Outdoors in the Keys

What does everyone wish for when they travel or vacation? Good weather. We didn’t have good weather, we had great weather. First on the list – beach time! We packed a picnic lunch and headed to nearby Bahia Honda State Park.

Sparkling water to swim in.

Sand to wiggle toes in.

Al enjoyed watching boats in the distance.

I enjoyed a walk on the beach after a refreshing swim. No sea glass, no shells. 🙁

A conch shell near the edge of the water. There was a still living tenant inside so the shell stayed right there.

Amanda’s father, Bill, joined the four of us for dinner at the Square Grouper, well known for its fresh seafood menu as well as its environmentally friendly “green” approach (all paper products and straws are made from corn products.)

The Square Grouper. Not much to look at on the outside. And what is a “square grouper”??

The name, “Square Grouper” and it’s funky, slang meaning belies the excellent food and interior ambiance. “Square grouper” refers to the square bales of marijuana that drug smugglers would toss out of planes into the sea.  the ocean current carried the bales to the Keys to be picked up, back in the 1970s and 1980s.

The full story from the bottom of the menu. I like the whimsy of it. It was one of the first times I felt like I was in the quirky wacky Florida Keys and not just an ordinary beach resort town. I say that as someone who has never even tried weed. Really.

Family dinner –
Bill, me, and Al
Our kids – Amanda and Tim

Three seafood dinners and one barbecue pork. All delicious. Square Grouper does an excellent job.

In spite of our full tummies, we went all in and chose a dessert. The five of us shared this banana cream puff topped with chocolate. Oh so good!

After a good night’s sleep, the next day was more outdoor time. Yeah!! Tim took the day off and we all headed over to Bill’s on the other side of Big Pine Key. The plan — use the 18-foot Boston Whaler to go snorkeling.The five of us with gear and lunches piled into the boat and out the canal to “bigger” waters between Big Pine and No Name Keys.

Smiling, happy faces anticipating a day on the water and in the water.
And my sweetheart in the bow.

The water was bigger, as in wider, but not very deep. The big water farther out also looked very choppy to Bill so he decided it wasn’t the best day for snorkeling. 🙁  Oh well, so we turned around. The engine raced, but the boat suddenly slowed down, significantly. Uh oh. Did the prop hit the bottom?? The trip back was decidedly slower and more cautious.

Backing the boat in for a closer look at that prop. Is this a prop study group?

The Watson duo, Bill and his friend all studied that prop. No damage visible. Tim, our techie, quickly searched on his phone for answers. Conclusion – The prop had “spun.”

When the guys announced that the “prop was spun,”  I thought that was an odd conclusion to make. Of course the prop spins ! It’s a prop and that’s what they do – SPIN! Right?  Silly me. “Spun your prop” is actually a technical term, of sorts. Evidently the prop was older and the stress of having 5 people in it was too much. A  rubber sleeve that is pressed into the center of the prop was old and hard, got too hot and couldn’t grip the metal inside, so it “slipped.” When this happens you are lucky if you can even coax idle speed out of it.

Change of plans – let’s all go kayaking. Bill led the way to show us a hidden place.

On our way from Bill’s house on the canal over to No Name Key.

Just for reference:
Bill’s house is the yellow dot.
Red dot is about as far as the whaler got before the “prop was spun.”
Back to the yellow dot.
Purple dot – The hidden entrance to a very cool kayak experience.

The entrance into the mangroves was very concealed. Without Bill’s guidance, we would never have found it. This hidden gem turned out to be my favorite Keys adventure.

We all follow Bill, single file, one after another into the mangroves. Literally.

The route is narrow with only an occasional wider section. That means you can’t turn around. It is so narrow that it is impossible to paddle most of the time. Propulsion is by arms, pulling on the mangrove roots. So glad I had a short kayak to maneuver.

Al’s long arms gave him an advantage in the arm propulsion method. I will confess that I occasionally considered the possibility of an alligator or a snake.

Of course there has to be a selfie here in the mangroves.

WooHoo! We popped out into an open area.

We kayaked around the baby and adolescent mangrove “islands” in this shallow body of water.

VERY SHALLOW WATER

Amanda and me

Tim found a geocache, without the assistance of a GPS. Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate (on land or water) to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. Tim wrote a note for the container.

Al created this graphic to show our possible route through the mangroves.

Guess that spun prop was a good thing. 😉

Another sunset to end another day.

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