PARALYZED MERMAID Sighted in the OCEAN – TRANQUIL ADVENTURES in Key Largo

The last five weeks have been a world wind of adventure and new beginnings for my husband and me.  We went down to Miami for three weeks in the middle of October for our annual relaxation and recharge trip to see friends, family, and explore new handicap accessible adventures.

We returned back to Raleigh, North Carolina to quickly close on our first condo home together!  It’s been nonstop the last two weeks working with contractors to make my bathroom accessible before we move into our new home in the New Year.  So many wonderful changes, but we’ve been busy.  So, I apologize for the Quirky Quad hiatusJ

While we were in Miami we were surrounded by friends and family on so many adventures, relaxing at Tiki hut bars, having piña colada’s at sunset, taking accessible boat rides at Shake-a-Leg sailing school, and so much more.

However, this year I really wanted to be able to get into the ocean, snorkel, and go on new adventures.  I looked far and wide, but I could not find any accessible boats that had a seat to lower me into the ocean so I could go snorkeling with my husband.

I broke my neck in the Bahamas 9 years ago at my home and other than a brief dalliance in the ocean on a cruise in Mexico two years ago, I’ve been unable to get back into the beautiful waters of the ocean.  I’d like to head back to the Bahamas in the next year or so, but I wanted practice to make sure I could swim as well in the ocean as I am able to in the pool.

On our trip to Miami last year many of my wheelchair friends told me about this gentleman named Captain (Capt.) Mick who runs a nonprofit organization called Tranquil Adventures in Key Largo (https://activedisabledamericans.org/).  Somehow time got away from us last year, but this year I was determined to make it happen.

Aaron and I called Capt. Mick in Key Largo and asked if we could arrange for a day on the boat where I could get into the water and go snorkeling around the reefs, the mangroves, and go fishing.  He was quick to respond and very friendly.  Tranquil Adventures in Key Largo hosts so many wonderful free activities for disabled veterans and is also supported by the Woody Foundation in Miami (http://www.woodyfoundation.org/)  in order to allow those who are unable to afford ocean adventures to have access just like everyone else.

For those not in wheelchairs it can be easy to take for granted the ability to just throw on a bathing suit and walk into the ocean.  I will tell you it’s quite a process to get into the water without people like Capt. Mick to make it possible.

Aaron and I packed up our belongings and spent several days down in Key Largo, Marathon, and Islamorada in the Florida Keys.  We ventured down to Keys fishery to eat $3 stone crabs, pulled over on the side of the road to enjoy piña coladas at a dive bar, but the real adventure was with Capt. Mick.

I was not quite sure what to expect as we pulled up to Capt. Mick’s home on the water where he kept his boat.  The pontoon style boat is incredibly well-maintained and with all kinds of MacGyver style inventions to help those with all disabilities float in the water, snorkel, and fish.

Capt. Mick greeted us with smiles and a sense of humor as he put a ramp on the dock so I could roll right onto the boat.  He has a very cool hydraulic swim chair that lowers you into the water, which is so unique because I could not find many organizations other than one scuba place that is so inviting to those with disabilities to enjoy all the scenic places off the beaten path, which are not accessible.

We packed a picnic for a day on the boat, but Capt. Mick gave us the option of pulling up to one of the dozen restaurants with docks where we could eat.  Aaron and I opted for the picnic because we wanted to have a serene and tranquil day with no people around us in nature.

We cruised down the waterway inlets and made our way out into the open ocean where Capt. Mick was to take us to snorkel on a ship wreck.  Unfortunately, the winds were a little bit stronger than anticipated and while I could’ve gotten in the water I would’ve had to hold onto Aaron or a life preserver for dear life as the waves crashed into my face.  We opted for plan B.  Capt. Mick took us into the mangroves and anchored the boat in the most pristine little cove with no wind and no current.  This was absolutely heaven for me.

The next challenge we faced was how to get me into the water.  Aaron, being my Herculean husband, chose to lift me up and fall into the water with me off the boat.  It was so fun – no words can describe the feeling I had when my face hit the water.  I was like a giddy teenager with a smile from cheek to cheek.

Aaron had also not been snorkeling other than when we are in Mexico, so it was quite an experience for him as well.  While there were not any reefs around us at the time the feeling of swimming in the ocean brought me back to my childhood in the Bahamas.

Saltwater creates more buoyancy than freshwater, so it took me a little time to adjust how to swim with my body being paralyzed from the chest down as compared to the pool.

Capt. Mick took dozens of pictures and videos of us, and you could just see the happiness in his face helping those with disabilities enjoy nature.  We swam around for about an hour and when the time came to get out of the water on the boat, Aaron sat on the chair that lowered into the water, and I sat in his lap as Capt. Mick pulled us both up together.

The sun, the ocean, the tranquility of not having a soul around does something to your psyche.  I was in a place of true bliss and happiness.  Capt. Mick gave me the confidence to go back home to the Bahamas in the next few years.

We all enjoyed a picnic style lunch and then it was off to fishing.  I was sunbathing like a lizard as Aaron and Capt. Mick fished off the bow of the boat.  Several nurse sharks ventured up to our boat and Aaron caught several fish.  Now, they may not have been very big fish, but they were fish!  It’s not the size of the fish you know …

When I was taking a picture of Aaron with his little itty-bitty fish Capt. Mick taught me a pretty cool trick.  He put the fish right in front of my camera and told Aaron to stand back.  As you can see Aaron’s fish was not so little anymore 😉

Hours rolled by as we all shared our life stories.  Capt. Mick had polio as a child and he, too, has suffered from disabilities his whole life.  So, he really understands the needs of those with disabilities and does everything in his power to make sure you have the most stellar day.

As the afternoon rolled by and we started to head back to his house I was already planning a multiple day adventure next year with Capt. Mick at Tranquil Adventures.  Next time I am determined to snorkel that ship wreck!

The rates are extremely reasonable and in certain situations he will make sure that folks with disabilities get out on the water even if they cannot afford it.

I wanted to highlight our Key Largo ocean adventure because there are so many activities that are not handicap friendly and it takes people like Capt. Mick to make disabled adventures possible.  Living in a wheelchair comes with countless uphill battles, but even having a day of freedom away from your wheelchair is enough to last you months of fantastic memories.

Please reach out to Capt. Mick if you are down in Florida and are looking for an adventure.  There are also really affordable hotels in the Key Largo area.  We stayed at a Holiday Inn with a roll in shower and were pleasantly surprised at the quality of this particular hotel.

Capt. Micks contact information: (305) 451-2102

We are now back in Raleigh in the hustle and bustle of everyday life trying to move into our new home.  This year has been a year of incredible changes.  I got married, went on a honeymoon, pranced around Miami, snorkeled Key Largo, hung out with my nephew who is now at my Alma Mater – The University of Miami, and I’m now a homeowner!  Just think I still have a month and ½ left in 2019… What will I get up to next?

 

Miami Pictures

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