FL - Florida Keys - 2004/03/11 - Johnston Key



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Johnston Keys - A windy day over the flats provides a quiet paddle in the mangroves




Yesterday I had put my friends on an airplane back to the cold Chesapeake Bay. I had several more days here in the keys before I too had to drive home. But for now I was still in the Keys.

But it was still blowing. In fact it blew so hard yesterday that I decided to stick with land based activities, particularly since I was paddling solo. But today it had slacked off a little and I wanted to get out so I planned a trip in what I hoped would be some sheltered area of the flats.

I launched from a nice little shell beach at the end of a road on Summerland Key. There is room for parking there off the side of the road. A large turn around at the end of the road made it easy to get the trailer into position for the launch. No one was there while I launched.

The water in the channel off the launch site is shallow and would cause problems regaining the shore at low tide. The tide for my launch and retrieval should allow enough water to reach the shore without getting out and walking over the sensitive bottom of such protected waters.

I paddled out over the sponges and sea fans on the bottom of the shallow flats. Normally easy to see everything in the clear shallow water, todays wind had stirred up the sediments and the wind ripples made it difficult to clearly see the bottom, less than a meter deep. Shadowy forms darted here and there and large skates and rays sent little clouds of muddy water boiling to the surface as the bow of my kayak passed over them.

As I passed Cudjoe Key, the observation blimps were flying high over the islands. Looking for boats attempting to sneak into United States Territorial waters, there is at least one tethered blimp up at all times. From their vantage they can look over the horizon and down at the small vessels that attempt to slip into the country.




The wind on the flats was punching up the waves enough to cause a few white caps, even in the very shallow water. The waves were nothing but the constant pressure of the wind made for hard paddling as I fought it out to the outer islands on the edge of Florida Bay. Spray flew back as the bow pounded into the short but steep wind waves. It was about 10 miles out to the islands, so I angled off to take advantage of a few islands along the way, resting in the lee before resuming the effort.



Having gained the islands, I wandered in and out of various mangrove channels, poking into coves. Egrets, grounded by the high winds, clung to the branches of the mangrove tops, swaying with the puffs of wind.



In the shallow cuts between the islands, a strong sun shone out of a cloudless deep blue sky. Protected from the strong winds, it was pleasant paddling out here. I saw mangroves in all stages of development, from the just seeded single stalk to years old mangroves with their first support roots to trees with branches as thick as my thigh.
I was glad I had decided to come out in the wind. The strenuous paddle out was soon forgotten as I paddled around in the shallow water, watching fleeing sharks and hogfish.

The return trip was a "breeze". I was pushed along easily by the wind. I was glad that I had chosen to struggle against the wind on the way out, so I could relax for the return trip, grateful that the wind had not turned to make it hard both ways. The launch area was a little difficult to locate as I paddled back along the mangrove lined islands. They can look remarkably similar. I was glad I had taken the time to turn around and look back several times on the way out. Now there was much less confusion as to just where to find the opening to the little bay where my trailer was parked. I loaded up and drove back to camp.



Arrival at Bahia Honda and circumnavigation

Day trip to Snipe Key

Rest day playing tourist on Islamorada and Bahia Honda Keys

Day trip to Content Keys

Day trip to Looe Key

1/2 Day trip at Bahia Honda

Day trip to Johnston Key

Day trip to Coupon Bight


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