Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Good News, and Come Snorkeling With US


Cudjoe Key, Florida (high 85, low 78)


Well, our heat wave has broken, but only because of a “cold front” that actually made it all the way down to the Keys.  There is a strong squall line passing over us right now.  So far there has been just a little thunder, lightning and wind, but we’ve gotten a lot of rain.

I guess we won’t be going out in the boat today.

The good news is that the owner of the house behind us has offered to let us park our boat on his seawall in the canal behind his place.  As soon as the weather passes by we will have a place to dock our boat in the water. Yay!

I was going to post about our evening in Key West for the Annual Conch Republic days,  it’s more fun to post underwater photos.

We’ve had a few days out in the boat on the Atlantic side at Looe Key Reef National Marine Sanctuary.  It’s a not to be missed place to visit if you are in the lower Keys.  (Sherry and David, did you hear that?)

We also discovered some nice spots on the gulf/bay side near the area where we almost spent the night.  :)


Come along on a snorkel trip with us.

This fish looks like two fish, but it’s actually only one. I think it is a deformed angel fish. It seemed healthy.

deformed fish

This is a group of large yellowtail snapper, which are my second favorite fish to eat.   I wish we could catch some this size.  We were in the marine sanctuary, so no spearing or catching these guys!



This is a typical plant that waves back and forth in the ocean currents. I am not sure of the name of it. If you’re inclined to be seasick, this doesn’t help.


This big rock like structure was probably a large piece of brain coral.  The Keys had a massive coral die off years ago and this is all that is left of this one.  If you look on the top it appears some type of coral growing on the top.  The orange stuff is a sponge.   The fish in the bottom center looking at me was a gray angelfish.



Here  is a close up of his cute little face.


Here is a better picture of the old piece of coral with new coral growing. Coral is very, very slow growing.   Mote Marine Laboratory has discovered a way to speed up the process and they have planted “coral farms” in various places here in the Keys.


This next picture shows a typical reef scene with the purple sea fans.  They used to be abundant in the Keys, but not so much anymore.


This next picture shows a fish cleaning station.   The big blue and purple fish is a tang.  He is waiting patiently for the tiny yellow fish to clean his skin.  The tang seems to be in a sort of a trance. Symbiosis between the two fish.  I’ve seen large grouper with their large mouths wide open, while cleaner crabs or small fish clean the inside of their mouths. They make a deal.,  I won’t eat you and you’ll get a free meal inside my mouth.   The yellow cleaner fish is tiny and hard to see but he’s there on the back  side of the middle fish.

I watched this for several minutes.


This is a typical shallow reef scene.  We were snorkeling in only about 4 feet of water.  That’s a great depth for snorkeling.  If you go over 6-8 feet without a scuba tank, you can’t see nearly as much and you lose a lot of color. We didn’t have good vis that particular day.

reef sceen, multiple fish  

This is a hogfish (my first favorite fish to eat). They change color all the time.  Sometimes they are white and sometimes black head with white body. 


This next one is a juvenile that is orange and white striped.


This hog fish appeared almost white. He blends in with the sand.

lighthogfish and tang


This is a school of Sergeant majors.  The visibility (vis) wasn’t very good that day.


Out of the murky water came this nurse shark.


She came right towards me for a minute so I backed off a little and  turned and swam on down the reef.

nurse shark

Lobster season ended March 31, but look at all these lobster!


I found that I could stick my camera down into the hole and the lobster would touch my lens.  This guy touched my camera, got scared and scooted back into his hole.  Notice the scattered sand?



There are plenty of lobster everywhere.  It looks to be a good season coming up, but we won’t be here.

This is a sea cucumber.


This is a parrot fish.  They are large fish, probably about 24 inches long. 


They chomp on coral and poop out sand.  Remember that the next time you’re laying on a white sand beach.  :) If you look carefully at the fish in the photo above, you can see some newly minted sand.

parrot fish


The green appears sort of iridescent.


There are always plenty of curious barracuda.



I’m not sure when we’ll be able to get back out on the boat.  The cold front is bringing some wind for the next few days.

Sorry for so many photos.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Not the Kind of Email You Want


Cudjoe Key, Florida (high 90, low 90)

It’s getting mighty hot here in the Keys.

