Boca Chita – kayaking to a Fantasy Island on Biscayne Bay!

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Paddling to Boca Chita on Biscayne Bay with main points of interest.

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“I have seen the light!”

Boca Chita is a small island in Southern Biscayne Bay about ten miles offshore. It’s on the north tip of a chain of barrier islands that extend down to Key Largo, and eventually all the way to Key West. Speaking of which it should not be confused with Boca Chica – which is actually a Naval Air Station in Key West!

Boca Chita island or key is a popular boating destination inside Biscayne National Park which is one of our Nation’s youngest national parks. Only established in 1980, the Park started out as the Biscayne National Monument in 1968 through the efforts of Congressman Dante Fascell. It is mostly underwater and broadly encompasses all the barrier islands north of Broad Key up to the Stiltsville “village” near Key Biscayne. It extends out east to cover the Fowey Rocks lighthouse and west to cover the mainland coastline except for the Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant. The entire chain of these keys also marks the western boundary for the Gulf Stream, one of the major ocean current systems on our planet!

Large map of Biscayne National Park.

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water satellite

Smooth sailing ahead on Biscayne Bay in this pre-dawn satellite view! 🙂

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It really pays to pick a good forecast for a day trip like this. At twenty one miles round trip, it’s not the longest by far but it is ALL in open water! As such it is subject to wind, waves and strong currents, in addition to dealing with the unpredictable South Florida general boating public. Be double sure you know what you’re getting into before deciding to do an offshore trip like this!

It’s also an excellent idea to paddle with a buddy or a small group as was the case on this trip. This particular group, the South Florida Paddlers was recently formed in the last year or so and they have been working up to better and better local trips. It’s no secret that paddlers – and kayakers especially are notorious for “doing their own thing”. A lot of this comes about because of schedules, abilities and an honest lack of like minded people. It also comes about because we often need to “GTFO of Dodge”, and lots of times this means going it solo. So it’s always good to see something new develop, and the wonders of modern social media networking have produced this active local facebook group!

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

“What’s uppppp?!”
Paddlers David C. and Mark G. at the put-in at Black Point on Biscayne Bay.

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It’s often the case that “new blood” does take note and can make things happen which sometimes leave a lasting impact. I’ve been paddling in South Florida since the early 1990s and have seen shops come and go. In the mid to late 90s, the Waterways Kayak shop in Hollywood was the biggest shop that South Florida has ever seen. In the mid to late-2000s we had KayakJeff in Dania Beach along with the South Florida Kayaking Meetup where we helped to introduce many more to sea kayaking. This period also includes Wayne Albert and Esther Luft who got bit by the sea kayaking bug and now operate the VKOC – Virginia Key Outdoor Center. Before going into the paddling business, Esther put together many great paddling trips around town and in the Everglades as an organizer of the Miami Kayak Club. The trips were fun and full of fresh energy because many of the paddlers were new to the sport of kayak touring and were eager to see and do more! Similarly today, the South Florida Paddlers group which centers around the trio of David C., Mark G. and Roger D. brings new energy into the “scene” such as there has not been since about 2012. Sure there are plenty of “kayakers” in South Florida, but comparatively few actual sea paddlers. These guys aren’t the only ones paddling, but the group is very open and welcoming of new people who might be interested in taking up the sport. Sea kayak touring NEEDS new blood, especially younger new blood to keep it going.

In keeping with DIY learning trends that the web makes possible, this group is starting to make things happen locally. Kudos guys!! 🙂

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water satellite

Location of canoe/kayak/board launch into a mangrove tunnel at Black Point.

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

Heading out through the short but neat mangrove tunnel into Biscayne Bay.
Note that on low tide you may need to remove your fin/skeg/rudder or flip it up!

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

Debuting a new look for this trip! 😮

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A kayaker’s tribute to the humble and versatile Sombrero!

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

Early morning paddling on beautiful Biscayne Bay.

