Living off the Land – Quite Literally! Part 3

By SA Rowner

The jet ski pricing at JSK was reasonable, the machines in great condition, and most importantly, the people nice.

Our guide pointed out a massive manatee hanging out by the docks to us. He explained that being creatures that live primarily in salt and brackish water, they love the treat of freshwater from the hose when he rinses the jetskis. Cool! It was great to have such a close-up opportunity with one of these unusual, humongous, slow-moving creatures, aptly nicknamed ‘seacows.’


We decided to start with an hour’s rental, mounted the machines, and off we went! Being islands curving off the bottom of Florida, the keys have the Atlantic ocean on one side, and the Gulf of Mexico on the other side. Interestingly, the water conditions can vary wildly, and that can work to one’s advantage.

Our guide told us that the ocean side would likely be rougher, but was happy to accommodate us giving it a shot, so we tried that first, but being quite choppy (hey, maybe our guide knows something, after all…), we crossed back to the gulf side and really enjoyed ourselves.

Our guide kept his distance, allowing us to go pretty much anywhere we wanted, but stayed within a mile or so of us – close enough to help if we experienced any issues.

We enjoyed ourselves to the max, and as a bonus, got 1 1/2 hours for the price of an hour, because he didn’t count the ocean side attempt towards our paid hour.

We took his card – great service definitely deserves referrals – and thanked him for a really great time.

Before we left, we took note that there was actually a number of very well kept houseboats parked by the marina – vacation rentals that were much higher priced than ours, but much more professionally managed and kept pristine. Although these had engines and could certainly drive, when rented, they would have to remain moored at the marina. Many might appreciate that experience, but I was much happier with the privacy and seclusion of our cove.

With no major plans for the day, we headed out to leisurely explore the area. The keys have this laid-back, island vibe, and nobody is in any kind of rush. It’s a great feeling unless you’re stuck behind someone leisurely enjoying the slower pace on the 2-lane overseas highway :).

There are tens of fishing charters alongside the roads, as the keys are known for incredible sportfishing, but they can get costly. While fishing isn’t something my wife is a fan of as the non-stop rocking motion of an ocean-going boat doesn’t suit her, my suggestion, if you want to try a fishing charter, is to shop from one captain to the next. A guy who isn’t busy or is simply more desperate for the business is more likely to throw you a deal or be negotiable.

But not going fishing, we walked the docks, watched the pelicans scramble for scraps, and saw tots of tarpon, big sportfish that were just hanging around the boats in the shallow waters. Hey, if big fish like that just hang around the docks, why even take the boat out? Just fish from the dock!

We relaxed for a bit, checked out a couple of tourist traps before heading back to our canoe, so we can embark to our accommodations before dark.

Being Tu B’shvat that night, we enjoyed an assortment of unique ripe shehechiyanu fruits we had purchased from Robert is Here, the world’s most incredible fruit stand on our way to the keys, in Homestead, FL, known as the ‘Gateway to the Keys’.

The next morning we awoke bright and early, as we had a snorkel trip booked, and we were also “checking out,” bringing all of our things back to the car by canoe.

We had arranged with a private guide to take us out to the reefs, but because we didn’t have cell service on the boat when he tried to call us, the guy literally jumped-ship on us and decided to accept a better-paying charter instead. So much for our deposit actually meaning any kind of commitment.

Well, we did see that JSK, the jetskiing guy from the day before offered snorkel tours, and we really liked their service, so we called our buddy and arranged a snorkel trip with him. Bonus, he charged us $150 less than the other guy, too.

We had a really enjoyable time once again, and our guide was super nice, pointing out unique places along the way, like a community where each family has a hangar for their private plane instead of a garage, and a runway instead of a main street!

Cool stuff. We headed back to the mainland for the night, had a great meal in Surfside, and stayed overnight in a cheap all-suite hotel to be closer to FLL for our flight back the next morning.

We know this trip’s not for everyone, and when you’re ready for a relaxing Florida experience in which you can truly relax, not have to worry about chemical toilet odors, knowing how to canoe, or kasher a stove, you go to Florida Kosher Villas. You’ll be treated like royalty, and enjoy the tropical vibes with all the amenities of a vibrant frum community in the sun.