You’ll cruise to foreign shores
And you’ll keep your mind and body sound
By working out of doors
LONG JOHN: True friendship and adventure are what we can’t live without
ALL: And when you’re a professional pirate
BAD POLLY: That’s what the job’s about.
“A Professional Pirate”, from Muppet Treasure Island
The angry red welts from the fire coral were scary-looking this morning, but the pain was much less. I was up early, seeking coffee in the galley. The quiet early morning is the best time of day while on an adventure.
Marina in the morning
By the light of the first cup of coffee
Things got busy after breakfast. We had to clean out the skiffs that brought in the heavy stuff from the inbound crews: water jugs; leftover food; trash. Meanwhile, Dakota was hanging on her phone until the last possible moment. Every group nowadays, whether Scouts or church, has one or two people who mainline cell phone minutes like heroin. I’ve almost made my peace with it (almost).
Outbound crews clean up after inbound crews
Our crew leader ponders the mysteries of the bowline
After these chores, we went up to the office to get our Florida fishing licenses. This turned out to be more difficult than I thought, because the on-line application process required a Social Security number for each applicant. Which isn’t a big deal, you’d think, but it turns out that a significant number of teenagers don’t actually know their SSN. Nor do they know their parents’ or home phone numbers (they just have them stored in their cell phones’ memory). So, we wound up calling their employers and asking for them to check their records.
“Munson!” each crew shouts as it returns, paddling into the marina. It’s a thing down here. When one crew shouts, “Munson!” every other crew within hearing replies with the same shout, as loud as it can. Within a day, we’d be doing it automatically, without thinking that that’s odd at all.
My head started to spin on me, and I remembered, “Oh, yeah. DRINK WATER!”
And then it was our turn. Each crew has to cross five and a half miles of open water to get to Big Munson Island. We do this in a double-hulled canoe – actually two very deep, four-seater canoes lashed together. The mate sits on the stern and steers with a longer paddle. It’s actually a very stable craft, and the water in the lagoon is very shallow (and usually calm). All through the trip, one is never out of sight of land; little islands dot the sea all around. It’s sort of like being near Venice at the head of the Adriatic, I suppose.
Off for adventure
Fair winds and following seas
About a third of the way to Munson, we stopped for a swim break. The water was warm. We made the acquaintance of the Cassiopeia, a small jellyfish. It has a kind of electric shock defense when it is messed with, which make the legs of everyone nearby tingle. Nothing serious, sort of like brushing up against nettles on land, but rather startling when you aren’t expecting it.
Stopping for a swim along the way
It's a long haul
Quite a handful
Luckily, their defenses aren't too painful
We finally reached our destination and moored our craft some distance from shore, maybe a hundred yards. Even at high tide, the water is only about five feet deep. Which means we had to wade ashore. Our campsite was the first one to the left of the commissioners’ site. The other five crews on our rotation were further down the coast a ways. We figured out later why: It’s because we had girls. The other crews weren’t aware of this for the longest time, which is why we weren’t inundated with boys from other crews during our stay. Which meant that we really had the feeling that we had the island pretty much to ourselves.
There are several forms of local wildlife we were told about. Each is a protected species, so like the plants and other neat things, the rule is, “No touch, no take.” First, there is the Vacacoon, a small reddish raccoon. We saw a couple during our stay, but they weren’t abundant. One did get stuck in the compost midden of the CTS (= Compacting Toilet System, a fancy outhouse) later in the week; he wasn’t a happy camper. Then there are the Silver Rice Rats; I saw one.
And then, there are the Key Deer, a subspecies of Whitetail that has undergone island dwarfism to the point that an adult is the size of a medium dog. There were several on the island – a mated pair and a fawn – all called “Steve.” They were ubiquitous – and persistent. Not petting them and feeding them requires an enormous amount of discipline, because they’re just so darned cute. But if we took to feeding them, they would become dependent upon our food, and then they would starve when all the Scouts left at the end of the season. So it’s kinder to keep our food and water away from them.
Remember where we parked
Bringing supplies to camp
Food, water, ammunition . . .
Steve the Key Deer
Ibises roamed the shore, cormorants commandeered our canoes. There were also little hermit crabs everywhere (not protected). We even found a horseshoe crab skeleton in our camp. And then, there were the no-see-ums, those little annoying gnats that bite so greedily. The only known deterrent to them is the skin lotion Skin So Soft.
We set up our hammocks and were enjoying our camp when a few interpersonal upsets – like a small cloud on the horizon – blew through our happy crew. Drama Alert! I reminded everyone of Third Day Syndrome. Most accidents and arguments break out around the third day of a big trip. Prior to that, everyone is concentrated on getting there, getting started, not taking notice of annoyances. But after about a normal weekend’s worth of aggravations, one is too tired to push through anymore. We would have to be aware of the social friction caused by tired people being in constant contact. It’s just another challenge to be faced.
The view from my hammock
Evening closes in
Moon over Munson Rocks
We had a full moon for most of our stay on the island
Probing the sand for food
The evening drew on. Finally, as dark was settling over Big Munson, we were gathered up and went to the opening campfire. By the time we returned from that, we were all pretty beat. We had most of us forgotten flashlights as well, so we went to bed. Up when the light comes, down when the light goes: Island Time was asserting itself, and without lanterns and clocks we were adapting to the natural diurnal rhythm.
More adventure awaited us in the morning.