For years, we've been told that we need to develop healthy habits and consume more water. Dehydration can decrease one's energy level and mental functioning while increasing stress on the body. There aren't any guarantees, of course, but many of the practices mentioned here could indeed have some basis in science.
Every year, science has more and more insight to offer in terms of living longer, eating better and avoiding disease. In the spirit of healthy living, I've compiled seven Florida water habits to help improve your life. Depending on how severe your "dehydration" is, the following list can be mixed and matched to address your particular aquatic and nautical deficiencies.
Editor's note: the author of this article is suffering from a slight case of "dehydration" himself, and so his "insight" should be taken with a glass of saltwater.
Florida Water Habit No. 1: Sunset Sails
An evening trip in pursuit of the setting sun, anywhere from the deep-emerald waters and snowy sands of Florida's Northwest to the state's southernmost outpost at Key West, relieves deep-down stress and releases endorphins, the body's way of positive reinforcement.
There's no right way to sail into to the sunset. Board a pontoon boat in St. Petersburg for a leisurely circle around an atoll at dusk. Embark on a cabin cruiser in Punta Gorda for a relaxing sunset jaunt on harbor waters. Set sail in a glass-bottomed boat in Destin for emerald waters tinted by the dissolving sun. Weigh anchor on a single-mast catamaran in Key West for an energizing swoop through tropical waters.
With sails lasting anywhere from one to five hours, and departing from downtown and out-of-town marinas, sunset sails are perhaps the most accessible nautical experience Florida can offer, and you can be back in time for dinner.
Florida Water Habit No. 2: Airboat Over Glassy Waters and Endless Marshes
The geological cocktail that is Florida offers up a great many places to airboat. For the uninitiated, an airboat is essentially a gigantic aluminum skid with seats up front and an eight-cylinder engine and propeller combo in back.
While the Everglades, the "River of Grass," is undoubtedly the center of the airboating world, you can also set off on a nature-rich airboat tour on central Florida's lakes and wetlands, the waterways of Big Cypress National Preserve, and near Cocoa Beach. A high-speed skip across these stunning ecological treasures is bound to boost your energy.
One can't-miss experience is an airboat tour of central Florida's Lake Jessup, where you're challenged to "Survive the Sea of Alligators" on a lake that boasts one of the greatest alligator-densities in the world.
Florida Water Habit No. 3: Dinner Cruise on Calm Coastal Waters
Eating dinner while gliding slowly by any of the many twinkling Florida metropolises at night might indeed make you feel better. If nothing else, you can sightsee and eat at the same time, increasing the recommended daily "relaxation time." From nostalgic paddle wheelers to enormous luxury yachts to river catamarans, the opportunities to dine on the water in Florida are many.
One Florida waterway mainstay is The Jungle Queen Riverboat Cruise, which has been riverboating past the sights and mansions along the waterways of Fort Lauderdale for more than 75 years. This three-tiered riverboat takes visitors who are on the dinner tour cruise on an overview of the area before landing on an island for an all-you-can-eat, family-style dinner of chicken, ribs and shrimp with all the trimmings.
Florida Water Habit No. 4: Swamp Buggy (the gentle kind)
While technically not watercraft, the gentle, lumbering swamp buggy, most often found in the northern sections of the Everglades, gives visitors a glimpse into the life of the vast watery land of southern Florida. Boats would find it too shallow, and normal land vehicles too muddy, but the swamp buggy follows old logging roads deep into the ecosystem. (Unprecedented access to the power and scale of nature is known to relieve hypertension and augment the imagination.)
Florida Water Habit No. 5: Kayak to a Better Place
Kayaks have many advantages over many other kinds of water mobility. They're quiet. They easily slide into the narrowest of channels. They're fuel-efficient. They're eco-friendly. But their most "hydrating" property is that they are as close as you can get to being in the water without actually being in the water. For the most deeply dehydrated, we recommend a kayak tour along a clear Florida spring, among manatee breeding grounds, through sun-dappled mangrove tunnels or around barrier islands.
The many canoe and kayak trails in the Ocala National Forest run from crystal clarity to frothy rapidity - Salt Springs Run flows its emerald waters into Lake George after a five-mile trail.
When kayaking the mangrove tunnels and canals in and around the Ten Thousand Islands in southwest Florida, you can't quite decide if you are kayaking an arm of the sea reaching deep inshore or an extension of land into the calm Gulf waters. Either way, the intensely intricate and diverse ecology and thousands of isolated islands make for some of the most remarkable kayaking in Florida.
Not only is Mosquito Lagoon in the Canaveral National Seashore a home territory of many manatees, but it is also in sight of the Kennedy Space Center launching pads. While the shuttle program is over, kayaking in the glow of a rocket launch is still inexplicably exciting.
Florida Water Habit No. 6: Answering the Charter Question: Captained or Bareboat?
While the diverse daylong water treatments address many deficiencies, only overnighting on the water, sleeping and waking to the lap of it against the hull of your vessel, can satisfy your more nautical needs. From a bareboat rental for a week to a full-service chartered yacht, Florida is chock-full of multi-day boating opportunities. The range of vessels available is limitless.
For a low-key relaxing hydration therapy, explore the coastal inlets of northwest Florida on a cozy-cabined low-speed sailer. Or, more grandly, charter a full-service ship (that's a crew of, ahem, 23) for 11 of your closest friends to put in an appearance at some remote islands and hot Florida harbors. Warning: This is a highly addictive treatment, however, and has led many to drop their old lives for a marina address and galley cooking.
Florida Water Habit No. 7: Houseboats - Dwelling Afloat
Collect all your family or a gaggle of friends aboard a rented houseboat, say on the St. Johns River, and let the water therapy begin. For the most severely dehydrated, nothing can compare with a week drifting lazily on the gentle river. Nudge your way along the Suwanee River in your aquatic RV, catching frog symphonies, an unbeatable light show the stars arranged especially for you, and the relaxation bug en route. Poke around some of the quieter coves and nooks of the Keys, jump off the back for a dip in the tropical waters first thing in the morning, even before your coffee. Tool through barrier islands along the Gulf Coast, anchoring in hidden white-sand bays.
Florida's houseboats for rent range from the rustic to the Trump-luxurious - from small four-person boats with outdoor kitchens; to comfortable six-to-eight-person floating condominiums with entertainment centers, multiple decks and full kitchens; to sea palaces with luxurious staterooms, satellite and DVD entertainment, gourmet kitchens, and a set of jet skis on the top deck.
Florida Water Habits to Hydrated Living
You may have saltwater in your veins when you return from your Florida aqua-therapy. And, you may feel that you need to repeat the procedure. There is no need to check with your doctor/travel specialist if any of the following persists after your first treatment; they are extremely common:
- Irrepressible joy
- Levity in the heart, mind or spirit
- Unshakeable calm
- An enhanced appreciation of coastal and wetland ecosystems resulting in a strong urge to visit repeatedly and learn the name of most every bit of flora and fauna
- Love of the words limpkin, mangrove, 'gator, chickee, anhinga or manatee
Florida, our sea-walled garden, is surrounded and permeated by water. With the Gulf of Mexico's warm crystalline waters and the Atlantic's vibrant blues and vast horizons, we are never far from the beach. And the very veins of Florida, its heart and soul, course with lakes, rivers, ponds, canals, wetlands and marshes.