Monday, July 31, 2017

Hitting the Water in the Florida Keys

Our primary objective in the Florida Keys has been cancelled due to the weather. That doesn't mean we still can't see what's swimming around out on the reef, we just have to tackle it from another angle. But first, we have to talk about another quirky find.

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Yesterday, as we got rained out from one adventure to another, I was looking for something other than simply than going back to the hotel to watch TV. Traveling down the Overseas Highway near our hotel, I saw a small sign on the median simply saying "African Queen" with a symbol for a U-Turn.

I follow the sign to a tour boat dock and there it is, the African Queen. This is the boat used in the movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. After the filming was over in Africa, the production left the boat behind.  Found partially sunk in Cairo, the current owners bought it and brought it back to Florida for a restoration.

Wandering over to it, we note that it's just like in the movie and, when the captain turns on the steam powered engine, sounds just the same, too.  

It's now available for tours of the Key Largo marina. Unfortunately, it is not wheelchair accessible, though.

Fortunately, there's a large glass bottom boat docked next to it that the operator says is so we plan on taking that the next morning for a tour.

Now it's a day later and we're rolling onboard the boat. Tim stakes out a spot near the front of the boat by the underwater window.  Other passengers board, the boat is maybe half full, and we launch towards the Atlantic Ocean.

Gently and slowly we pass big waterfront mansions with pools at the water's edge. One even has a waterslide built in to go right into the channel. Once we've cleared the marina, the captain boosts the engines for the half hour ride out to the reef which sits seven miles offshore.

Even though we're seven miles out, the water is still shallow...anywhere from eight to forty feet deep...and a skeletal metal lighthouse stands on the shallowest part of the reef.

Now, the captain puts the engines on idle as we drift lazily over the reef, taking in the damsel fish, parrot fish, barracuda, and more. The colors of the coral shine vibrantly in the sun-filled, clear water.

The guide on the boat picks up a mic and begins the description of what we see but starts with a warning to remove any sandals or anything loose so that they don't fall into the well where the underwater window is, followed about ten seconds later by a lady next to Tim dropping her flip flop in.

" I just said," the guide goes on, "please remove loose items so that they don't fall in. For the lady that just dropped her shoe, we can negotiate how much it will cost for me to go down and retrieve it later."

A kid at the other end takes this as his cue to toss his stuffed animal in, too.

Except for a couple of clueless fellow passengers, it's still a stunning sight to see all the sealife below.  No, we didn't get to actually get in the water to go snorkeling like we wanted to but this is probably the next best thing and it's accessible too, including the bathroom on board.

We drift this way for about an hour before it's time to fire up the engines for the ride back.

Tim and I take this opportunity to sit on the fantail and enjoy the ocean spray on this hot, Florida day.

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Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

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