North Nest Key, Joe Bay and tropical storm Gordon.

When Gordon blows into town,

Plan B happens!

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The original plan was to recon the recently (re) opened Joe Bay using North Nest Key as a base camp.
However due to tropical storm Gordon arriving a day early, the trip had to be cut short.

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But what about take #2 ?

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Originally this trip was conceived to check out the recently re-opened Joe Bay in northeastern Florida Bay. Due to time constraints, it took place over the Labor Day weekend 2018, just ahead of approaching tropical storm Gordon. Kayak Ted (aka Spiritwalker) and I planned to camp at North Nest Key and use it as a base camp for two nights. Joe Bay is intriguing because it has recently been re-opened to the public after being closed off for almost 40 years. It is also prime habitat for the American Crocodile, of which we had hoped to see many. Other than the “wow” factor of seeing the salties, we thought it’d be neat to go paddling where almost no one has been in decades and catch up with the Nest Keys post Hurricane Irma!

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Don’t worry, if you’re a kayaker you will not get paddled! 😉
Launch location at FBO (Florida Bay Outfitters) in Key Largo.

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To access eastern Florida Bay, one of the best spots to launch from is Key Largo’s very own Florida Bay Outfitters (FBO) at the north end of the Keys. The location makes it a natural choice for paddling Blackwater Sound, Barnes Sound, Buttonwood Sound and eastern Florida Bay. They allow overnight parking, so it’s also an excellent launch point when camping at Nest Key or Short Key. Just like anywhere in the Keys, parking space is very limited so you should call ahead and make arrangements with Frank or Monica. The other nice thing about launching from FBO is that they are a rental outfitter and a fully stocked kayak and paddleboard shop. In case you forget or need paddling related products like charts, books, clothing, skirts, paddles, etc .. they might have it. This is in stark contrast to launching say from Flamingo or even Everglades City, where you’ll have a difficult time getting anything more than fresh water at the put in!

Incidentally, right next door to FBO is the Caribbean Club, the location used in the filming of the 1948 classic Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall film ‘Key Largo‘. The property also has the distinction of being the very last project of Carl Fisher – the man who developed Miami Beach!

If you are paddling, do NOT park in the Caribbean Club lot!!

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Kayak launch at FBO into Blackwater Sound in Key Largo.
The green kayak belonged to the late Thaddeus Rice who passed away paddling during the 2018 Everglades Challenge (EC300) – RIP.

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Kayak Ted sporting a new look! 😮

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Paddling out of the Boggies – it was a lil too windy to bring out my big sombrero!

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Learn more about paddling on Florida Bay at:

Chickees and Keys in Florida Bay – Kayaking, Camping and Nice Dreams!

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The brisk SE winds brought a good fetch and actually kicked up some seas.

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Paddling out to the Nest Keys is straightforward and about nine miles from FBO. You can paddle up through either “The Boggies” or Dusenbury Creek. Actually it’s common to make a loop and use both. There are a couple of things to keep in mind however. One is that on a good easterly or southeasterly wind, both Blackwater Sound and Florida Bay can carry a good fetch and bring 3 – 4′ up to 6 foot waves. Be sure to have a good sprayskirt as those quartering seas will break on deck frequently. I initially started with my old nylon skirt instead of my nice fitting neoprene one and ended up with a bunch of water in the cockpit! The other thing to watch out for is motor boaters and jetskiers of which there will be many, especially on weekends!

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Labor Day weekend boater’s party at Nest Key in the Everglades.

