Day 1. We meet early in the morning at the Philadelphia airport and fly to Key West. Arriving at the Key West airport by mid-day there is a lot of work to do before pushing off from the dock. One team of students is charged with food shopping while another team readies the boat. In a few hours the boat is stocked with supplies for the week and all preparations have been made to set sail. With any luck, the crew is sailing out to Sambo Key or one of the many other reef areas off Key West. Everyone in the water for a swim test. After a short swim there may be time to try out the snorkel gear. Then it is time to sail in to an anchorage where dinner can be cooked and the crew will spend the night.
Day 2. If you wake up early you are treated to the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean. After breakfast it is time to set sail. The course chosen has to take the weather into account, with a fair wind a course is set for Sand Key. Sand Key is one of the most spectacular areas in the Keys for snorkeling. The clear water, colorful coral and abundant reef fishes make this area a must see in the Florida Keys. Boca Grande is the destination for the night. This is one of the few keys where there is deep water only a few feet off the beach. The area is known for being a safe anchorage. The lights of Key West are distant hues on the horizon and the anchor lights of a few other boats are all that can be seen. On a clear night the night sky can be the best show in town.
Day 3. Sailing further west there is the opportunity to visit Cosgrove Shoal, home to a school of large barracuda. Snorkeling around and under the navigational tower can be an exhilarating experience. This is the edge of the continental shelf with shallow water on one side and the deep waters of the Gulf Stream on the other. The anchorage for this night is Marquesas Keys, where Cuba is only 90 miles away. Debris and derelict boats can often be found on the beach, left behind by refugees who no longer need the items. This area is also full of life, in the air and in the water.
Day 4. It is time to reverse course and start making way back East toward Key West. For today the hope is to snorkel over a shipwreck off of Boca Grande Key. When the conditions are right, hundreds of snapper and other species can be seen living in and around the sunken ship. For the more ambitious, there may be an opportunity to circumnavigate Boca Grande Key. This area is also know for being a good fishing spot. At times, on calm spring nights, you can sit on deck and listen to the tarpon hitting the surface.
Day 5 Continuing on to the East, this is the last to get in the water. If conditions were not good for snorkeling at the reef on the way out, maybe they will be better on the way back. Based on the predominant winds and the direction we need to go, it often makes scenes to go outside the reef-line and sail the clear blue waters of the open Atlantic Ocean. Often times a distinct color change can be seen in the water, distinguishing the inshore water from the much deeper offshore waters. By the end of the day, the crew returns to the dock. It can feel strange to be back on land, as the rocking sensation continues long after your feet are on dry land. The evening is spent reflecting and talking about all that took place during the journey. The fun times and the life experiences all come together to make individual lasting impressions on each individual.
Day 6 It is time to return to reality. On the way to the Key West airport, the road follows the shoreline and provides the final close-up views of the water that were home to the group for the last five days. It is most often a good feeling to return home and sleep in ones own bed, even if it feels like it is still rocking.