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Aside from visiting Boca Chita, our plan for the trip also included a visit to the Ragged Keys just to the north, including a paddle-by of the privately owned island Ragged Key #3. The trip across Biscayne Bay crossed a couple of shoals called the Featherbed Banks starting at about half way across and two-thirds of the way there. On low tide and favorable conditions it’s possible to temporarily step out and stand and stretch if needed or cool off. Under good conditions this is a straightforward paddle and navigation is simply due east/west. Look for a dip on the horizon starting about half way through – this is Lewis Cut between Sands Key and Boca Chita. After a little more paddling you’ll start to see the lighthouse sticking up above the mangrove tree line. During the hot summer months early to mid afternoon thunderstorms are a daily occurrence. This and the large prevalence of bugs along with the high heat/humidity would be three good reasons to save this trip for cooler months!

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

There are a couple of shoals along the way, starting at about the half way point. On low tide you might get out of your boat but won’t be dry.

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

David paddles over a shoal on Biscayne Bay.

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

Miami paddler Roger D. in his cool vintage kevlar Necky Looksha sea kayak!

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Note that this is about a 21 mile round trip paddle – ALL in open water!

There is NO possibility of getting out anywhere except for Boca Chita and the Ragged Key.

Plan accordingly and paddle within your limitations and the weather conditions!!

Be absolutely sure you know what you are getting into before considering doing this kind of a trip!

Safety first means planning and research first!!

Always have plenty of fresh water to stay hydrated!

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

This is about the only thing on the ten mile transit from Black Point to Boca Chita.

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

Mark approaches the outer markers of Boca Chita in Biscayne National Park.

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

Hugo M. on final approach to Boca Chita. The lighthouse is the heading, due east!

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There’s not much information about the pre-Columbian Native history of Boca Chita, but it is well known that the Tequesta Peoples lived in the region for about 2000 years up to about the mid-1700’s. In more recent times, the island was a private retreat built up by Mark C. Honeywell, the founder of the Honeywell Corporation. Although he only owned it for a few years, he created much of what we see today. It remained in private hands and largely unchanged until becoming a part of the Park. Today it’s maintained by the NPS for interpretive, educational and recreational use by the public. It’s also one of two designated backcountry camping spots inside Biscyane National Park (the other is Elliot Key to the south). The best time to visit is October through April when there are fewer bugs to deal with!

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

Inside the basin marina at Boca Chita with the cool lighthouse and my “not a dive flag” visual safety aid attached to the stern of my kayak “REDRUM”.

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“Now it’s time for my fantasy!”

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

“I have seen the light!”
Actual fact: This is a purely decorative non-functional lighthouse. The glass dome does reflect the sun perfectly however!

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

Our small flotilla at Boca Chita!

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“My dear guests!

I am your virtual host. Welcome… to Fantasy Island!”

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

Look .. da Plane, da PLANE! 😉

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In many ways Boca Chita Key remains to this day like a “Fantasy Island”. Whereas in the past it was private playground for the rich and famous, today anyone can visit or even camp on the island. Most visitors come by powerboat. a few by a tour boat and fewer still by kayak. The best place to land kayaks is on the north side where there is a nice little beach. There’s plenty of room on the island and lots of convenient picnic tables and I’m happy to say it’s very clean and mostly trash-free. Being here is like a fantasy because for a brief time you can imagine living the (almost) private island life! It’s such a stark contrast to busy suburban Miami and South Florida and it’s probably the nicest spot in Biscayne National Park other than maybe Stiltsville. Instead of shops, condos, traffic and people everywhere now you just have grand views of Biscayne Bay – for a day or a night!

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

Boca Chita is a part of Biscayne National Park.

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

Remnants of a stone wall built by Mr. Honeywell on Boca Chita Key.

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Much of what we see was built up by industrialist Mark Honeywell who himself bought the island in 1937 from automotive industrialist and the man who developed Miami Beach Mr. Carl Fisher. The lighthouse stands 65 feet tall and is an impressive but only decorative structure. It was never used as a navigational beacon since it was uncharted and not licensed with the U.S. Coast Guard Lighthouse Service authorities. Mr Honeywell and his wife used the island as a private retreat and to host elaborate parties for the wealthy and influential. After the death of his wife, Mr. Honeywell sold the island in 1942. It’s interesting that those brief five years have given us these iconic images of Biscayne National Park.

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

Pretty reasonable and self-explanatory Park regulations posted at Boca Chita.

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

Boca Chita Key has quite a bit of open space on the north end. There’s plenty of room for picnicking, camping and recreation!

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

The Boca Chita marina basin and seawall on the west side of the Key.