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Although North Nest Key is a part of Everglades National Park, it’s close proximity to the Keys means that most of these regulations seem to be ignored. On the plus side, I’m happy to say that there was minimal trash on the island except for evidence of being used as a restroom! 😦

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North Nest Key is one of only two islands in Florida Bay currently open for backcountry camping. The other is Little Rabbit Key in the center of the ‘Bay which has a very nice remote feel. Although Nest Key is a part of Everglades National Park, it is just the opposite of remote due to it’s close proximity to Key Largo. It didn’t help that it was Labor Day weekend 2018! Consequently this island had the feel of a boater’s sandbar party, complete with jetskis, loud stereos, folks drinking and barbecuing, etc. When we arrived, there were probably twice as many boats as shown, and we had to carefully weave our way between vessels to make our landing on the key. There was no law enforcement presence, but maybe they already left for the day. Regardless, it’s not always this busy, but there are usually boaters around because this is Key Largo’s backyard! North Nest Key is not necessarily the place to go if you seek solitude, however it’s still worth a visit and makes a great base camp location for exploring eastern Florida Bay.

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The north tip of North Nest Key has a thin strip of beach for camping.

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Before Hurricane Irma in 2017, there was another even thinner strip of sandy beach to camp on in the “pocket” of north Nest Key. Today it is still there, but probably half of what you see in this aerial view from a previous trip.
CLICK for: From Havana con mucho cariño!

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Low altitude aerial view kayak camping on north Nest Key in eastern Florida Bay!

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Camp Kayakfari is established at North Nest Key in eastern Florida Bay.

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Gathering up the last rays of sunshine for you! 😮

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Kayak Ted setting up his camp on Nest Key right behind the sign.

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Nest Key has the classic Keys colors! 🙂

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Near dusk all the boaters departed and the island was nice and quiet. Thanks to the easterly breezes, there were almost no bugs at all and it was a very pleasant evening. One nice thing to note about out here in eastern Florida Bay is that the tidal range is pretty small, maybe a foot or even less typically. This makes it possible to camp on those narrow strips of beach on north Nest Key! It’s in contrast to central and western parts of the ‘Bay where 3 to 4 foot tidal swings are not uncommon.

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I instantly had a simple, yet delicious and nutritious dinner like this of smoked salmon, scallions and toast!
Everglades hot summer camping and cruising – the Central & Western Florida Bay loop!

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Tasty & Quick Cooking!

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After a delicious dinner came a sweet sunset like this one over North Nest Key.
CLICK for: From Havana con mucho cariño!

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Meanwhile back in camp we are reaching for the stars with Mr. Spock! 😉
Note the strong light pollution glow of (sub) urban South Florida to the NE.

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ART of Darkness – Camping with the Stars! Part II

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The wet north Nest Key interior at night under the stars.

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Camp Ted with some distant lightning to the WSW, framed by his nice Current Designs ‘Cypress’ sea kayak.

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The very small and narrow beach in the “pocket” of North Nest Key on a previous trip. Could be a possible option if the camp sites on the northern tip are taken.
CLICK for: Miami to Flamingo across Florida Bay via Short Key!

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Mars over camp Kayakfari at North Nest Key in Florida Bay under the Milky Way!

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Heat lightning continued in the distance all around us well into the night with the Milky Way straight overhead!

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ART of Darkness – Kayaking the final frontier of imaging and photography!

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Outtakes from the files of the Kayakfari outback photography studio:

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“When it’s time to shoot, shoot don’t move!”

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“Tomorrow is promised to no one.”

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““There’s a rebel lying deep in my soul.”
STOP – spending your nights indoors!! 😮

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ART of Darkness – Camping with the Stars! Part III

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The Milky Way straight over Nest Key in eastern Florida Bay. 😮

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Later on .. feeding my ears in-tent-ly like on this other trip to Nest Key.
CLICK for: From Havana con mucho cariño!

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CLICK for bedtime story!

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Plan B – Take  #1 !

The evening and most of the night were pleasant camping, but  by dawn it was clear that things had changed. Getting up with the sunrise, there was a lot of cloud cover and a heavy damp feeling in the air. Listening to the weather radio and checking radar on the phone we could see that tropical storm Gordon had arrived into our area earlier than anticipated. By 8:30, we were already seeing lightning strikes to the NE in the distance which was definitely not a good sign! We had to make a decision, and both agreed that in light of our situation we’d bag it and head back a day early.

