Keys Lobster Pilgrimage 2015

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I spent last week in the Florida Keys for my family’s annual lobster-diving pilgrimage. We typically wait until the regular lobster season is underway, but this year we went for the two-day mini-season that precedes it by a few weeks. (If you’re unfamiliar with Florida lobstering, check out my brief overview from a few years ago.) This year our crew consisted of me, my parents and brother, both of my paternal uncles and aunts, our friend Dale who’s basically family, and my cousin Cliff and his wife and kids.

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The first day of diving was a ten-hour affair, starting before sunrise. Out of a possible 72, we caught 49 lobster, which is nothing to sneeze at, but anything below limit is considered shameful when you’re a Wilkerson. Overheard after three straight lobsterless hours: “Okay, I have an idea… but we’d need someone to stand guard with a spear gun.”

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I’ve never been a prolific lobster diver, because I have trouble equalizing my ears and getting down to the seafloor without burning up all my oxygen. I leave the bulk of the work to the guys, which is fine with them. But after a lifetime of snorkeling and diving, I tried a weight belt on this trip, and it was a game changer. Suddenly I could sink and stay down without overexerting myself. I was so thrilled, I totally ignored the usual pain and pressure in my ears. By the end of the day, I couldn’t hear at all out of my right ear, and my dad insisted I go to the ER because he thought my eardrum had burst. Thankfully, before I paid my hefty copay, a nurse heard me describing my symptoms and assured me that all I had was water trapped in my middle ear. After I came home, I got some antibiotics and it’s gotten mostly better on its own. God bless you, nurse at Fisherman’s Community Hospital of Marathon.

My mom and I opted out of the second day of lobstering to go on a tourist snorkeling boat! We snorkeled at a couple of locations, including Coffins Patch, a protected area with the best reef I’ve seen since I was a kid. The fish came right up to me!

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Mask face is the sign of a good time!!!

We spent some time poolside at the hotel and saw a few iguanas. One of them was at least five feet long and a truly majestic creature. I took at least twenty pictures of him.

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In the afternoon, my mom and I headed to Key West, with a brief detour on Big Pine Key to see Key deer. We were on our way out after no deer encounters when we spotted a fawn in someone’s yard. I jumped out of the car to get close to it, and was so entranced I didn’t even see its mother crossing the street. She nursed it a few feet from where I was standing. (The deer are totally protected there, so they’re very tame.) It was amazing!

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I’ve been to Key West before, but it had been years and I didn’t remember much about it. We quickly hit up the beach and Southernmost Point.

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Then it was on to Mallory Square for dinner, key lime mojitos, and the sunset.

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As you may have heard, Key West has its share of weirdness. Among other things, there’s a park with artistically-placed busts of all the founders of Key West (or, as I excitedly called it, “a bunch of heads!”), and The Cat Man. About halfway through his act, we got too concerned about the overall welfare of the cats to keep watching. I mean, I don’t know too many cats willing to walk tightropes and jump through flaming hoops on command.

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Back in Marathon on Friday, my family fulfilled a long-held goal of snorkeling at Sombrero! It was amazing. Photos taken by Kevin with his GoPro:

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We ended our trip with lunch at Burdines, one of my favorite places in the world! You can’t beat the view, the food, or the fried key lime pie. As usual, I ordered the slider platter that includes a chicken florentine burger and a shrimpburger. My dad also bought me a koozie, so I can think fondly of Burdines while enjoying a brew on my patio at home.

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It was a good time with extended family, and dare I say, much more vacationlike than most of our lobstering trips. I love the Keys!

About Brenda W.

Christian. Memphian. Reader. Writer. True blue Tiger fan. Lover of shoes, the ocean, adventure, and McAlister’s iced tea.

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2 Responses to Keys Lobster Pilgrimage 2015

  1. Carol says:

    I know my comment is coming late, but these are great pictures and I’m glad you could have such a relaxing time.

  2. That looks and sounds like such an amazing trip. I’ve never been to Florida, but after this, I’m DYING to go!

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