The Washington Times - June 12, 2008, 09:55AM

By Lisa Ruth, associate editor and writer, Donne Tempo Magazine


Day 4 – Skipping O’re the Waves

Loaded with Dramamine and the no-motion-sickness-bracelets, the boys headed out for another morning of fishing.  Kailey and I decided to take the day off, head to Publix and Kmart and relax a little bit.

The boys went back to the ocean side and went over a patch reef.  They returned around noon after using up all their bait and chum. 

They caught hogfish, red snapper, parrot fish (blue and red), and grunts; more than twenty in all.

Meanwhile, I ran up against the less-than-perfect customer service at the Resort.  Nice people, but they seem to lack some of the smoothness I expect from this level of resort.  

I attempted to log on to the wireless network – a definite plus for a vacationer like myself who relies on Internet Access – and found it had little or no connectivity.

Disconnected and reconnected with the same result.  Did it four times, rebooted, and finally called Kim at the front desk. 

She had been on duty during the whole problems-with-the-refrigerator from the first night, so when I called and identified myself and said which unit I am in, she said, “Oh yes you are…how can I help you now” 

She was pleasant, but informed me no one else had complained about lack of Internet access, and suggested I should go to the front desk location at the resort – an unmanned office where the fitness center is – and try logging on there.  For me, this wasn’t an acceptable option, and I found her cheerful lack of concern somewhat irritating.  

Luckily, I have an air card so I used that.  Less than perfect outcome, though.

After lunch, we went tubing.  For those of you unfamiliar with this activity, it involves attaching some kind of tube to the back of the boat and flinging the people on the tube around.  There are a variety of tube types, from calm to extreme, one person to three people (probably even more).  

Ready…set….(Photo by Lisa Ruth)

We purchased a three-man “Magnum” just before coming to the Keys, and it has turned out to be a fabulous purchase.  The Gulf is wide and empty, so we could go anywhere we wanted, long stretches of pulling the kids behind the boat.  It was a fantastic day to be out on the water, and the kids – and adults – had a fabulous time.  On the way back in, we saw four dolphin. 

After dinner, we met some friends back at the Island Grill (this time I had the tempura shrimp, our waitresses favorite.)

Day 5 – Fish or Be Fished

Today ranked up there as a just about perfect day.  It’s seriously hard to imagine how it could have gotten any better.

After we got up and had a leisurely breakfast, we went back to our favorite bait shop and got more bait, chum, and some weighted rigs.  We loaded up the boat and headed for Sombrero Reef. 

 My guidebook said the reef ranges from 2 feet to more than 30 feet and is a “must see” for snorkelers and divers who come to the Keys.  The bait shop guys and the Top Spots fishing map said there is great fishing about a half mile from the reef (no fishing on the reef), and according to one web site, Sombrero Reef is spectacular. 

Specifically, “Sombrero Reef is one of the largest and surely the most magnificent coral reefs in the Middle Keys, home to some of the best spur and groove reef formations in all the Keys. The amount of coral is breath taking. As soon as you descend, gorgonians, brain, finger and lettuce corals can be seen. Schools of colorful tropicals, southern stingrays and nurse sharks make their home on this reef. Large barracuda hang out by the lighthouse structure. The coral limestone has an “Arch” which is large enough to swim through.”

Once again, the ocean was like a lake, mininiscule waves, beautiful blue sky, and a lot of sunshine. 

Ross, big game fisherman (Photo by Lisa Ruth)

 First, fishing.  And what a fishing day it was.  We caught a few grunts and then Connor ratcheted up the fishing by catching a serious (probably 30 lbs, although by the end of the day the story extended it to somewhere around 50 lbs) grouper.  We had nicknamed him “fatty bumbleatty.”  It was beautiful, and was quite a struggle to bring up.  More grunts.  Then Ross caught a blue parrot fish, Kailey caught a trigger fish, Connor caught a hog snapper, we all caught some red snapper, and more and more grunts.  After 61 fish – yes, 61 fish! – we decided to haul up the anchor to go snorkeling.

