Firm explores the Everglades in a catamaran

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MARATHON -- Visitors who want to explore a remote area of Everglades National Park can take a new high-speed catamaran or a dive boat tour operated fall through spring by Captain Hook's Marina & Dive Center.

Playin Hooky The center is at Milemarker 53 here, about a one-hour boat ride from land areas in the Everglades, according to Kathi Fortmann, co-owner. The commissionable tour, offered on demand or on a charter basis, provides opportunities to view and photograph wildlife in a natural environment that is inaccessible by road, she said.

Passengers also can wade ashore and walk on pristine beaches, picking up shells. The six-or seven-hour catamaran trip, priced at $400 for groups of up to six (slightly more than $66 per person), is for serious "birders," Fortmann said.

Other itineraries are available, she said.

"On the trip to East Cape, the southernmost tip of the Eastern Seaboard, you pass Sandy Key and Dildo Key, literally covered with birds such as ospreys tending their babies," she said. There also is an opportunity to walk on isolated beaches and pick up shells, she said.

Two vessels are offered, each operated by a Coast Guard-licensed captain.

The catamaran is Playin' Hooky, which has a shaded area, coolers, seat cushions, a freshwater shower and bathroom.

The Island Hopper 30, a dive vessel, carries up to 18 passengers on the same Everglades tour or other itineraries, Fortmann said. That boat, which also has a freshwater shower and bathroom, can be chartered for $66 per person or $1,188.

Tours on either boat, typically running from 9 a.m. to 3 or 4 p.m., include narration by bird and other wildlife authorities, as well as refreshments and a box lunch prepared by Leigh Ann's Coffee House. The Family Box Lunch costs $7.50, while the Gourmet Box Lunch costs $10.50.
Phone: (305) 743-2444

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