Kayaking to Dry Rocks Reef – a Pilgrimage to find the “Christ of the Abyss” off Key Largo!

Paddling for Jesus in the Florida Keys dive country!

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp satellite

The “Christ of the Abyss” lives at Dry Rocks Reef off Key Largo.
It’s doable medium-length paddle as long as the weather is right!

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The “Christ of the Abyss” is possibly the most famous underwater attraction in all of Key Largo, and certainly inside John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in the Florida Keys’ dive country. It’s a very popular draw for tourists, snorkelers and divers – and boaters. The “Christ of the Deep” as it’s also called is a submerged 9 foot tall bronze statue of Jesus Christ about 6 miles offshore at Dry Rocks Reef in the world famous Pennekamp Park.

I’ve thought about paddling out there many times, and on a recent Sunday morning finally decided to do it.

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp

“I gave the people kayaks. People love kayaks!”
Digital art available from Kayakfari ART Photography.

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I even recruited an eager Pilgrim to join me!

Kayaking out to Dry Rocks Reef is straightforward paddle, but keep in mind that it is 6 miles offshore and ALL in open water, with NO place to get out after the first mile!! Bring a waterproof compass to navigate with, as you will need to head in a general SE direction once you clear Rattlesnake Key. If you go on a weekend or a holiday there will be always be several boats already out there, so just head for them.

Prepare ahead of time by studying the marine forecast and weather patterns. You want to be confident of at least two things: light winds with calm seas AND very low forecast probability for lightning storms! So generally speaking, this means picking the right time of year to go and launching as early as possible in the morning. It goes without saying that you should be comfortable paddling extended distances in open water!

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Launching off Garden Cove – use caution and watch out for boat wakes!
There’s a full speed boating channel that runs just off shore.

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This trip starts at Garden Cove in Key Largo at an unofficial kayak put-in (read: vacant lot). The location has been used by paddlers of all types for many years and is right next door to a private residence. Please be respectful, park appropriately on the side of Atlantic Blvd and pack out all your trash to keep the lot clean!

Many paddlers launch out from Garden Cove daily and clubs and meetup groups organize trips here from time to time. It turns out that Garden Cove is also the perfect launch spot to access the reefs offshore and for paddling out to find the “Christ of the Deep”!

There is one caveat everyone needs to be aware of however. At Garden Cove, you are launching pretty much directly into a high speed boating channel as you can see in the picture above! You will encounter many boats and their wakes, so it’s important to get in and out of the launch zone quickly! This is simply a function of geography and the fact that this was never planned to be a paddle-craft put-in. Once in the water be sure to stay out of the well marked boating channel!!

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Paddler Brad F. of Miami Beach – my Pilgrimage co-conspirator in an RTM Tempo (Scupper Pro) courtesy of Virginia Key Outdoor Center.
It’s a great all around sit on top for Florida’s waters.

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Kayak Aerial kayakfari photography pole everglades birds eye flex maslan canoe

Birds-eye aerial view of Upper Sound Point on Rattlesnake Key in Garden Cove, Key Largo, Florida. Image from a previous trip.
CLICK for superwide interactive panorama!

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There’s a nice little cove on the north east point of Rattlesnake Key that about a mile from the put-in. This is a good place to regroup and snack. In fact it is the only place to get out, because from here on out everything is underwater!

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

It’s a beaut of a day and reason to give thanks – Blessings! 🙂

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

The little cove at Upper Sound Point on Rattlesnake Key is about a mile from the put-in and the last piece of terra firma on this trip!

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For this trip I chose the “Mojito”, my RTM Disco sit on top kayak. This is probably the nicest handling inexpensive plastic kayak for paddlers under 175 lbs. She’s a very wet ride which is actually a plus in the South Florida sub-tropical heat. With the addition of thigh straps, she responds much like a proper sea kayak and is great to learn and practice kayaking and rescue skills. She’s also very easy to roll and an excellent surf/play boat for South Florida waters!

I like to paddle the Mojito with a wing paddle which results in a fast and quick handling combination! 🙂

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Kiss the Sky – next stop – “Christ of the Abyss”!

