Florida 2018: Day 5 - Key Largo


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Florida 2018: [Day 1: Murfreesboro] [Day 2: Merritt Island] [Day 3: Riviera Beach] [Day 4: Key Largo] [Day 5: Key Largo] [Day 6: Key West] [Day 7: Dry Tortugas] [Day 8: Orlando] [Day 9: Columbia] [Day 10: Cincinnati]

Tuesday, July 24, 2018: Good morning, Tavernier!
We had a snorkeling tour scheduled from 9:00 AM until 1:30 PM, and it looked like the weather was going to be nice until then. Spoiler: it was perfect all day.
We got to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park 90 minutes early like our tour information told us to, but the park wouldn't open for another 30 minutes so we had to kill time in a local parking lot.
As soon as the park opened, we headed to the activities building to check in for our tour. Aside from slightly high seas, we had a great day for snorkeling.
We still had almost an hour to kill before our tour, so we looked around a bit.
There was a covered waiting area by the dock.
After a safety briefing on shore, Captain Daryl welcomed us onboard and told us a little about what to expect from our day.
We departed at 9:15 ...
... and slowly made our way through the mangroves ...
... to the open sea.
Here are Captain Daryl and first mate Steph.
We passed this abandoned boat on our way out. We'll tell you more about it later.
Shortly after 10:00, we were at our first snorkeling spot, Greek Rocks. We jumped in the water and Debbie immediately spotted this little yellow stingray. The current was strong and the waves were high, so it was an effort to move in the water but it wasn't anything we couldn't handle.
Here are some sponges. There were quite a few of them on the ocean floor.
The coral was nice, especially the numerous purple fans.
Pretty.
Here's a striped parrotfish.
There's a spiny lobster hiding under the coral in the center of this picture. First mate Steph mentioned that lobster season was starting the next day and she was going to avoid being in the water when that happened because it gets so busy.
This appears to be a smooth or spotted trunkfish.
Check him out from the back. He's shaped like a triangle.
Here's a stoplight parrotfish.
Lots of yellow fish, probably small mouth grunts.
Here's a blue tang.
Another sergeant major.
This is a juvenile schoolmaster.
This dead sea fan had an eerie look on the ocean floor.
Check out Tom's new mask. It worked great so we'll definitely be buying a second one for Debbie.
More pretty purple fans.
Cool anemone of some sort.
After 35 minutes of snorkeling, we returned to the boat and had some snacks that we brought along. We could have stayed in the water longer, but we weren't thrilled with the snorkeling so we didn't.
Around 11:00, we left the Greek Rocks area ...
... and headed to the Key Largo Dry Rocks (back side). See those boats across the water? That's where Underwater Jesus is and we'll go there in a bit.
We were back in the water at 11:15 AM.
Here's a parrotfish.
Here's a damselfish of some sort, possibly cocoa.
More yellow fish. Yes, these are definitely looking like small mouth grunts.
Here's a yellowtail damselfish.
He's a handsome devil, isn't he?
This coral was bright green, not that you can tell from this photo.
Barracuda!
Look at the detail on this cool coral.
Even more pretty purple fans.
And still more.
This is a porkfish; first one we've ever seen.
Another barracuda!
We got out of the water 25 minutes after we started because we were bored again. Perhaps it was the high waves that hurt the visibility or perhaps we've gotten to be snorkeling snobs, but we weren't impressed by what we saw.
Our last stop was on the other side of Key Largo Dry Rocks. We were the first two in the water and the first two to hover over the statue of Underwater Jesus, which is actually titled, "Christ of the Abyss."
You'd expect it to say something to that effect on this plaque but the Internet tells us that this was a monument added in the 1990s in memory of a dive shop operator named Michael Kevorkian.
Jesus seems to be saying, "Come give me a hug," but the fire coral growing all over him says, "Stay back or you will be in major pain."
Eventually, the whole crowd arrived to take a look.
There was interesting reef nearby but Captain Daryl asked us all to come back to the boat after seeing the statue so we could minimize the amount of time we spent at this location.
We had some folks who were getting seasick and the waves were a little choppy here, so we were back onboard ten minutes after we started.
We started the 45-minute trip back to the dock and noticed that abandoned boat again. So we switched from our waterproof camera ...
... back to our regular camera so we could zoom in to get a better look. First mate Steph told us that this boat had just run aground the previous weekend. It was abandoned and pretty battered, so it was likely a boat that got unmoored during the 2017 hurricane season that eventually floated into the reef. A Coast Guard boat and crew were there to investigate it.
As we approached land again, birds waited to greet us on some of the posts in the water.
We were back in the mangroves shortly after 1:00 and back on the dock by 1:15, so our 4 1/2 hour snorkeling trip was only four hours of actual water time, but we enjoyed it very much and it was quite a bargain for a trip that long.
After rinsing off by the docks and changing clothes, we went into the visitor center to see the small aquarium there.
The highlight is this round display of local fish.
This poor lionfish doesn't mean to be invasive. He just is. And that is why he is in a tank by himself with no potential mates nearby.
This display was fun because an unseen person was cleaning the tank while we watched. We've never seen that happen before and it was quite amusing to see the hand holding the cleaning tube appear and disappear.
