Friday April 2, 2010 (Day 1):
I got about four hours of sleep but I was way too excited to be tired. My first airplane ride was today and it was really boring. I thought it would never end. I tried to sleep but the seats were uncomfortable. So I pretty much stared at the seat in front of me - for three hours. When we landed in ft. Lauderdale, I was in total awe of the airport! It was so huge and the walls were covered in ocean murals. Alright, so it wasn’t that cool, but I was just glad to get off that plane! Then we walked outside. WOW! I immediately started to thaw. It was warm, there were palm trees everywhere, and the architecture was amazing! A bus met us outside the airport to drive us to Marathon key. We stopped at the Golden Corral on the way there and all stuffed our faces. Once we got back on the road, I started to take a nap. I woke up just before we crossed the seven-mile bridge. It was exciting to see the ocean. I hadn’t been to the ocean in several years and the water was a pretty turquoise color.
When we finally got to the Marathon, we immediately headed for the docks where our boats were supposed to meet us. (Conchy- Captain Chuck, Lady Nell- Captain Luke, and Vivid- Captain Jeff) Vivid was late though so we had to sit around for several hours and wait. There was a little store and a restaurant (Burdines) so that kept us busy for a little while. Chuck showed up later and had us (Andrew, Lauren, Abby, Tara, Jessica, Mr. Nash, and I) put our things onto the boat and he gave us some pointers about sailing and the boat. Then we had some more free time so we sat around and fished and talked. Vivid eventually showed up. We ate dinner at Burdines and then headed away from the dock to anchor for the night. Andrew and I slept on the deck of the boat and the rocking of the boat was soothing.
Saturday April 3, 2010 (Day 2):
I woke up this morning when the sun came up. I was the last one up. I ate an apple for breakfast even though I really wasn’t that hungry. We sat around for a while and it kind of annoyed me because I was so anxious to snorkel! We finally started sailing to Sombrero Reef, and because the waves were somewhat rough I finally got to understand seasickness. Wow. It was terrible. I wanted to die. In fact, I thought I was dying. I didn’t throw up though. On the boat at least. We tied up the boat to a buoy and everybody but Jessica and I jumped in. She had thrown up twice already so we were just really not excited about getting in the water anymore. Chuck convinced us to get in the water because it was supposed to make us feel better. It didn’t. I threw up in the water until there was nothing left in my stomach. Sick, I know. It was terrible, and definitely not the best way to start out the trip. I tried to snorkel for a little bit and the cold water felt good, but it just wasn’t helping my stomach at all. Jessica, Abby, Tara, and I got back on the boat because none of us were feeling well. I tried to look at the horizon but I was unsuccessful. I threw up some more. It hurt a lot and at the time I just wanted to go home. I was so disappointed! I wanted to cry. I had been so excited about snorkeling and taking underwater pictures and I was afraid that I would be sick the whole trip.
Captain Chuck suggested that I sleep on his big wrapped up sail that was sitting on deck. Let me tell you…best suggestion ever! It was so comfortable. It was like a huge beanbag chair. I slept for several hours and woke up feeling so much better! I think I could’ve probably slept longer but everyone was yelling at me to wake up because there were three dolphins swimming along with our boat as we sailed. They were amazing to watch. They swam so fast and they moved so easily through the water. I got a pretty good video of them.
On our way to our next snorkel site, we had to pass this little private island with some seriously giant houses. The people who lived there were probably celebrities or just people with way too much money. Of course docked at the island were huge yachts that cost more than my house. These people at the island definitely needed to learn to downsize. We then pulled up to another snorkeling site, Munson Rocks. The waves were a lot calmer so I decided to give snorkeling another try. I was so glad I did! It was so much fun and I didn’t get sick. The water was pretty murky though so it was hard to see anything. I almost swam into several moon jellies. It was amazing to see them up close and observe the way they move. I definitely had some “Finding Nemo” flashbacks while watching them. I got a video and some great shots of it.
