Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

That Was One Scary Missed Snorkel on Pigeon Key

Monday November 30, 2015                                             Most Recent Post:
Curry Hammock State Park                                               The Wrong Program and Moving On
Marathon, Florida


The sunrise looked like it might be “clouded out” again but it turned out to be one of the most lovely I’ve seen despite the clouds.  The presence of all the birds in the air was a wonderful addition.

Only the yellow crowned night heron and I are out at dawn today.



It looks like dark clouds are going to drop a curtain on the entire show.  But since I’m already up and out here, I wait to see what happens.






Mostly I watch the birds since nothing much is going on in the sky.  An egret flies in just behind the heron who looks at me as though to say “and what are YOU looking at”?  He has more of that hunched compact look today.  Hunkered down.




The egret has a similar stance but I can see how long and lithe he is when he takes to the air.




I check on the sky.  There’s a bit more color progress.  It’s just me and Mr. Heron again now.










Here comes the sun, the white circle just on the horizon to the right of the middle of this picture.  Colors are streaming over the water.



The willet looks lovely in the sun reflected colored waters.





Zooming in on the narrow orange strip of light between the sea and the heavy clouds, I can see the sunrays pushing powerfully out. 




I catch the birds flying across the sky.












The sun is up and again behind the clouds lighting things from behind.  Despite the dark clouds, it’s supposed to be a beautiful day today with somewhat milder winds and we’re determined to go out to Pigeon Key snorkeling



I have to get back in order to get breakfast and all the snorkel gear packed up.  We’ve decided that even though the winds are predicted to be  9-10 mph, that’s as low as they’ve been in ages and we want to snorkel.  We don’t want to risk the all day trip to Looe Key on questionable weather so we decide to take the first boat at 9:00 out to Pigeon Key, do the tour and then snorkel around until the 2;20 boat comes back.

We pack a lunch and go down to the Pigeon Key visitor center in this cute red train car.  All of the following pictures are taken with my Nikon Coolpix S33 because we thought we were going snorkeling on Pigeon Key.



Inside we buy our tickets and look around at all the Pigeon Key and railroad paraphernalia for sale including the book Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of a Railroad that Crossed an Ocean which I’d love to read but not the $50 edition.  Hmmm I wonder if Amazon has that on Kindle for less than $9.95?  The shop  even have the unheard of  - decent postcards 5 for ONE DOLLAR.  Amazing!




Our captains show up, we hop on board and after seeing a couple of manatee in the channel, we are zooming out and on our way to Pigeon Key.  The day is looking great, blue skies, puffy clouds.




The assistant captain takes our picture on the ride.  Things are looking very fine.  We’re excited to be going out to this Key where folks say there is interesting snorkeling.




We follow our Pigeon Key guide for the day, Riet Steinmetz,  off the boat, onto the pier and walk toward the walking section of the old 7 mile railroad bridge overhead.  As you can see from the palms, it is still a bit windy but we’re tired of waiting out the wind to go snorkeling.

We arrive at some chairs where she usually conducts her larger tours but we are the only two here on this first boat today.  I look out over the pier where we arrived.  Sweet spot this is no doubt.  But it’s the place of a lot of work for the men attempting to build this railroad from Miami to Key West. 

After she tells us all about the history of the key, Riet takes us around to the remaining buildings telling us what they were used for both during the period of the building of the railroad from 1905 to 1912 and afterwards.



This little 5.2 acre island became  a camp for the men working on the railroad in both directions, so the rail line could be completed more quickly.  Because of working outward from the Key, Pigeon Key was only accessible by boat.  This was actually part of the plan.  Apparently one of the engineers selected this island specifically because the men would not be able to party on Knights Key which was  a 2.2 mile swim away. 

Similar work camps were spread out along the way, as the sections were built simultaneously instead of consecutively.  Many of the men who started out never completed their contracts.  Few Americans and Northern Europeans had the tolerance for the heat and bugs.  In the end, much of the work was being done by men from the Caribbean who were more accustomed to such conditions.  Finally, in 1912, the extension was complete.  Henry Flagler himself was aboard the first train’s maiden voyage.  He was 82 at the time, and died the following year.

After construction was complete, Pigeon Key became the base of maintenance services.  Painters, bridge tenders and their families resided there.  As I mentioned in my previous post, the Category 5 Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 was the end of the Overseas Railway.  Damage was significant, times had changed and a railway all the way to Key West was deemed no longer useful.  The State of Florida purchased rights, and did some retrofitting to transform the railway into a two-lane road including reusing some of the original train rails for guard rails. We can see this recycling as we stand under the bridge on the island and look up.


In 1982 when the new, improved Seven Mile Bridge was completed, it made the 2-lane affair obsolete.  Today, the bit of this original bridge from Marathon/Knights Key to Pigeon Key is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and while closed to motorized traffic, is open to bicycle and pedestrian traffic except for the ramp down to the island which right now is closed due to safety concerns.  We are told it will reopen in late 2016 but that seems doubtful as they haven’t even started the work here.  Whether you come by boat or by bike/foot, the entrance fee is $12 each.