There are two lobsters in this photo: ...
... a roundy slipper lobster on the left, ...
... and a spotted spiny lobster on the right, which is probably what we saw on our first snorkel of the day.
We were hungry so we went to the Key Largo Conch House.
Tom couldn't pass on mahi fish tacos but Debbie had to get the conch fritters basket with fries and dipping sauce. Our server kept the Diet Coke coming and we were very happy.
It was 2:30 when we left, so the main room had cleared out and we were able to get a nice photo of the place.
Next, we headed back south on the Overseas Highway but passed right on by Tavernier, crossing the water ...
... to Plantation Key, ...
... and crossing again, ...
... to Windley Key, ...
... and then once again to Upper Matecumbe Key, ...
... home of Islamorada Beer Company.
The beer list was filled with tempting options.
From left to right are: Shipwrecked (rum ale), Ocean Point Red (red ale), No Wake Zone (coconut key lime blonde), and Sandbar Sunday (American wheat ale).
The real reason we were here is because we were copying our beer afficianado friends, Gordie and Lyn, who had been here three months earlier. We recreated their photo and posted it on the three-month-old Facebook status.
The mystery of what those unmarked bags were at Sailfish Brewing two days earlier was finally solved. A similar display was here, except it had a sign explaining what they were (Brownbag Popcorn). We later learned that Brownbag Popcorn is a local product that Florida residents are likely to be familiar with.
Tom played the washer-on-the-hook game without any success.
We finished our sampler, bought a pint glass, and cashed out.
Our next stop was Florida Keys Brewing Company.
Their bar had a whole line of hula girl tap handles.
They also had an impressive beer list.
From left to right: Iguana Bait Honey Hibiscus Kolsch, Beech Bum Smoked Brown, DH's Peppered Hole (pepper red ale), Boss is Gone (lemongrass & basil saison), and Honey Bottomed Blonde.
Once again, we were following in the footsteps of Gordie and Lyn, so we copied their photo and added another note for them.
When we were ready to go, we bought a pint glass and took at look at the to-go case.
The Spearfish cans featured a hogfish, which Debbie had seen during our second snorkel earlier in the day. They are distinctive fish with spikes coming out of their head in a line, which they can lay flat along their spine if they want to. Unfortunately, all the pictures she took of it didn't turn out because the camera wasn't actually on at the time.
We drove back north to Tavernier, passing this very large conch shell sculpture, ...
... and this very large lobster sculpture. The Keys do love their giant seafood sculptures.
We unloaded our new pint glasses and changed into our swimsuits again ...
... so we could play in the pool for a while. We stayed there until a thunderstorm got a little too close for comfort, ...
... then returned to our room for some badly-needed showers.
While checking her watch, Debbie realized that she hadn't seen a single jellyfish, which held true for our entire trip. Score one point for Florida's snorkeling!
We ventured out again to go to the Blond Giraffe a couple of blocks from our hotel.
It's a wonderland of key lime-flavored treats, ...
... along with many candies that aren't key lime-flavored at all.
Large displays on the wall explained the history of key limes and key lime pie. Until this very moment, Tom didn't realize that key limes were a separate type of lime, not just limes that happened to come from the Keys. If this is new to you too, check out this picture - the key lime is the golf-ball shaped lime next to the normal one on the left.
We bought a container of key lime meringues (which Debbie already knew she would never have to share with Tom) and a slice of key lime pie to go. The cashier recognized our palm tree key ring and told us that her mother Tracey is the general manager at our hotel. We assured her that we had already met Tracey and thought she was wonderful.
Next, we stopped at Sunrise Cuban Cafe again to get a savory snack and some desserts to go. The savory snack was probably an empanada of some sort, but we ordered it by pointing at it in the case. The desserts were flan and cuatro leches cake, for when tres leches isn't enough. Since we had eaten a really late lunch, our dinner consisted of that empanada, the slice of pie, and the container of flan. Don't judge.
At 7:00, we headed outside and said hi to the resort cat.
We finally got a photo of one of the funny lizards that we saw around the property. They all had curling tails that they held up in a loop when they ran anywhere. They were great at eating any spare ants that walked by.
We sat in our regular chairs, ...
... and sipped our free cups of wine, provided by the resort every evening at 7:00.
Here's Debbie ...
... and here's Tom.
The sky was clear at sunset, ...
... except for just enough clouds to be especially pretty.
Right on schedule, fire and s'mores fixings showed up at 8:00.
Debbie cooked the marshmallows again and this time, Tom remembered to take a photo.
Mmmm, perfection.
Gorgeous.
It was almost a full moon and it made the little resort even more beautiful.

As we were winding down for the day, we stumbled across a public service announcement on the local cable channel that was reviewing the rules for the two-day lobster mini season that was going to start the next day. The regular eight-month season would start on August 6.

Day 6 >


Florida 2018: [Day 1: Murfreesboro] [Day 2: Merritt Island] [Day 3: Riviera Beach] [Day 4: Key Largo] [Day 5: Key Largo] [Day 6: Key West] [Day 7: Dry Tortugas] [Day 8: Orlando] [Day 9: Columbia] [Day 10: Cincinnati]

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