Captain Chuck had told us to look in the crevices of the rocks and coral to see little critters. I saw a little crab with really long legs that was poking out of a rock. I thought it was a Tarantula at first. Then, I remembered that we were underwater and I got a closer look. Definitely a crab. I also got to see a couple sea urchins. They were pretty cool. There were some fish such as yellowtail snappers, brown chromis, blue tang, neon gobies, and gray snappers. This was my first time getting to see fish swimming in a reef and it was really exciting. I tried to get some pictures but they just moved way too fast! I also got to see a barracuda. It didn’t seem too interested in the snorkelers. It just kind of looked at me and stayed put behind a rock. The majority of my photos weren’t that great because the visibility in the water was pretty low, but it was still a great experience. I was sad to get back on the boat. Of course the moment I got back on the boat I started to feel sick again, so back to the sail I went for another nap. I woke up just in time to raft up with the other boats. We tied up to Vivid and then Lady Nell tied up on the other side of Vivid side. We all sat around and talked about what species we had seen that day and some people fished for several hours. We ate dinner on our separate boats. Our boat made a salad, chicken, mashed potatoes, and corn. It was good but I was wary to eat it because of my close encounter with my previously digested food earlier that day. The water was smooth though so chuck suggested I eat. After this I was on cleanup crew and my duty was to dump the extra food into the ocean. I was super tired and so I then went straight to bed on my comfy sail.
Sunday April 4, 2010 (Day 3)
Happy Easter! It was kind of sad to not have chocolate on Easter morning, but hey, I was in Florida! This was so much better. I woke up and felt somewhat sick so I didn’t eat breakfast. We headed out to snorkel and of course it was windy and the waves were ridiculous so I started feeling sicker. We arrived at Looe Key and I planned on getting in the water so I got all my snorkel gear ready. Mr. Nash and a couple other snorkelers got in and said the water was very murky and they couldn’t see anything so I just kind of collapsed on deck and when I woke up I had a terrible sunburn and my snorkel and mask were gone. Yep, they slid off the side of the boat while we were sailing. Luckily, our next stop was at a populated beach area that had a dive shop, so I was able to buy a new snorkel set for $30. We got to walk around on the beach for a little while and then we headed back for the boat. We sailed for what seemed like forever so I had nothing better to do than take a nap. J
We anchored in the same place where we were anchored the first night. I was on dinner crew tonight. We had cheeseburgers and mac & cheese. I ate way more than my stomach could handle and that combined with my sunburn made me feel awful. Off to bed.
Monday April 5, 2010 (Day 4)
So during the middle of the night I kept waking up and I realized that I couldn’t open my left eye. I figured I had pink eye because I get it all the time. But when I woke up this morning I realized that it had nothing to do with pink eye. My eye was swollen shut. My ear was swollen as well. I looked like Hitch (haha) whenever he had the food allergy. I took some Benadryl, put ice on my eye, and took a nap. That’s pretty much all I did today. We did go to a dive spot but I didn’t get in because I didn’t wanted to transfer whatever was causing my eye to swell to my right eye. We ate spaghetti and salad for dinner and I was on cleanup crew. Let me tell you, cleaning dishes in a poorly lit boat with one eye swollen shut is not the easiest thing to do. Today was just pretty much a fail.
Tuesday April 6, 2010 (Day 5)
I woke up and was kind of disappointed because my eye was still pretty swollen. I took some more Benadryl and ate a pancake for breakfast. We sailed to the Quarry on lower Matacume. It was so nice to get in the water because I hadn’t in the last two days. We just snorkeled around for a while and I got to see some bright orange sponges that were awesome. Then we got to the mangroves. I got some awesome pictures! It really brightened my day because I had been so down the last two days. Then we kept snorkeling and once again the water was murky so we really didn’t see much. There was a sunken boat several feet down, but it was kind of creepy, so I didn’t get many pictures. We snorkeled some more mangroves for a little while longer and then headed back to the boat.
