Everglades: inflatables and racoons

I’m planning a trip to the Everglades in February and will be taking my inflatable kayak. An overnight to Hell’s Bay chickee is what I’m aiming for, if I can schedule it.

Should I worry about racoons tearing holes in my kayak, even if I leave no food in the hatches? I understand they can really be pests. What about if the only option is a beach site?

In any case, I’m taking the repair kit.

usually are not a problem on chickees. At least I have never had any or even seen them but have dealt with rats especially on those chickees close to trees.

You can bring your boat up on the platform after you unload it to reduce risk of rough barnacles contacting hull in wind/tide conditions.

I don’t know about camping in florida
but in Maine raccons can be a real problem, particularly on the inland lakes like moosehead–I paddle a Tempest 170 RM with hatches that are quite difficult to get on and off—I left a loaf of bread in one of the sealed hatches and the next day, the cover was off and the bread gone—no damage to my boat luckily those r’coons have dexterous little hands.

My expereinece
mirrors beachcampers. Raccons are a big problem beach camping, thouhg. You might call the ranger station (phone number on the NPS web site) and see if they have had any problems at the specific location you want just to be sure.

Beachcampers advice about abrasion on the barnacles is spot on, too. In addition to his suggestion, another way to avoid this is to use a small stern anchor and a bow line to the chickee.

I’d think twice

– Last Updated: Jan-12-08 5:44 AM EST –

about paddling anything inflatable (even with a repair kit) due to barnicles, oysters, and possibly a large gator in Hell's Bay.
To avoid problems with coons store your food and water on top of the porta-potties at the chickee. Sounds disgusting but due to the enability of their claws to grip into plastic sides they can't climb up to get to any of it. Good Luck!
FYI... Years ago there was a large, human-habituated gator that hung out around Hell's Bay Chickee looking for scraps. He would be about 12 to 13 ft. long by now and quite dangerous due to his loss of fear of humans (unless the park had him removed).
Have a great time but do be careful out there.

Rightfully afraid of oyster beds
Thank you all for your replies. I’ll try to stay away from beach campsites in favor of chickees.

Gulfcoaster, I appreciate your advice since you have far more experience than I. Running into submerged oyster beds was my biggest concern when I did day trips in my inflatable (an Advanced Elements) out of Everglades City two years ago. It wasn’t a problem, however, in the areas I paddled. When I got to a chickee I’d pull the boat out, rather than let it float. I didn’t know about barnacles - it just seemed like a good idea.

What about the interior routes like 9 Mile, West Lake and Hell’s Bay? Would I encounter oyster beds there? I had an idea they were more like prairie?

I paddled among many, many gators at Okefenokee (Stephen Foster state park) and enjoyed it. I respect gators and don’t like to disturb them. Problem gators are another story. I will surely check the staus of that gator you mentioned.

You mentioned the alternate route
of beaches so I mentioned the oysters. There aren’t many in Hell’s Bay but where you have barnacles and mangroves they are there and all it takes is a few (or just one) to ruin your inflatable.

Beach camping is great because of the breezes keeping the majority of biting bugs at bay and you can have a campfire but this time of year most of the beach sites will be crowded and trying to get to or away from some during low tide can be darn near impossible, the coons are smart, and a sudden gust whilst cooking can put some grit into you meal.

Chickees, properly placed, are nice. Those positioned away from the mangroves and other vegetation have far fewer biting bugs and and no vermin compared to those that don’t. No sand in your food and not having to move your tent due to sudden rising storm waters are plus. Hell’s Bay and Pearl Bay chickees fit the bill, not to mention their views make for beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Be careful getting you and your gear in and out of your kayak along side the chickees. A canoe is more fitting for the job.

Don’t forget your air mattress or sleep pad, the floorboards have very little give.

I profited from this advice, thank you.