Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Paddling Key Largo

I had been all over Florida during my lifetime visiting family in various places on the east and west coast, but had never been to the Keys. We decided to spend my husband John's bday in the Keys this year for our family vacation. He had been there previously (building houses) and turned 17 there, so it was nostalgic for him to return and celebrate his 52nd bday there. I was so excited to learn that an outfitter in close by Islamaroda was a friend of I called JC and Kristi and they told me a great place to paddle, they would take Luke and I to the launch (John doesn't paddle) and Luke and I would paddle on our own to Indian Key and explore the abandoned town and we could explore and paddle around the island and beyond. Here is an excerpt from the website

"Summer is the perfect time to visit the island. Usually mosquito-free, Indian Key is a wonderful place to experience the Florida Keys' maritime history. I would have loved to have seen this hustling, bustling community, (even if for only a day), in the early 1800s. A post office, stores, warehouses, and a hotel, are just a few of the buildings and businesses that once occupied this tiny island. Notables such as John James Audubon and Dr. Henry Perrine either lived on or visited the island. Take a boat ride out and enjoy this quiet, steeped-in-history place. Walk the old streets, view the ruins of this old town and feel history come alive!
Indian Key is located on the ocean side of U.S. 1 at M.M. 78.5. It is accessible only by private boat or charter boats available at nearby marinas."

Luke and I were really looking forward to paddling to this historic island in clear, aqua waters, on the Atlantic Ocean side.  When we arrived early Monday morning to get taken to the launch, it was lightening and the radar map showed more severe storms coming that way. We decided to wait out the storms in Key West for the first half of the day (a mere 1.45 min. drive from Islamaroda) and of course, like many who visit Key West, we were taken in by the atmosphere, strolling the outdoor markets, eating at a fabulous cafe JC told us about, Caroline's on Duval, that we spend most of the day there shopping and enjoying it all. When we came back through Islamaroda that afternoon, high winds had kicked in, the water looked really choppy and I did not feel comfortable paddling with Luke in non-skirted, rec boats or sit on tops on the Atlantic Ocean by ourselves with no real safety we had to pass on our Indian Key paddle as we were flying out the very next day. I didn't feel too badly though because we immediately went back to the hotel and I rented a SUP board and paddled the equally aqua waters of Key Largo....directly facing out from the beach is the Everglades National Park, I was not eager to paddle into it on a SUP because we had just seen a documentary about how the Everglades are becoming over populated with non native SNAKES like the PYTHON which can grow to 12 inches in girth. YIKES. Not to  mention the alligators! So I was content to SUP around the blue green fabulous Florida Bay and had several encounters with a very cool stork who seemed to like swimming alongside me. I could clearly see the bottom of the white sandy floor of the bay....spooky because I was always expecting to see know...undesirable swim silently near me, or under me....   There were signs at the dock stating that it was a crime to harass the manatees, I never did see one unfortunately.

Stand Up Paddling here was very peaceful, but I was missing my skirted, sleek, 17ft. touring sea kayak, I can cover a lot of distance in a sea kayak, and while the SUP was awesome, I did not feel comfortable exploring far away like I would have in my boat. I felt more comfortable staying within sight of shore....even though it was a bay, the water still kicked up some pretty large waves and large fishing vessels going by gave some fun wakes to ride out. I didn't capsize, but also did not venture out like I would have in my boat. In my boat, I have everything I need in the event of the "worst case scenario" and that is my comfort level....I like having safety gear, food, etc. with me, especially in an unfamiliar marine environment.  This was my first experience paddling in the subtropics or Caribbean of America, and as long as I was within sight of shore on the SUP, it was an amazing experience. If you get a chance to paddle in the Keys, GO! By all means GO! And be sure to look up our friends BCO while you are there! Remember, it's so SMART to use a local outfitter wherever you are, they can give you valuable information and guide services, but also remember that YOU are in charge of YOUR safety so don't ever blindly allow someone else to direct your actions, do the research of the area for yourself for tides, currents, weather etc. and it's okay to say "NO, I am not comfortable with that." I did say no to weather and waves I was uncomfortable with on our trip, and I have no regrets about it. 
Happy Paddling! 


  1. Thank you for sharing this story! The mental images it conjures up of the FL coast are lovely. The advice to trust your gut, do your research, and "just say no" is very useful too.

    ~Jessica E.

    1. Thanks and thanks so much for reading and following our blog Jessica! Hugs,