There are days during the past seven months where we have been tired. Exhausted. Scared. Uncertain. Frustrated. Angry. Stressed. Anxious.

This was not one of those days. And a warning up front. If you are in a location that is north of the Mason-Dixon line, where there are actually four distinct seasons, at least one of which has that white stuff known as snow, then you may not want to continue. Or at least be warned; this post contains images of warm weather, sunny skies and blue water. No snow.

Start and end: Mooring ball A17, Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, FL 1000
Midpoint: Sombrero reef off of Sombrero Key, five miles south of Marathon, Hawk Channel, Straights of Florida.
Total Distance: 6.7 NM (each way)
Total Time: 1:16 (Each way)
Average Speed: 5.1 knots

Today does not suck. Matter of fact, on the scale of days that suck vs. not suck, this is very solidly at the top of the ‘not suck’ days. It is Thursday, the 21st of December. Forecast for today is 79 degrees. Sunny. No wind. Humid (because we are in southern Florida/northern Cuba). AJ has a bunch of schoolwork to jam through before Christmas but we decide that the day today is too nice to be missed. Just five miles south of our mooring field is Sombrero Key. A piece of land that is sometimes above water, sometimes below water, but always has a reef surrounding it that is great for diving and/or snorkeling. It is a protected area; you can take your boat out there, tie to a morning ball and hop in the water without worrying about anyone running over your head.

So after the morning cruiser’s net, we drop off our mooring ball and head slowly south, arriving at Sombrero key at1130. And the day is better than advertised. The water is flat and blue, the sun is high in the sky and there are a couple of poofy clouds on the horizon. We eat a quick lunch and put on our snorkel gear and hit the water. A clear violation of the “don’t swim within an hour of eating” rule, but we got special dispensation before leaving on our trip.

Our first foray into the water is a bit of a disappointment. We have new snorkel equipment–the full face masks with the built in snorkel on top. They look really weird. And it took a couple of minutes to realize that we weren’t going to die. It is a very different experience. You don’t have a tube in your mouth to breath through–just the mask. And so it seemed to trick all of us into thinking that the mask wasn’t working and we about hyperventilated. But we figured it out and the good thing about these babies is that when you head under water they have a little ball that cuts the water off before it enters the mask. A little disturbing the first time you go to breathe and you get nothing, but much better than the old snorkel where you sucked in a mouthful/lungful of water. So we actually got to start looking around at the wildlife on the reef. Which was disappointing. We were in 20’ of water, our masks were cloudy and we couldn’t see a lot. AJ, who for the rest of this post will be referred to ‘as his royal highness’ or HRH,1 was was not happy and decided that he would not partake in any more of this snorkeling crap.

Back to the boat for some mask adjustments, a short break and then back in the water. Jan and I struck out for the shallows and were rewarded by coral, fish and the occasional heart attach due to a passing jelly fish. It was awesome. Shallower water really opened up the views into the reef. And when we got back to the boat, we totally pumped up HRH. HRH agreed to go back, but only if he could be taken to the good location; there was a current and he didn’t want to swim against it again. Consequently, Jan broke out the paddle board and shuttled his royal highness to the prime snorkeling location. At which we spend most of the afternoon. HRH got confidence in his equipment and we couldn’t put pull him out of the water.

Finally at 4pm we threw in the towel. We needed to get back to our mooring ball and preferred to do it before dark. And Lucky preferred to do it before he wet himself2. We dropped off the mooring ball and motored slowly back to our home Boot Key Harbor. AJ and Jan jammed in some more school work, I listened to tunes and dodged crab pots and we beat the sun to our mooring ball. There is something to being down south in the winter.

1We have been binging on ‘The Crown.’ Season 1 is in the bag, we are winging our way through season 2. Love it. When his royal highness is acting a total fool, we make him watch an episode or two. Which is interesting…he gets an education on what was happening just after WWII, and, as an added bonus, gets insight into some seriously jacked up relationships! And I have free reign (pun intended) to bust on AJ in blog posts. He doesn’t read them.

2And Sid the cat didn’t care what we did or didn’t do. If we weren’t bringing a fish to him, he wasn’t making any effort to enjoy the trip. From his perspective, the view from our bedroom didn’t change from mooring ball to snorkeling reef. As long as he had food (check), a place to crap (check) and some water (check), he was good.