Breakfast at Cooks Cafe brings back fond memories of the many times I have visited Cedar Key in the past. A friendly waitress offers me breakfast. I marvel as she is not even on duty today, only visiting with her friends. She remembers me from my many visits in the past and greets me cordially. This day sets the tone for my many happy visits to this place over the next few days as I join my many friends in this humble but much loved Cedar Key Haunt.
Friday night is social night at the annual Cedar Key Small Boat Meet. Don Treet has a standing invitation to all small boaters inviting them to attend his annual Cedar Key open House. Small boaters and boat builders mingle with designers and friendly locals. I, on the other hand have been invited to spend the evening with my good friends Sammie and Ron Johnson and her Brother Jim Leet. Ron is the retired founder of Marine Concepts and designer of the SeaPearl line of sailboats. Jim Leet is now the owner of Marine Concepts, the company that turns out those lovely SeaPearl 21 sailboats many of which we see at Cedar Key. We spend a pleasant evening enjoying a meal of barbecue, brisket and chicken with potato salad.
Saturday is the big Day at Cedar Key Small Boat Meet. This unscripted meeting of small boat lovers from all over the USA is growing larger and more exciting every year. Measured by the tickets sold to the big cookout on Saturday afternoon, 155, people attended this year. And what a star studded small boating event it is. Traveling the farthest to attend and regale us with his masterful storytelling was Sven Yirvind of Bris fame. Sven is the guest of Matt Layden; flying from Sweden to enjoy our get together. A master of small craft building and sailing, Sven has traveled the Atlantic and Pacific in his self designed mini-cruisers. You can be sure that he held our rapt attention after beginning with the story of his escape from jail by agreeing to accept “Psychopath”ÇŁ as his diagnosis. The yarns went merrily on from there, taking him to South America in a rapidly dissolving aluminum mini-yacht and on to an exotic pacific isle 1800 miles from the nearest land to build his dream boat with the help of the natives.
And Matt Layden, iron man of the Florida Everglades Challenge and Ultimate Florida Challenge, designer, racer and all around Wizard of small boating took the mic to introduce Sven. Matt is a quiet and unassuming man. Yet his creative genius is celebrated by hundreds around the world who know his designs and his determined racing style. He is known for boats such as Swamp Thing ÇŁand the famous Little Cruiser sailed by Dave and Mindy Bolduc some nine seasons in the Bahamas. Matt himself lived aboard Little Cruiser for three years sailing her north on the waterway as far as the Maritime Provinces of Canada, then south as far as the Florida keys.
Dave and Mindy Bolduc were there in an all new and beautifully restored Little Cruiser sleeping aboard each night with their two parrots. Little Cruiser is a self-contained live-aboard yacht only 15 feet long. Dave documents his adventures tips and upgrades on the website microcrusing.com.
Another of Matt Layden’s boats was there as well. The lovely Zoe, skippered by owner and builder Glenn Maxwell is probably the very finest example around of the Paradox design, by Matt Layden. It is done in impeccable style with the greatest attention to detail.
I was eager to see Southern Skimmer, the EC 22, super Core Sound design built by Graham Byrnes himself, specifically for the Everglades Challenge event. This fantastic boat won this years Challenge in three and one half days, no doubt a record finish for this race. Speeds of up to 22 knots were reported by Graham and his partner as they sped past all the contestants to an early victory.
Saturday Morning we have a great chance to admire all the fine owner built, and production small boat designs as they gather on Atsena Otie Key a short mile across the channel from Cedar Key. The beach is crowded with colorful shades of fiberglass and the warm hues of wooden hulls as kayaks and all manor of sailing craft litter the white sand beach, Soon after the channel fills with multicolored sails, and the bright work of hulls flash in the sunlight as the small boats and paddlers set out to enjoy the morning breeze.
I had planned to spend the weekend aboard Belle. Although I could have lived comfortably aboard her generous accommodations, I easily acquiesced, when my friends Diana and Jeff Lackey invited me to stay in their second floor condo at the Island Place overlooking the channel.. I deeply appreciate their hospitality. We spent many happy hours, sailing in each others boats and enjoying each others company.
This years Cedar Key event was sponsored by the West Coast Trailer Sailing Squadron. They and their founder, Ron Hoddinott, put a great deal of effort and time into this year’s Cedar Key Small Boat Meet. Ron’s brother Tom provided a smoked barbecue, brisket and chicken feast. The entertainment and dining were superb. Their efforts are greatly appreciated.
On Tuesday, I finally tear myself away from Cedar Key and head north to enjoy the rest of my vacation. As for Cedar Key, this year’s festivities were the best in memory. I harbor only fond memories. Sailing across the gulf to enjoy this event only added to the adventure of my trip. I’m glad I decided to sail to Cedar Key.
“Cedar Key is a quiet island community nestled among many tiny keys on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Long admired for its natural beauty and abundant supply of seafood, it is a tranquil village, rich with the almost forgotten history of old Florida.” So says the Chamber of Commerce web site Cedarkey.org. I agree. It is an island paradise hidden away on the west coast of Florida about 50 miles southwest of Gainesville.
┬ Nature lovers, fishermen, paddlers and small boat sailors enjoy its warm waters, hidden beaches, abundant wildlife and laid back lifestyle. The residents share a warm regard for nature and the preservation of their pristine environment. Cedar Key is in the midst of a wildlife refuge and as such is well taken care of environmentally.
Activities at Cedar Key include fishing, boating, kayaking, small boat sailing. A thriving artist community keeps two local art cooperatives open. Second and Dock streets are lined with interesting shops such as book shops canvas shop, curious, souvenirs. Two museums offer a thorough documentation of local history.
There are two launch ramps available in town. One leads to the inner harbor. The larger ramp serves large boats that need to launch with masts up and rigged. Owners of shallow draft boats will be happiest with the average depths around the area. Although the main shipping channel is around 6 feet deep most of the sailing is in depths less than two feet.
For a complete pictorial documentation of this year’s event see these two web sites.
The above quotation is taken from the Cedarkey.org web site. Please visit this site for further interesting information about the town of Cedar Key as well as the natural and entertainment resources that are available.
About the author
Larry Whited has been an avid small boat sailor for the last 20 years. Having sailed canoes, kayaks, and various small boats extensively in Florida and the coast of Georgia he has a special place in his heart for beach cruising. He has attended Cedar Key Small Boat Meet every year for the last 14 years. Currently he sails Belle, a lovingly restored SeaPearl 28. He documents his adventures as well as tips for small boat sailing and upgrading on his web site http://www.seapearlboats.org