Our last stop is in the museum above.  We enter accompanied by the island cat who has followed us everywhere.  His name is Buddy and he’s officially Leisure Activities Coordinator here.   Riet shows us around the museum and leaves us watching the 20 minute film about Henry Flagler and his railroad.  After this we think we’ll have lunch and then change to go snorkeling.

We never get that far since in mid film David seems to squeeze my hand as though he’s fallen asleep which happens often in films.  And yet this squeeze seems different and I look around to find him slumped in his chair.  I can tell in an instant that he isn’t asleep.  This man can sleep sitting up and holding a book.  You’ve seen some of these fake awake postures in blog posts before.   He isn’t sitting up now, he’s slumped over.  I call his name.  No response.  I call him couple more times and think for an instant about slapping his face.  But given the black shadow that is following us around, I fear he’s had a heart attack or a stroke.  When you live with a time bomb in your life, you are half waiting for it to explode.


I run outside seeking help and the Education Director, Jason Kicinski, comes running.   Neither David nor I brought our cell phones since we couldn’t see how we’d need them.  DUH….note to self to get a waterproof case and not to leave home without them. 

Luckily a man who came out on the boat with us to repair the coke machine has his and calls 911.    By the time Jason and I get back into the museum, David is still in his chair but is awake and only a bit disoriented.  He says he wondered where I was.  The movie is still running.

He can give his name, where he is and what he was doing.  He’s not sure what has happened but he says he’s had no pain.  That thankfully doesn’t sound like either a heart attack or a stroke, so while Jason takes the golf cart up the closed ramp and down the 2 mile section of the bridge to where the Rescue Squad will come, I help David up and he walks out into the other room.  He says he feels fine.  He even knows who is the President.

I think perhaps he was dehydrated so I give him water.  Or perhaps it was low blood sugar so I get his lunch.  He is sitting eating his lunch when the rescue staff arrives 30 to 40 minutes later.  Remember it is a golf cart that has to travel 2 miles out and 2 miles back to bring them to the island.  This is not a place to have a real heart attack although I suspect that if David had not come around, a helicopter would have been sent.




It’s amazing the equipment rescue squads have and what they can check.  An EKG shows no signs of heart damage on their machine, they prick his finger for blood work and they his blood pressure and pulse are low.   Things look good but they suggest that he go back with them to the hospital and have everything more thoroughly checked.  I agree and given his new reality even David thinks better safe than sorry although he continues to say he feels fine now.

Jason takes us all six of us on the poor golf cart to the rescue squad vehicle which takes David to the hospital ER.  I take all of our considerable “stuff” and walk down off the bridge and up the road to the VC where I drive Ruby to the hospital. 

I find David in the ER hooked up again.  They do blood tests, EKG and who knows what else.  The ER doctor, who is from Virginia amazingly, comes in and says he thinks David has fainted due to low pulse and blood pressure.  He suggests lowering the dose of beta blockers.  This hospital stay takes over 2 hours.  I’ve left my camera in the car and don’t go out to get it while we wait since we have quite enough pictures of David in the hospital.  He naps off and on while we wait.  I play UNO on his phone.


Finally he is discharged and I drive him home where he falls asleep again.  He needs the rest.  He wakes up for dinner and shortly after eating has another dizzy spell which he says he recognizes as being similar to what happened before he blacked out at Pigeon Key.  This time he lays on the couch until it passes and is fine.

Thankfully due to his previous practice sleeping while sitting up in church and in school, he did not fall out of his chair at Pigeon Key and do any damage to himself and possibly his bones.

For most people, fainting is not a terribly big deal but in his situation it has to be thoroughly explored.  This has all been a lot of work for a lot of people today but has a happy ending. 

The next day David lowers his dose of Beta Blocker and emails both of his cardiologists who agree with that decision.



We really want to thank especially Jason Kicinski, Director of Education for the Pigeon Key Foundation for his quick action and ability to get us the help we needed, as well as the members of the Marathon Rescue Squad for their professional assistance in all of this.

It was scary and we missed snorkeling again, but we’re grateful for all’s well that end’s well especially given that we were on an island when it happened.  Having serious medical conditions is a rough road to travel.  But beautiful sunsets help.


  1. Whew! So glad that David is ok...what a scary time for you both! Sounds like you received excellent care in a location where you would think that might be difficult...Take care, both of you...We are so relieved that everything is ok....

  2. yep that made for an unpleasant experience... glad all is well though

  3. So sorry to read this. I will say that David's brother, Roger, is also very experienced at falling asleep often, soon after sitting down. Interesting that he squeezed your hand.. perhaps he knew this was more than " falling asleep"? So glad to learn that there was nothing serious, albeit frightening, and that David is good to go once again. Two days ago they increased Roger's beta blockers, and he is already at a pretty hefty dose. Message me.. if you will, and let me know the dosage and name(s) of David's beta blocker(s). Always glad to see you two enjoying life to the fullest possible and not letting these difficult challenges slow you down. Yes... tell David... that wasn't the best location for an "event." It looked like this specific day was on target to be fantastic. I see sunshine and water, two of my favorite combos. We are breathing easier knowing that David is up and about once again.

