A Day In The Life……

March 25th, 2012

What a great day today!  One so full of anticipation.  After three weeks of battling the wind, we received the beautiful day we have been waiting for!  I was a little disappointed to lose a few people that had cancelled last minute and decided to do things on their own.  They decided to paddle in a mud puddle on the other side of town because it was $10 cheaper.  I can’t speak for their day, but I know what I know and I’m sure they got exactly what they paid for.

All was soon forgotten when I arrived at Sombrero Beach and was greeted with calm and clear water delivered at the top of a strong incoming tide.  I took my time getting set up, adjusting the seats and watching beach goers arrive.  My customers were right on time and well prepared!  Bananas and everything!  After an introduction and briefing, we were on our way.

A Shallow Water Spotted Eagle Ray

It is not often my guests spot things before me, but right away Frank sees a small pod of dolphins skirt by us.  We respectfully follow, but are outpaced nearly instantly.  Our attention turns back to our game plan, but we find distractions all along the way.  As soon as I start into a story; a bird, a fish, a jellyfish, something and everything pops up and we bounce from one interest to another.  It is a funny parallel, as I describe the tide acting as a conveyor belt delivering important elements from the ocean, I come to realize we are riding that belt and coasting easily towards our target of jungle trails.  I begin to describe or speak about something and BANG, there it is!  Things are clicking along perfectly!

As we glide into a smaller creek, a fishing boat pinches us off a little and jumps up on plane heading down a narrow dead end creek, which is a no wake zone.  I call out the oddities I see in this situation:  two special people driving a boat with a destroyed anchor dangling below the bow pulpit and a large hole in the side speeding down a winding dead end creek.  We catch up a few minutes later, where we find this boat anchored at the end and one special person is in the water complaining he can’t see or walk on the muddy bottom to find their lost propeller from the day before!  This is a story in itself and impossible for me to paint an accurate picture, but it was similar to what you see on late night reality tv from scary parts of the world(cue the banjo music).  We continue on and get back into our adventure, which already has been rewarding!


We enter our first bay and I describe the habitat, teaching what to look for and what is there.  Giving pieces of the puzzle to build a picture by the end of the tour.  I’m pointing out unseen fish, until I lend Heather my polarized sunglasses.  Now, the picture is a little clearer.  We are investigating muds made by southern sting rays and schools of mullet.  Just as we enter the jungle, a spotted eagle ray makes an appearance in time for us to enjoy and snap a quick picture.

Into the jungle, a radically different environment envelopes us.  Quiet gets quieter and the pace slows.  I remember my first time paddling these trails and it is a bit much for the senses.  You are a little awestruck in the beginning.  The trails narrow and your focus bounces from fish in the water to which branch you hold next, as you maneuver into progressively smaller trails.  All the while, you wonder what may be living around you, more specifically, what is on the next branch you grab!

I try to keep quiet and not say too much, but I cater to the different interests of my guests.  For some, they like the birds and fish.  Other people just want to know what will sting, bite or eat them!  I can’t give away exactly what happens back there, but there are plenty of surprises and mishaps and good laughs and more!  I licked a jelly fish today, unfortunately no picture!  I’ll throw myself under the bus this time! However, sometimes there are pictures, so don’t let a harmless little spider throw you out of the kayak!

This is already too long and I don’t want to lose focus on my point for this particular trip.  As a guide, I take great care of my guests.  I felt sorry for the people that bailed out at the last minute.  I’m familiar with where they went and what they did.  Essentially, they sold themselves short on a great experience to maybe save $30.  If you only have 1 vacation a year, why cheap out and deprive yourself of the real experience?  The Florida Keys is full of skilled people that make a living supporting the elements that make your stay with us better!  From servers, bartenders and receptionists, to charter guides, captains, mates and instructors.  All these people save you time, save you money and enhance your vacation experience with their local knowledge and skills.

I am thankful to my guests from Chicago for their business today.  We had a great time and I have no doubt I will see them again if they visit the Keys on their next vacation.  They walk away with a handful of pictures, an even tan, local knowledge and too many memories to mention in this long blog!  I sit here still shaking my head when I think about what some other people missed out on.


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