I actually ate lunch today! Yeah me! I had a Turkey Sandwich and half of a PB&J Sandwich. It was good and I felt a lot better. We started sailing again and we stopped at Lignumvitae Key to go see a botanical park and we had to swim to the docks. It was a long swim. We figured we were trespassing but no one was there to stop us. We walked towards the park and were stopped by a fence that said it was closed. Mr. Nash’s conscience got the better of him and so we swam all the way back to the boat empty handed.
We headed off for Shell Key to snorkel some more mangroves. It was awesome. I got to see so much and I got to collect a lot of seashells. I saw a ton of snappers, crabs, and a number of juvenile fish that were hard to I.D. They mostly hung out in the mangroves so getting pictures was very difficult. There were also a lot of comb jellies that were pretty awesome. I got a couple cool pictures of them that showed their bioluminescent sides. And then I was snorkeling along, minding my own business when this Atlantic black sea hare swam out of the mangroves at me. It can only be described at a giant red and black slug with wings. It kind of scared me, I’m not going to lie, because it was just so weird. I had never seen one before and I didn’t know if it was poisonous or something. I hit Mr. Nash to get his attention and he immediately started touching it and picking it up so I knew I was okay. That thing followed us around. It was crazy. I got a video of it swimming and I even got to hold it! It stuck to my hand and left a mucous trail, which was kind of gross, but it was still really tight. It seriously made my day. It brightened the whole trip for me.
We snorkeled there for quite a while, but we started heading back to the boat when the water got cold and it started getting somewhat dark. We ate a dinner of chips & salsa and burritos. After cleanup we just decided to sit below deck and chill for a little while. Chuck called down to us and said that there were little bioluminescent critters in the water. We ran on deck and watched them for a little while. They were like purple fireflies, but underwater. Then, Mr. Nash grabbed a pole and started stirring up the water and the water really lit up. It was amazing. It was a good way to end the night.
Wednesday April 7, 2010 (Day 6)
I woke up this morning ready for anything and everything. I had mini wheats for breakfast and then we headed out for Hens & Chickens Reef. To get there we had to pass through a very rich residential channel. The houses there were ridiculous! The channel passed under a low highway bridge so they had to stop traffic on the bridge and lift it up to let us pass. Then we were back into open ocean for a while and then we finally made it to Hens & Chickens Reef. The reef had a really cool rusted lighthouse and we were able to snorkel for about an hour. The coral formations there were different from anything I had seen so far. They were like pillars of coral just randomly placed throughout the water. To get to the coral I had to dive down several feet so I didn’t get to observe as many fish. I saw some gray snappers, tomtates, caesar grunts, blue-striped grunts, and a mahogany snapper. While snorkeling, I swallowed a ton of salt water (yuck!) and the water was really choppy and murky so we decided to head to Alligator Reef.
I went below deck to the V-birth and took a nap while we sailed because I felt seasick. I woke up to Andrew yelling “We’re here! The water is so clear!” Of course I wanted to see the clear water since the water had had been murky at all of our other snorkel sights, but I still felt sick. Snorkeling in clear water was such a different experience! The colors in the fish and the coral were so much brighter. It was beautiful. I saw a lot of yellowtail snappers, sergeant majors, and gray snappers. I also saw a couple blue tangs and a Spanish grunt. I kept getting hit hard by the waves and I swallowed a whole bunch of saltwater so I felt sick. After 40 minutes I ended up getting out of the water and taking a nap while the others snorkeled for another couple hours. When the others finally got out of the water they showed me some of the photos they took. I was so jealous! They got to see parrotfish, hogfish, groupers, sharks, and puffers. I wanted to see those species so bad! We sailed for what seemed like forever and I stayed on the deck for the whole time which was a bad idea. I have sunburns galore! For dinner we had barbeque chicken, cero mackerel (that Andrew caught), stuffing, and baked beans. I cooked the beans and I heard they were really good. (Beans=gross) I still hadn’t taken a bath, brushed my hair, or shaved at this point.
