Crystal River – More Snorkeling Lessons

We woke up early this morning after a great nights sleep and both couldn’t wait to get back out on the water.

I had checked on Google Maps and wasn’t too comfortable with trying to motor the boat over to Crystal River through the mirage of canals and waterways leading from the Homosassa River to King’s Bay. I’m sure it can be done, but I wasn’t too sure about the mileage our boat is capable of with our fuel supply and if once we got over there, how long would it take to get back?

Crystal_River_MapSo the easiest option would be to load the boat back onto the trailer, drive the few miles up to Crystal River and just dump the boat back into Kings Bay at a different boat ramp. We chose this option and decided we’d leave Homosassa as soon as we were up and about.

Cindy made us some breakfast and coffee while I went down and grabbed the truck and trailer. Once I had it backed in at the boat ramp, I loaded the boat easily enough and moved the truck right below where the room was located. This would make it easier to grab our luggage and be ready to head out. I think we were loaded up and heading to Crystal River before 8am. I guess when you go to bed at 9pm, you have no problem getting up early and getting everything done before most are even leaving for work.

Crystal River had another free boat launch that dumped us right into King’s Bay, so before morning rush hour even had time to build up, we were motoring across the quiet bay headed towards 3 Sisters Spring. Once in the Bay, we knew our way around and could actually spend the day enjoying ourselves rather than worrying about getting lost between the two rivers, so this was a much wiser option, although the more boring one of the two.

Once anchored up outside 3 Sisters Spring, we got out our snorkeling gear and Cindy got her beloved Noodle that was now aptly named ‘Mr. Noodle’ (there was hours of thought put into that name I’m sure you can imagine). While we were sitting on the boat, we watched a dolphin swim past, and as bad as I wanted to get in the water and try and get some underwater shots, Cindy has me terrified of Dolphin Rape Caves, so I stayed in the boat and just watched it swim past. DON’T click that link unless you want to think differently about everything you ever thought you knew about the friendly little flipper you so adore.

Dolphin_SurfacingOnce we knew the dolphin was out of the way and we were safe, we jumped in the water and swam into the springs. This would be my first time entering the spring at a low tide. The amount of water flowing out of the spring is very powerful and at a low tide, it’s even stronger than normal due to the narrowness of the entrance. It’s like trying to swim upstream and carrying a 10lb camera with you while trying to swim upstream was much harder than I thought. I was getting a good workout already this morning.

SnorkelingOnce in the spring, Cindy went her way and I went mine. I spent my time chasing a big school of Mullet around with the underwater camera. We spent at least an hour swimming around in the springs. They were nice and quiet this morning with only a few other people enjoying them. This time of year they are void of manatee unlike the winter time when the sea cows are packed in here so thick it’s hard to count all of them.



Underside_Of_KayakCindy spent her time practicing her breathing through the snorkel, getting used to how far she could put her head under before the water would flood the snorkel and practiced not having to hold onto the snorkel with one hand which was her normal routine. I practiced various techniques with the underwater camera and sort of followed Cindy around using her as my model without having her do anything other than just swim so I wouldn’t interrupt her.

Snorkeling_3_Sisters_Spring (2)She surprised me even more when I watcher her swim over to the edge and put Mr. Noodle in some tree roots and she started swimming around without it. When I asked her what she was doing, she said “I think I can actually swim now without freaking out!” I was shocked that she had overcome her phobia of having to hold onto her snorkel and clench her hands into tight fists because of how scared she was the entire time. Normally I can hear her heavy breathing even if I’m 10′ away from her. I think all this working out she’s been doing has made her so much stronger that swimming is easy for her now.

Snorkeling_3_Sisters_Spring (4)

Snorkeling_3_Sisters_Spring (1)

Snorkeling_3_Sisters_Spring (3)

Snorkeling_3_Sisters_Spring (5)After awhile, Cindy came over and told me she was getting hungry so we swam back to the boat to go find us some lunch.

Derricks Crackers PhotoWe motored over to Crackers and tied up to their floating dock. Again, I cant say enough about how nice it is to be able to pull the boat right up to a restaurant and have lunch. You might remember this place from our Epic Adventure when Derrick and Tish visited back in March. This was where Derrick and Heath had eaten all the raw oysters that resulted in Derrick getting so sick. Cindy made sure to have me take a photo so we could text it to him so he’d know we were thinking of him. We’re mean like that, but in a funny way.

