Thursday, April 11, 2013

Planning a Family Outing in the Everglades

Let’s say you have the family all together in Florida and a friend there offers you the loan of his air-boat to go on a self-guided tour of the Everglades. Keep in mind that most everything in the Everglades is going to scratch you, stick you, sting you, bite you or eat you. How would you prepare, being that this is your first time ever in the Florida Everglades?

First of all, we have to assume that, even though it was 44 year-old Scott Schreck’s first time in the Everglades, he was probably a skilled air-boat pilot. That is a skill that would have easily been picked up in his native Ohio. If not, then likely his 42 year-old wife or one of their three children, aged 9, 7 and 4 were skilled in air-boat operation.

Next, be certain to take along plenty of food and water in case you unexpectedly spend the night in the Everglades with your family. That turned out to be the one of the correct things that Scott did. He, at least, didn't have to bed the kids down hungry that night. If one of them wanted a drink of water before going to sleep, well, he had that covered too.

Take a lot of gear for fishing. The family actually had great fishing. According to Scott, they caught several nice bass. Young boys love to fish.

Take extra clothing. If you’re in the Everglades overnight, then shorts and T-shirts won’t be adequate. Campfires are not allowed in the Everglades even if your young children are freezing in their shorts and T-shirts.

If you’re a novice in the Everglades then camouflage might not be best choice of colors for your borrowed air-boat  Search parties have a tough time seeing camouflage in the lush tropical setting. If your air-boat must be camouflage then maybe you should take to a good sized plastic tarp in bright orange, blue or other such color that can easily be spotted by a search party.

A good tarp could also second as shelter when you and your family are huddled for warmth in the overnight tropical rain. Tarps tend to shed rain water a lot better than life jackets stacked on a makeshift lean-to. The family will love you for the thought.

Personally, I've never been into the Everglades off of Interstate Highway 75. Even so, I have a pretty good idea that those huge white on green directional signs that guide motorists on our interstates probably aren't duplicated in the pristine wild of the Everglades. After all, the Everglades were violated quite enough when they built I-75 across the virgin beauty of saw grass and wetlands.

As for signs, let’s be realistic as to their value. Even with the HUGE white-lettered on green reflective background signs, motorists still get lost on our interstate highways if they’re not familiar with where they are going. I have to believe that the same possibility applies to novice air-boat pilots without an experienced guide.

We have to give kudos to Scott Schreck for thinking to bring noisy horns and whistles. Without those or a bright colored tarp the search parties may never have found the stranded family. How the rescuers heard the whistles and horns over the sounds of their helicopter and air-boat engines is a pure amazement, though.

No doubt, fear of another night in the Everglades without shelter was a strong motivator for making a LOT of noise to attract rescuers. It only took one night huddled under a pile of life jackets in the rain and wearing only shorts and T-shirts to know that Tom Bodette didn't leave the light on for them. Noise like that had to make the wildlife wonder if it a tropical Armageddon was upon them.

In all seriousness, we have to give credit to the Schreck family. In spite of the any shortfalls in planning or preparation, they remained calm and did their best with what they had. Their ability to survive a dark, rainy night among the mosquitoes and various frightening critters of the Everglades without panicking is highly commendable. They must have thought that they were very far, far away from Ohio. We're glad that they were rescued without negative incident.

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