Key Largo has been, by far, the best stop in the Keys, in my humble opinion! Our first adventure here was John Pennakamp Coral Reef State Park which is the first undersea park in the United States. We hooked up to a mooring ball upon our arrival and then proceeded to take care of business before pleasure by making a trip to the nearest Publix (where shopping is a pleasure!).
Carter found a landing site for the dinghy via digital high resolution imagery (Google Maps) so we set out to find it. It turned out to be a nice ride through narrow mangrove canals and I was wishing we were in the kayak for this trip but groceries don't fair too well in a sit on top kayak!
After spending the night on a mooring ball at John Pennakamp, we were trying to decide the best way to get back to the Gulf side so we would be closer to Dolphin Cove. Carter found a cut on the chart with a bridge that was marked at 14' high so he asked the dockmaster at John Pennakamp if that was right. He told Carter it was a 14' clearance, no problem, and although that is still pretty close to our 13' 6" mast height, if we could get thru, it would save us two days travel if we didn't have to double back to Tavernier Creek. So we set out the next day hoping to time it so we would be going into the current at mid tide because the chart also showed there was only 3' of water when you came out on the other side. Talk about threading the needle.
Unfortunately when we entered the canal we found a 2 knot current running with us instead of against us so we were pretty much being washed thru the channel like a whitewater river without any option to back up if the bridge was actually too low. There was no turning back and that bridge was looking awfully low as we approached. We have learned you can't totally count on the charts as things get changed and the charts may not have the latest update. And given the circumstance, if we where off by just one inch, the results would be catastrophic! Not to mention there were boaters everywhere and the water wasn't exactly smooth so anything more than a six inch wave and we were done for.
Well to make a long story short we made it with about 5 inches to spare but from now on our minimum bridge height is going to be 15'. That passage was just too close for comfort!
This brought us back in the Florida Bay and we anchored comfortably directly in front of Dolphin Cove. This was a super nice anchorage with a free dinghy dock and a dog park conveniently located at the city municipal offices. Very nice and the folks here were good, friendly people.
Time to Play!
It was time to cash in my Christmas present and that was to swim with the dolphins at Dolphin Cove! It was an amazing experience that I will remember for a long time!
The following day we took the whaler back into the Atlantic ocean and the John Pennakamp reefs for some snorkeling. The water was a little bit kicked up so visibility wasn't all that good but it was a good time anyway and I got to experience some of the coral reefs and the brightly colored tropical fish. And, the bottom was littered with huge conch shells. But in the park you can only look and not take and I suppose this is what the ocean is actually like when everyone is not grabbing everything they can get their hands on. It was really quite spectacular.
So, we have now cruised through the maze of mangroves (in the whaler instead of the kayak but hey...it counts in my book), swam with dolphins, and snorkeled the coral reefs. What's next?
More lobster diving! Carter wanted to go back to the honey hole he found last week for more lobsters so we packed a picnic lunch and off we went in the whaler back down to Islamorada. Carter caught more than a dozen but only 4 were keepers as confirmed by our old friend from the FWC as he reappeared today to check our catch just as we were finishing up for the day. I enjoyed the afternoon by soaking up some sun!
The next day we completed our provisioning at Publix in anticipation of our upcoming departure. To sum it up, Key Largo is a great place for sun and fun and we would definitely like to return again some day!
Sunday, February 9th
Sunday morning, we cruised up to the western end of Jewfish Creek, set to make it to Key Biscayne, and then Miami.
Another beautiful and unusual sunset last night.