We first set off on our voyage about 7 weeks ago in Kemah, TX and we made it to the Florida Keys 3 weeks ago. We docked Miss Lone Star and delayed filling her up with fuel because she was empty and we wanted to experience some of the amenities of our new dockage. We were fortunate and thankful to have our car and my trusty Harley when we arrived, which make shopping so much easier. It was sad for us not to have to walk everywhere because it was fun but now we don’t have to worry about lugging groceries back to the boat by hand with whining kids in tow.
I start up her engines every few days and I definitely noticed that she had accumulated algae on her hull. It was sad. We are located in the bay-side of our Key and the water, although clear, is not blue. We don’t feel much rocking on our boat because we are in a protected harbor. It’s nice to have air conditioning and laundry close by but we felt like we were missing out. I suggested that we take her out for a few days and Aubrey jumped at the idea, saying that she was going to suggest it earlier but didn’t want to complain. We filled her up with water, cleaned her decks and made the dreaded trip to the fuel dock. 190 gallons later, we set off to the East towards all of the most wonderful reefs of the Florida Keys.
We opted for a different style of cruising and I maintained 8 knots. It was a more relaxed trip and we didn’t have to go far. Our destination was only 8 miles away. We went through Snake Creek and changed our heading South to the lighthouse that we could see on the horizon. I thought we were going to Hens and Chickens Reef. We later learned that we were actually on Alligator Reef, but it didn’t matter because either way, it was paradise.
We hooked up to a mooring ball on the South end of the reef and the depth ranged from 20-40 feet. The visibility in the water was only about 40 feet and above deck it was about 2 miles. The water temperature was a comfortable 86 on the surface but it dropped significantly to about 80 with the current down deeper. The water was crystal clear and blue. The sand was white and there were some grass beds scattered on the ocean floor. I hooked up to my tank and jumped in the cool water. I explored the reefs and saw the first barracuda of my career. It wasn’t that intimidating but it circled me as I kicked on around the reef. I could see its sharp teeth and it was about 5 feet long. I was under the boat in about 45 minutes. Everyone jumped in and I caught some video before we climbed aboard our boat.
We decided to anchor in a different location for the night under a sand bed. I found a great spot and let out 5/1 scope of my chain rode and the 60 lb. anchor held. We pulled our trusty dinghy behind our boat rather than try to load it onto the dinghy ramp. We motored over to the old lighthouse and we climbed up the rusty ladder. The kids did surprisingly well and we took a look at the sea floor from about 15 feet up. It was beautiful!
Now you know I’m afraid of heights!
Aubrey was up another ladder with an additional 15 feet of height. She wanted reassurance that I would carry her down if needed, which was OK. I would always do that for her! A few minutes passed as I snapped photos of the kids and I heard her call again, this time from the top rail. She was about 200 feet higher than us. So much for being afraid of heights! She called to me and I joined her after a long, long climb. The view was breathtaking and it is something that I will never forget! We saw huge black tip reef sharks circling together with a mess of barracuda. Some of those suckers were 10-12 feet! I talked myself out of jumping off because of the toothy creatures. We took some more images and we sauntered back down to the kids who were safely stationed on the deck of the lighthouse.
Our dinghy took us back to the boat at sunset, which was again- breathtaking. We were alone and not a soul was insight. We awoke to the slight rocking of the boat on the hook. We could hear a few birds calling from the lighthouse and we saw all of the life below us. Rays, turtles and lots of fish were all around. Onyx and I jumped in our dinghy and we zipped along to a ship’s store about 4 miles in to get some drinks. Onyx had held her bladder (and other parts) for many hours and she was relieved to get some potty time on shore. We’ve wondered if dogs pee in the water while swimming? We headed back as a squall approached but it passed without a drop of rain or wave. We all snorkeled and played in the water for the rest of the day. I did some more diving. We knew we were in paradise!
Our friends drove their boat out to join us for dinner and Aubrey prepared a gourmet meal below as I grilled Dolphin fish on the stern. It was better than expected and we said goodbye to our pals before sunset.
We enjoyed another amazing night and Aubrey and I watched the stars on the bow until midnight. It was one of the most romantic things I’ve ever experienced. We raised anchor in the morning after we noticed that the kids ate the last of our breakfast food. We saw a large dolphin pod approaching us and counted 25 playful animals and a few babies. They played around our boat for about 30 minutes as we slowly motored beside them. Aubrey was delighted to see them looking at her and we couldn’t believe that they were so interest in us. I jumped in and swam with the dolphins until they swam away. It was time to go back to our marina but we promised to come back to explore soon!