By Kris Hundley
Somewhere, off the starboard bow, hidden behind a cluster of mangroves at the tip of Casey Key, is Stephen King.
Or at least King’s winter home. Even horror writers want a slice of paradise.
Traveling south on the Intracoastal Waterway from Sarasota to Venice is like rubber-necking in Beverly Hills. Gawking at mega-mansions is the prime entertainment, along with dodging errant paddleboarders.
The 10-mile stretch of waterway is nearly a mile wide in some spots. But more often it seems close enough to grab a beer from the burly guy sitting on the bank. Because the Intracoastal is protected from rough weather, it’s packed with watercraft of every kind: gleaming 50-foot motor yachts; jet skis; rental runabouts; kayaks.
Osprey nests top nearly every navigational marker. The water shifts from muddy green to emerald to turquoise. There’s 7 to 10 feet of water between the red and green markers. Wander outside the channel and you’ll be sitting on your keel in the shallows.
At Blackburn Point, where the Intracoastal is so narrow kids could toss footballs across, a swing bridge opens for boat traffic. A bridge tender in a lime-green vest walks to the middle of the span, activates the motor and swings the entire bridge until it’s parallel with the banks. She waves as we glide by. There’s the aroma of fried food from a dockside restaurant.
At the end of the day, we tie up in Venice, shark tooth capital of the world. A fishing charter has just returned from the Gulf with a boatload of sun-burned tourists and red and black grouper. A crew member dumps the catch on the dock and beats the still-live fish with a two-by-four. Once sedated, the day’s bounty is hung on hooks overhead. While the tourists pose for pictures with their haul, pelicans bob in the water by the cleaning table.
Minutes later, the fillets are on ice, the tourists are gone and the pelicans are taking off, skimming north on the Intracoastal.