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

Although non-functional, the lighthouse on Boca Chita is beautifully made!

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

Lucky for us, it was open for about a half hour while we were there! 🙂

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Fortunately for us, Mark G. had called the Park ahead of time to inquire about the lighthouse which is only open when there is a Ranger on site. Sure enough, shortly after we arrived a tour boat pulled into the harbor and they all immediately proceeded to the lighthouse! We followed suit and were able to get in and enjoy the excellent views from the top which you can see below.

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

Inside the Boca Chita lighthouse is somewhat reminiscent of a sketch by M.C. Escher!

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

“Will the last person to leave the lighthouse please turn out the light!”

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

Looking straight up into the glass dome of the lighthouse at Boca Chita Key.

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

At the top of the lighthouse at Boca Chita with majestic 360 views of Biscayne Bay.
Sombreros ARE allowed inside!

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Mr. Honeywell, the builder of the lighthouse was the first CEO of the Honeywell Corporation. Later, in the 1960s and 70s, Honeywell Corp. imported the Japanese Pentax brand of cameras and lenses into the US such as the famous Asahi Pentax Spotmatic. The lenses were and still are top quality and many are in use today on digital cameras. Why is this relevant? Because I am a Pentaxian and almost every image you see on this site was taken with a Pentax cam and/or lens! 🙂

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle honeywell pentax

The Honeywell Corporation was an early importer of the famous Pentax brand of 35mm SLR cameras from Asahi Optical Co. in Japan. This vintage lens cap covers of front of my excellent SMC Pentax-M 35/2 lens from the late 1970s! 🙂

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“If we get another depressed yuppie stockbroker on this island, I won’t be held accountable for my actions.”

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

David C. admiring the views!

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

The railing over Biscayne Bay. Sorry about the water drops on the fisheye lens.

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

Fowey Rocks lighthouse, seven miles away due NE as seen from the light at Boca Chita.
CLICK for: Kayaking the Biscayne Bay triangle: Cape Florida – Fowey Rocks – Soldier Key!

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“Voyeurism is so… unsatisfying.”

But the views from the top of the Boca Chita lighthouse are indeed very satisfying! 😉

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water soldier key

Soldier Key, 4.5 miles away due N as seen from the light at Boca Chita.
CLICK for: Kayaking the Biscayne Bay triangle: Cape Florida – Fowey Rocks – Soldier Key!

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water cape florida

Cape Florida lighthouse, ten miles away due N as seen from the light at Boca Chita.
CLICK for: Kayaking the Biscayne Bay triangle: Cape Florida – Fowey Rocks – Soldier Key!

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water miami

Downtown Miami, 17 miles away due N as seen from the light at Boca Chita.
CLICK for: Kayaking the Biscayne Bay triangle: Cape Florida – Fowey Rocks – Soldier Key!

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“Mr. Kayaker likes to flirt with death, but death is looking for a more permanent relationship.”

Dealing with the general boating public is a part of paddling in South Florida. Some places are better than others and usually the more remote, the nicer the boaters! In the case of Southern Biscayne Bay it’s  not too bad. Even so, one idiot boater running at high speed insisted on having to cut between us paddlers instead of slightly deviating his course to avoid our small group. I was even flying my orange/blue “not a dive flag” on a 6 foot yellow pole! I don’t know what to think about this – is it stupidity, laziness, arrogance, not caring, malice? Sometimes I do get the distinct impression that a power boater is purposely trying to give me a hard time or endanger me for some kind of a sadistic “kick”. How sad! I would actually call this kind behavior a hate crime against kayakers!!

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

“Mt Trashmore” – Miami-Dade landfill waste disposal facility, ten miles away at Black Point due W.
Note the approaching high speed boater, something to always be on the lookout for when on the water!

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

Remains of dock pilings just north of Boca Chita Key in the incredible aqua blue waters of southern Biscayne Bay.

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ART of the Bay – Visions of Stiltsville and Biscayne Bay landscapes

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

The main beach at Boca Chita is on the north tip and is the best place to land on the island.

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

The People come ready to chill here in the clear waters of Biscayne National Park.

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The beautiful beach on the north tip of Boca Chita Key is surrounded by crystal clear waters in the turquoise Keys colors.

It’s island time out here! 🙂

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

Aerial view of the beach on the north tip of Boca Chita Key.

