Voyage of the Tiki Bar
On Sunday, I went out on the boat! I like doing this. It makes it worth all the time I spend working on the boat on land.
Here you can clearly see my boat. This is what it looks like. Really. But the trailer you see in the photo is not the trailer I use now. This is the trailer the boat came with. It is a float on trailer, but the boat did not sit right on it. So I use an old steel break frame trailer. It takes longer to get the boat out of the water, but I do not have to back the trailer in the water as far to launch. So it all works out.
The blue thing in you see in the front of the boat is my spray hood. It keeps bow spray off things I put up front. I almost never use it. When it is up, it is hard to get to the bow area and deal with the anchor. But when it is up it does keep the sun off you. The other blue thing is called a Bimini Top. It is awesome. It does a great job keeping the sun off you. The top gets used almost every time I go out.
Above you can see what I see when I pilot the boat. From left to right you can see my magnetic compass, the NEW chart plotter, and the depth sounder / fish finder. The chart plotter rules. It is a GPS with a detailed marine chart of almost all of Florida and some of the Bahamas. You can also see some stickers. From left to right there is a "rules of the road" sticker, a sticker reminding me to report marine pollution, and a sticker detailing how to use the marine VHF radio in the event of an emergency. The radio sticker is there in case something happens to me, and someone else has to call the Coast Guard. You can also see my GPS antenna (over the rules of the road sticker) and my SIRIUS SATELLITE RADIO antenna over the radio sticker.
This is the front windshield. You can see I am a Boat US member (I highly recommend ANY boater join Boat US and buy the UNLIMITED TOWING package. It is only $100 or $120 per year, and if you ever need to be towed in you will save mega bucks. Next to the Boat US sticker is a sticker saying "throw litter overboard, and you go swimming after it", but in a more polite way. The orange sticker reminds people to be alert for "suspicous" activity and rat it out. Whatever that means. You can also see I HATE CLEAR CHANNEL and I have satellite raido on board. I am also a clean boater! I got most of these stickers for free at boat shows.
This was my first stop of the day. This is the Pacific Reef lighthouse. It is pretty rinky. The general rule is the rinkier the lighthouse the smaller the reef. Pacific Reef is pretty small. All I saw was a rocky bottom and a few fish. Pretty boring. So it was off to someplace else!
This is the tower at Carysfort Reef, off Key Largo. Carysfort Reef is located in the John Pennicamp Coral Reef State Park and is part of the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary. Carysfort Reef is the closest reef to the Gulf Stream, and as a result many ships try to hug the outside of the reef to avoid heavy seas. Many ships have grounded here. Today, large ships must stay far away from the reef and it is marked very well - groundings are rare now.
If you know how to read the sea, you can see the reef! Those greenish patches are where the bottom is sandy. The dark spots are coral heads. The breakers you see behind the lighthouse are where the outside reef line is. Just a few yards beyond those breakers, the bottom drops to 40 or 50 feet, and continues to slope down to hundreds of feet. The breaker area is very dangerous, both for boats and snorklers. You will get turned into shredded beef if you get raked over that area. It is VERY shallow, as in 1 foot or less in places. But between my paper charts, the electronic chart, and my water reading ability I managed to not hit any coral. Good thing too, the coral would rip the bottom out of the boat.
But if you stay in safe areas, it is very cool. There are brain corals, elk horn corals, other hard corals, and all kinds of soft corals. I saw a bunch of fish, including a barricuda! I also saw a whole lot of conchs, which is great - the population is making a comeback from overharvesting.
We do not drop anchor at this reef! The State was kind enough to provide mooring bouys for people to use. Here you can see the one I tied up to. If all the bouys are used up, you CAN anchor but you must be careful and only drop in a sandy area. If you do happen to damage anything with your anchor, and the State catches you - you are liable for damages. Coral is VERY expensive. Boaters are urged to use the mooring system in place.
The mooring bouy system is in place in the Florida Keys National Marine Sancuary and Biscayne National Park. It is a great use of tax money. It protects the reefs, and the fisheries, and it makes it easy to find stuff. When you see mooring bouys, cool stuff to see is not far away.
All in all, it was a good day. I saw some purple tangs, all sorts of parrotfish, a french angelfish, a barracuda, yellowtail snappers, grunt, elkhorn corals, brain corals, sea fans, and lots more.