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I would actually discourage anyone from paddling out this far into open water solo, unless you know exactly what you’re doing and have left a float plan with someone who cares about your well being. The reason being the combination of open water and unpredictable weather – you don’t want to be there all by yourself if something were to happen.

Use the buddy system!

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp satellite

Satellite view detail of Garden Cove and Rattlesnake Key off Key Largo.

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Note that this is about a 13 mile round trip – ALL in open water, with NO possibility of getting out anywhere after the first mile. 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 Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Brad is ready to find Jesus even if he does look simian! 😉

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Two Pilgrims with crazy face protectors on a mission to find Jesus!

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

HalleluJah – let’s paddle!

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A Sit-on-Top kayak is a great choice for this trip because the Dry Rocks is a shallow reef and a great place for extended shallow water snorkeling! It should take about an hour and a half to two hours or so to paddle out. There are also other nearby reefs that can be explored when time permits. Bring a small sand anchor and some line to daisy chain several kayaks together if needed. Also don’t forget your mask/fins/snorkel and diver down flag or float!

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Classic Keys colors, the blue-green aqua world. 🙂

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Only my feet are getting tanned – I wanted to go barefoot on this Pilgrimage!
CLICK for story: Your feet are the key to proper paddling posture!

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Cruising in the Mojito with my ‘not-a-dive flag’ and sombrero providing the most excellent shade.

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Roy’s Reef is named after USGS charter Capt Roy Gaensslen and still about a mile away from Dry Rocks Reef.

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

You know you’re getting close when you see the Park tourist boats running.

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Why paddle out here?

Well, one reason is that because it’s there and it is doable! Another is that a trip like this really does feel like a Pilgrimage of sorts to see something unique and special. I’m not particularly religious, but there is a nice spiritual aspect to the endeavor. Finally, as a photographer, I really wanted to capture all of this! 🙂

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp satellite

“Christ of the Abyss” and other nearby reefs are five miles out to sea from Rattlesnake Key!

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

This tilted marker can be seen from far away and marks the location of Dry Rocks Reef.

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Dry Rocks Reef is aptly named, so watch out on low tide – even in a kayak!

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Vertical panorama of Dry Rocks Reef off Key Largo, Fl.

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

The rocks were almost dry at Dry Rocks Reef!

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This is not a short trip at roughly 13 miles round trip, but totally doable for active paddlers when the conditions are right. I’m of the opinion that an active paddler should be able to handle about 20 miles of kayaking on any given day! The biggest risk factor here is that it’s all in open water and fully exposed.

Therefore it bears repeating that it’s key to pick the right time of year with the right weather forecast to go and with the right people!!

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp satellite

Satellite detail of Dry Rocks Reef and the location of the “Christ of the Abyss” statue.

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Arrival at the reef – Sundays are busy at the “Christ of the Abyss”!

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

This spar buoy marks the spot where the Jesus statue lies underwater!

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The “Christ of the Abyss” is located at 25°07’24.2″N 80°17’49.5″W !

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Tying off the closest mooring buoy. There was actually a pretty good current flowing at the surface!

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Tie off on one of the mooring buoys if available.

Otherwise be sure to always anchor in the sand and NOT on top of the reef itself!

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Image link courtesy of www.floridagofishing.com

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp satellite

The “Christ of the Abyss” statue is located at 25°07’24.2″N and 80°17’49.5″W

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

This is it – about to swap sombrero for face mask and dive in to meet Jesus!

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

An uncommon alliance between kayaks and jet skis. They didn’t have an anchor and asked to tie off with us when all the buoys were taken. It’s all good!

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Does God live underwater?

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Just under the surface at Dry Rocks Reef, barefoot Pilgrimage now switching to fins.

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Kayakfari represents – Bless UP!

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Over Dry Rocks Reef with resident Barracuda.

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp

Masks may come and go, but I still like my simple old school snorkel in 2017! 🙂

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Dry Rocks Reef is one of several beautiful shallow reefs off Key Largo.

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There is great snorkeling all along Dry Rocks Reef!

