Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Florida Keys, Part VII:
Enjoying a sunset cruise on a catamaran

I'd never been in a catamaran until the night Lee Ann and I took a sunset cruise in one on Wednesday, Jan. 18, which was the day between our two visits to Key West.

As a tourist, it was a wonderful experience. I enjoyed being out on the water with nothing interfering with my line of sight of my surroundings, including -- and especially -- the sunset (although as it turned out, as the sun crept close to the horizon, other passengers gathered right in front of my line of sight to block my view. I had to lean outside the craft to do my sunset photography. I'd do a cruise again, if I had a chance. Lee Ann had wanted to try a sunset cruise on a sailboat, and I told her ... let's do one small step at a time! After my experience on the catamaran, on which I sat much closer to the water than I would on a sailboat, I'd have no qualms doing the sailboat ride.

We took the cruise on the ocean side on a vessel named Sirius that was captained by a gentleman named Dan (first mate Mallory). It moors on 11th Street Ocean in Marathon, very close to the Seven-Mile Bridge adjacent to the Lazy Days South restaurant, where after the cruise we capped our experience with appetizers and drinks. The Lazy Days' menu is extensive, and I'd certainly be open to revisiting it for a full meal if we ever returned to Marathon.

The photo leading off the post gives a perspective of where I was seated for all of my actual sunset shots. (That's Capt. Dan and Mallory standing.) I didn't stand at the front of the craft (next to the rail near the flag) because I was trying to respect the sight lines of the sunset for other passengers. As it turned out moments later, it was not a courtesy other passengers felt they had to extend to me. I didn't know what proper protocol was to deal with that aboard a vessel of this sort; I decided to simply ask Capt. Dan if he could swing the catamaran a bit to his right so my view would not be obstructed, and he kindly complied.

About 15 minutes before that, it was Capt. Dan who told all of us passengers to be on the lookout for the so-called "green flash" on the horizon the second or two before the sun completely disappears. I'd never heard of the green flash before. It is a colored light refraction phenomenon that occurs when colors in the atmosphere separate and disperse momentarily in the nanosecond before total sundown.

I asked Capt. Dan if this spectacle happens only with sunsets on water, and he said he wasn't sure. The green flash's entry at Wikipedia indicates that it can happen any place where the horizon is unobstructed. Out of the five sunsets I camped out for on our trip to the Florida Keys, I witnessed the green flash on three of them, and the first was that night on the catamaran. I yelled it out when it happened that night, too, and several other passengers said they saw it. One of the two sunsets in which I did not see the green flash was because near the end of its fall, the sun dropped behind a thin but dense layer of clouds that were hugging the horizon, so no one saw it.

I did try to capture a still image of the green flash when witnessing later sunsets in the Keys, but to no avail. I should have tried to video-record it, like several folks did on YouTube. Whoever uploaded this video titled it "Perfect Green Flash," and while you can indeed see the green at the indicated moment, it's not how I remembered it. To me, it really occurred in a flash -- a long second -- and then was gone; this video makes it appear much longer than I remember it being. Maybe that's because the video gear had a much stronger zoom lens that I had on my cameras.

Photo geek stuff: Because I was unfamiliar with the vessel, I was hesitant to bring along my good camera, my Canon 6D, to take pictures of the excursion. I had stabilization and turbulence concerns, so I left the 6D locked in the car and decided to use my iPhone 6s Plus for all of the photos you see in this post.

My quick take on the wisdom of that decision: The boat turbulence -- my real fear in bringing along the 6D -- wasn't nearly as upsetting as I thought it would be. The iPhone did a slightly better than average job in handling what I had hoped to capture while photographing the cruise. Where I started to stress using the phone is when natural light diminished, and I thought to myself that I really could have benefited from having the more ISO-sensitive DSLR in my hands. Also, I think I could have gotten better pictures of the actual sunset with the 6D because I would have been able to conduct several tests for optimum settings and settle into a workable shutter speed and ISO; with the iPhone, I was at the mercy of the technology's fickle automatic decisions. So in summary, I can live with the iPhone photos, but I wish I'd have used the 6D.

As always, to bring up a larger, sharper version of a photo, simply click on the image. This is particularly important if you access the blog using a mobile device. To see a full gallery of images from the catamaran sunset cruise, visit my gallery at

Above and below: The closing moments before the sun disappeared. The shot above was the first I took after Capt. Dan had maneuvered the craft slightly to remove the sight line obstruction I was experiencing from the passenger on the right. 

Above and next two below: Shots of the sails, other passengers and Capt. Dan.  

Above: A sail vessel that came near to our catamaran before sunset. 

Above: A shot of the mail sail. 

Capt. Dan (above) talking to us after the sunset. At this point I was focusing on the post-sunset colors and water. Below is another vessel that came near to us, this time after the sunset. 

Above and below: More post-sunset photography, both using the catamaran's wake's as composition elements. Capt. Dan had turned on and used the catamaran's engine at the beginning of the excursion then shifted to sail-only power as we neared and reached the edge of the reef where we stopped to watch the sunset. He used the engine again for the return trip.  

Above: The waterside facade of Lazy Days South, as we returned to land. Lee Ann would have one of those seats along the water when we went in for our appetizers and drinks. Below is a shot of the ocean and horizon taken from our table. Colors were not enhanced.

Next up: Bahia Honda State Park

Previous posts in this series:

Part I: Not bad for 'almost paradise'

Part II: Sombrero Beach strikingly beautiful

Part III: Key West packed with sights and attractions

Part IV: Ernest Hemingway house is worth the tour

Part V: Getting a panoramic view of Key West

Part VI: Sunsets and sailboats at Mallory Square

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