Al and I had a discussion yesterday about when we are leaving the Keys. I find it hard to believe it’s not summer everywhere and when I see pictures of snow, it shocks me to realize it’s not July or August!

We want to get some more boating days before we leave, but I’m thinking we need to leave in about 2 more weeks, so that we can spend some time in Tampa with Mom before we head to the mountains.


So, the last post, I mentioned a disturbing email we received while in Key West at the parade.


This is what we learned:

A a boat was fueling up at our marina and put approximately 20 gallons of fuel in their rod holder, rather than their fuel tank.
Just wanted to let everyone know the situation is under control. The Fire Department and the Coast Guard are here and we are taking every precaution as directed by them. We are waiting for a licensed salvage operation to come and pump the fuel out of the bilge.

Until the boat is out of the water the Fire Department has asked that everyone stay away from the boat ramp, marina, salt water swim area, and TGIF area as a precaution, as well as to not interfere with the salvage operation.

The situation should be resolved shortly and there is NO CAUSE FOR ALARM. The Fire Department and Coast Guard are well equipped to handle this situation and are doing their best to resolve it as quickly as possible.



The salvage company will be here at 7am to pump out the fuel and remove the boat. All fuel is still contained within the boat. The authorities believe it is safer to perform a pump out during daylight hours. We have a guard standing watch at the boat ramp overnight to ensure no one goes near the area. Please stay clear until the salvage operation is complete.

UH OH. Somebody had a very bad day!

When we got back home at about 11pm (yes believe it or not, we actually stayed out past dark) the boat ramp was blocked off.  We could see the boat still in the water and there was yellow crime scene tape all over the area. 

We had planned on going out in the boat the next morning, but at 7am the salvage guy still hadn’t arrived.

Everyone else was there waiting.

Hazmat at Venture Out

We had a difficult time understanding how someone could pump 23 gallons of fuel into the rod holders.  The fuel tank has a screw on lid, the rod holders are wide open.  What we were told was that he took the fuel cap off, then the boat moved a little for some reason and when he put the fuel nozzle into the fuel tank, he accidently put it into the wrong hole.   Alcohol involved?   We wondered.

So 23 gallons of gasoline was all pumped into the bilge of the boat, which is between the floor and the hull.  You have an automatic bilge pump that pumps water out of the bilge when necessary.  We assume he turned off the bilge pump, but could that cause a spark?  We noticed he left his GPS on overnight, so maybe he was told not to touch anything electrical.

It was a fire and an environmental  hazard and the fire department was taking it very seriously.

We watched the action from a distance.

Hazmat at Venture Out

I felt sorry for the firemen in their suits. It was terribly hot, even at 8am.

Hazmat at Venture Out

The salvage guy was supposed to arrive at 7am, but he was late.  Not only could no one use the marina, but no one could get boat fuel either, and several boats were turned away.  People come from all over to buy our fuel and there are not a lot of other options by water.

Finally the salvage guy came and proceeded to start pumping out the fuel.  The guy on the dock in the white t-shirt is boat owner/guilty party.

Hazmat at Venture Out

Hazmat at Venture Out

The salvage guys were very, very careful to not spill any more fuel into the water than necessary.  What little leakage they had was cleaned up with a skimmer and absorbent towels.  The fuel was pumped into those plastic jugs.  At $3.59 a gallon, this guy wasted 23 gallons of fuel!

The fire crew was ready, just in case.

Hazmat at Venture Out

If you ever need a clean up crew. These guys are available.  :)

Hazmat at Venture Out

I’m sure this was a very, very expensive lesson for this boat owner.  The fire department, EMT, Coast Guard, and clean up people were all there for various periods of time.   His boat liability insurance should have covered this bill, but we saw him giving the clean up guy his debit card.  He will get a bill from the Coast Guard, Fire Department and EMT more than likely.  This is a good lesson on why we all need to carry plenty of liability insurance.  Can you imagine if that boat had caught fire by the fuel docks?

The clean up took about 4 hours and once they all left we were finally able to get our boat into the water.   We headed offshore to Looe Key Reef and did some snorkeling on a shallow part of the reef.

Here are a few shots I took of a school of parrotfish.

Parrot Fish

two Parrot Fish

Can you spot the little hogfish in the foreground towards the right side?  That is our favorite fish to eat.




