Frequently Asked Questions

What food and refreshments do you provide?
You’ll be greeted by coffee, juice and fresh pastries when step board.  There’s a self-service cooler on deck stocked with bottled water, ice tea and soft drinks.  At lunch time we’ll anchor in a quiet bay where you will be served appetizers and drinks in the shaded cockpit while a sit-down lunch is set out below in the main salon.  We pride ourselves in using locally sourced fresh seasonal ingredients.  At the time of booking advise us of any food allergies so that we can try to accommodate you (48 hour notice required). Complimentary wine and imported beer served with a wedge of lime is available throughout the day.  After we dinghy ashore for our beach exploration a snack is also served. When we have young children as guests we also stock age appropriate snacks like apple slices and straw cheese and if it’s a birthday or some other important occasion, be sure to let us know beforehand.
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What will I see?
Your experience will start right at our dock nestled against the mangroves on the edge of 10,000 Islands National Estuarine Preserve. Frequently in the morning there are fresh racoon prints on TropicBird’s deck. Mangrove crabs scuttle across the dock, ospreys reel overhead and sometimes in the warmer months curious Manatees surface nearby. As we head out civilization is quickly left behind. Ahead lies a maze of pristine islands stretching into Everglades National Park and all the way to the Florida Keys. . Every trip is different but we can promise you beautiful views and refreshing sea breezes. We’ll see dolphins, scudding clouds, plunging brown pelicans, double-crested cormorants, perhaps magnificent frigate birds and bald eagles as well as an assortment of Florida’s some 30 species of wading birds. In warmer months if we’re lucky we might even encounter manatees or spot a sea turtle. In your own personal adventure, we’ll explore the back channels and the plant and animal communities of barrier islands, choosing our own island to dinghy ashore where we’ll investigate life in the intertidal zone, look for shells and perhaps encounter racoons foraging in the surf line or spot stingrays cruising the beach.
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Who will lead the ecotour?
Your host will be Patrick Higgins. He’s a NAI certified Interpretive Guide, USCG licensed Captain and University of Florida accredited Master Naturalist with a combined degree in Biology & Environmental Science and over 27,000 miles experience under sail, including 4 years sailing around the world with his then young family as crew.
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Does the ecotour cost less for a fewer number of people?
Unfortunately not. We provide whole boat, bespoke private charter only. This allows us to tailor each trip exactly to your interests and provide a very personal service. Along with being captained by a certified Naturalist and our base right on the doorstep of the 10,000 Islands preserve, is what makes us unique.
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How many people can my party consist of?
Your party may consist of up to 6 guests (total adults and children) for day trips. To maximise your comfort the number of guests will be reduced for any overnight charters.
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What are TropicBird’s specifications?
LOA: 33' 6" (10.21 m) LWL: 31' 9" (9.68 m)
Beam: 14' (4.27 m) Draft: 18" to 5' 6" (46 cm to 1.67 m)
Displacement: 8600 lbs (3900 kg) Sail Area: 690 sq ft (64 m2)
Mast Height (from water): 46' (14 m) Engine: 27 hp inboard Westerbeke diesel with lifting Sillette Sonic Sail Drive
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What kind of boat is it?

TropicBird is a Gemini 105MC 34 foot sloop-rigged cruising catamaran - the World's most successful single-design multi-hull. It was specifically designed for ‘skinny’ waters although Gemini Cats have made many long ocean passages.

Incredibly we can operate in as little as 18 inches of enabled by a system of lifting centerboards and ingenuous kick-up rudders. This allows us to go where larger boats and even many smaller ones can’t: an essential ability in the 10,000 Islands, as even 3 miles offshore in the Gulf, we may have only 7 feet of water and typically we’ll be operating in four or less.

TropicBird’s accommodations are spacious, light and airy so that the term "down below" just doesn't apply. She has 6 permanent berths in 3 cabins, a comfortable dinette with seating for six and panoramic views that can also convert into a second queen berth, a beautiful master cabin, a roomy head ( marine toilet) with separate shower, and a well equipped galley (kitchen) with gas stove and refrigerator, with full head-room throughout.

The deck layout, rig and unique hull design provides a comfortable ride with no heeling. TropicBird is fully equipped for extended cruising with a full suite of navigational instruments and USCG approved safety equipment. A 10’6”rigid-hulled inflatable dinghy with a 9.9 hp outboard is carried on stern davits for beach excursions.

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How much will we sail?
Our philosophy is to go softy. We want you to enjoy the gurgle of the water sliding by and get a taste of cruising life, so we sail whenever tides and wind allow. That’s why we make it a full day trip - so that we can really go out into the islands without watching the clock, but we also have an inboard diesel engine when the winds aren’t favorable. Guests are welcome to participate in all aspects of sailing the boat or just to sit back and relax.
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How long will the trip last?
We only do one trip a day. It’s your private charter; this means we can start and finish to suit your plans. Typically we leave about 9:30 AM and return about 5:30 PM depending on the weather and time of year, but if we see something interesting we have time to linger.
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Was the ten Thousand Islands affected by the Gulf oil spill?
No. In fact our base was one of the only handful of locations from which the endangered Kemp's Ridley sea turtles, rescued from the Gulf oil spill were released.
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Is the trip suitable for children?
Children Swimming with Mom and Dad As a catamaran TropicBird is extremely stable. We love having children aboard. There’s a large secure cockpit area and lifelines all around above deck. Down below there are napping and changing facilities. We specialize in grandparent/grandchildren trips and pride ourselves on being able to tailor our interpretative program to a younger audience and engender a sense of adventure and discovery. There are dip nets, buckets and trowels aboard to enhance their adventure ashore and they’ll love zooming off in the dinghy. Young families can have the best of both worlds and older children can help run the boat.
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What should I bring?
Your curiosity & questions about southwest Florida’s fabulous flora, fauna & ecosystems and....
  • Sun hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Camera
  • Sun screen – not oily lotions please which might stain upholstery
  • Water shoes which you don’t mind getting wet for wading ashore & beach exploration
    * Flip-flops do not provide adequate support or protection for wading.
  • Beach towels and swimsuits if you want to go in the water – there are changing facilities aboard
  • Light jacket or sweatshirt if weather is overcast or cooler
  • Any medications you need
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What’s included?
Everything to make you comfortable, including a light lunch, snacks, all drinks and refreshments. Gratuities are entirely at guests’ discretion but are greatly appreciated.
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What guest facilities are aboard?

TropicBird is fully equipped with all the amenities for a comfortable day: ample lounging areas on deck, including a hammock/settee hung over the stern and two bow seats, loungers on the foredeck, a large salon with panoramic views for anyone who wants to escape the sun, secure berths for a child’s nap if appropriate, private areas to change, a washroom with a self-contained marine toilet, a fresh water wash-off on the stern for sandy feet and a fully equipped galley with stove and fridge to prepare refreshments.

There’s a self-service cooler well-stocked with bottled water and other drinks in the cockpit, and with the sails up, there’s. always some shade on deck. We also have a small reference library aboard to help identify your beachcombing finds.

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