tight bow and stern line to HideAway’s stern and jib cleats to keep the dink against the boat and perhaps slow down a capsize. 

The Last Gasp Grasp

The grab, certainly frantic, left the Capt. hanging by one hand off HideAway’s back stay with one foot on board while the other hand and foot flailed away at a rapidly retreating dink. The Last Gasp Grasp prevented a picturesque if not life changing back flip into the drink and dink although not likely in that order. 

All events that end with undesirable consequence on HideAway are reviewed by the crew after the adrenaline and/or blood has been staunched.  A thorough investigation completed by said crew took place in the cock pit shortly after the incident with enough quiet aplomb to empty the entire anchorage of all floating craft, flying creatures and fish so fearful that some leapt at the chance to join the gettaway. 

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The Wonderful Days of Yore

Once upon a time this area featured a fine crescent beach and a trail that snaked through the wilderness to a sidewalk covered by a canopy of old growth jungle that eventually found the light. Built in 1887 the light was abandoned almost a hundred years later.  The components of the original light were long removed leaving a gapping hole in the floor protected by a traditional light tower metal roof. The metal tower was the color of old rust inside and out.  A broken down fence and an open doorway tempted the adventurous soul. The large island was unregulated.  You could wander the beaches for hours without company and camp wherever you pleased.  Natural law and common sense prevailed.

It was memories of our Magic Pearl, a Sea Pearl 21, which brought us back to this enchanting place of endless powder white beaches that squeak as you walk on it like snow on a cold winters day. 

In the latter years of the millennium just past, folks of stout hearts and brave souls dared to climb to the top of the broiling hot cylinder on a narrow spiral staircase held together with one hundred year old rusty bolts of questionable integrity while navigating missing steps and other hazards deemed best ignored.

Anclote Key Light circa 1986
At the top of the light a metal cat walk protected by a suspicious railing provided a view as if from bird’s eye of a tropical jungle and secret places with sandy beaches set in clear waters and framed by a brilliant blue sky.  It was the stuff of dreams.

The panorama has been known to cause rational thinking to sail away on the afternoon sea breeze compelling anyone who dared to climb that glorious rusting tower to shrug off all concern of danger and become completely captivated by the beauty of the moment. Oh the adventure!   

 For What is Life to Free Range Sailors if Not Risk?

The light has since been restored to operation in all its former glory and the entire area is under the control of the Florida State Parks system.   Philosophers and land developers can argue about change being a good idea; however with change often come regulations that prohibit freedom.  The light is off limits to the public and a permit, although free, is required to camp, but only on the northern shore and only if you bring your own boat and leave it anchored in open seas.  

After nearly two decades “our” beach has been completely overgrown by mangroves.  The trail that had never amounted to a real trail in the first place was not to be found in the dense undergrowth.  (A later viewing of a satellite image proved the HideAways were only a few feet from a serviceable route to the light.)

An elevated wooden walkway from the light services a not-for-public use pier.  You can anchor near the pier in unprotected waters, row ashore and follow a path to the northern end of the walkway.   The path begins on the south west corner of the key but the waters there are much too shallow for HideAway to anchor.  There is a string of sand extending south of the key that may have held HideAway at high tide but would have been questionable at any other level.  

Sailing HideAway  Anclote Key Fl

Faced with those choices the HideAways chose to make their way from their anchorage along the south eastern shore to the pier.  With the pier in view the shore line water became too deep to walk in, the undergrowth impassable and the mission abandoned.  Still it was a pleasant row and hike in complete solitude with plenty of wild life to observe above and below the warm crystal clear waters.  

Besides the shadows of morning had long cast off on their journey and we had to fetch Caladesi Island before the sea devoured the sun. 
Google “sailing hideaway st joseph sound” and watch the video to see how we fared.   

SV HideAway Leaving Anclote Key FL