The Keys / January 28 - February 15, 2015
January 28, 2015
Planning day. We must begin to think and plan our spring paddle toward the north. We looked at the maps and identified the route of the Intracoastal Waterway (which follows the East Coast of the United States). In the late afternoon, we went to visit FBO (Florida Bay Outfitters) with Andrew, our neighbour at the campground. Andrew will rent equipment and a kayak to come and paddle with us in the Keys (all his equipment is in Boston). At FBO, we met Monica with whom we walked to the motel where the Team River Runner group was. We were invited for dinner. We spent a very pleasant evening in good company. It was very interesting to talk with each member and know their history. We love what the organization offers to assist wounded veterans. We were very touched by the willingness of each person we met, their strength, their sense of humour and sense of humanity and mutual assistance.
January 29, 2015
We continue our planning. Pierre also went in the afternoon and met with Frank (FBO) to give him a hand with his sailboat.
January 30, 2015
Thad (FBO) invited us to go paddling with him today. We met him around 9:00 a.m. in Largo Sound. Andrew joined us, so he had the chance to paddle his new rental. Thad guided us to a very beautiful area where we had to cross through the mangroves. Beautiful! At times, it was easier to move forward by pulling on the branches than by using our paddles. The water was translucent. Thad knows the area, and its flora and fauna, very well. He taught us many things in a short time. It was a great day and we appreciated the experience. As we emerged from the mangroves we saw in the distance Team River Runner. What a nice coincidence! We joined them and paddled to a wreck located in Garden Cove. Then we had dinner together on Rattlesnake Key. On this island, we found a boat that had been used by Cuban's to escape their country. It was an unusual scene and a sad one. You would have to be totally desperate to make the trip aboard a boat like that with only a few items to help you cross. Life had to be very miserable in Cuba.
Mid-afternoon, we hurried to get back to the campground because we had an interview with Katie from Kayak & Canoe Magazine. The article will be available soon (we will keep you informed). We had a great day and we learned a lot. Thank you Thad for the opportunity and the great day.
January 31, 2015
Around 8:20 a.m., we left the campground (by canoe) with Andrew to meet Monica and Frank at FBO. A group of paddlers had an appointment at the store. Monica set the time and place to make a paddling event happen. We had the chance to meet several people, including Brian, a reporter for the local newspaper. We were a dozen people and we paddled for about half a day in turquoise waters. First we paddled in the Blackwater Sound, then we furrowed in through the mangroves in a natural tunnel (formed by mangroves). The water was beautiful! It was a peaceful and enchanting place. We arrived in the Tarpon Basin to complete this superb paddling excursion. Thank you to Monica and Frank for organizing the group and this beautiful day.
We ended our day with a dinner with Andrew. We planned for the trip in the Keys.
February 1, 2015
Preparation day for our trip toward Key West. Hopefully, the weather conditions will be favourable to us to make it to Key West, before starting paddling back up to Key Largo. We have to be back by February 15th, because on the 16th, we are going to give a presentation at the Public Library in Key Largo.
February 2, 2015
We left late today. We teased Andrew a lot since he was not quite ready to leave early this morning. We had to put a bit of pressure on him to make sure we would leave before low tide. The canoe, when filled with all its equipment, cannot go everywhere when it is low tide.
We left around 1:00 p.m. and at 3:00 p.m. we stopped at Dove Key. The place we pitched our tents is not big, but very nice. We had to walk in the mangrove mud to get out of the water since it was low tide.
February 3, 2015
Beautiful paddling day! We are proud of Andrew who passed with honours on this long paddling day. We arrived at 4 o’clock in the afternoon at Long Key State Park. In front of the beach, there was a lot of mud (which seemed at first sight to be sand). We had mud half way up our calves. I got stuck. Pierre wanted to help me and tried to pull me, but I fell on my knees and went almost face down. We laughed. The place where we could set up camp was on a platform. It was part of the primitive campsite. It was beautiful!
