Posted by: Barbara Evanhoe | June 26, 2011

An Afternoon on the Water

Last Wednesday was a beautiful day in Cedar Key…a bit on the warm and muggy side, but this IS Florida in the summer, after all!

A nice breeze drifted in from the water and there were no storms in the immediate area, so Keith and I decided to rent a pontoon boat and take out on the Gulf for an afternoon cruise.

We rented the boat from Captain Doug at “Tidewater Tours”, for a “three hour tour” ~ hopefully not Gilligan’s Island style!

We’d met Doug and his wife, Barbara, at the campground cafe, and after checking out the boats available for rent, Doug’s looked the most seaworthy, and that is important to me when you will be boating in waters where sharks live!

We left the dock at 3 p.m. and took off for our adventure with Captain Keith at the wheel. Lucky for me, Keith knows his way around boats, which is especially important in the shallow waters in the Cedar Key area.

Captain Keith

There are four islands that dot the waters around Cedar Key…Atsena Otie, Seahorse Key, Snake Key and North Key. The first three mentioned were all within boating distance of one another in our time frame, so we headed out to Seahorse first ~ about a half hour jaunt.

There is an old lighthouse built in 1854 on this island and we were hoping to take some photos. We’d learned that we would not have the opportunity to land on the beautiful island beaches and explore, as it it nesting season for certain species of protected birds that make the island their home…it’s closed March 1 – June 30th.

After doing some reading on Seahorse Key, though, I’m kind of glad that we couldn’t spend time there – it is also known for its huge population of cottonmouth snakes – not my idea of a fun time!

The seas were calm and the breeze helped to keep us cool. Luckily the boat had a bimini top to provide welcome shade.

After arriving at the island, we traveled along the shore, searching for the lighthouse, and finally found it on the far side – with just the top peeking above the trees. The zoom on my little camera was no match for the distance from the boat to the lighthouse, so we turned back out to sea and made our way to Snake Key.

Island View

There is no camping allowed on these islands, but you can beach your boat and enjoy a picnic or simply do some relaxing on what seems to be your own private beach.

As we weren’t quite sure how long it would take us to make the rounds of the islands, we did not beach at Snake, but headed for Atsena Otie Key, which is the original location of the town of Cedar Key, before it was virtually destroyed in the hurricane of 1896, and most residents left the island which is now part of the National Wildlife Refuge.

We beached the boat at Atsena Otie and relaxed on the sand with an “adult beverage” to celebrate our first trip out on the “big water.

Atsena Otie Beach

As we sat on the beach and gazed off in one direction, we saw nothing but water ~ it was a strange experience, especially for a couple of folks from Kansas!

View from the beach ~ water everywhere!

We did a little exploring along the beach, and were glad that we were wearing water shoes, as there are sharp shells all along the beach and ocean floor, that could easily put an end to your fun for the day and send you running for the first aid kit!

There are some ruins and other interesting things to see on the island, but we decided to wait for a return trip before checking them out – mainly because we did not have our mosquito repellant with us on this trip.

After visiting the islands, we boated along the shore of Cedar Key, taking in the water-side view of Dock Street and all the waterfront properties that line the water’s edge.

Gulf view of Dock Street, Home of Black Dog Bar and Tables!

The clock was nearing 6 p.m., so we reluctantly steered back to the dock, promising ourselves to do it again soon, to complete our exploration of the islands around Cedar Key.

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