Saturday, March 9, 2013

Life on Ohio Key

If you have been following this blog, you know that Joan and I are staying at Sunshine Key
RV Resort for the month of March before starting a circuitous journey back to Oregon for the summer. 

 There is no Sunshine Key on the state map- that's a name selected by the owners of this park- the actual physical location of the park is Ohio Key. The RV park and the gas station, convenience store and the marina take up all the developed land on Ohio Key. What little land area that is left is wildlife sanctuary. What we normally think of as the Florida Keys consists of more than 1700 tiny islands stretching out south and west of continental Florida. Not all the islands are touched by the Overseas Highway and it's 42 bridges. The largest and best known of the keys include Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine and Key West.    

Interestingly, Key West was once the largest town in Florida. The main industry of Key West at that time, was the salvaging operations on nearby ship wrecks, but was also a robust trading port.

We were pleasantly surprised be the abundance, and the good taste of the drinking water here, which made me wonder where it came from. I had mistakenly assumed that there was some way that fresh water could be attained from some of the larger Keys and shared with the smaller ones. Almost all the water we drink here is piped in from the mainland- specifically wells drilled into the Biscayne Aquifer near Florida City, the southernmost city in the continental US.
The Biscayne Aquifer holds some of the highest quality groundwater in the country, and meets all  drinking water standards even before any treatment. The water is pumped into a 130 mile long pipeline at 250 psi. The pipeline starts at 36 inches in diameter and it tapers down to 18" at it's terminus in Key West. A very complex system of pumps and storage facilities maintains the pressure, and allows for backup reservoirs in case of a disruption in service. There are two desalination plants , one near Key West and one in Marathon Key that can come online too when needed. Quite an impressive engineering feat.

One of the first things that we noticed as we were checking into our RV park almost 2 weeks ago, was a very powerful rotten egg smell that occasionally wafts through the park. We initially thought it was the sewer system, but it turned out to be something completely different. The islands here (all of them) tend to become a repository for drifting seaweed, in this case mostly sea grass.

It is not uncommon to see piles of dead and rotting sea grass banked up on the beaches at the high tide line. The resultant smell becomes a part of the island experience. Some beaches and locations are better than others, but all are susceptible.

I have already described the ocean water here, as being a beautiful, clear, Caribbean blue, but it has one other desirable quality- it is warm! I mean really warm. The average for the beaches in this area would be 75 degrees in March, and it's possible to find some shallow sandy areas that get even higher than that. Yesterday Joan and I went snorkeling off the beach on the Atlantic side of the island. There tends to be a very shallow ledge around most of the islands here, which means you may have to wade out several hundred feet to get to snorkeling depth.

We wisely purchased some surf shoes during our stay in Fort Myers last month. They have a sturdy sole that gives you some grip in the slippery areas and protect your feet from the sharp edges of broken shells and other pokey things out there.
In the photo above Jeff is wearing a long sleeve t-shirt for sun protection.  At Captiva Island last month Jeff got a sunburn from swimming and wading in the surf- something he's not anxious to repeat here.

Our quest is to find some of the beautiful conch shells that one sees in the gift shops around here. I was elated to find one yesterday and after bringing it to shore found it to be occupied, and had to swim it back out and re-situate it on the sea bed.  Joan shows off a beautiful Cribrochalina sponge that washed up on the beach and dried into a basket!

It really makes sense to have some form of water transportation while visiting here in the Keys, and we've noticed that most people have either a kayak, a wave runner, an inflatable boat or a full sized lake boat on a trailer.  

 From the large trailer mounted boats... the small inflatables and kayaks-  they are all represented here- anything that floats.  The seriously large craft stay at slips in the marina.  The marina is dredged to allow medium to large craft to tie up, and offer a dedged channel gets you out to open water.

The smaller craft are typically equipped with removable dollie wheels which makes transportation to the water an easy thing.  The marina waives the $12 launch fee for these small craft, because they prefer that you do not try to launch from the beaches.

There are even wave runners and jet skis at a few of the sites.

It's enough to give a person boat envy!  

Next blog I'll have to tell you about the carts.  All the serious snow birds have a "golf" cart to run around in.  I put golf in quotes, because really the golf cart has been re-purposed  into the NEV (Neighborhood Electric Vehicle) for RV parks.

This is the life!

Jeff and Joan

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