During the day, we saw lots of marine life. We saw several nurse sharks, a stingray, fish of all kinds and turtles. The colour of the water is amazing. At times it is turquoise and emerald. We don’t get tired of watching it.
February 4, 2015
A shorter paddling day. Our goal was to get to Curry Hammock State Park, because the next day we wanted to get to Molasses Keys, located near the 7 miles bridge. We used the high tide to leave this morning and therefore avoided the portage in the mud. We paddled along the long bridge linking southern Long Key. There were a lot of waves and a current. The crossing went smoothly and we were delighted to see the old bridge (the train railway) and the new bridge (the Highway) side by side from the sea level. It was really beautiful (but unfortunately no picture, because if we would have stopped paddling, we would have been deported). We were warmly welcomed at the Curry Hammock State Park. The campground is an example of cleanliness. We congratulate all the staff and volunteer for their efforts.
Since we arrived early in the day at the campground, we could slowly set up our camp under a suffocating heat (38°C under the sun). In the afternoon, Andrew went swimming and met an awesome lady. Although she must use a walker to walk, she comes here every day to swim. Her name is Lois.
February 5-6-7, 2015
We had to remain at Curry Hammock State Park because of the rain (on the 5th) and the wind and waves (on the 6th and 7th). We met many interesting people, including Al and Beth with their dog Sadie. They generously drove us to the grocery store located in Marathon. They also gave us a very tasty fish they had caught during the day (on the 6th). They are both nature and water lovers. We will certainly meet with them again in, hopefully, not the too far future.
There are several Kite-surfers who come to practice their sport here. All the wind and the waves of the past few days made them happy. Since we had to stay put, we enjoyed our days of rest by talking, relaxing, reading and sleeping. Unfortunately, we didn't have Wi-Fi access here so I couldn't update the blog. We had a good laugh with Andrew. We like to tease him. If he does not have his morning coffee, he is not awake at all. Our Rockefeller friend has a good sense of humour. :)
We also observed several types of birds, including cardinals. The flaming red of their feathers is superb. These birds are not afraid of us and seem to like scrambled eggs. We also saw ibises, egrets, turtledoves, turkey vultures and ospreys. Then we saw a very different type of animal, it is harmful and non-native to the keys. It is the iguana. There are several of them in the park as well as on almost all the keys. They eat the birds eggs and don’t have any predators.
February 8, 2015
The temperature and the conditions were good today to get back on the water. We used the tide to leave Curry Hammock SP. Despite the fact that we were supposed to have an easy crossing, when we started to cross toward Molasses Keys, the tide seemed to still be rising and it was pushing hard towards the bridge named the “7 miles Bridge”. Strange thing here in the Keys, it's hard to figure how the tides work. When it is supposed to be high tide, it still continues to rise for a very long time (several hours sometime) before starting to descend.
The most southern island of the Molasses Keys is superb. It is a beautiful place to stop and camp. We met several people who came and went in the afternoon. Around the island, the water is shallow and turquoise. We have a beautiful view of the Atlantic on one side of the key and the famous bridge on the other side. We set up our camp in the afternoon on this little piece of paradise.
February 9, 2015
We left our little paradise around 10:10 a.m. with a black wall in the background. A storm was announced and the weather forecasts were not promising for the upcoming days. Therefore, we decided to go to the mainland so we needn't worry about what Mother Nature had in mind. With the wind at our backs and the tide in our favour, we quickly advanced and paddled the 10 km in a short time. We arrived at Bahia Honda State Park just in time for lunch. We set up camp as we were looking at the turquoise water surrounding the park. It began to blow very strong in the afternoon and we were not unhappy to be here. This strong wind should hold up through the nights of Tuesday to Wednesday.
February 10, 2015
We walked in the park in the morning. We saw a manatee in the marina. Jasmine made friends with it and the two exchanged kisses on their noses for several minutes. Unfortunately, we do not have a picture of the cute moment. Bahia Honda is a very nice park, famous for its beach on the Atlantic coast. The park also offers a breathtaking view of the old train bridge. There are several types of native plants and zebra butterflies.