Today we figured out what was causing my eye to swell. I got bad sunburns on my face and feet when I fell asleep on the deck of the boat with the left side of my body exposed for several hours. My ear, eye, and feet swelled to compensate for all the moisture I had lost in my skin through the burns.
Thursday April 8th, 2010 (Day 7)
It was very windy and the water was pretty murky today so we didn’t snorkel. We all woke up late and I felt sick so I didn’t eat breakfast. We then set sail for Indian Key and to get there we had to pass through the channel again. I slept until we arrived at the key where we ate a lunch of tuna salad sandwiches. While we were anchored there, we saw at least a dozen dolphins, including some babies, swimming and playing. Chuck gave us some sailboat terminology when we were done eating and told us a little history of Indian key. We then jumped in the water and swam to the shore; A very rocky shore. After everyone had made it to Indian key, Vivid’s captain, Jeff, told us a very detailed history and gave us a tour of the island. It was so interesting and he was an amazing teacher. He taught us about the plants on the island, especially the century plants. I collected a lot of seashells and took some good pictures.
After the tour was over, we swam back to our boats and started heading towards Long Key Bight. Once we got there we made a dinner of burritos and potato salad. We played cards and talked for a while. We then played the cup game and I was the second person to understand the trick to the game. J “OKAY. I can play the cup game. Can you play the cup game?”
Friday April 9th, 2010 (Day 8)
Today was AMAZING! We woke up pretty early and had cereal for breakfast because we were all ready to start snorkeling. I finally convinced myself to take some Dramamine. I was pretty proud of myself. I only wish that I had started taking the medicine earlier on in the trip. It made a huge difference. I felt great all day. Our first snorkel site for the day was Coffin’s Patch and the Dramamine knocked me out so I was asleep the entire journey.
I woke up when we got there and jumped into the somewhat clear water even though there had been several sightings of portugese man o’ wars in the area. It was great. I saw so many different species of fish: Yellowtail snappers, sergeant majors, chubs, stoplight parrotfish, striped parrotfish, rainbow parrotfish, banded butterflyfish, a trumpetfish, a porcupinefish, a scrawled cowfish, a ton of blue tang, barjacks, yellowtail damselfish, and a gray angelfish. At one point I got way to close to a man o’ war and everyone was yelling at me to get out of the way. It scared me! I was the last one to get out of the water and immediately after I got back on the boat we headed for Sombrero Reef.
Sombrero was crystal clear and amazing. I saw a bunch of the same fish as at Coffin’s Patch, plus a barracuda, a nurse shark, a queen angelfish, a couple spotfin butterflyfish, several brown chromis, schoolmasters, ocean surgeonfish, a queen parrotfish, a couple foureye butterflyfish, many bluehead wrasse, yellowhead wrasses, and a Spanish grunt.
There were also a ton of comb jellies! Those jellies were everywhere! The spur-and-groove coral formations were amazing. That was the first time that I got to see some and it was crazy how large some of the formations were. I had to dive down about 7 feet just to get to the coral and then it was another 15 feet down to the sandy bottom. I definitely didn’t have the lung capacity to dive down that deep. Again, I was last to get out of the water and when I got onto the boat everyone was observing a beautiful blue, black, and silver fish that Mr. Nash had caught in a jar. It was a man o’ war fish.
We then headed back to the marina where we had started last Friday. Before we got there we anchored and had a joy bath. I felt so much better afterwards! At the docks, we split up and ate dinner. Some ate at Burdines, and others ate at Castaway. I chose Castaway because I wanted seafood! It was delicious. I got the captains fried platter which included fish, shrimp, clams, oysters, scallops, crab, and crab cakes. It was a great way to end the trip. We anchored for the night out away from the dock.
April 10th, 2010 (Day 9)
I woke up super early today and started getting my bags packed. Then we helped Chuck to clean up his boat. We headed back to the marina and said our goodbyes to our captains. Then, we were on our way home! J It was kind of a bittersweet moment to be going home. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip but I was ready to go home and see my family and friends. I was also very ready to use a bathroom with a toilet that flushes!