Memorial Day Weekend is the unofficial start of Summer, and a time for locals to enjoy the beaches with fewer tourists. This year, we planned to join the masses of boaters that swarm Keewaydin Island, a popular beach only accessible by boat.
So popular, in fact, that on holiday weekends there isn’t enough space on the bayside, and boats have to tie off on each other, creating one massive sandbar party.
Obviously, we weren’t planning on taking Wiffersnapper, though there are a couple larger boats that go and anchor out there. It would be too chaotic for our first overnight anchorage, and the boat wasn’t ready for that yet anyways.
So, we decided to take the jet ski instead! And to make it even more adventurous, we decide to camp on the island overnight!
We’re Going Camping!
Camping, of course, requires a lot of gear, and space is limited on a jet ski. So, we needed a riding rack for extra storage, which Will Macgyver’d together with a $100 cooler, metal rods, straps and screws.
I must say, it turned out pretty good! The rack fits right on the back of the ski, and allows us store things inside as well as on top.
Every inch was needed for our camping trip. We packed pillows and sheets, food and drinks, a tent and air mattress, plus our beach chairs, umbrella, clothes and other misc. camping gear.
Somehow it all fit, and the 35-mile ride took us about 75-mins to complete with the average speed of 30mph, and a break or two to check the gear. The water was so calm that we didn’t even get wet along the way. And nothing fell in the water, woohoo!
We decided we would stay on the Gulf side, away from the madness on the bay side of the island, but close enough where we could check out the scene, and grab food from the food boats (like food trucks, but boat version).
Home Sweet Home – For The Night
After navigating around a sandbar, we got close enough to land to tie her up and start unloading our gear. Wading to shore with camping gear above your head is a good workout in case you’re wondering. So, of course we relaxed and rehydrated with rum punch once everything was ashore.
We enjoyed a nice beach day, with beautiful turquoise water, lunch and more rum punch. We set up camp for the night before heading to the Marco Island for dinner.
Will had noticed our fuel gauge was fluctuating between 1/2 tank and 1/4, which wasn’t enough to get us home. So after dinner, we walked to the nearest gas station to get some fuel.
Well, apparently not all gas stations sell jerry cans. So, after walking to the next station and realizing it was closed, we returned to the first station to buy five gallons of water to use as fuel cans.
The store attendant informed us that using water jugs for fuel was illegal… “Well, I guess we’re going to have to break the law then,” we responded as we quickly poured out the water, filled the jugs and swiftly walked back the marina.
We joked about the possible police report playing over the scanner: black male, white female, pulling a dock cart with five gallons of gasoline in plastic water jugs. 😆
We made it back, and used a paper snow-cone to quickly funnel the fuel into the ski. A group of guys docked next to us had just come back from offshore fishing and offered us some yellow tail they had caught.
Without hesitation, Will answered, “Hell Yeah!’ …as I stared at him like, “Really, what are we going to do with that?”
Sea Turtle Nesting Season
You see, we couldn’t make a campfire on island because it was sea turtle nesting season, where the female turtles come ashore to lay eggs and return to the water. So, the only light that is allowed after sunset is a dim, red light that won’t disrupt the turtles.
Even the ATV that rides up and down the beach at night looking for turtle tracks can only have a red headlight. And let me tell you, those wildlife volunteer’s are relentless… we must have heard the ATV whiz by ten times all throughout the night!
But that wasn’t the only sound that kept us up… there was also the Coast Guard helicopter and search boats that were right off the shore rescuing an ignorant boating family who was stuck on the sand bar with about six kids on board, in the middle of the night!
Come to think of it, our overnight stay on a remote island was not as calm and relaxing as one might think.
Since it was dark by the time we got back to our campsite. We decided to steak the ski on the Gulf side, and just set an alarm to check it with the changing tides every hour or so.
Will checked it several times throughout the night, so by sunrise, we were exhausted and annoyed when we woke up to find the freakin jet ski was beached. WTH. All that work of readjusting the lines throughout the night, and letting the bugs inside the tent… just for the ski to be beached!
1, 2, 3 – Push!
We immediately started digging and trying to free the ski as the tide started to receded further out. After about an hour and half we gave up, and figured we’d just wait until the tide came back in to un-beach it the easy way. We didn’t plan to leave until later in the afternoon anyway.
Yup, we were “those irresponsible boaters” whose watercraft got beached, which was slightly embarrassing. Oh well, there was no way we were dragging an 800 lb. jet ski through the sand!
A few hours passed and finally the ski was back in the water. We spent some time cleaning out the prop and checking that everything looked okay before crossing our fingers and starting her up. Phew, no major damage!
We loaded up our gear, which took twice as long with the ski moving around in the water than it did when tied firmly on the docks. Finally, we pulled up the anchor lines to head home. One small throttle thrust, coupled with a tiny little wake, and SPLASH we both fell port side into the water.
“Crap, our stuff!” I thought as my head resurfaced on the water. Thankfully the ski stayed upright and nothing fell overboard. We, however, were soaked.
Will decided to take the backwaters home as opposed to the Gulf, just to make sure the ski was alright. He mentioned it was handling differently, so we decided to play it safe and have Christina come pick us up at the nearest marina, where we would trailer the ski back to our marina.
It turns out, we had a weight balance issue, which explains why we so unexpectedly fell off the ski upon take-off. After getting the ski home and flushing her out, we laughed as we recapped what we had learned from our first jet ski camping trip…
1.) Bring extra fuel, and don’t trust the fuel gauge
2.) Putting gas in water jugs is illegal
3.) Cover the prop at night, or beach bayside
4.) Don’t try and dig out an 800 lb. jet ski
5.) Apply sun screen to your ears – ears CAN get sun burn
6.) Weight distribution is important
7.) Don’t open the tent at night
8.) Bring more ice for unexpected fish presents (which the vultures enjoyed)
9.) Always have friends on-deck to come rescue you – Thanks Christina!
10.) Less rum punch, more water.