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 Four Weeks Later (Irma & the Keys)

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IMG 3336Many of you have asked about the Keys and how they are doing after Hurricane Irma. It has now been a little over four weeks since the storm made landfall at Cudjoe Key. On October 2nd, the Florida Keys and Key West officially reopened their doors to tourists. This past weekend, we took a look for ourselves to see how this tropical paradise is faring.       

The areas from Marathon through Big Pine Key were hit hard. Mobile home parks and campground are now pretty much gone. Relief efforts are scattered throughout the area, and in many places, the landscape looks more like a war zone than a lush tropical island.  Trash and debris line the roadways, piled as high as 20 feet in certain areas. Metal objects like washing machines and dryers are separated from yard trash and building materials. There is no doubt that this storm will provide a Darwinist approach to housing construction in the area -- survival of the fittest. I assume that that the middle keys will evolve and become stronger because of the storm and that the less than desirable housing will eventually vanish. However, I do think it will be some time before this becomes evident.     

One thing I was not expecting was the lack of greenery. The shrubs that line most of US 1 are leafless as a result of the high winds, giving the small trees a dormant appearance. On the plus side, major businesses like banks, grocery stores, and gas stations are open. Roads are clear, and traffic flows freely despite the massive lines of dump trucks tasked with removing the trash from the islands. I did find it interesting to note that buildings with thatched roofs, mostly tiki bars, seemed to fare just fine. 

The north and south end of the island chain, Key West, and Key Largo are okay as well. Honestly, in Key West, if it weren't for a little debris on the side streets, I would have never known there was a storm.  Cruise ships are docking daily, filling the streets with the tourists that the economy so desires and needs. Duval Street and its bars are packed in true Key West fashion. Parasailing, jet skis, scooter rentals, and fishing charters are all open and active. At the end of the day, everyone gathers a Mallory Square for the sunset, just like they've done for years.   

So if you're thinking about a visiting Key West and the Florida Keys, now is a great time to visit. Go ahead and plan a trip. You may find a few inconveniences, but overall you'll be surprised at how resilient the islands are. Just remember to tip a little more than usual. They've had a tough few weeks, and your support will be much appreciated.  

Florida Keys Reopened

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10134 640 isp06The Florida Keys reopened to visitors Sunday, Oct. 1, following recovery efforts after Hurricane Irma impacted the island chain Sept. 10.
Local officials chose the reopening date based on the speedy completion of significant infrastructure repairs, almost total restoration of utilities, and necessity of resuming the tourism-driven economy that employs about 50 percent of the Keys workforce.

“By welcoming visitors to the destination, it will provide the jobs and the hope that our residents are looking for so they can begin to rebuild their lives,” said Stacey Mitchell, director of marketing for the Florida Keys tourism council.
While Key Largo and Key West were least affected by the storm, not all lodging properties, including RV resorts, and other tourism facilities throughout the Keys are operating on a normal basis. Potential visitors should call ahead to ensure that hotels and their favorite attractions are open. (http://www.fla-keys.com/news/article/10134/)

Navigational Safety Alert

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As part of the Hurricane Irma recovery effort, the U.S. Coast Guard has designated all waters within one nautical mile of land in the Florida Keys as a regulated navigation area.
Any vessel traveling through the navigation area must proceed at a slow speed (fully off plane, completely settled in the water and not creating excessive wake).
In addition, the Coast Guard has established the following safety zones inside the navigation area: 
• All waters within 25 yards of law enforcement or salvage vessels, and
• All waters with 25 yards of visible wreckage.
Entry into, anchoring, loitering or movement within the Safety Zone is prohibited unless authorized by the Captain of the Port Key West or his designee.
Rules for the regulated navigation area will be in place until Oct. 1.
For more information, call the Emergency Operations Center Public Information Line at 800-955-5504

Florida’s Top 5 Boating Destinations

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Picture1zzFlorida’s Top 5 Boating Destinations Florida is considered by many to be the boating capital of the world. This is not just some bold hopeful attestation because the numbers really do back it up. It has the highest number of registered boats of any US state and the numbers of boats that use its waters is well over 100,000. With the many miles of beaches and fantastic sunny weather, Florida is the top pick for anyone who finds pleasure in boating.

There are many places in the state where you could indulge in this gratifying leisurely activity. But as expected, some of them are more popular than others. Here are the top five, in no particular order.

Bringing fish back from the Bahamas becomes easier

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Bringing fish caught recreationally in the Bahamas back to Florida by water will become a little easier soon. A new exception goes into place Sept. 13 in state waters, allowing anglers to possess and land filleted dolphin, wahoo and reef fish that were caught in Bahamian waters. Similar allowances for dolphin and wahoo, as well as modifications to existing recreational regulations for reef fish managed as snapper-grouper being brought back from the Bahamas by water went into effect in Atlantic federal waters in January 2016. These regulations apply to fish being transported by water only and do not apply to fish being transported or shipped by air.
The changes will allow more fishing freedom for Florida’s residents and visitors while creating consistency between state and federal regulations.
Some things to keep in mind when bringing recreationally-caught dolphin, wahoo and reef fish managed as snapper-grouper back from the Bahamas by water: