This meant that we had to get up pretty early and catch the 6:45 am bus into town. We wanted to have a leisurely time to have some breakfast and hang out around the dock, like the salty old dogs we are! (ha ha ha)
I would say this is a pretty nice breakfast view, wouldn't you?
Before we knew it we off on the Appledore V. Captained by Gil and assisted by Joe from Lake Charles, LA (imagine, just where we were!) and Kyle from Watkins Glenn, NY. Super nice bunch of mariners. We really enjoyed our time with them. This ship is 65' long and was launched in 1992. It was originally intended for use by the National Geographic Society to sail around the Antarctic. Unfortunately, she never got to make that voyage as the weather window that the crew needed back then never opened up. Later, the Appledore sailed the Great Lakes as a Youth training vessel. Now she sails year round in Key West (pretty good gig I would say!)
Let go sailing!!!!
This is a file picture of the Appledore V, our favourite kind of boat!!
(either that or it is sailing away without me!!)
Meet Judy & Chris, from Orlando!!
Today, Serenade of the Seas was in.
...and so, apparently, was the military. Notice the machine gun on the front. There was
also a matching set-up at the rear of the ship. Not sure why. Likely just security. We
thought it was funny as we have had many people tell us that Mexican military makes them
nervous with their "big" guns......well, here we are. Same guns, different country!!
Doug was very happy to help Joel with the sails....
He's quite the "gad-about" isn't he? Now he is visiting with Capt Gil.....
Funny thing about the cruise ships coming in. They must be away from the dock BEFORE
sunset or they are subject to HUGE fines. Can't have them blocking all those expensive views from the little hotels and condo's now can we? Actually, if you see the difference in size between the boat and the condo's, that are a few hundred feet away on the promenade, it is quite overwhelmingly large and you would see NO sunset!!
This end of town of Key West is "the" spot to be for sunsets!!
Anyway, we sailed/motored 7 miles out to the reef. The Appledore V can carry up to 30 passengers but Sebago (http://www.keywestsebago.com/tour/schooner-reef-cruise) will only bring 24 on the schooner. More room for everyone and a more personal type of trip. We were lucky in that there were actually only 18 passengers. Pretty nice. The captain does not like piloting the catamarans as they can take upwards of 85 people, all of whom he is responsible for when they are on the ship and IN the water. Yikes!! This trip cost us $75 each and includes drinks of all kinds, fresh fruit on the way out and lunch, as you will see below that was amazing!!
Anyway, here are some tidbits of info. I remembered some of what the crew told us but did a little more research on the technical things. I do remember them saying that there are huge fines for damaging the reef. There were marine police out there when we were there. They just where in their boat, moored at one of the buoys the whole time we were there.....just watching.
The Florida Reef is the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States. It is the third largest coral barrier reef system in the world (after the Great Barrier Reef and Belize Barrier Reef) and it lies a few miles seaward of the Florida Keyes. It is about 6-7 kms (4 miles) wide and extends (along the 20 meter depth contour) 270 km (170 mi) from Fowey Rocks, just east of Soldier Key to just south of the Marquesas Keys. The barrier reef tract forms a great arc, following the shape of the Florida Keys. It is in what is called a National Marine Sanctuary.
Funny story about Captain Gil. He & his wife live on a boat. He doesn't like going IN the water. If there are repairs to be done underneath the boat, his wife dons the scuba suit and goes in. His theory is that it took us millions of years to learn to walk on the earth and breath air and he isn't going backwards to hang out in the water too much - he likes his feet dry!!
That is where we are going....
Kyle gets out the flippers - that's a lot of flippers!!
These will do.....
Now, I must interject here. While we were super excited to go snorkeling, we were both a bit apprehensive about the whole thing, never having done it before. Once we got the gear on we figured it's now or never. We were the third set of people off the boat. That is THE moment that I had real butterflies in my stomach, just as I had to step off that boat and into the ocean. WOW!!!! I had a tiny, momentary panicky feeling when I first put my face in the water because I immediately tried to breath through my nose, duh! You can't!! Then I thought, "Oh no, I can't remember what he said to do.......I'm doing it wrong!!!" Ugh!!! But then it just all clicked. Doug had taken off like a rocket and did brilliantly. He did not seem to have any issues. He is a natural so I stuck pretty close to him - except when he found a huge school of blue fish, then I was too far away to see them! The nice people we met on board, Chris & Judy told us, just remember to relax completely out there and you will love it. they were right!! We did!! Oh, and the water temperature.......it's about 24C (75 F) - that's pretty warm water. It actually gets to about 32C (90 F) in the summer, like a bath the captain says!!
So, here's the "pre-snorkeling" picture.....
Pretty funny, huh?
Now, I won't even try or attempt to tell you about the fish (purple, blues, bright yellows - Doug saw that whole school of bright blue ones), the beauty of the reef, the feeling of solitude and the only sound you hear is your own breathing and a little popping noise, which is the fish eating off the reef. You just can't describe it! This is just one of those things that everyone should try. We LOVED it!! (Yes, Josh, you were right!!). If our budget had allowed, we would return tomorrow and just go again. What a great first time experience. We were in the water for about 50 minutes. We both started to get pretty tired and a little wee bit cool. But, in a way, we hated to get out and end the magic!!!
Absolutely L-O-V-E-D this experience!!
When we crawled back onto the boat, this is the spread for lunch!!
Now, here's a happy mariner!!
Doug and Capt. Gil, plotting a new course....to Cuba!!
See those stormy clouds? We picked a perfect day for our trip!
Good-bye to our sailing buddies, Chris & Judy. We spent
a very enjoyable day at sea with them!! Have a happy life you two!
Once we were back on dry land, we basically just strolled back to the bus stop (that we have come to know very well!). I love the signs along the way!
...and since we leave Key West area on Wednesday, here is your last rooster!
I think you can tell, by my post above, that we loved this experience. Although we were a bit apprehensive at first, it sure didn't take long to get the hang of it. Doug, as I said, really excelled at it right away. We will certainly find opportunity to do it again in the future!!
Tuesday, we just hang around the campground and get laundry done and get ourselves pointed in some kind of travel direction. We do know that it will be "north" as there really isn't anywhere else to go "south" on dry land!!
Thought for the Day: The Beatles said it best...."I'd rather be, under the sea, in an octopus' garden...."