The Florida Keys – Day 2

Tarpon under the dock – Grassy Key, Florida

Our second day in the Keys was bright and sunny, so we launched the sailing kayak right after breakfast and we were out on the water nearly the entire day. According to the charting app we had on our phones, we sailed a total of 25 miles (40 km) and had a top speed of 15 miles per hour (24 kph). We meandered and poked all over the place from Grassy Key up to Fiesta Key.

For some extra excitement, we pedaled under the Long Key Viaduct from the Gulf of Mexico into the Atlantic Ocean and promptly sailed back again – the Atlantic side being a lot rougher than we were expecting. We only learned later that the Long Key Viaduct is a known hangout for HUGE hammerhead sharks, which you can search for on YouTube here.

On this voyage, we also encountered our first shoal – an area where the bottom suddenly rises sharply to within a few inches of the surface of the water – which you can see in the video around the 2:55 mark, as suddenly calm water that we got to within a few feet of before bearing away from it. Considering that it was likely a coral shoal, avoiding it was a good idea. Our sailing kayak only drew a few inches of draft with the boards and rudder up, but there was no sense in risking it.

Something that we marveled at during these first few days was the complete lack of other people and boats on the water – we were the only ones there! It was amazing!

Once we finally tired of all the sun and fun on the water, we went back to the resort, showered and changed, then went out for our anniversary dinner at the nearby Key Colony Inn – probably one of the most formal and nicest dining venues in that part of the Keys. Highly recommended.

Anniversary dinner – Key Colony Inn, Florida

Photo info:
All photos taken with an Apple iPhone 5S
Video taken with a Sony waterproof digicam

The Florida Keys – Day 1

Sunrise – Vero Beach, Florida

We decided for our 20th wedding anniversary many years ago that we were going on a road trip down to the Florida Keys and to do it up right. To that end, we upgraded our existing kayaks from the smaller models that we had started with, to much bigger models that could handle more challenging conditions and carry more cargo. This required the use of a dedicated boat trailer – a first for us – and everything we needed was delivered just a few weeks before our trip. The day of departure arrived and we bolted for the open road – leaving on Friday after the end of the workday and heading for parts south.

Driving late – Richmond Hill, Georgia

We charged down Interstate 95 for a couple of days and made it to Vero Beach, Florida – to spend a day with family, followed by an early departure the next morning. If you’ve never done a road trip to the Florida Keys, it’s like a never ending drive – it just seems to last forever. From our home in Maryland to Orlando, Florida, is roughly 15 hours – which I’ve been able to drive in one day before, but never while hauling a trailer and kayaks behind me. Doing so really slowed us down.

The endless drive – Cross Key, Florida

When looking at the map, it appears that once you make Miami, then you’re home free – but that’s simply not true. Getting onto the Overseas Highway (US Route 1) south of Miami just means that you’re beginning another multi-hour journey to your final destination, the reason being that the speeds are low, there’s lots of traffic, and plenty of stop lights along the way.

Roadside attractions – Plantation Key, Florida
The view from the resort – Marathon, Florida

Eventually we reached our destination – the Gulf View Waterfront Resort in Marathon Key (wow – totally worth it!) – checked in, then decided to get out on the water with the sailing kayak, because that was why we were here! And Cindy recorded the sail for posterity, which you can watch below.

Before watching the video, I should preface it by saying that the infamous Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig disaster had occurred just two months before our trip, and there was concern at the time that the Florida Keys would be forever ruined by the ensuing ecological disaster that was unfolding in the Gulf. We went down there with this in mind, and hoped that we’d be able to experience it one last time before the oil arrived.

Sailing on our first day in the Keys

Getting out and exploring the Keys by water was spectacular! On the Keys in a car, it’s hot and muggy, crowded, and just plain “meh”. I’ve never been a huge fan of being down there and going everywhere by vehicle. But in a sailing kayak, it’s a completely different and invigorating experience. As you can see from the video, the Hobie sailing kayak is a wet ride – which goes a long way in keeping cool and being able to enjoy everything. Also, there’s a steady solid breeze for much of the day out on the water – which you don’t get to really experience on the shore due to all of the foliage and buildings that act as a wind break. Being out on the water is just totally wonderful, and we only went back to shore because we were hungry and had driven some hard miles to get there earlier that same day.

Our kayaks – Marathon, Florida

We brought two small personal watercraft with us – a Hobie Mirage Tandem Island sailing trimaran and a Hobie Mirage Revolution 13 kayak. We brought two because I loved to sail, and Cindy loved to drift around and take lots of underwater video of the undersea life. Once we got back to the resort, we pulled the sailing kayak out of the water and went searching for a bite to eat.

Seared tuna – Sparky’s Landing, Marathon, Florida

Oh man, I think about that spectacular dinner at Sparky’s Landing on Marathon Key to this very day. It was simply the finest seared tuna I’ve ever eaten – super fresh, and utterly delicious!

Sunset at the resort – Marathon, Florida

We got back to the resort just as the sun dipped below the horizon. We sat and watched the twilight colors for awhile, then called it a night – because we had more sailing and exploring to do the following day!

Photo info:
All photos taken with an Apple iPhone 5S
Video taken with a Sony waterproof digicam

The Sailing Stones of Death Valley

Sailing stone – Death Valley

Authoritative online articles would have you believe that sailing stones can only be found in one of just a handful of places in the world – Little Bonnie Claire Playa in Nevada, Manchego laguna at Altillo Chica in Spain, and – most famously – at Racetrack Playa in Death Valley National Park, California. However, I know for a fact that this premise is false, because I found more sailing stones in Death Valley – and they were many miles away from those at the Racetrack Playa. I’ve also read of them being found many decades ago in the Alaska tundra, and there are even fossil records of them in Connecticut from at least 200 million years ago – so I suspect that they’re far more common than people realize.

As for my scientific find – which has probably been “discovered” by many others as well – I’ll just say that this sailing stone is within the boundaries of Death Valley National Park and leave it at that. It hasn’t been disturbed, no idiots have vandalized it or driven their cars across the track that it has made, and I’d like to leave it that way.

Photo info:
Sailing stone
Exact position not recorded
Death Valley National Park
Death Valley, California
October 2016
Ilford Pan F Plus 50 film
Zeiss Biogon 21/4.5 ZM lens
Leica M3 35mm film camera