One of the kids on the boat had never been snorkeling and had some real trepidation about getting into the water.  She was cautious about barracuda, sharks, and even the idea of fish swimming in close proximity to her pretty much freaked her out. 

When we got to the reef, we could see tons of yellowtail and sergeant-majors swimming around the surface.  From the surface we could see to the bottom, healthy coral and more species of fish. 

Kailey sucked it up, took a deep breath, and jumped in the water.

Kailey gets ready to snorkle (Photo by Lisa Ruth)

True to its reputation, the reef was fabulous.  In addition to the fish already mentioned, we saw parrot fish, butterfly fish, angel fish, puffer fish, barracuda, nurse sharks, and many, many other species.  The reef looked healthy, the water was clear, and it was absolutely beautiful.  One of the barracuda was close to five feet long and was quite a spectacular fish.  Everyone got back on the boat feeling good about themselves and the day.

We came back to the townhouse and met up with friends who were also visiting from Palm Beach Gardens for the break, the Nicholau’s.  They are staying at Hawks Cay, a property I had a great experience with, but they were very disappointed.  When they walked in to our unit, they said, “This is what the Internet said we were going to have…but it wasn’t.”  They too were quite impressed with Indigo Reef, the view, the upscale furnishings, and the cleanliness.

The kids and the men again loaded up the boat with tubing gear, and the women stayed behind to sit on the porch and watch the boats.  As always, the kids had a fabulous time tubing and came back hungry and tired.  Or at least temporarily tired.

I whipped up some ceviche, crab salsa, and set out some cheese and crackers.  The kids grabbed water balloon and had a girls against boys fight in the open field on the property while the adults cheered them both on.

Eventually, we grilled burgers and hot dogs and sat outside and ate.  The kids ran around playing tag, pickle, and a combination of games with loose rules and the adults sat on the porch and watched.  We finished with some brownies compliments of Kailey, the Nicholau’s went home, and we all happily crawled in to bed, perfectly content with the day, each other, and ourselves.

Day 6  — One Last Day

Today was scheduled for a relaxing, get stuff together for the last day, day.

We woke up late and headed for Coco Plum beach, which the guide book described as a “funky patch of sand” with “a ribbon of shells near the water line.”  

Simple advice: don’t go. Again, do not come to the Keys for beaches.  It’s just not the thing down here. 

Any Keys’ beach probably will disappoint, because it’s not what you’re thinking.  Coco Plum is sand meeting water, so it’s a beach, but it’s not…beachy.  We walked about 20 feet, turned around, and headed for Kmart. 

A local who met us in the parking lot and warned us not to walk to the left confirmed my lack of enthusiasm for the place.  He said there are a number of men who expose themselves and it has gotten to the point that the police have stationed an officer permanently on the side streets.  Again, don’t waste your time going.  It’s small and dirty.

If you want to go to a beach, try Sombrero Beach, which is at least a larger patch of sand.

We bought supplies for the return trip – a DVD for the ride and chapstick.  Then we went to “The Shell Man” for the requisite souvenir. 

All those Keys shops are the same, but we liked the people who run this shop, and their Great Dane who greets clients when they walk in.  We also really liked the sign in the parking lot which warns potential clients it’s hot here in the Keys, so don’t leave your dog in your car.  The sign says to put a leash on him and bring him inside. 

How great is that?

We spent the afternoon at the pool at Indigo Reef.  Small complaint, but there are no pool towels.  Really not a big deal, but something they should probably provide.

It’s 6:00 now and we’re in for the evening.  The kids are tired in a happy way, and I have transitioned to thinking about everything I have to do when I get home.  I guess that’s the end of the vacation…

Editor’s Note:  For the record, Lisa and her crew practiced the friendly “catch and release” theory in their fishing.  The ceviche was not a result of the day’s catch!

Read Part One and Part Two of Lisa’s Indigo Reef vacation.

Lisa Ruth is a talented writer that loves to skip ore’ the waves and enjoys living in the vast Florida playground. She is also associate editor for Donne Tempo Magazine.