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Old 08-10-2012, 11:34 PM
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RickI RickI is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Florida
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Default Islamorada Adventure!

We decided to pack up the family and spend a couple of days in Islamorada. There was no wind, so I didn't even bring any kite gear. We were planning on boating on Saturday and kayaking on Sunday. I got in touch with long time friend Brad Lange of Islamorada Watersports and Sevensports about renting a boat.

Whale Harbor home of the Islamorada Watersports Company in Islamorada, FL.

Brad set us up with a great 21 ft. Carolina skiff (above) rated for up to 16 passengers. I figured with three of us including an active 2 year old baby girl (BG) and my eight month pregnant wife we should be well set up. Brad has a nice selection of open fishermen, pontoon boats, a ton of wave runners as well in rental from several locations on the island. You can find out more on his website but he offers water fun out the wazoo via:

Boat Rentals and Charters
Private Fishing Charters on the Genesis
Snorkling, Waverunners Rentals / Tours
Kiteboarding Lessons and Camps
Wakeboarding Lessons and Camps
StandUp Paddleboarding Rentals / Tours
Kayak Rentals and Tours

Brad Lange and crew by our able vessel

Brad has organized a bunch of kiting competitions in Islamorada going as far back at 2002. You'll find photo coverage of all of them at Shown above is part of the free style competition in 2009.

Whale Harbor the location of Islamorada Watersports Company and kite beach in Islamorada at Mile Marker 84 just over the bridge.

More rental vessels by the fuel dock. Brad can have boats delivered to local docks upon request. He has operations throughout the island at:

Seven Surf Shop
Coconut Cove Resort
Holiday Isle Resort
Whale Harbor Marina
Cheeca Lodge
Moorings Village
Robbie's Marina

Years of great times in Islamorada thanks to Sevensports and a lot of fun competitions.

For the first stop of the day I decided to go free diving on the Eagle, an artificial reef sunk in 110 ft. of water to the south.

It was easy to get around and find far flung spots from long and lat coordinates using my iPhone and a great ap, Navionics. It allows
easy navigation and consumes little power too. It is a good idea to keep a weather eye out for shallows and carry a paper chart too.
So many vessels have struck in these waters after all, from small craft to large ships going back centuries.
More at: and

I was scooter free diving on the wreck. Unfortunately visibility was pretty low at around 30 to 40 ft.. It is a lot easier to drop on these
things when you can see them from the surface. Helps the quality of the photography too, still you take what you can get.
Don't attempt scooter free diving without proper free diving training, skill development and procedures.

Passing through the break in the hull caused by a hurricane as shown in the figure above. There was a nice sized goliath grouper hanging
around in the gap. The vessel although sunk as an artificial reef, ended up on its side.

The Eagle was originally known as the "Raila Dan" and several other names over the years. She is shown here years back
in slightly cooler waters than the Keys.

Having a look inside one of the holds forward of the forward of the forecastle.

Moving further in, I see what looks like a blast hole through the hull large enough for me to fit through. So I head for it through a school of fish.

Here is a clip from that particular dive. I came up on a large goliath grouper tail first on the other side of the hole. It must use it as a bolt hole. For whatever reason I surprised it, creating one very pissed off jewfish. It popped its swim bladder twice and shook its head pretty viscously.

Coming out the other side at around 100 ft. staring at the annoyed big fish. The really big ones supposedly have vacuumed up the odd diver.
The parable of Jonah may have in fact dealt with such a gastric encounter by some interpretations.

A Goliath Grouper or Jewfish encountered in the Minnow Caves off Key Largo a while back. This fellow was docile despite being in a confined space with me in a cave.

Here is another video from a while back free diving with more than a dozen on a wreck. Two of them became really upset making me think about the downside of being inhaled while free diving at 100 ft.?


Now we run south to anchor off the Alligator Reef Lighthouse. The lighthouse has marked shallows for the Florida Reef Tract four miles offshore to shipping since 1873. The light is 136 ft. high in sand covered rocky shallows.

A shot from the kite at last year's Pryde Group Americas dealer meeting in Islamorada. More from that excellent event at:

It contains an accommodation section for the lighthouse crew prior to 1963 when the light was automated. Who is up for weathering a Cat 5 hurricane in white iron sardine box of this baby?

Anchoring up near the lighthouse, momma and baby go in to cool off.

An illustration from Harpers Weekly.

More about the namesake for the light and reef below:

The schooner of war, USS Alligator had some interesting times too. It was commissioned by President Monroe in 1820 to suppress the slave trade in Western Africa. It was the shifted to suppression of piracy in the Straits of Florida and nort...hern Caribbean in 1822. Pirates were running rife plaguing shipping in the area at the time. The ship fought a successful action off Matanzas, Cuba but its Captain was killed in the exchange. The ship then sailed in convoy from Cuba bound for Norfolk, Virginia. The 83 ft. schooner had a whopping draft of 11 ft. with the waters of the reef tract in the area being 5 ft. or less. The ship struck the reef in the night in 1822 and was kedged to attempt to haul her off in the morning. The line parted and she blew further on to the reef. Despite shifting weight overboard and to a Bahamian salvor the vessel floundered hard aground. The men were shifted to another naval brig and the vessel torched to avoid salvage by pirates. Powder stores detonated and the vessel exploded. You can dive the remains today.
More at:

BG is stoked to check it out, complete with sombrero

I decided to checkout the area beneath the lighthouse. Tons of old iron pipes used in the structure of the lighthouse have been dropped there.
I understand there used to be a bunch of old batteries down there too, no longer however.

Back at the boat BG and mom hang out.

A skate, skates by the boat on the bottom.

Lots of fish beneath the tower.

I came across some nice images of the lighthouse and have reproduced them here.

The fellow captured unusual lattice work structure of the lighthouse. I understand the pipe piles were laboriously driven ten feet into the coral of the reef tract by steam equipment back in the day.

The view out the door to the lamp area.

A remarkable view by the lamp

This guy got some intriguing shots from the lighthouse.

Still swimming around under the tower shooting with a Quikpod monopod to gain some different perspectives.


Moving on up Keys to Conch Reef for some more diving. I read that there was a prominent wall dropping about 50 ft. there which is a rare thing in SE Florida.

We up anchor and motor north passing by the "sand bar" off Whale Harbor. There is usually a big party scene here with anchored
boats most weekends. Here is an ultralight landing by the boats along the sand bar.


We move on up keys to Conch Reef and anchor on a mooring ball for more scooter free diving.

There seems to be less of a wall at Conch Reef and more of a slope.

This thing resembles an artificial reef there is so much growth on it.

One more annoyed goliath grouper. They always seem to be miffed, where is the love?


We motor back towards Whale Harbor and a snorkeling spot along the way.

I find a nice shallow dive on the way back for mom and baby to checkout, "Hen and Chickens." There is a lot of prolific growth here.
Navonics makes finding these spots easy fortunately.

Some of the coral at Hen and Chickens Reef


We pull anchor for the last time and head back to Whale Harbor Marina.

Gliding into the sunset.

Good night from the Keys following a really great day!

Thanks Brad for a great day on and under the water for the whole family!!! These guys are long time Conchs or Keys residents and can take you to a lot more great spots than the few that show up in this account. Why not spend some time in the Keys?


Tomorrow we head out to Indian Key just offshore in the Straits of Florida via kayak. You can rent kayaks at Brad's operation Robbie's marina to tour the island or paddle through green tunnels and grottos in the picturesque mangroves nearby.

The island sports a lost settlement washed away from view through a seminole indian raid of 130 braves, killing 13 inhabitants and burning the buildings in 1840. Add in numerous severe hurricanes and storm surges and today, not much left today other than some rock foundations and a sense of lingering spirits from times past. The island was formerly the county seat and base of operations for major salvors working the wealth of wrecks striking the reef tract of the Florida Keys in the early 1800's. Sea going ghost stories anyone ... ?

A depiction of the "Indian Key Massacre" with more than a little artistic license on the layout. From:

A more realistic view of the island. This engraving was reproduced in other form in "Harpers Monthly" Feb. 1887 in the serial publication "Along the Florida Reef" authored by Dr. D.B. Holder.

I bought the actual Harbers Monthly issues but you can now read the article online at:

FKA, Inc.

transcribed by:
Rick Iossi

Last edited by RickI; 04-01-2016 at 10:32 AM.
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