We both had a very tasty lunch before heading back out into Kings Bay. We spent the afternoon motoring around the bay, exploring the little channels and canals that finger off in all directions of the main bay. It’s fun to look at all the various boats, lust after the beautiful boat garages and wonder about the different houses that line the river banks and who lives in them. We passed numerous manatee that were lazily swimming in the bay and saw lots of dolphins searching for their next victims. We both thought it was amazing that this is fresh water yet the dolphin come up into the river to feed and seek out new prey.

By the time we got to the mouth of the river, it was mid-day and nice and steamy hot outside. We put the boat on a little island bank that was lined with shells to help rid the barnacles that have attached themselves to the bottom. We sat talking while we let our feet dangle in the bath-like water while the warm, salty breeze kept us cooled off. Seriously this time of year, the Gulf of Mexico is probably in the high 80’s it’s so warm.

Shell_Island_Crystal_RiverAs the tide shifted and started rolling back up the river, we followed it in and let its current carry us into the bay. Since it was so warm, we decided to head over to 3 Sisters Spring and cool off with another swim in the cool spring water. Cindy had commented that she was amazed at how much easier it is to snorkel now that she’s been working out so hard. Her and her good friend Karen had been doing the INSANITY Workout for the last 60 days before Karen went back to Maine. Once Karen left, I’ve been trying my hardest to keep up with her and this workout that lives up to its name.

I think it’s built her core so much stronger along with her leg strength, that swimming is easy for her now compared to before when she was struggling to swim and she was paying too much attention to the effort she was putting into it rather than just enjoying the surroundings. The hardest part is getting her mind to stop being scared of going underwater. We’ll just have to work on that with keeping her doing it as much as we can. I know that if we lived closer to these springs, I’d swim in them every single day.

Cindy_With_Mr_NoodleBy the time we had the boat anchored at the mouth of the spring, it was late in the afternoon. There was only one other boat tied up in the canal and it was the quietest we’d ever seen this area. We basically had the whole place to ourselves.

Cindy said she was going to leave her mask and snorkel back in the boat, and just wanted to keep her fins and Mr. Noodle so she could get a leg workout. The tide was higher now, so it was much easier to swim into the narrow entrance way.

Probably my favorite picture of the day

Probably my favorite picture of the day

The water was also much clearer since there was almost no one in the springs. One family was in there who had paddled in on kayaks. We listened to the father trying to coax his teen aged daughter into the water, but like a typical teenager, she sat there whining and crying that she was scared. I was shocked when Cindy swam over and said to the girl “I used to be worried about it too, so if you want to use my Noodle to help build confidence, you’re more than welcome to it.

The young girl took the noodle and got into the water. Cindy came swimming over to me and said “Ok, now we can take some photos and Mr. Noodle wont be in them.” WHO IS THIS WOMAN? I was very impressed and proud of her new found confidence she had the last few days with swimming and putting her head under the water.

Swimming_UnderwaterWe spent awhile in the springs swimming around and enjoying the cool water which felt heavenly after the long, hot day on the boat. Its very invigorating and refreshing to be swimming in the cool spring water. All you have to do is swim to the edge where it’s shallow and stand up to feel the humid air start zapping the energy back out of you if you get chilly.

SwimmingAfter more than an hour of swimming around, the sun was getting low and we were getting hungry again. Cindy asked if we should find a hotel room for tonight, or load the boat up and head home to Cedar Key. I’d much rather enjoy another night away from home, so I suggested we find a hotel room.

Just around the shoreline from the springs is the Port Hotel that has rooms, a restaurant and a little tiki bar outback, so I suggested we go see what that was like. There is also The Plantation where we stayed on the Epic Adventure back in March. Since we had already tried that place, I suggested we try somewhere different (Big Mistake).

Docked_At_Port_HotelThe Port Hotel has nice docks to pull up to and tie off. We walked up to the front desk and asked if we could see a room. The room was musty, damp and didn’t look all that inviting. We went back to the front desk and asked if they had anything nicer. The woman behind the desk looked at us and said “That’s our nicest room we have.

Cindy looked at me and said “All we’re doing is sleeping, so who cares what the room is like, and we have to be out of here and back in Cedar Key first thing in the morning, so lets just take it.” It was only $65 for the night, but dang, I’d rather have spent double that and had a nice room that was comfortable to sleep in.

