Just behind our campsite is Similar Sound – a sound is a long, wide conduit between two bodies of water. Similar Sound connects the Florida Straits – the body of water between the Florida Keys and Cuba and between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean – to Florida Bay – the body of water between the Florida Keys and the Everglades.
Just across from us is Chelsea Key. There are lots of resident birds on Chelsea Key. We also have some very popular occassional visitors to the channel between the Key and the back of our campsite; manatees. Behind and on both sides of Chelsea Key, there are multiple small mangrove islands with a multitude of possibilities for kayaking. So, while here, we rented two single kayaks on a great monthly pass deal that’s offered to the campers. We are giving the inflatable Dolphin a rest this month.
The paddling area contains many shallows, perfect for spotting smaller sea life. And in one of these shallow areas we discovered the Cassiopia Garden, a place that is full of Cassiopia Jellyfish, also called Upside Down Jellyfish. These jellyfish lay on the bottom with their tentacles on top, and when they turn over they look like flowers. The garden is just lovely, with crystal clear water to better see the many intricate creatures, including different kinds of coral and sponges.
Many of the islands also contain a number of mangrove tunnels, which are really beautiful and fun to paddle through. And throughout the islands we spotted many sea hares – a type of sea slug that has two pairs of ear like tentacles and leopard spots. Very cute. And we discovered one area where there were tons of starfish and one frolicking stingray. And of course lots of little fish and more birds.
A week after our arrival, our friends Karen and Mike from Denver visited for a few days and we planned a morning paddling outing. Hector was on a mission to pick up loose crab trap buoys (aka “flotsam balls”) if we found any. Many people around here hang ropes of these multi-colored buoys as decorations and Hector was looking for an art project.
As a bonus, we would also be picking up other “flotsam and jetsam” – “ pieces of broken wood and other waste material found on the beach or floating on the sea”. The outer side of the island we were planning to kayak around faces open ocean and there is quite a bit of flotsam and jetsam washed up on its mangroves. And Karen and Mike turned out to be great flotsam and jetsam hunters. So began a fun collection.
And we found what looked like a homemade boat that Hector guessed was a Cuban refugee boat. We later confirmed this to be a fact, as a number of Cuban boats have been found around the nearby islands. In one of the deeper sections, I paddled right over a sunken boat (this one definitely American, as in, not homemade). That was a very eerie sight, no idea of the story behind that one.
On other outings in the area we spotted yet more sea hares, stingrays, small shark, conch, crab, and a lobster. And we also found what looked like another Cuban refugee boat, this one was raft like and pretty decomposed. And once again I paddled over another sunken boat (also American).
In the past, many people in this area made their living salvaging shipwrecks. And shallow waters and thick mangroves still catch some interesting flotsam and jetsam.