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Tuesday, Dec 17, at Bahia Honda State Park
Our first paddle here in the Keys turned out to be the mother of all “Eco tours” !
It started by us seeing several of the rare and endangered “ Miniature Key Deer” on the way to our launch on Gulf Blvd. which is on the west side of Big Pine Key a little less than a mile from the north end. After launching, we paddled across very skinny water to the west side of Howe Key and then headed north paralleling the shore line. We started seeing, and then continued to see for almost our entire trip beautiful flower like Cassiopeia, (upside down jelly fish). We love them, since they are not only a sign of clean pure water, but are the ones who make it clean and pure by their filtration system. They are also unique, in the fact that they create their own food supply. They actually grow algae in their bodies which they then feed on. They normally live stationary on the bottom except when on occasion they will undulate to another location. They vary in coloration depending on what type of algae they are growing, and today we saw the biggest variety that we have ever seen ranging from light green to dark green, pale yellow, bright yellow, tan and brown, and many have thick several inch long tentacles which also range in color from black, tan, yellow and gray, but always are a completely different color than their bodies. They range in size from as small as a quarter to dinner plate size. Many have beautiful striped patterns, and today we saw a lot that had a jet black maltese cross like pattern embedded in their other light colors.
At one point we were so engrossed in looking down at them, that we almost missed seeing a Roseate Spoonbill that was in front of us at the edge of some mangroves. We eased up toward it, and each time it let out a little squawk, I would squawk back. This went on for several minutes, and several times it would look right at us and cock it’s head as if it was trying to figure out what these strange creature are and if they are friend or foe. We finally got too close, and it figured we were probably foe and flew off.
As we continued we saw too many Lemon and Bonnet Head sharks to count, and some times two would cruise by us together.
Nanci was the sharp eyed look out today, and saw the only Ray, a humongous four foot long very fat Barracuda, a spider crab and a star fish.
We saw lots of smaller barracuda, jacks and mangrove snapper, as well as a large “True Tulip” snail that had the longest foot sticking out that we have ever seen. The snails shell was six or seven inches long, and the foot sticking out must have been at least five inches long.
We also got quite close to a raft of White Pelicans. They winter here and come all the way from the Pacific north west to do it. After Nanci got a lot of pictures we eased away, so we wouldn’t scare them into flight.
Our ultimate destination was “JANA cut”. At the western end of Howe Key, there are two half mile long bays, or lagoons. One is on the south west side, and the other on the north west side. Four or five years ago we figured that there must be a mangrove tunnel someplace at the end of each that connected them, so we took waypoints and for a year or two searched for the closest points between them. Then several years ago, we found a hidden waterway that looked impenetrable, due to the dense mangrove roots and under brush, but we started cutting our way through from each end, and sure enough ended up with a cut that connects the two. We named it after ourselves “JA” for Jack and “NA for Nanci. The first year we had all we could due to get through it, and then last year we cleared it some more. Our plan was if we had time this year to clear it even more.
We entered the south west lagoon, but before we even got half way to the end we had to turn back because of low water. The tide was coming in, so we figured that by the time we went around the end of the Key, and entered from the north west lagoon, we just might end up with enough water to get through and be able to do some more clearing. We didn’t figure on being held up by a turtle though.
The turtle: Just as we approached the western tip of Howe, we saw a fairly large sea turtle in shallow water right at the edge of the Mangroves It appeared to be eating and had some whitish looking stuff sticking out of both sides of what we thought was its mouth. As we eased up to us, it showed no fear and just stayed right where it was except for coming up for air, and we soon realized why. It wasn’t eating and the “whitish” stuff was some hideous looking disease growing out of where both eyes should have been. I put my paddle blade right down in front of its face, and it never even moved so we realized it was blind. We felt terrible and didn’t know what to do for it. We knew there was a turtle hospital in Marathon, but had no way of contacting them, but figured perhaps the Coast guard could give us their number, so I eased out of my kayak into the thigh deep water and got the turtle by its carapace. I didn’t realize how feisty it would be and got a good splashing by its large flippers until I finally wrestled it onto the deck of my kayak. Once there it completely relaxed and while holding it down with one hand called the coast guard on my VHF with the other hand, (try calling on a VHF that is tethered to a deck line with just six inches of tether just using one hand and operating the squelch and volume at the same time!). The CG answered immediately and gave us the number of the Turtle Hospital, where Nanci got a message that the line was no longer in service.
Then what to do? We toyed with tying the twenty pound turtle where it was on the deck and paddling the five miles back to the take out, but then we would have to drive all the way to Marathon, not even knowing if the turtle hospital would be open, so we hated to do it, but opted to release it back to the wilds. –Later when we got back home we identified it as a Green Sea Turtle. We also checked and realized that we had one of the digets in the phone number wrong, which made us both feel bad.
After our turtle encounter, we did get to the other entrance to JANA cut and made it through where we found plenty of water to exit and return back to our take out. On the way back we saw much of the same as when we came which would have made for a great trip if we were not feeling so bad for the turtle.
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|Messages in this Topic|
Thank you for a nice read|
Posted by: kayamedic on Dec-22-13 11:49 AM (EST)
on an icy day. I wonder what afflicted the turtle?
After we got back Nanci did some..|
Posted by: jackL on Dec-22-13 1:17 PM (EST)
reading that the turtle hospital had on it, and they had one that they were able to release. It was only on one eye and they were able to cut it off. It could still see out of one eyes which allowed them to release it.
Posted by: dougd on Dec-22-13 2:16 PM (EST)
Enjoyed it, the sharks, the ray! We won't be seeing any kind of fish until ice is out, it came early this year. Have a great Christmas and New Year.
Too bad about the turtle|
Posted by: eckilson on Dec-23-13 5:24 AM (EST)
Wonder what caused it. Otherwise, sounds like an amazing place to paddle.
Posted by: Kudzu on Dec-23-13 7:18 AM (EST)
A nice read on this rainy morning... taking care of the blind dog!