Here is another of a hogfish.

parrot fish, hog snapper


We snorkeled around for awhile then came up with the intention of moving to another spot.   Once we climbed into the boat, we realized  it was getting pretty choppy and it would take us longer to get back in, so we decided to head back home.  We had a big night planned in Key West.  That was the night for the Conch Republic Battle on the waterfront.

Stay tuned.  It was a fun night full of toilet paper, water canons, and fun.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Tequila, The Soup of the Day?


Cudjoe Key, Florida (high 90, low 80)

We’ve had a very busy few days between parades, hazmat team, snorkeling, toilet paper bombs at the battle for the Conch Republic.

The annual Key West celebration continued all week long and we celebrated right along with the rest of the “Conchs.” (pronounced conks)   If you missed my post about when Key West succeeded from the Union, you can read it HERE.

Thursday night was the big parade.  Our favorite band, Howard Livingston and the Mile Marker 24 Band was going to be playing at Schooner Wharf after the parade.  Howie was going to be singing on a float on the “worlds longest parade” which ran from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean.

We got down to Key West early so that we could get a parking place.

It was hot, so the plan was to have  dinner at Jimmy Buffets Margaritaville, which is air conditioned. There are a lot of fun open air restaurants but we were looking for cool. They are nice for people watching though.

Duval street

Afterwards, we  still had time to kill so we walked down Duval and into an art gallery where we discovered the work of Terry Gilecki and his paintings of Coi fish.  Take a minute and click on this link  and see his amazing work.   HERE

Anytime you’re on Duval Street, you will see interesting things.

legalize marijuana

Only in Key West will you see an Ostrich riding a bicycle and playing a boom box.

ostrich on bike

It wasn’t time for the parade to start yet so we went into “The Bull” for a quick drink and to watch a group that was playing. They put on a great show.  They played the old style 60’s girl group music, like It’s My Party, Baby Love and others we remembered from years ago.


This was a sign behind the bar.  I had to blur out one word.


Back outside and on Duval crowds started to line up on both sides of the street waiting for the parade.   


This was an interesting couple.  He had a big camera and she was knitting.  I thought this was the oddest thing yet!


Soon, we started hearing Howie singing “Magic in Key West” and “Living on Key West Time,”  so we knew the parade had started. By this time it was getting dark, so my pictures didn’t turn out very well and I was having too much fun to worry much about them.


These guys had some sort of bubble making thing that supplied huge bubbles which were very cool.



The music brought everyone to life and we were all having a good time.  The streets were lined with people snapping pictures, but I decided we needed to join the parade, so Al reluctantly followed me and we  jumped right in behind Howie and his pirate entourage.   I’ll bet there are some pictures of us walking in the parade like we belonged!

Local legend Mel Fisher was in the parade in spirit.  He was the one who discovered the wreck of the Atocha in the waters right offshore.  He searched for that wreck for many years and his motto was “today’s the day.”  He lost family members in the search, but he finally struck gold (literally) on July 20, 1985 to the tune of some $450 million dollars.   We actually met Mel in Key West the very next year in front of his museum.  I need to dig up the picture I took of him with Al and our friend Wally.

Mel has since passed away, but no parade in Key West would be complete without Mel, so he was included.  That’s him in the middle.  :) Those chains around his neck in the picture were real gold. He walked around town with huge gold chains that were found on the wreck.

Mel Fisher

We had been walking behind these people and didn’t know who the guy in the middle was until we got in front of them.  We recognized ole Mel right away!

Mel Fisher


Key West dignitaries, I guess?


The music got everyone fired up, including us!




This next picture of the Whistle bar, below that was the Bull where we watched the girl singers.  On top, where the lights are is the Garden of Eden, which is a clothing optional bar.


The parade ended at the Schooner Wharf bar where the rest of Howie’s band was waiting for him.  Al decided that maybe we should go up ahead and see if we could get a place to sit, so we left the parade and buzzed over to the bar. There weren’t many seats but we found a nice place on the top deck overlooking the harbor with  a wonderful ocean breeze!  We couldn’t really see the band, but we heard them and it was nice and cool.



It was a really fun night, and we didn’t leave until after 10pm (a record for us).  Before we left Key West, we got a disturbing e-mail from the general manager at Venture Out (where our lot is).  It appears we had a hazmat issue at the RV park. Things were under control, but it wasn’t the kind of e-mail you want to receive. 

More about that next time.