Islamorada – Time to Make The Turn

| July 30, 2013

Islamorada Florida
At the turn – Islamorada, Florida.

Distances are deceiving, be they on a satellite image, or a good old map. To say I was a little surprised at the final distance to Key West, at well over 100 miles from the first Key Largo, is an understatement. And the distance from Miami proper to the first Key – Key Largo – was no little jaunt.

I made my way back and began the search for Monster Marine on 129th. street in Miami. That was no problem, and they were a bit wide-eyed to see someone from Texas there to pick up that little bitty Mitzi Skiff that had been sitting between behemoth boats for months. I define “behemoth boats” as thirty plus feet long, and hanging multiple outboards off the back – mostly in threes.

Mitzi Skiff in Miami Florida
The Mitzi gets rolled out – in front of Monster Marine, Miami, Florida.

We rolled the Mitzi Skiff out from between the boat canyon walls, and cleaned her off and started her up. All good. I was firing off pictures to JG (the boat owner) from my phone, and a couple of details came up – the Stiffy Push Pole (no big deal), and a spare tire for the trailer (they missed that and it was up to me). I decided to head off to lunch, and on a recommendation walked over to a Cuban diner.

Mitzi Skiff
Mitzi Skiff passes initial inspection in Miami, Florida.


As an observer of people, a photographer in particular, I tend to notice differences between people more often than not. There was no subtlety to the fact I was in a restaurant where everyone who worked there looked different from anyone I had seen before – not as individuals, but as an entire group.

Cuban Diner
Cuban diner from barstool perspective – Miami, Florida.

I took an old school padded spinning stool at the bar, leaned in on my elbows and watched the show. Dark headed, blue eyed women and men, fair skin mostly to just plain white. All were speaking Spanish, and that’s about the time a huge blowup between waitresses, if that term is PC, came right out in front. It was all Spanish, but I think it was about being paid to clean the bathroom. It was a friendly go-round with no edge and no feelings hurt. They went back to their tasks, and I had no idea what to order. Spanish was spoken, and english used sparingly and only for the convenience of customers like me. Ice tea? No. Hot tea? Yes.

The first thing on the menu, a Cuban sandwich, seemed like a safe bet, and I was into safety since I was heading back once the final okay came from JG on the boat. I am guessing they put that at the top of their menu just for tourists like myself. It amounted to an average deli sandwich, but without a guide along, I couldn’t complain.

Back at Monster Marine, we weren’t going to have any luck on a spare tire, but out comes a 20-foot-long Stiffy Pole, and I was pretty sure looking at that pole, that life was about to change. That was one long, albeit lightweight, pole. And my hands were going to be attached to it poling JG, and others, around for fish. Taking it all in, and taking on a few gallons doubt as well; maybe I am too old for this shit. Maybe the Mitzi is too short. Too tippy? We, JG and myself, had spent time on a Mitzi in Louisiana, but it was a longer version, and with a guide and the two of us it really didn’t turn us off by being unstable.

I loaded up the doubts, hooked them all to the bumper of JG’s Ford F150, and drove away from Monster. I’d made the turn and now came the burn.

The length and width of Florida are incredibly easy to navigate, boring, and also friendly to what I imagine is their biggest income generator – tourists. The easiest way to navigate the longitude is via a turnpike that runs right out of Miami for many miles to the north. From 95, onto the Turnpike to cut across, and eventually onto Florida’s 75 all the way to 10. The latitudinal I-10 slices Florida, with a dull blade, horizontally from Pensacola to Jacksonville.


I woke up to the same drone that put me to sleep the night before. Diesels idling to cool their sleepers at the last stop before Pensacola, a slight sea dew, or was it swamp mist, covering everything. Florida does it right. Rest stops along the interstate every thirty to fifty miles, with places to park, sleep and guards for safety. Along their turnpike, full service turnouts about the same distance apart as the rest stops. All the conveniences – gas and Mountain Dew.

Florida Rest Stops
Florida rest stops – the lap of luxury.

The mileage from the day before? Best I can figure, somewhere in the neighborhood of 900-miles when you throw in the Keys – the Florida Keys that is. Maybe I’m just warming up for life at the end of a Stiffy Pole? I only had about 500 miles to go, which would seem like a trip to the grocery store compared to the day before. Unfortunately, those last miles were most brutal with the move to the north, and I-20, came jointed concrete roads that beat me up pretty good. The tongue weight of the boat/trailer was so light that it provided an extra jolt at each joint of the road, and that’s enough to torque neck muscles for a couple of days.

All in all, Florida via the huge and modern highway system is fast efficient and pretty boring. If you get off the main arteries, I am sure you would be able to get a real taste of the State. The Keys are a whole other world that would take weeks to dig up the buried treasures there. Whether it’s looking off to Homestead, or driving the roads in the Keys, I was always thinking, “This road will be under ten feet of water if they get a direct hit from an F4.” As old as that southern tip of Florida looks, it could all be wiped off the map in a day. So if you’ve been thinking about pulling the trigger on a South Florida trip, my advice to you is simple; do it. You never know when the whole place will be wiped away.

NOTE – Stay tuned for first accounts of poling the Mitzi Skiff, fresh video and talk about GoPros and their purpose in life (video from kayaking at Lydia Ann Fly Masters), and who knows what else!

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Category: Adventure, Culture on the Skids, Flats Boats

About the Author () is where to find my other day job. I write and photograph fish stories professionally, and for free here! Journalist by training. This site is for telling true fishing news stories, unless otherwise noted.

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