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Written By: OC Fotoguy
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I wore a sweat shirt and jeans here in Key West last Thursday.  I heard it was in the twenties in Jacksonville and Tallahassee, so it must’ve snowed in Maryland!!!  Maybe I’ll look at the OC Boardwalk cam and see what it looks like with snow.  Here today it’s a little breezy, but sandals, shorts and Tshirt weather.  After sending an email, getting a 10-day weather forecast, and checking my email and listening to the noon jazz jam at the Green Parrot, I’ll ride my bike to Smather’s Beach, then listen to sound check at the Parrot at 5:30 and then I’m off to the Conch Republic to hear OC’s Kevin Poole.  Gee, that’s a full schedule!!!
There are good people and bad people in the country and in this world.  My goal is to avoid the bad ones.  That’s usually done easily by not making eye contact and putting a bunch of space between me and them.  Why some people are nasty I have no idea, but I guess they do.  I was parking at the Hog Fish Grill in Stock Island (near Key West) and got a little close to a little pickup truck with a cap on the back and the guy in it gave me a barrage of four-letter words.  That made me think twice about parking there for the night. I looked outside later and he was gone - good.
What a day.  Kayaking is my reason to be here in Key West after it’s warm here in the winter.  I can see what skin divers and snorkelers see from my kayak, especially in the shallow waters, where boats with an engine can’t go, because it’s not deep enough.  My kayak does fine in 6 inches of water and I see everything, when the water is clear like it is around Stock Island (the island before Key West).  Maybe there’s more in deeper waters, but what I see in shallows fascinates me.  Today, I knew a storm was approaching, so going into the wind was out of the question, so I went with the wind  or stayed against the mangroves for a wind break.  I went from the Stock Island Bridge here in Key West to the public boat ramp near Boca Cheeca on Rt. #1.
    The fish I saw were awesome.  There were scads of them.  If I lived here, I’d never go hungry!  There were a ton of mangrove snappers and grunts, very good eating fish; then I starting seeing others that I didn’t know and many were more than a foot long.  Quite a meal!  I may get some bait and drop a hand line amongst them.  I should catch one easily.  I even found a long wide mangrove tunnel where it was delightfully warm (it’s 80 degrees here on this seventh of January) and saw a spotted crab shell lying on the bottom.  The crab shell is colored like none I’ve ever seen.  Mostly orange, but brown is interspersed amongst the orange to make an intricate pattern.  A couple days ago I found a chocolate cowry shell with small grayish spots.  Both are like finding a diamond to me; plus, there were many exotic plant/animal critters everywhere.  I saw so much around Stock Island, much, much more than where I paddle in Key West.  I may keep my kayak here rather than paddling it back to the Simonton Street beach, where I usually lock it up.  It’s only two miles, a short bike ride, from where I park my nest (slide-in camper on a pickup truck) overnight.  I see more fish and other bottom critters when there is little wind, the water is clear as crystal, shallow for best visibility, and quiet.  That usually means people less.  Even fish don’t like excessive talking.  On Stock Island tourists can rent kayaks and paddle boards.  When I hear their noise coming, so do the fish and they disappear!
As I started to think of a place to pull my kayak out, I started going up other mangrove tunnels, but none led to a place I could get to a street.  I decided rather than play myself out looking I’d just go to the public landing with a ramp on Route 1.  As I rounded the corner I met the 20mph wind, a challenge at best, but I’d had a couple days rest, so I bit the bullet and paddled towards the ramp.  I was making good progress except it was getting near low tide, so some places the water was too shallow to paddle, and I had to back track to find a deeper place.  In the wind I have to be able to make deep strokes with the paddle or I don’t go forward, but I was doing OK and had less than 1/2 mile or so to go.  I can do that.  Then a small boat passed me.  I waved and said the wind was tough.  In a couple minutes the boat came back and offered to tow me.  I knew I could paddle to where I wanted to go, although it was going to take time and effort.  The boater said too much wind in broken English and grabbed my tow rope and began to pull me.  Well, this was much easier - I like easy, kind of like water skiing, but I was getting wet from the splashing as the boat and kayak went through the swells.  Plus, I might get too close to the blades of the motor.  That would be no fun!  I’d rather just paddle.  The guy didn’t seem to speak English and I don’t speak the Key Westese (sounds sort of Cajun to me), so I pointed towards Rt. 1 and he dragged me and the kayak there, as I hoped those blades stayed away from me.   He was a good guy and once again - All’s well that ends well!!
On the downslide, watchin’ and lovin it.  Ask me about a free photo.  Birch’s sweet corn goes very well with the 7-inch crabs I’m catching near Deale Island.
Bob R  o.c.FotoGuy
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