Friday, August 16, 2013

We've returned from Sea Base!

Sorry for the limited activity on the blog but we just got back from two weeks in the Florida Keys.  The first week my son and I went on his last Boy Scout outing at Sea Base.  What's Sea Base?  It's a Boy Scout high adventure (survival) camp that's located on a 110 acre island that's owned by the scouts in the Florida Keys (on the Atlantic side).  You paddle out 6 miles in a war canoe (a twin hull canoe) and then stay on the island of for a week with limited food and no running water or other facilities.  The boys learn basic survival skills and I got to fish every day to provide dinner.  It was also lobster season in FL so we also got to "bug hunt" and had lobster for 2 nights (they're harder to catch by hand than you might think).

 Here's a shot of out camp site - we had a propane stove, half a tank of propane and a small cabinet to store food to keep the animals out.  The Island is called "Big Munson Island" and has Key Deer, Vacaoons (a type of raccoon) and lots and lots of rice rats.  All of these mammals have become very adept at stealing Boy Scout Food.  The island also has a lot of Iguanas, which are labeled as an invasive species.  In fact, the scouts are encouraged to hunt down and kill them for a treat from the Island Commissioner - it was very "Lord of the Flyish" and very fun.  One tip, a Nalgene thats full of water makes a very lethal projectile with an accurate range of up to 20 feet.

 The camp site offered some tents, but they're very hot so we brought hammocks which are very nice to sleep in.  Some of the boys put the high up in the trees - see the upper left of the photo.

 Sitting down for the evening meal, which we just caught 30 minutes ago.  The fishing around the island is the best I've ever experienced - Mangrove Snapper, Mahi-Mahi and Yellow Fin Tuna were our mainstay.  We ran out of propane 2 nights in and resorted to grilling our fish over a fire - it was an improvement.

Here's the view of the Atlantic from the camp site.

 A shot of the war canoes we used to get to the island and fish from.  A war canoe is a ungainly craft.  Sean managed to find a 20 foot piece of bamboo in the surf and fashion a sail for our canoe which made getting around a lot easier.  I'll put up a of picture of the sail rigged canoe in a future post.  Sailing is much better than paddling.

 The boys gathered for a game Hodgie-Pogdie on the beach - it's a silly word game that brings the kids out of there shells and is hilarious watch.
 Big Munson island has lots of interesting trees, but my favorite is the gumbo limbo tree which was crazy branching structures and just cries out to be climbed.  The tree's peeling bark can be used to make tea and is a natural source of acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol).  Trust me when I say that tea was wonderful for an old guy like me after fishing / paddling all day.

 The boys are choosing two scouts to go with me to set the chum line for night fishing.  It seems the losers had to go with me.  We had to wade out 300 yard to set the bait and the chum attracted lots of sharks, rays and tarpon.  Don't worry the sharks where only gray reef or nurse sharks and under 4 feet.  We caught some great Mahi-Mahi that evening.

The second week of our trip we stayed in a very nice resort that close to Big Munson Island called "Little Palm Island".  Mary Beth came down to join us and we had a very nice week together.
 Surprisingly, Little Palm has nicer facilities than Big Munson!

 The most famous resident of Little Palm is a Great Blue Heron named Spencer (seen here eating a snake).  Spencer is very tame but aggressive - he'll walk up and take fish right out of your hand.  When a charter boat comes up to the dock, Spencer will be waiting to get his "cut" of the catch.

I did a lot a salt flat fishing while at Little Palm.  Here's a picture of me with a 4' barracuda I caught - they put up a heck of a fight.  Don't worry we released him after the photo and he swam away fine but I doubt he'll be biting any shiny / green plastic lures in the future.  Lesson learned.

All in all it was a great two weeks.  I'm now helping my son get ready for college as we're heading off to Pittsburgh tomorrow to drop him off at Carnegie Mellon.



Steve-the-Wargamer said...


PS. Worry not - they get a lot of holiday.... :o)

styx said...

Glad you had fun. Just as a warning as a FL resident, Nurse sharks can be passive but will still bite in instances...just make sure who goes with you does not have open wounds...otherwise the shark may think you are chum...

John de Terre Neuve said...

Wow, I am envious.


Sean said...

Fantastic looking trip and a great way to send your son off to college.

Twin Cities Gamer said...

Amazing! That is a trip of a lifetime and I'm sure, full of memories.

Scouting in MN is not quite the experience as all this!

Itinerant said...

Wow. Ty for sharing

James Brewerton said...

great looking break and more the better for the quality father son time. I hope he has a blast at Uni/college

Peace James

Monty said...

Looks great fun!

Dave said...

Both island adventures sound absolutely hideous, you lucky son of a gun!