  4. Yikes, what a scary situation. I'm glad all turned out all right for David.

  5. well. . .good grief. . .if it ain't one thing, it's another. ..thankful for a good ending.

    I LOVE pics of sun rays. . .I think it's one of my favorite things to see. . .

  6. So impressed with the care he received in that location. Thank goodness everything ended up ok! Scary indeed :( Beautiful birds and sky. Unfortunate for snorkeling, but they'll be more chances. Keep drinking lots of water and getting rest, Dad! Love you both today and everyday scary or not!

  7. I must say it's a good thing you weren't snorkeling. Here's hoping the lower dosage with take care of this problem.

    I love the photo of you two.

  8. Oh, what a frightening experience, especially being so far from help. Glad to hear it wasn't anything more serious, and hopefully the reduced dosage of beta blockers will keep it from happening again.
    That last sunset photo is amazing!

  9. That amazing sunrise was certainly no indication of the scary times ahead - but beautiful nonetheless. I know that feeling of extremely low blood pressure and it is definitely not fun! Glad David felt better so quickly, I'm sure that eating and water helped. More scary for you probably :-( A blessing to have professional help in such an isolated spot. Hugs to you both. Let's not do that anymore, okay?

  10. It is wonderful how "cool" in these situations and handle it all so well. You are the perfect "nurse" for David. I am also for my Hubby who falls sometimes from taking the hideous "statins." and in just a few days on them, he lost the use of his shoulders so cannot catch himself is he is off balance. I have learned to be cool and call the Fire Dept who are so sweet to come by and lift him up. I tore my back up trying to lift him time and time again. I guess all wives need to learn caregiver things as we grow older and how not to panic. Good going! You are a good example to all!

    1. What a scary situation, you certainly kept your cool and did the right thing. Thank goodness it was nothing serious and the EMTs were able to get there quickly. There will be plenty of time for snorkeling now that everything is under control with David's meds.

  11. Now that was a scary situation. Hope everything is under control now.

  12. Oh my! Cool heads prevailed, and I am glad he wasn't driving, or somewhere he could get hurt. Hopefully things are getting straightened out with his medications now.

  13. So glad David is doing better. Very scary.

  14. Hate that had to happen, but glad the outcome was a good one!!! Hope you get those meds adjusted and get to finally do some snorkeling. It just seems that The Keys just haven't treated you so well, but at least you got to meet some very professional and good caregivers:o)) Keep sending the sunrise/sunsets photos...they are wonderful!!!

  15. Although we knew some of the story, we didn't know all of the details -- we're so relieved to know that all is well, and to see David in person and looking healthy and happy.

  16. Scary stuff there David. Hope changing meds does the trick. I can't imagine how stressful that was on the two of you.

  17. So sorry to hear about David's situation. How nice to know that help was available. Good that David went to the ER and had a real good going over, but those EMT's sure were on the ball. So glad to hear all worked out in the end. Sorry you didn't get to snorkel but there will be another chance:)

    Glad you stayed around for that sunrise...so nice. I love that heron:) He was really giving you the LOOK! Too funny. Beautiful end to a very stressful day:)

  18. I am thankful once again to have had another gentle wake up call to remind me to take advantage of the time I am given here with my dear wife who has shown me what it is to be fully alive and present to every gift under heaven. What a blessing!

  19. Pretty scary:( Seeing the above from David, he sure had the right outlook!

  20. You two are precious beyond words. So glad help was accessible and hope David is feeling better. Absolutely gorgeous sunrise.

  21. What a scary experience. So glad Dave is better. I sure hope the medication change will take care of thiis. We all need to enjoy each moment because tomorrow was never promised. I sure am enjoying all the moments you both are living. Your blog is one of the highlights of my week. Enjoy!

  22. Wow. That must have been scary. I'm sure glad you weren't snorkeling when it occurred. I hope the medication change will resolve the problem and that David won't have any more of those spells.

    I was sorry to hear they closed down the bridge to Pigeon Key. They have been collecting money for years to repair the bridge, but apparently not enough. Most of the old fishing bridges have closed down the past few years. I hope they will find the money for the repairs. That used to be a wonderful walk or bike ride. We've never splurged for the tour of Pigeon Key, but it looked like it was pretty interesting. The Rv park across the street, Knights Key, has been bought by a developer and will be gone soon. It will make finding rv spots in the Keys even more difficult, I guess.

  23. I can imagine how scary the situation you found yourselves in was. Staying cool ... so important in any crisis; more so when it involves someone's health. Hope the lower dosage will help resolve the problem.

  24. Scary indeed, hope David's feeling better and the change in medication is helping.

  25. David and I both have a knack for sleeping while sitting up. Usually a poke from our sweethearts is enough to make us open our eyes. When that doesn't work, you can be sure it's more serious. I'm glad to hear there was such a quick response and also that he is okay. Keep enjoying every day dear brother!


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