I had to drive my son Max and his crew (Joe) to Cedar Key. Max sailed from Destin last September, made it to Key West, moored for a while in Tampa and Cedar Key, and is just now on the final leg to bring the boat home. Max is on the right. [2013 update: Max has since sold the boat, served as part of a 3 man crew on a voyage from the Caribbean to New Zealand, and is going to school in Perth Australia].
We stopped for supplies at Walmart on the way to Cedar Key. Joe found a 20 in the parking lot. Not a bad way to start. Here they are showing it off.
After dropping off Max and Joe, I drove to within 5 hours of Key West and am crashing for the night at a Sleep Inn in Fort Pierce.
Arrived at Sugarloaf at close to noon.
After meeting with Robbie at the marina I stopped in for lunch at the Tiki hut across the street. Had a chili dog, and while it was delicious, I felt worst for it.
The Tiki bar owner had a water pen for rehabilitation dolphins, but said he had not got around to making it escape proof. I jokingly suggested to use an electric fence as a barrier. My attempt at humor was not appreciated. Turns out he was rather attached to two consecutive dolphins, both named Sugar, that were intended to be rehabilitated in the pen. Could be a while before the next chili dog.
Finished the evening cooking for myself. While out shopping for groceries, I found this character in the parking lot. Free range chickens are not allowed back home. I do not know why.
Launched at the marina across the street in the morning. Good launching conditions. Only $3 for a kayak launch. Safe place to leave the car and trailer.
Today I made it across Turkey Basin to the end of the back country at Barracuda Keys. I managed to miss all of the rock hazards and nosed up from deep water onto the sandy beachhead Barracuda Keys, and by sand I mean finely ground sea shells.
I might have seen 4 boaters from across Turkey Basin during the 5 hour trip, and absolutely no wave runners. [I later found out that personnel watercraft are prohibited in the Great White Heron Refuge, among other places. Quoting a news article: "Personal watercraft are not allowed in any backcountry waters in the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge, which is just north of Key West and extends from west of the Bay Keys to beyond Bahia Honda Key, Coast Guard Lt. Anna Dixon said. The Key West National Wildlife Refuge, which surrounds waters west of Key West from the Eastern Dry Rocks to the Marquesas Keys, also is off-limits."]
This island looked like a great place to hang a hammock. It is on the way to Barracuda off the eastern shore of Snipe Key and served as a good landmark. Stay east of it to dodge the coral rock in shallow water.
It helped to know the passages that connect basin to basin. Perky Creek connects Sugarloaf to Turkey basin and the Narrows (inner, middle and outer) get you from Turkey to Waltz Key Basin. I went through the Inner Narrows for a quick peak of Waltz Key Basin... and while the clogs may not be a fashion statement, I kept them on most of the time so I could jump in the water if ran aground. Flip flops are not recommended.
These are the remains of a wooden bridge that was once highway 1, the only road into Key West.
Exiting Tarpon Creek. Imagine this scene without the channel markers and try to guess where the opening to the creek is. All Mangroves look alike.
Pointing towards Lois Key on the horizon. This key was once used to raise Rhesus monkeys but was abandoned due to the damage that the monkeys did to the mangroves.
The fast ride back. In the first segment of the video look beyond the bridge and notice the bend in the creek. The current and wind were at my back moving very fast. If I did not make the turn I would have bend pinned against the mangroves. At this point in the video I quickly put away the camera, furled the sail, and peddled while turning hard left. The Adventure Island takes a while to turn because the wide stance of the amas ("outriggers") make it slow to pivot. I barely made it. Would have been a mess. Had I not furled (rolled up) the sail first, I am sure the wind would have pushed me into the branches.
Day six was a land day. My mission was to retrace the steps of my son Max during his recent voyage. Max spent about 3 months in Key West, among other places, living aboard a $2,400 boat he sailed down from the Florida panhandle. While my trip is simply a vacation, Max's was a life changing experience (although he may not agree with me yet).
I visited Max during his last stop in Gulfport, just outside of Tampa. I spent the night on the boat and got a feel for the lifestyle of a live-aboard. While that may sound cool, it can mean you are one step above homeless.
Max's boat was moored near Wysteria island on the horizon. Look on Google Earth and you will see a checkerboard of moored boats.
For a live-aboard, the dinghy is the only means of getting to land. Renting dock space long term is unthinkably expensive, if available. The dinghy dock is cheap, but space is limited. This is their designated parking lot.
Most boats in the harbor are a match of taste and wealth. These boats are an expression of character, for better or worst.
This picture was taken while he was in Tampa. Max was 24, had just graduated from college, and was looking for adventure. He left in October 2010 and, as noted on day 1, is just now sailing the final leg home from Cedar Key. He is within 100 miles from home at the time of this writing is ready to begin his new career, whatever that may be. I am very proud of him.
Another day of brisk winds.
I explored the mangrove creeks to stay in calmer waters.
This 30 second video pretty well captures what it is like to be in a Mangrove tunnel. It's about 99% Mangrove. I did hear some insects buzzing, but I never got bit. It was well past daybreak with lots of wind overhead. I would have been eaten alive had it been early morning, or sunset, during this time of year.
Tried again to make it to Snipe Point. I got close, but did not hit the mark. GPS said I would be there by noon, but with the howling wind at my back I knew getting back would be rough. The tide had bottomed out and I was finding it difficult to stay clear of the coral rock and shallow areas. Turned around at this coral sand bar and made it back to the dock at 5:30pm.
My friend Johnny, who just happened to be down with his family on vacation, invited me to join him and his son and dad to go Tarpon fishing. We anchored within a quarter mile off the tip of Key West. The day before he had caught two in this spot, his wife reeling in a 140 lb'er. We hooked two fish that were most likely Tarpon, but the both got off; but the most exciting moment of the day happened when a 3 foot Barracuda went airborne hitting a smaller fish that we were reeling in followed quickly by a 6 foot shark circling below for leftovers.
Johnny and his son Trae.
Hooked a Tarpon (we're pretty sure). It got away. Had a blast. Very grateful to Johnny for the trip. Went back to Sugarloaf to prepare for a day at Bahia Honda.
Today's destination was Bahia Honda State Park.
The kayak launch was like the rest of the park - perfect.
The launch was carpeted leading to a wood ramp, then to a short sandy beach. No rocks. It was easy.
The end of the old bridge provides a vantage point for pictures.
I sailed to the little dot of an island on the horizon.
The water was very clear. I took off one of my tramps for a view.
The current was deceptive. In light winds it was difficult to get to the left bank after going through the gap in the bridge. The flow did not slacken after passing the bridge and moving into the Atlantic. With every tack left I was pushed further offshore. I should have approached close to the bank, going under the bridge instead of through gap, turned hard left, and walked it in when the water was shallow enough.
Side note: My brother highly recommended the Thai Sweet Chili Butter Sauce rice bowl with Grouper at the Square Grouper restaurant on Cudjoe Key. It was delicious. From the looks of this menu, it's all good.
Days 10 and 11
A two day ride home. Stopped in Ocala, then on to home in Shalimar FL. The keys were beautiful and definitely worth the drive, but they also made me appreciate what I have closer to home. Destin Florida's east pass is one of the best places for sailing in the south. White sands, clear water, dolphins, the party-ers on crab island, and desolated beaches just outside the pass. It's nice to be home.
The AI friendly sandy shores of the Destin east pass.