For those of you who have been following my journey, my snowbirding experience here in Key West has certainly been an adventure. I have had the opportunity to watch the season change from winter (Really? Winter is a season here?) to spring, and fully witness the everyday happenings of island life, here in the Florida Keys.
One of the most exciting things about being here has been the everyday opportunity to get out on the water. There is so much to explore here where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Atlantic Ocean, and it’s all right at your fingertips. Playing for the day aboard a local charter is a must when visiting Key West–and a total bonus when you get to partake in the adventure with friends you finally get to meet from back home who also share your obsession with the Southernmost City!
Waking up with the roosters and taking an early morning (peacefully dark, I might add!) walk down to the dock for a 7 a.m. half-day charter is magical when this little rock is still asleep. But, even more magical, is watching the sunrise over the harbor as you leave port and head out for a “Sunday Funday” offshore of Key West. The Conch Republic is well known for its sunsets, but the early morning light and color show over this tiny island is equally as magnificent!
As we made our way offshore, I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a sea turtle from the flybridge and watch flocks of birds in synchronicity, swoosh past the bow as we set out to sea. It’s not uncommon for dolphins to come and play in the wake and alongside the boat when venturing out in these waters, so I made sure to keep a look out for these wondrous creatures too. What an incredible way to wake up with the ocean!
The first stop on our scenic tour brought us by Ballast Key– famous for the home that “Fast Buck Freddie” built (or perhaps your very own pockets, if you were an avid home décor shopper in Key West’s former famed department store on Duval). This house is a sight to see, even from a distance! And a distance we kept, since rumor has it, if you get too close, the groundskeeper will ward you off with his rifle!
Next, we made our way out to Boca Grande Key. This beautifully breathtaking island is pretty much the stuff island dreams are made of (beaching a boat this large was exceptionally impressive too!). We were the first to arrive on shore that day, which meant that we were also the first to gather up and see some amazing treasures! Newly washed up seashells, sponges and coral, along with hermit crabs, nostalgic lobster traps, and even a freshly hatched sea turtle nest, were among our finds. Oh, the stories such a pristine place would tell if you were there to witness it all arrive ashore. Walking along the shoreline, and around the magnificent mangroves (this area is protected so you are unable to set foot further into the Key itself), the backdrop was something straight out of a Corona commercial with the incredible shades of blue that the water seemed to shimmer and show off just for us. We made sure to stop and get a picture near the lone palm tree that stands proudly untouched by mother nature, before we headed back to the boat.
After our island exploration, we arrived back at the boat to enjoy our brunch and begin another adventure. The next sight to see was an old Navy ship that had been purposefully sunk to be used for target practice years ago. Parts of the ship still protrude up out of the water, so this makes for great sights both above and under the water. Cormorants lined what was left of the bow, while barracudas zoomed past the boat and a shark patrolled the area in the distance. This wreck makes for a great place to snorkel, but being as spoiled as we are down here, the water temperature, in the mid-70s, was still a little chilly for some of us!
As we made our way back to the harbor, while more boats began to head out for the day, I began to think about how grateful I am for this experience I’ve been manifesting here in the Keys for so many years. One of my favorite parts of the trip was spending time with new friends from back home. These people share my love and passion for Key West and to have connected with them while we share the same hometown roots, made it all the more special. Throughout my time here in the Keys, it is the people that have become an important part of my journey and, for that, I am exceptionally blessed.
Arriving back to the dock before lunch, the harbor now fully alive with tourists and locals alike, it was clear everyone was glowing from our day on the water, and our island adventure. My offshore was “chum-full” of sunshine, fun and friendship. And all of this in a mere 4 hours—imagine 6 or 8? Next time, maybe we’ll paddleboard through some mangroves, take a trip to another local marina for lunch, visit the Marquesas Keys, brave the waters for some snorkeling, take a sunset cruise or even plan an over-nighter to the Dry Tortugas. I’m not sure what the next island adventure will bring, but I do know, I can hardly wait!