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What Are You Nuts?!?! Part II
Written By: O.C.Fotoguy
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What Are You Nuts?!?! Part II
What Are You Nuts?!?! Part II
What Are You Nuts?!?! Part II
What Are You Nuts?!?! Part II
What Are You Nuts?!?! Part II
What Are You Nuts?!?! Part II

    On Tuesday morning I was ready for leg two of my voyage, so I put my paddle, ACBs and chips in my bike basket, and pedaled to the little beach at the end of Vernon Street, where I’d left my kayak. I put it in the water and paddled out into open water, past the Waldorf Astoria with a person doing yoga out on the pier in the ocean to start her day, Higgs Beach and pier, where the sun worshippers were already gathering, a nature preserve, where I beached my kayak and walked a little to stretch my legs and to see if anything of interest had washed up during the night, and then paddled on to and past Smather’s Beach, which took me nearly an hour to paddle the length of the beach.
    I could see the bottom many times, but didn’t see anything of significance, so there’s not much reason for me to snorkel on the ocean side of Key West. There are condos and mansion-like homes on either side of Higgs Beach.
    When I arrived at the far east end of Key West, where I needed to turn north to go towards the Stock Island Bridge that carries US Rt. 1 into Key West, I encountered low tide near the sea wall, had to paddle out, find deeper water, and that put me right into the 10-15mph wind. I didn’t have far to go, so it was not much of a problem, but it would’ve been tiring if I had to do it for hours. I began looking for a place I could stop, lock up the kayak til tomorrow, not have to scale the sea wall, and find my way across the huge rocks that were placed there for storm protection, between it and the Rt. A1A.
    Then I saw a collection of dinghy’s used by people who lived on boats in the water between Key West and Stock Island and headed for it. Shortly I found a good place where there was a enough land to put the kayak, a mangrove tree to lock it to, and the side walk was only steps away. Easy, that’s the way I like it. As I approached Stock Island I could see several small mangrove islands and I know there’s a commercial ship yard near by, so those will be a bunch more kayaking trips for the future. I’ll be back!
    As I walked back to my bike I photographed kite boarders in the foreground of Smather’s Beach with a cruise ship in back ground. As I got back to my nest I was ready for HH.    
    Wednesday Morning I awoke after overnighting in Stock Island within easy walking distance to where I’d left the kayak, so I made my megamug of coffee, got the half of delicious breakfast burrito from my frig that was left over from Harpoon Harry’s, 900 blk of Caroline St.  There’s no way I could eat the whole thing, but now it would make a fine kayaking breakfast, and I was off. As I neared the kayak, the more aware I became that the wind was blowing briskly from the direction I wanted to paddle towards. I decided to get to at least the Florida Bayside of Stock Island.
    I headed towards the US Rt. 1 bridge.  The water was well below A1A to the left and the mangroves on the Stock Island side blocked the wind, so it was a pleasant paddle in the warm morning sunshine. I passed a marina, boating community, and more little islands I didn’t know were there (I’ll be back) and came to a Big Great White Heron. I’d only brought my point and shoot camera, so I made the best of it. I got close and put the heron in a headshot with me. It was obvious it was familiar with being near humans and probably ate the fishermen discards for many free meals.
    I went under the bridge, through a straight, and turned the corner into open water and met the wind head on. I followed my plan, but stayed as close to the mangroves as possible for a partial wind break.  As I neared a yacht harbor. I saw a break in the mangroves - rest time. That was a good place for that burrito and out of the wind.  When done I headed back out into the wind. I could see the buildings of Florida Keys Community College and headed for them. I knew there was a beach on the back side and a good place to give it up for the day, even though I hadn’t made much progress, but the wind had talked to me and I understood! I can’t paddle into a 15-20mph wind for long and that’s what I was getting.
    I slid up onto the beach and looked for a tree to lock up to. As I stood there selecting one and watching the “Venus fly trap” like critters, I felt something touch my ankle, but I was standing in the water, figured it was just water lapping against me, then I felt a tingle, and looked down. A red octopus, at least a foot and half long, was wrapping its t around my ankle. I yelped, jerked away, and then thought that would’ve made a great photo!
    The next day, Thursday, I came back and looked for the octopus before I sat down and ate my breakfast at a picnic table at the FKCC, as I watched the waves in the bay driven by the wind. If you’ve been reading my articles, you know I decided to complete my circumnavigation of the island of Key West using the 25mph wind to my advantage to push me from the College in a westerly direction to Simonton Street Beach. It was a little iffy. I decided to go around Fleming Key, rather than take the risk of not being allowed to go under the military’s bridge, although it caused me to paddle an extra mile or so, but a lot of the distance I was adjacent to military facilities and was observed most of the time.  Some of those onlookers thought I was nuts to be in the rough water, but I think the risk was minimal; they wouldn’t have let me drown, and it sure was fun. Plus I found an isolated island at the end of Fleming Key, a shallow area good for snorkeling where there were lots of unusual marine sea critters; and the beach on the water side of the Army Special Aquatic Forces facilities fence was another delightful beach combing spot. I refused to let myself take the time to enjoyably investigate them though.  I knew I still had a 25mph wind to cross and it would tax all my energy. I was right. I made it and I’ll be back again in the years to come.
Bob R  o.c.FotoGuy
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