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

A view to a chill” with some sexy kayaks on Boca Chita beach! 🙂

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Aerial VR Panoramas

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

Low altitude aerial panorama of the small beach at Boca Chita.

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“Smiles, everyone… smiles!”

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

Departing the fantasy island that is Boca Chita Key.

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water satellite

Satellite detail of Boca Chita and the Ragged Keys in Biscayne National Park.

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

Let’s ride!

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A kayaker’s tribute to the humble and versatile Sombrero!

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

This is the REAL Fantasy Island right here – Ragged Key #3!
One of the two remaining private residences inside Biscayne National Park.

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

The northern Ragged Key really is .. ragged!
Unlike Boca Chita, this tiny key is decrepit, looks overused and has a lot of trash on it! 😦

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All that trash – the ugly side of kayaking in Miami!

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

Landing on the northern Ragged Key in Biscayne Bay.

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Ragged Key #1, the northernmost island was also once inhabited. Today all that is left are concrete parts of a perimeter seawall and other structures. It’s a small island that receives many visitors, perhaps too many as evidenced by all the trash there! 😦

It’s worth a visit but really lacks the nice feel of Boca Chita Key!

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

This key was also once privately owned. These are the remains of the seawall.

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

Low altitude aerial view from north Ragged Key.

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A Kayak Aerial Photography Method – a behind (and above) the scenes look!

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

Outstanding aerial panorama of north Ragged Key on Biscayne Bay (if I do say so myself).

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Aerial VR Panoramas

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

Kayaker David C. in his red CD Solstice GT sea kayak on Biscayne Bay!

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

REDRUM, a Nigel Foster Silhouette rested and ready to depart on the ten mile crossing back to Black Point.

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The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder!

Ok while you ponder the above quote by Ralph W. Sockman, it’s gonna take close to 3 hours to paddle back the ten miles to Black Point. Navigation is easy again, simply due west heading for the trash mound on the horizon, probably the tallest object south of Miami!

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

Approaching Black Point on Biscayne Bay.

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

The mangrove tunnel entrance at Black Point.

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This was a longer but doable day paddle to visit a small piece of paradise – a “Fantasy Island” in South Florida. We had nearly perfect conditions and almost no bugs at all thanks to a light breeze. However the put-in launch spot hosts many noseeums since it’s in the mangroves. We made it back just in time before sunset to avoid the worst of it.

Many thanks to the South Florida Paddlers for putting this together!

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South Florida’s walking coastal Mangroves – Roots Paddling, Photography and Dreadlocks!

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flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water

It really is a neat tunnel and the mangroves really light up in the afternoon light! 🙂

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Note that this is about a 21 mile round trip paddle – ALL in open water!

There is NO possibility of getting out anywhere except for Boca Chita and the Ragged Key.

Plan accordingly and paddle within your limitations and the weather conditions!!

Be absolutely sure you know what you are getting into before considering doing this kind of a trip!

Safety first means planning and research first!!

Always have plenty of fresh water to stay hydrated!

.

flex maslan Kayak miami kayakfari boca chita biscayne bay black point lighthouse photography sombrero paddle open water satellite

Southern Biscayne Bay and points of interest in relation to our trip to Boca Chita Key.

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Enjoy!

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! Bless

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© 2018 Flex Maslan / kayakfari.com / awakenthegrass.com. All original photographs, artworks and music in this portfolio are copyrighted and owned by the artist, Flex Maslan, unless otherwise noted. Any reproduction, modification, publication, transmission, transfer, or exploitation of any of the content, for personal or commercial use, whether in whole or in part, without written permission from the artist is strictly prohibited.

All rights reserved!

DISCLAIMER:: The maps and images on this site are not intended for navigation, I am not a guide; use any and all information at your own risk! Your mileage may vary .. so use good judgement before venturing out!

I hereby disclaim any sponsorship, endorsement, nor association with any product or service described herein. The photographs, depictions, products, and ideas presented on this site are for informational purposes only. Your results may vary, and I do not imply nor guarantee the effectiveness, suitability, design or operation to adhere to any standard. I assume no legal responsibility for the implementation of anything herein presented! Use any and all information at your own risk! By using any and all information from this website, you accept the final liability for any use or possible associated misuse!

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With that said..
Blessings friends!

:)

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