With a new car that gets much better mileage than my V8 Mountainer (even if a 16’ boat on 14’ Prius does look a bit silly), I can now worry more about where I want to paddle than how much it will cost me to get there and back.
Since Orlando to Key Largo costs about $25 with this new rig, I decided that’s where I wanted to go this weekend. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate, with 15+MPH winds Saturday and Sunday, I was only able to paddle on Friday and Monday.
After driving down and checking in at my hotel in the morning, I stopped at Florida Bay Outfitters for a new hat and rash-guard shirt. Since I was there and they’d started selling their rental fleet for the off-season, I also bought a boat … which will bring to five the count of boats in my garage when I pick it up in July.
Now, five boats may seem excessive to some people, but each has its own specific purpose and use. So to
justify myself explain each boat’s purpose:
- My primary boat is the 16’ Tarpon pictured above. It’s stable, tracks well, and it’s generally comfortable, except for the still-missing
ass-padseat cushion that I still haven’t replaced.
- Then I have a Pamlico tandem, which I’ll likely be selling soon, as I have a new rule of never going with someone who won’t paddle their own damn boat.
- Next is a 9.5’ Swifty that’s mostly used by my daughter, but it’s a light, handy, cockpit boat that’s nice to throw on top of the car for a quick paddle in the morning or afternoon.
- Lastly is an Ocean Kayak surf boat which I got
to have a surf boatfor the boy-child to use.
The new boat will be a 14’ Tarpon 140:
This will give me a boat similar to my primary, but a bit shorter (easier to control) for when I want to take someone who doesn’t have their own boat. In addition, it has a rear well instead of a hatch, so it’ll comfortably hold dive gear.
See? I absolutely need five boats …
Friday Afternoon – Lignumvitae Key
2.5 hours – 5.5 miles
My plan for the weekend was to paddle the three Keys accessible from the causeway between Upper and Lower Matecumbe Keys, Lignumvitae, Shell, and Indian Keys, with a possible diversion to snorkel at the wreck of the San Pedro (about a mile south of Indian Key):
I took a quick paddle around Lignumvitae – it was a beautiful day, with little wind and crystal clear water. On the way back across the flats, I passed a 3’-4’ nurse shark cruising along the bottom.
Saturday & Sunday
The weather forecast for the weekend called for 15+mph winds. When I arrived at the put-in Saturday morning, it was clear that the wind would be an issue on either the Gulf or Bay sides, so I took the opportunity to spend the day in Key West.
That turned out to be a good decision, as the beach rental at Smather’s Beach in Key West claimed 20-30mph winds and Bahia Honda wasn’t even renting kayaks because of the wind.
More of the same on Sunday, so I drove to Everglades National Park and spent the day there.
Monday Morning – Blackwater Sound
3.75 hours – 10.3 miles
The forecast for Monday called for 10mph winds dropping to 5mph in the afternoon. I put-in at Florida Bay Outfitters and paddled across Blackwater Sound to Dunedin Creek, taking a bit of a detour into the mangrove creeks to explore.
Coming out of Dunedin, I made for the western edge of Little Buttonwood Sound, which put the paddle at five miles. My plans were to head west from there toward Porjoe Key and then on to North and South Nest Keys.
At this point, though, the winds did not seem to have died down and were out of the East and Southeast, so continuing the trip another five miles to Nest Keys would mean a ten mile return mostly into the wind – with the first half of it giving the wind a five mile fetch across open water.
If I’d had camping gear with me, I’d have taken the chance, knowing I could just stay overnight and paddle back the next day. In fact, I think I’ll do that next time.