The day was extremely windy. Fortunately, we had planned ahead and had decided the day before to book for a second night. We knew it was coming and we did not take any chances.
Last night was not quiet. Several gusts of wind woke us up. Pierre and Andrew came out, almost simultaneously, during the night to make sure everything was secure. The sea is rough and there are whitecaps. There was a strong smell of methane, so strong that it also kept us awake last night. This smell is coming from the soil where the mangroves grow. The wind was not helping the situation, as it came from the Gulf side and picked up the fumes before reaching the campsite. Nevertheless, the site is beautiful and we are well settled.
February 11, 2015
We left Bahia Honda after lunch. We took advantage of the tide to leave the pool facing our camp and from where we had arrived. Then we headed south to pass under the old train bridge. This bridge is a major attraction here in Bahia Honda State Park. We subsequently paddled very smoothly toward Molasses Keys. We followed the coast (Atlantic side) for maximum protection from the wind. We met a Canadian couple on a small 17’ sailboat (Jackie and Chris). They built the boat which is perfect for this type of navigation. This made us think of Ida and Michael that we had met in Cayo Costa State Park in December.
We also stopped on our way on a small unnamed island in front of Ohio Key. It was a very nice place to stop. People had taken the time to make it beautiful. The crossing to Molasses Keys went well. We were happy to return to this beautiful island which is our best campsite since leaving Key Largo.
February 12, 2015
Like the previous day, we used the tides and paddled along the coast to get to Tom Key Harbor. We left about 9:00 this morning under a radiant sun. The water is just incredible. At times, turquoise lines appeared before us and the sun enhanced the splendour of the water. We saw many fish during the day and several stingrays. We saw a beautiful nurse shark near the mangroves approximately 6km from our destination. We also saw the remnant of another Cuban boat. It's amazing to even imagine that people have attempted the crossing (to get out of misery) in a boat made out of foam.
February 13, 2015
We left Tom Key Harbor around 8:00 am. We used the same strategy as the last few days. We skirted the edge of the coast when possible, except for the crossings where we try to paddle into the headwind and make corrections at the end to avoid losing speed and spend more energy than needed. It was a very pleasant day. When we had first paddled through this area last week, we had to be away from the coast. So today we discovered new things. We saw many iguanas taking their sunbath on the rocks.
We arrived at Coconut Cove in the afternoon. This resort was marked in our "Paddling Atlas for the Keys" as a place welcoming canoe and kayak. This is always the case, but the facilities provided here are nonexistent. We were very disappointed. It was very expensive (56$ for the night). There was no shower, no water, no electricity and we were camped by the highway. The fact that we were close to civilization allowed us to do one special thing. Andrew was responsible for ordering food, which we devoured in the vestibule of our tent. The wind was strong and cold tonight.
February 14, 2015
We left at about 13:30 after taking time to relax this morning. The sun was good, but the wind particularly cold. We also took our time to paddle toward Dove Key (the first place we slept on the trip in the Keys with Andrew). We were familiar with the place and we knew that it was easier to access at high tide. We once again paddled along the coast and we enjoyed the scenery, the fauna and flora. We saw many barracudas at one particular place. There were at least thirty. We had a good laugh because Andrew had trouble seeing them. He had to raise himself up on his kayak to get a better view. We are at an advantage in the canoe as we sit a little higher on the water. We saw iguanas, sharks, stingrays and fish of several species. Beautiful day!
February 15, 2015
Very short paddling day. We had only 10km to go to get to the campground. It's time for us to get back to Key Largo, for tomorrow we give a presentation at the Public Library. We relaxed in the morning, as we had to wait for the tide to ensure we would be able to get to the campground. So we left Dove Key early in the afternoon.
It was very pleasant to share this trip in the Keys with Andrew. We were in very good company and we had a lot of fun!