Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Hanging With the Sportsmen in the Lower Keys ... (and Contest Winners!)

Posted by Scot

Happy to wake you!  See you again soon.
As we sail up the Atlantic side of the Florida Keys, we find ourselves in the self-proclaimed “Sport Fishing Capital of the World”.  During our time in the Caribbean, we have had the pleasure of being “waked” by sport fishing boats everywhere we have been.  But nowhere has it been as frequent or as enthusiastic as it is here.

Sport fishing strikes me as a curious “sport”.  Armed with nothing but hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of boats and gear, and copious amounts of beer, these intrepid athletes set out on the sunniest and calmest of days.  Once at their chosen destination, they pit themselves against some of nature’s dumbest creatures to see who can reign victorious in a classic struggle of man against beast.  If they are clever enough to trick a fish into biting their lure, then the real fight begins.  Again and again, they must turn a little handle in a single direction to slowly reel the monster in.  No chef beating eggs has ever had to use his wrist and forearm more vigorously.  Once the beast is finally in the boat, the coup de grace comes from a swift blow to the head.  Or, failing that, the fish will soon be dead due to simple suffocation.

Out for some sport.
In an effort to be as environmentally friendly as possible, between these pitched battles they roar along at full throttle, in straight lines, from location to location.  This way, they can keep their fuel consumption costs down to less than $50.00 per hour.  If a hapless sailboat gets in their way, they are not put off.  Despite the fact that miles of open ocean may be available on either side, they scream by as close as possible.  As the sailboat is rocked violently and helplessly in their wake, they flip a casual, friendly wave, as if to say “You’re welcome.  If you’re lucky, I’ll get you again on my way back!”

Burning fuel, burning money.
Needless to say, we will not miss these noble sportsmen when we leave their happy hunting grounds.

After leaving Stock Island (Key West), our next stop along the Keys was the Bahia Honda State Park.  This was an interesting anchorage.  It was wedged in between two bridges.  The old bridge had a section taken out to allow sailboats and their tall masts through.  The new bridge was much lower, so barred our passing any farther.

Coming into the anchorage at Bahia Honda, through the old Overseas Highway bridge.
It was a well done park, with a great little gift shop and snack stand.  We were pleased to see that, now that we are back in America, a single scoop ice cream cone really means about two and half scoops, pressed down tight with the scooper.  We all agreed that Belizean ice cream scoopers should have to spend some time training in the U.S. to learn how to serve up a proper cone.

After refreshing ourselves with ice cream, we stopped by the ranger’s nature station, then hiked up on the old bridge to check out the view.  The clarity of the water in the Keys easily rivals that of the Bahamas.  I guess that makes sense, since we are at about the same latitude.  It is a wonderful thing to be able to look down in 20 or 30 feet of water and easily see lobster traps, turtles, and fish on the bottom.

Looking down the old highway.
Heading back into the park from the old highway.
Enjoying a swim in the crystal clear waters at Bahia Honda.
We had a great night at Bahia Honda.  At first we weren’t sure if it would be a good anchorage.  We had read it could be a bit rolly.  But for us, once the fishermen went home, it was calm and pleasant all night long.

Monashee leaving the park, as seen from the old bridge.
Gliding through the clear waters.  After they took this picture, the boys ran down to the water from the old bridge, jumped in the dinghy, and caught up with us before we left.

Contest Winners:

For those that have been following the blog, you will remember that in my last post, I introduced a mysterious sea creature, and asked for your thoughts on identification.

Out of thousands of entries (OK, actually two), we had two Grand Prize winners, so congratulations to you both! 

The first correct answer came from Diane, Evan and Maia, salty veterans of the sea that they are.  They not only identified the creature correctly as a Sea Hare, but also provided it’s full scientific identification, all the way from the Kingdom (Animalia) right down to the genus and species (Aplysia dactylomela).  As a biologist, I love that they gave the full classification.

As a prize for Diane, Evan, and Maia, here is a picture of a sister ship to theirs, which we saw in Robbie’s marina in Key West.

Spelled slightly differently, but how many Ceilydh's can there be out there?
The other prize goes to Tom Mountain, who also identified the creature as a Sea Hare.  He also got bonus points for identifying the bird as an immature Sandhill Crane.  I have no idea if he is right about that, but it sounds good.  For his prize, here is another picture of that bird.

A full length picture of the bird outside our boat, which it appears is probably a Sandhill Crane.

Thanks for entering the contest, everyone!  For anyone who wants to learn more about Sea Hares, here is a link to an interesting web page that describes the one we saw.  If you don’t want to go to the effort of reading a whole separate page (lazy! - how will you ever learn?) , I believe the creature we saw was a Sooty Sea Hare, whose Latin name is Aplysia brasiliana.

They are officially my new favourite hermaphrodite.

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