We packed up camp just in time before all the heavy rain hit. At times rain so strong that we couldn’t even see each other on the water!

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The early arrival of tropical storm Gordon is why we decided to cut the trip short and head back!

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The morning featured extremely heavy rain at times. Thankfully we packed up camp just in time! 🙂

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Rounding the NE tip of North Nest Key I spy that the catwalk hasn’t been repaired since Hurricane Irma hit in September 2017 – one year ago!

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Paddling in the Rain, Just Paddlin’ and Campin’ in the Rain .. sing along!

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Satellite view of tropical storm Gordon over Florida on Labor Day weekend 2018.

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Plan B – Take  #2 !

Rounding the eastern tip of North Nest Key is a long catwalk to where two porta potties used to be before Hurricane Irma. Although the island itself fared well during the hurricane, this only man-made structure on the key did not! The ramp is still twisted from the hurricane and one of the toilets is gone. The other is now out in the open, i.e. “En plein air” shall we say. This is basically a year after Irma!

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Ted walks the plank ..

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Ted discovers that the toilet is now outdoors out in the open! 😮

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The REAL Sit On Top!

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Ted on the throne in defiance of the rain!

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Ted is feeling STELLAR now!

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The facilities are currently “En plein air” ! 😉

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The twisted catwalk to the toilet on North Nest Key, September 2018.

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Most of the wood looks to be in good shape to reuse, but new pilings will have to be sunk for the catwalk.

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North Nest Key was completely inundated by Hurricane Irma in 2017. Luckily since the island itself is basically a saltwater marsh anyway, this had little impact!

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All this rain kept the seas down flat. This time I had my neoprene sprayskirt on, so I was totally dry – from the waist down. Of course I was completely soaked from the waist UP! I thought about putting my paddling jacket on, but then this is South Florida and I kinda enjoyed the cool rain. My favorite part of the intense rain was the sound that it made! 🙂

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Just a fool in the rain or a ghost?

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I’m paddling in the rain on Florida Bay!
Paddling in the Rain, Just Paddlin’ and Campin’ in the Rain .. sing along!

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Gloomy morning on eastern Florida Bay.

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Red mangroves in the shallows near the Nest Keys.
South Florida’s walking coastal Mangroves – Roots Paddling, Photography and Dreadlocks!

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Navigating back towards Dusenbury Creek was easy once the rain cleared up some. Just look on the horizon for the big concrete microwave communications relay tower in Key Largo. It’s right across from the entrance into John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and is an excellent landmark. Of course you still need to know the layout of the area, so a chart is always good to have! However paddling in the general direction of the tower will get you to the entrance to the creek.

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This old concrete microwave communications relay tower in Key Largo is a distinctive and excellent landmark to navigate by. It can be seen from many miles away on the ocean or in Florida Bay, including from Nest Key!

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Dusenbury Creek itself is a full speed powerboating zone. The creek narrows considerably and some of the boat wakes from arrogant idiot boaters get large enough to swamp an unprepared paddler. The only good thing is the since it’s bordered by mangroves, the waves dissipate very quickly. There are also some really tight side creeks where powerboats can’t go that are worth exploring!

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Who would have guessed that the ultimate answer to anything and everything is on Dusenbury Creek!? 😉

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Back at the put in at FBO. Even though we didn’t make to to Joe Bay this time, it was a memorable trip!

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This was an interesting, if somewhat short trip. We experienced conditions ranging from downwind paddling to a sunny afternoon at a boater’s party to a pleasant night under the Milky Way, followed by a morning of torrential rain courtesy of tropical storm Gordon. That’s the chance you take whenever trying to beat an approaching storm system. It was tough to make the decision to abort, but it proved to be the right course of action!

BIG thanks to Frank and Monica at Florida Bay Outfitters for allowing us to park in their lot!

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Actual loop traveled from FBO to North Nest Key on Florida Bay and Blackwater Sound.

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The End – but we’ll back back for you Joe Bay!

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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!

With that said..
Blessings friends!

:)

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