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Brad dives in over the shallow Dry Rocks Reef.

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Schools of Atlantic Blue Tang fish over Dry Rocks Reef off Key Largo.

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Some of the other residents at Dry Rocks Reef include these Bluestripe grunts.

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Please remember: DO NOT step on or touch any coral!!

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Even on this very shallow reef there are some small ledges and crevices to explore.

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Peering over a coral shelf I witness my first sighting of the “Christ of the Abyss” through the hazy water!

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Christ faces due east embracing those on the surface above with open arms!

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Ooops, looks like somebody exhaled! 😉

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

It was a busy Sunday for Jesus!

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Brad strikes a pose with the Christ of the Deep.

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

I’m reaching out, but does God really live underwater?

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Kayakfari ART Photography take on Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam“.

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel Pennekamp Michelangelo

The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo, 1512 – hand detail.
Image credit: Wikipedia

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Circular 180 fisheye view of the “Christ of the Abyss” bronze statue at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo, Florida – shortly after it was installed in the 1960’s.
Image credit: FloridaMemory.com

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp 1982

Truth is I first found Jesus way back in 1982, but haven’t been back in a long time.
Jesus was younger then too ~ note my cool G-Shock Casio watch! 🙂

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

The Christ of the Deep in 2017 – He has been down there for over 50 years now!

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From Jesus to Christ to Art!

Alt Jesus Study is a non-religious but spiritual look at the meaning of sacrifice, rebirth, fertility and duality. Exploration of symbolism and culture as represented in the forms of Jesus and northern hemisphere Western Mythology.

Alt Jesus Study digital art series from DecoratedReality.com

Alt Jesus Study series series Flex Maslan decoratedreality.com digital029art.com surreal digital art fantasy dream spritual christ

“Goal Keeper”
CLICK for the Alt Jesus Study digital art series from DecoratedReality.com !

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

“Sangre de Cristo”
Digital art available from Kayakfari ART Photography.

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

“Gran Poder”
Digital art available from Kayakfari ART Photography.

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Coming up for air, kayaks waiting on the surface!

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This “Christ of the Abyss” statue is actually one of three worldwide that are underwater. It is fact the third casting from the same mold and was commissioned for Italian dive equipment manufacturer Egidio Cressi, who then donated it to the Underwater Society of America. The Society, in turn presented the sculpture to the then newly formed John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo in the early 1960’s.

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Back on top, there was another eye in the sky watching and filming us!

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Time to head back – in a general NW direction towards the point at Rattlesnake Key about 5 miles away.

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Looking back towards the somewhat distant shoreline in the later afternoon made navigation pretty easy. Just note where the sun is going and head in a general north west direction. It’s also always a good idea to take notice of the various antennas, towers and buildings when heading out so then you know what to look for when going back! Of course with a compass it’s just as easy and you can double check yourself. When you get to within about two miles of Upper Sound Point on Rattlesnake Key you will be able to see it and then adjust your track accordingly!

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

This old barge wreck sits half submerged a little over a mile out from the put-in at Garden Cove. It made for a nice diversion on the return trip!

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

The concrete barge wreck is a popular destination for paddlers of all abilities.

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp rtm disco

Late afternoon arrival back at the Garden Cove put-in and the end of the story!

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Note that this is about a 13 mile round trip – ALL in open water, with NO possibility of getting out anywhere after the first mile. Plan accordingly and paddle within your limitations and the weather conditions!!

Always have plenty of fresh water to stay hydrated!

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Flex Maslan kayak Jesus Christ statue Reef kayakfari key largo dry rocks paddle keys dive snorkel abyss Pennekamp satellite

Satellite scale perspective of this kayaking trip off Key Largo!

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Be safe and enjoy your time on the water

and underwater!

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! Blessings

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You may also like to check out Alligator Reef:

Flex Maslan Everglades kayakfari ranger led pour beer kayak Alligator Reef Light dive keys paddle coral photography

Kayaking to Alligator Light Reef (lighthouse) .. of Fishes, Wreckers, Pirates and Keys History!

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© 2017 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!

With that said..
Blessings friends!

:)