Updated: Saturday, September 27, 2008
A 40 to 50 foot sailing yacht will become your home for a week. It has a large self-contained galley and dining area where you will prepare wholesome meals from the fresh or canned foods supplied by Sea Base, supplemented by fresh catches from trolling while underway.
Your captain will instruct you in navigation, fishing and sailing, and will remain on board for the entire trip. You choose your own float plan to historical Key West. This trip offers one-of-a-kind snorkeling and abundant fishing.
Three crews of eight set sail aboard the "Midnight Dragon", the "Adventure", and the "Earle of Alden" on an overcast morning. In the foreground to the right is the 41 foot "Midnight Dragon" skippered by Captain Tom.
As we left the dock at Sea Base, each boat Captain cranked up the stereo to a different tune. With the instant approval of Captain Tom's music selection (the Star Wars theme), the crew knew the cruise to Key West and back was going to be a blast. Just outside the safe harbor, the skies opened up. For the next 10-15 minutes we were pummeled by the rain, the Captain slowing to a crawl because of poor visibility. As the seas turned to large whitecaps, we were getting drenched as we huddled in the cockpit around the captain, shivering, as we tried to locate the channel markers.
Since we set sail on the last day of a two-day lobster season, Capt Tom suggested that we catch our own lobster for dinner. The crew agreed and Capt Tom proceeded to explain how to catch a lobster. Hopes were high for a gourmet meal but lobsters were hard to find. At days end we had to settle for chicken instead of lobster (we did actually see several).
To the left Wyatt, Jason, Kevin, and Ben "hoisting the anchor" as we prepare to get underway.
When we neared Key West, the ocean water suddenly turned to a beautiful blue color and became crystal clear. As we sailed into Key West to the sounds of Captain Tom’s sailing music (a collection of songs hand picked by Capt Tom like Sailing (Christopher Cross), Cool Change (Little River Band), Son Of A Sailor (Jimmy Buffet), Southern Cross (Crosby, Stills & Nash)) we were greeted by a school of dolphins who swam along our port side. It was such a beautiful and unforgettable sight as we sailed (up to that point we had been “motor-sailing” because the prevailing winds did not favor sailing) the last miles into Key West. We slowly motored into the harbor, gawking at all the large and luxurious yachts of the rich and famous of Key West. It was absolutely amazing to see the extravagance on exhibit that afternoon (and probably every other day).
After docking, the hot showers at the marina were the first stop. While aboard ship, the closest you come to a shower is a "Joy Bath", which is a dunk in the ocean after lathering up with Joy dish soap. After a quick super the crews were gone in a flash for an early evening in Key West. Everyone gathers for the never planned, always varied Sunset Celebration on the Mallory Dock. Back dropped against a spectacular sunset, jugglers, mimes, musicians and street artists perform nightly. The following day was spent seeing the sites and sounds of Key West. While Jimmy Buffets place, the Hard Rock Café, and tee shirt shops abound seemed to be a common thread for many of the crew, a stroll down palm-lined streets revealed the historic charm of Key West with tin-roofed conch houses, the Ernest Hemingway home, the Truman Little White House and a chance to gaze at the fabled treasure of the galleon Atocha. And of course, a visit to the Southernmost Point in the Continental USA, only 90 miles from Cuba, was a must.
Several evenings we rafted up together with our "sister ships" and mingled with the other crews. This was always fun, it was a time to share tall tales, play games, and compare notes and experiences for the day.
We stopped at many of the popular coral reefs to snorkel; some times with our “sister ships” and other times not. Everyone snorkeled with a dive buddy and had good to fair visibility. Regardless, everyone enjoyed the viewing of sea creatures in their natural habitat and colorful coral and sponges. Tangs, triggers, clowns, damsels, coral beauties, grouper, barracuda, lobster, eels and many others were observed at one time or another. On one of the dives, Capt Tom threw bread crumbs into the water around us attracting hundreds of fish to swarm within arms length. No, we did not see any sharks, much to the disappointment of several scouts.
I suppose one might think we had all the fish we wanted to eat. Wrong! Yes we fished some while under sail (trolling), but we had no luck save a lone barracuda. So the only seafood to be had was at Key West.
At right, Ben and Captain Tom with the barracuda.
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You will live as Robinson Crusoe on the Out Island Adventure which combines camping on a remote 100 acre island, snorkeling on pristine coral reefs, trolling for sport fish, kayaking through red mangroves, and exploring the flora and fauna of Big Munson Island. You will wade ashore on Big Munson Island carrying all the food, water and equipment used during your adventure in a rugged camping setting. Venture out to snorkel, fish and explore. A program mate will remain with you for the duration of your trip to assist you in appreciating this unique environment. This is a true high-adventure program, one that combines physical challenge with excitement and adventure. If your crew has strong camping skills and enjoys rugged camping, then the Out Island program is for you.
We landed at Miami International and took a long bus ride down to the Keys. We finally arrived at Brinton Environmental Center in the sweltering heat of July 24, 2002. Jim and Josh Leach had driven down from the Florida coast earlier that day and met us there.
We were checked into the ice-conditioned bunkhouses right away, then learned how to snorkel after our swim tests. We spent the next two days fishing, learning to kayak, snorkeling and preparing for our trip to Big Munson. We screamed "Munson!!" along with the rest of the crews. We wondered why some of the crews screamed louder...
We set out for Munson, into the wind and the tide all the way, for four long hours and 5 miles of paddling. We arrived exhausted and soaked with sea water. The Scouts immediately set to work outfitting our camp site and getting supplies from the floating docks, 100 yards offshore. The adults flopped on the "beach" for some well-deserved rest.
The next 3 days were spent making driftwood fires, sleeping on the beach (it was cooler), build Hermit Crabtopia, eating, sleeping, snorkeling, sleeping, and building sail boats out of our kayaks to get us off that island of Munson. We figured the wind in our face all the way there would be at our backs when we finally got off that piece of coral in the Keys.
We tested the boats - they worked perfectly! The wind blew hard every day, egging us on in the boat building. The Scouts collected all the driftwood and old rope used in the construction. They applied their Scout skills in knot tying to make the lashings secure.
We set out on the morning of the fourth day. Dead calm. Not a breath of wind. We cut the sail boats to pieces and muttered under our breath all the way back to Brinton. Ian lost his knife in the drink. Several Scouts lost their will to paddle another stroke.
We arrived back at Brinton to find fresh crews. Their cries of "Munson!!", we knew, had no depth of feeling in them. When we yelled "Munson!!", we knew WHY we were screaming it. A cup of coffee, a hot shower and we ready to go back to our island home.
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