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Snorkeling in the Keys - where to avoid

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Detroit, Michigan
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Snorkeling in the Keys - where to avoid

I have been searchng around looking for where to go for a snorkeling adventure while in the Keys. I read thru all of the postings here. I then went external and found this (below) which I think might be helpful to members of this forum, especially since one of the charter groups have been highly recommended in postings here. I have never been to Key West before, so I have no first hand knowledge of these incidents:

"Note: because of the risks involved in recreational diving, we are very cautious about who we recommend and represent. Unexpected medical emergencies can occur in even the best conditions. We work only with businesses that are well-trained and well-experienced and can handle any problem efficiently and expertly. Further, sometimes crews just miss the boat on the basics. These are the businesses we choose not to work with at all. Two examples are Strike Zone Charters in the Lower Keys and Kelly's Aquanuts in the Upper Keys. Both organizations were reported by the Florida Keys Keynoter as having left divers behind last year. In the Strikezone case, the divers were able to swim to another boat. In the Kelly's case, however, there were no other boats in the area. The divers were able to swim to a marker and climb out of the water. They stayed there through the night and well into the next day, when they were finally spotted by a passing sailor and rescued by the Marine Patrol. "

http://www.keywest-reservations.com/DIVE.HTM

Charlotte, North...
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for North Carolina
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1. Re: Snorkeling in the Keys - where to avoid

I'll have to say this post bothered me because I am one of the ones who have recommended Strike Zone Charters. We do not dive but have enjoyed and felt perfectly safe on Strike Zone Charter's snorkel trips, and "island excursions". On both trips, the boat captains could not have been any more professional. They went over all safety regulations, and had a list of all passengers. They also counted and verified the number of passengers several times before we left,and everytime we went to a new snorkel location. I went to the above listed website, and after looking at it, it made me even more skeptical. This website is making it's money from booking people with companys that they are under contract with. Both Strike Zone Charter, and Kelly's Aquanuts are listed and recommended by just about every Florida Keys tourbooks, and all of the official Florida Keys infomation websites. To me this just didn't make sense!

It bothered me so that I did some more research, and I found that my "hunches" were right! I called the Keynoter newspaper, and the girl I spoke with, did not know of, and/or could not find any such article written in their paper. I, just now got off the phone with a representative of the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce, who stated that Strike Zone Charters was a member in good standing, a very professionally run business, and nothing like the above mentioned incidents had ever occured!

Yes, we must research, but we should also know that everything we read on the internet is not true. There are a lot of underhanded people out there that will say anything to make money. It didn't make sense to me that so much good had been written about Strike Zone Charters, in books, magazines, and on large reputable official websites, and only one little website had this bad info. If something like leaving divers at sea, had truly occured it would be well publicized.

Yes, do research, but do your research using reputable sources! You see what happened at CBS!

Best Wishes!

New York
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2. Re: Snorkeling in the Keys - where to avoid

Maybe www.keywest-reservations.com is the place to avoid or at least be wary of! Way to go UNCMickey, I think Strike Zone owes you big time. Also, it goes to prove that forum is a place for personal experiences, and not for just repeating stuff off the internet, no matter how helpfully intended.

Detroit, Michigan
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3. Re: Snorkeling in the Keys - where to avoid

Well, its hard to tell what consitutes quality information and what doesn't on the Internet. The best I could do was to post up what I found, with the direct reference so folks could track it down. Having never been to Key West before there is really no way that I could have tracked down what may (or may not) be the truth behind the matter. I would think that if you are really convinced of what you found that you should write the folks at the keywest-reservations.com site and tell them what you found and that they should remove it. Better yet, maybe letting the StrikeZone know what is out there would be helpful. Pressure from commercial entities often works to get stuff that that removed.

On this forum and the Internet in general its almost impossible to differentiate reality from opinion. Heck, I wish I could just get the real skinny on the hotel I am staying at. Some sites say its great, and some sites say its junk. Who to believe?

The long and the short of it is that its almost impossible for us to really track down what is real when you are not from the area. I made it clear in my posting that I had no first hand knowledge - but its enough to scare me away from all of the places mentioned.

Charlotte, North...
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for North Carolina
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4. Re: Snorkeling in the Keys - where to avoid

Hi again,

I understand and appreciate that you were trying to be helpful.

