By Shayne Benowitz
I am very excited to share with you a brand new trip! You may or may not know, but we’ve recently acquired three small catamarans and we’re proud to present three new boutique eco-trips to our water sports menu! Today, I’m going to give you the scoop on the brand new Island Adventure. It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?
Meredith and I hopped on board the Cruzan Cat, a 42’ power catamaran with seating at the bow, inside a covered cabin, and aft. The Cruzan Cat holds 30 passengers max, and the day Meredith and I went there were only about ten people on board. It’s a completely different vibe than the action-packed Ultimate Adventure. Think laid back and completely personalized. By the end of the trip, I felt like I knew everyone’s life story!
Captain Ames was at the helm with his mate Scott who has a background in marine biology. He did an awesome job teaching everyone about the unique ecosystems we were about to discover first hand. Ames charted a course south to the reef and Sand Key Lighthouse.
In all the years I’ve lived in Key West and worked at Fury, I still get a thrill snorkeling our reef. It was absolutely lush and vibrant that afternoon. One of the first things I saw was a conch shell nestled in the coral rock. There were the requisite yellowtail snappers, parrotfish (my favorite!), sergeant majors, and blue tang, and also some beautiful angel and butterfly fish. I was swimming through a canyon with an outcropping of coral in the middle when I spotted a giant lobster tapping around on the ocean floor. So cool! I dove down to get a closer look, and sure enough, I spotted another one!
We hopped back on the boat and Ames cruised out to the Gulf of Mexico’s sand flats and mangrove islands referred to as the backcountry. The backcountry is the nesting ground for thousands of species of juvenile fish and birds. It’s a very unique and important ecosystem in the Florida Keys. We dropped anchor near Woman Key, which is basically an enormous sandbar island in the middle of the ocean.
Ames gave us a quick kayaking lesson and then launched us into the water with Scott as our guide. At first, it seemed a little choppy, but once Meredith and I were in our kayak it was smooth sailing. We paddled out to Woman Key and beached our kayaks on the sand where we lingered and floated in the shallow, warm water. We discovered seashells, coral rocks, sea sponges, turtle grass, and mangrove pods. There was an interesting driftwood sculpture decorated with found objects like lobster traps and buoys on the shore. One gentleman from San Antonio, who was in town with his wife for a wedding, discovered a giant sea biscuit. That was the find of the day! Oh yeah, and Scott packed a cooler full of Coronas for us to sip on while we splashed around and chatted.
Eventually, Ames called us back to the boat, although no one wanted to leave. A tasty spread of sandwiches awaited, though! We snacked away and cruised through the Gulf as the sun sank into the ocean. Yeah, that’s what I call paradise!
Island Adventure 411:
Departure times at 9:30am & 3:30pm (includes sunset)
4 ½ hour trip: Snorkel the reef; kayak the Gulf.
Sandwiches, fresh fruit, & snacks served.
What are you waiting for?
Shayne Benowitz is a Fury crewmember, a freelance writer, and a social media specialist. Follow her on Twitter @ShayneBenowitz.