Saturday, February 18, 2012

Florida Keys Challenge - 7

Icon 1 is our departure from Knights Key Campground.  No 2 is the stop at Molasses Key.
No. 3 is the lunch stop at Money Key, and 4 is the stop at Bahia Honda State Park.

In his talk last night, Bill Burnham explained how the mangrove propagates itself. The seed grows to take on the appearance of a slightly bent cigar. It drops into the water and drifts as the seed absorbs water. It first drops one end to continue floating vertically, and later sinks to the bottom to set its roots. As each branch grows, it sends down supports into the bottom so it just keeps spreading. The Seminoles thus called it a walking plant.

A mature mangrove.  Notice the supports from every branch to the bottom.

The high tide was early and was forecast to drop very quickly, so we rushed to break camp, eat, and get our boats across the rocks and into the water before the tide left us high and dry. We were anxious to avoid dragging our boats across the flats again. The last boats were out by 7:45. A few even chose to skip breakfast and lunch altogether to make the crossing. This was our longest crossing in open water, from Knights Key to Bahia Honda, crossing the area spanned by the Seven Mile Bridge.

A newly rooted young mangrove plant.

Lunch was originally planned for Molasses Key, but was changed to Money Key. By the time we had gotten that far, the lead boat was long gone from view, and a separate group that had been paddling together suddenly found themselves stranded with an empty horizon. One of the greatest rules of good seamanship is to always do your own navigation and not rely on that of others, but we had lapsed into the habit of playing follow the leader. Now we had neither a leader, nor anyone to follow. We went to the first Key, landed and waded ashore, only to find ourselves alone. I dug out my charts buried in Ibi’s bow to figure out where we were. We had in fact landed on Molasses Key, and once it was obvious where Money Key was, we set off again and homed in on lunch.
The Portuguese Man-of-War. 

The Portuguese man-of-war deserves special mention.  It is not a jelly fish, but a colony of individual zooids that cannot survive independently.  The bladder is filled with mostly carbon dioxide for flotation, and topped with a sail.  It has no means of self-propulsion, but is moved about by the sea, current, or the wind.  It will periodically flop over to keep the membrane moist, and can deflate so it will sink beneath the surface if conditions are rough enough to damage it.  The tentacles will stream behind a mature man-of-war for 30 ft., and have been measured up to 165 ft. in length.  Each tentacle contains thousands of stinging cells that will leave a burning rash for 2-3 days.  They can cause death in small children, the elderly, or the unhealthy, but that is very rare.   After removing any remaining remnant of the tentacles, flush with salt water.  Follow that with hot fresh water, which will dilute the toxins and ease the pain.  Do not rub with the hand while flushing, as toxins can cause secondary burns to the hand or other skin they are being rubbed over.  Contrary to popular folklore, do not use vinegar, as that aggrevates the burns.  Keep an eye on small children playing along the beach for any man-of-war washed onto the sands. 

During the crossing, the wind was calm and the sea flat, so I got a chance to see dozens of Portuguese Men-of-War, more red starfish, and hundreds of various sponges.  There were man-of-war as small as a pencil eraser, but the float will reach 12-inches in length. 

The total paddle for the day was 11.4 miles, and took us beside a long span of Henry Flagler’s bridges. After dinner, Monica Woll, Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail staffer, gave us a great historical account of Flagler’s Folly. (Monica was also the one that identified the plants I had photographed on Long Key’s nature trail.) Once the Folly was completed, many called it the Eighth Wonder of the World. It opened up Florida, connected Key West, the largest city in Florida at the time, to the rest of the world, and gave the new automobiles being produced by Flagler’s friend, Henry Ford, a great and new winter destination.

Part of the Seven Mile Bridge with Don Quixote Key framed beyond the bridge.

Ibi pulled up on Molasses Key with the Seven Mile Bridge beyond.

We would spend a lay day at Bahia Honda. We didn’t have to jump up the next morning to break camp, and we had some time to get a few more sunrise and sunset pictures, rest, and wash out some paddling clothes with sufficient time for them to dry. I pulled out the “Voyage of the Ant” to read in the shade.
A red star fish, one of many seen while approaching Money Key.

No comments:

Post a Comment