It can be difficult to determine what the truth is on the Internet. I've done a lot of internet research, both for personal reasons and for some local businesses. There's a lot of junk out there and unfortunately according to a lawyer friend of mine, our laws have not yet caught up with many of the offenses being done on the Internet. I am contacting Strike Zone Charters and forwarding the web address that you posted. Everyday that those untrue statements remain, it hurts hardworking people.

As for finding factual info. on travel and lodging, that is probably one of the more difficult things to determine. Much of what you will find is opinions, and yes everyone's seems to be different. I always stick with "official" area tourism websites; ones that are backed by the local Chambers of Commerce, BBB, etc. I never hesitate to contact these groups by phone, to ask questions. I also routinely call the accomodations, or other businesses in question, so to talk with a real person. Sometimes you can get a better feeling for the place doing this. Key West and the other Keys are wonderful tropical getaways. We've always had great times there, and are again planning a return trip later this year. In my visits down to the Keys, I've found that most locals down there running small businesses, such as accomodations, restaurants, boat charters, etc. are generally good people living out their dreams. They are happy and want you to be, too. I hope you will be.

Best Wishes!

Detroit, Michigan
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73 posts
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5. Re: Snorkeling in the Keys - where to avoid

Thanks. I work in healthcare and Lord knows I deal with patients everyday who come in with snake oil miracle cures that they found on the Internet!

I was bothered enough by the "need for research" that I did go out and search. I got 3 quick hits on one of the stories that the website that I sited referenced. I have not searched on the other yet. I include what I pulled up below. There may really be something here............ YIKES!!!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In another case, in 2000, a California couple were inadvertently left behind by a commercial dive boat several miles off Key Largo, Fla., and spent the night clinging to a steel light tower before being rescued. usatoday.com/travel/destinations/2004-08-05-…

Read the personal account of the Evans at this site: undercurrent.org/UCnow/…LeftAtSea200104.shtml

Barely two years later, a strikingly similar incident occurred in Florida. Aqua Nut 11 is a boat operated from Kelly's on the Bay, a motel and PADI dive centre complex on the Key Largo spur, and its problems began when Michael and Lynda Evans were left on John Pennekamp Reef. www.divernet.com/technique/0904missing.shtml

Philadelphia, PA
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6. Re: Snorkeling in the Keys - where to avoid

I would say to avoid it all for the next few months. Visibility, surf conditions are bad right now due to wind. Snorkeling stinks and it is difficult to swim back to the boat in 2-4ft seas. The saltwater tastes horrible too, and it's hard to avoid drinking it in those seas. Some locations may have better visibility than others, call some local shops and try to get unbiased advice.

Key West, Florida
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7. Re: Snorkeling in the Keys - where to avoid

I have found that the best snorkel charters are private charters. They cost more than the cattle boats, but the experience is well worth it. You have the captain's full attention and he isn't spread thin worrying about 100 souls going off into different areas. And, these trips allow you to see some really neat stuff that you can't see in a big group, like shipwrecks, coral heads and more where you won't be bumping into a bunch of other tourists. I went out with Capt. Steve Lamp when I first moved down here and it was awesome! His website is www.chartersofkeywest.com/combo_trips.htm

Detroit, Michigan
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8. Re: Snorkeling in the Keys - where to avoid

Ok, I just snorkeled in Key West last Saturday (Jan 22). We waited days for the conditions to improve. It was chilly (63) and windy (20 mph). Seas were choppy - 1 to 2 feet. On Firday into Sat. the winds died, and it got to 76. The reefs were very smooth (no wind, so we were unable to sail at all, we had to power out) and the visibility was 55-60 feet. Water temp was 73 degrees. This means WETSUITS folks! So, we did rent full wetsuits (no shorties!) which was a very smart move. Wetsuits were 15 a day from the Lost Reef.

It was still a bit chilly in the water, but the conditions were great. Barracuda, lobsters, a ray, and even a large sailfish that skimmed 3 feet from our boat (causing a huge school of fish to fly out of the air, way cool!). Wonderful.

My advice: if its blowing more than 10 mph, the visibility is less than 40, or the seas are near two feet - save your money.

Wear a wetsuit if the water temps are lower than 78!

Press your snorkel charter for realistic numbers. The first two places we inquired were lying about conditions (said water was 78 and 80 foot visibility on a very windy and cool day). We were glad that we did our research, waited, and went with Floridays at the Hyatt.

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