We went and unloaded everything from the boat and realized that when we have loaded everything in the truck in the morning, we had forgot to put our overnight bag back into the boat. This meant we didn’t have our tooth brushes, our allergy medication and the basics like deodorant and dental floss. I said that I’d rather take the boat back over to the boat ramp and go get that since I couldn’t imagine going to bed without brushing my teeth. Cindy told me to carry everything into the room and she’d go ask the front desk if she could just buy new tooth brushes and a tube of toothpaste.

She said that we’d just go grab a bite to eat and then hang outside by the pool till we went to bed.

Guess what, the front desk didn’t have those items we needed, and the nearest store was a mile walk up the street which was just a gas station. So there was no guarantee that if we walked up there, they’d have what we were looking for. The front desk lady also told me the pool was closed due to it being repaired.

Back in the room, we pulled the filter out of the A/C unit and cranked up the air conditioner to try and pull the damp, musty smell out of the room. We then walked over to the tiki bar to have a drink and laugh about our predicament we had just put ourselves in.

The tiki bar was packed with what looked like locals since they were all laughing and talking to one another about local gossip that meant nothing to us. The bar was full so we sat out on the patio just listening to these people tell funny stories. I was starving from all the swimming we had been doing, so we walked over to the Ale House Restaurant that is also attached to the Port Hotel Property.

Cindy at the Tiki BarIt was a Wednesday night and this place was packed. They had a guy playing guitar outside on the patio overlooking the water, so we took the last available table and ordered some dinner. The food was very good and our service was way better than I had expected after seeing the room and it’s condition.

I would think this property would be a gold mine if they were to put some TLC into the rooms and the grounds. Being right on the water, having a nice spot to pull boats into and having both a restaurant and a tiki bar could keep this place packed full year round. I hate seeing such potential with the only thing needed is a management team that cares about the place.

I was ready to go to bed once I’d eaten my dinner, but Cindy suggested we have one more drink as a night cap. She ordered one last round before we headed back to our dungeon.

After a quick shower, the thin mattress and wafer thin pillow actually felt good to my sore muscles. We had both laughed at one another as we scrubbed our teeth with washcloths. I told Cindy I was real close to just chewing on the bar of soap to clean out my mouth before bed. We both vowed to stow a couple of travel toothbrushes in Cindy’s purse with a small travel tube of toothpaste in case anything like this was to ever happen again. It would probably be a good idea to put a couple in our first aid kit on the boat in case we were to ever get stuck or stranded on the boat for the night. You can probably tell that clean teeth are something Cindy and I both obsess over.

Cindy was right, that last drink was all I needed to put me into a heavy sleep. That was till about 3am when I rolled over and was wide awake. Normally at home if I have one of these nights where I wake up in the middle of the night and cant go back to sleep, I get up and go in the living room and read or work on my computer. Since there was zero reading material in the hotel room, I grabbed my phone and sat looking through emails and the days posts on Facebook.

Cindy rolled over at one point and said “What the hell are you doing on your phone at this time of the night?

I just showed her a photo on my phone and said “This is what my mouth feels like right now!

IMG_0280We both sat laughing till we were crying. She then punched me, yelled at me for waking her up and making her laugh so hard, told me to go back to bed and with that, she rolled over and was snoring within seconds. Gosh I wish I could sleep like she does. It took a few hours before I feel back asleep and slept till about 6am when we both woke up and started packing up our things to head back to the boat ramp.

We idled out into King’s Bay just as the sun was creeping over the horizon. Off in front of the boat we could hear the sound of a dolphin breaching the surface and sucking in that big breath of air before it dove back below and swam under the boat. We rolled past a few manatee that sat like giant rocks just below the surface.

Dolphin_ReflectionsOnce back at the boat ramp, Cindy held onto the boat while I backed the truck down. Two seconds after pulling the boat out, we were both standing in the parking lot brushing our teeth. I’m sure this was a strange sight for the family that was backing their boat into the ramp ready for a day of fishing.

Soon enough we were back in Cedar Key and loving the two dogs we missed so much. Reality was in our face with a lawn to mow, a bunch of paperwork to take care of and a dozen missed phone calls that needed to be answered. Till our next little excursion, these awesome memories will have to tide me over.

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