Duane K. McCullough

Image of departure dock in Key Largo
Bayside beach and dock at Mile Marker 104 Key Largo

Hello, my name is Captain Duane and welcome aboard. I've lived here in Key Largo for almost three decades and have been one of the nature tour guide captains here at the resort for over six years.

It's a beautiful day for exploring Florida Bay -- the weather is great and the water is very clear today.

A quick safety review will reveal lifejackets under your seats in case we hit an iceberg or get torpedoed by a submarine. And if for some reason we lose all the air in the tubes of this inflatable boat, we will just get out and walk about -- because the average depth of the water here in Florida Bay is only about three or four feet. I will show a map and a nautical chart of the area in a few minutes and we will see just how shallow the water is.

There is a first aid kit under the seat to my left and we have a VHF radio here on the console. I also have a cell phone in my orange dry box by the ice cooler -- so our communication needs should be safely covered.

Speaking of safety concerns, ladies and children aboard do not have to worry about the sharks out here in Florida Bay because only man-eating sharks are found in the bay and they leave the women and children alone.

Right now we're in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary that was established in the early nineties -- which includes the entire Florida Keys. We'll be entering the nearby Everglades National Park in a couple of minutes after crossing the Inter-coastal Waterway which borders this portion of the park.

Oh look -- there's Pete the Pelican sitting on his piling. What a wonderful bird the pelican is, his beak can hold more than his belly can -- I wonder how the hell he can. Pete and his buddy Henry the Heron over there on the dock like to hang around here and beg for fish from the fishermen. Both are local characters that come to life when somebody catches a fish -- but Henry wins most arguments of who gets the first available fish because of his sharp beak and loud sounds. I'll talk more about the local bird life later in the tour.

About a mile distant are some small man-made islands that were created by the government about seventy years ago when dredge rock material was placed there from what is now the eight foot deep Inter-coastal Waterway channel. Those small man-made islands run parallel to the waterway like many spoil bank islands that exists along the Inter-coastal Waterway from Virginia to Texas. All the other larger islands we see beyond them are much older and have formed over hundreds of years.

Florida Bay consist of about 850 square miles of very shallow water where many mangrove islands are nursery homes to a wide variety of marine plants and animals. Our 2 hour tour will be exploring the upper portion of this realm and when we arrive within the Everglades National Park in a moment I will give orientation as to where we are and what we will see during the tour.

We hope to see some large animals like Dolphins and Manatees -- but I'm not Tarzan, I can't call up the animals, and they don't wear watches or follow any time schedule. In any case, we're going to have a great boat ride and a wonderful experience exploring the area. So, hold on to your hats as we engage the warp drive unit and beam over to Everglades National Park.


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