Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Kayaking Islamorada

Even though I was staying at the beautiful Pines & Palms Resort,  I couldn't wait to get away, so to speak, and out on the water. From the front step of my ocean front cottage, I inflated my Sea Eagle 370 kayaks and hauled them a few yards to the boat launch. There was quite the audience to see me off. Seems like everyone was up and enjoying a cup of coffee at 8:00 AM and fascinated with the 20 minute process of inflating the kayaks.

If you have been following this blog, you know I have been floating around South Florida and each time I write about it, I've stretched the limits. This trip stretched my limits of endurance, heat tolerance, and fear. The entire trip was about 6 1/2 miles, two islands, several channel crossings and four foot seas.....ok like maybe two foot seas but the kayak is only 18 inches tall.

The day started out easy for the first five minutes but a strong current heading in one direction and a steady wind in another made for some very difficult tracking with the Sea Eagle. Being an eleven foot balloon, it's very easily redirected by the wind. The current in the channels certainly did not help as the tide was changing from low to high as we began our journey.

Lignumvitae Key Way off in the distance
The only way to overcome the forces of nature was to paddle hard and maintain maximum speed. Something we did for three long miles to Lignumvitae Key. There were several fellow kayakers close to shore but as soon as my friend and I headed to open water, we found ourselves very alone very quickly.

This was the most open ocean I ever tried to cross in the Sea Eagle (or anything without a motor) and it was quite a ride. Waves with an occasional white cap struck the kayak from the front or side fairly randomly and regularly but after taking a shot or two over the bow, I realized it was going to take a lot more to roll the kayak over. I was concerned being so far offshore with Florida's notoriously unpredictable weather but it was obviously going to be a better afternoon than morning so I stopped dreading and started enjoying.

We pulled up to Lignumvitae Key and had a little picnic on the dock. After a small snack and a big drink of water, we decided to explore the island. Since this is a state park, we met a very enthusiastic ranger who gave us a seemingly complete history of the island. I was not all that excited to get right back in the kayak and paddle 3 miles home so sitting and listening to some well narrated Florida history was just fine. That is right up to the point we were told about Indian Key. As far as I could tell from the map, visiting Indian Key was going to take us even farther from home. My friend was ready to increase our kayak challenge to an extreme adventure day and I reluctantly agreed.

We hopped back in the kayaks and at 11:15 AM we headed for our next and very unscheduled stop. We rode part of the way close to the channel so we had a bit of a push.  Indian Key looked like a spec of trees on the horizon when we started out but after much paddling, we discovered a pretty sizable island. Luckily the wind was with us this time and the wave action has subsided considerably. We made landfall on a sharp coral clearing and carried the kayaks to the beach so as not to shred them miles from the mainland. The first thing we saw was a little shell rock road with a street sign. Seemed like a joke until we realized the entire island was crisscrossed by little roads. In 1836, it was actually a thriving town and the county seat for Dade County. Hard to imagine. There are plenty of little signs around the island to in case you want a full blown history lesson.

Ok, enough fun in the sun. Time to paddle back. Water was running low and home was against the wind. For the first time we took some breaks and really took in the beauty around us. Jelly fish the size of dinner plates floated by, a Tarpon shot under the kayaks like a three foot torpedo, and some fins popped out of the water in front of us. My friend thought they were cute little dolphins. I'll let her keep thinking that until she realizes there was no spouting.

We made it back to the hotel about 3:00 PM, had the kayaks rinsed, dried, and in the bags by 4:00 PM. A fantastic day deserved a fantastic dinner but first a beer with our new friends on the pool deck. I was happy to have made it back with no problems but even happier I packed so much sight seeing into a single day.


  1. I am so glad South Florida Daily Blog reported on your blog. I love the back country and the water here. I look forward to reading more.

  2. @ maria - Thanks and thanks for letting me know about the mention in South Florida Daily Blog. I have one more keys posting then more exploring to do.

  3. Whoa! This is WAAAAY more adventurous than I expected! I thought Islamorada would be all coconuts and coffee breaks - but this is an AMAZING adventure!

  4. For most people (maybe all people) the keys are pretty much laid back like a Jimmy Buffet song. I like to put a little more effort into my fun. This was actually over the limit but ended perfectly fine and with a drink in my hand so I guess it was like a Jimmy Buffet song.

  5. @ Maria - I have not as of yet. Until I bought the inflatable, I always rented kayaks. Since I'm generally out more than 4 hours, it's typically a $60.00 day. I prefer the much quieter waters of Anne Kolb on Sheridan which is also closest to where I live. I post about the more crazy trips. After Oleta, I pretty much want to avoid boat traffic.

    I saw your Fairchild blog. Such a great read. I will give it more attention this weekend.

  6. I stopped blogging about Fairchild after I broke my leg and couldn't volunteer anymore. I was just there on Wednesday though and am considering starting up again.