You know you are approaching the halfway mark to Key West when the Seven Mile Bridge approaches into view. If this is your first time visiting the Florida Keys, you will quickly notice stretches of unaccessible bridge close by. Built from the instruction of Henry Flagler, Flagler had designed a railway that transported people to Key West, known as the Overseas Railroad. Due to a hurricane in 1935, the railroad bridge was destroyed (now referred to as the Old Seven Mile Bridge) and a new bridge was built in it’s place in 1982 for automobile use only.
As a charter guide in the Florida Keys, I have seen some bad sunburns, but 3 stand out in my memory very well.
3. The 3rd on my list is a guy from England who at first did a good job of covering up his pasty white skin and wearing sunscreen but unfortunately insisted on fishing barefoot. Well, this was a horrible idea. I don’t think his feet had seen the light of day in many years and chose a beautiful sunny May day in the Florida Keys to let his feet breathe a little. The end results were blisters the size of quarters all over his feet and wasn’t able to put on shoes for the rest of the week. To improvise, he had to fish in his black suit socks for the rest of the week. I think he did manage to catch a tarpon in the few minutes he was able to stand on the bow one day.
SOLUTION: Wear shoes. Unless you are used to having your feet in the sun, keep them covered up. Your feet are some of the most sensitive skin you have. A vacation in tropical climates is NOT the place to let them get a little sun.
2. Back of the hand burn - One of my clients was slightly fair skinned and did a decent job of covering up but failed to remember the backs of the hands. After two days standing on the bow in the ready position, his hands were red and blistered. He had the best “watch tan” (or watch burn) I have ever seen. Many people do put sunscreen on the backs of their hands, but get super burned anyways because they wash off their sunscreen going into the livewell or by releasing a few fish.
SOLUTION: Wear Buff Gloves. The Buff gloves are made for sun protection. They are certified UPF 40+ so you don’t have to worry about sun getting through. They have several models, but my favorite is the simplest version called the Solar Glove. These do exactly what they are supposed to, which is to keep my hands from getting sunburned. They dry quickly when wet and I hardly feel them when on.
Here is a picture that I am quite proud of. It is my best work as a hand model with the Buff Solar Gloves and Arm Sleeves. George Castanza would be proud:
The #1 worst sunburn I have ever seen was a young lady on her honeymoon. She was a good angler as was her new husband and they both knew how to avoid sunburns. For some reason, however, the Florida Keys sun simply ate her alive. The top of her head was blistered all the way through her dark hair. The side of her face had blisters the size of a dime when she showed up at the dock the next day. I saw that this was a major problem and gave her my Buff Headwear and a full hat. She wore these for the rest of the trip and was able to make it through the week.
SOLUTION: Always, always, always have a Buff Headwear with you on EVERY trip. This thing is a lifesaver, literally. A full hat and a Buff Headwear will protect you from the sun like nothing else except pure darkness. Over the years the Buff products have gotten better and now offer 4-way stretch and fabrics that block 95% of UV rays.
The first time I went flats fishing, I was completely exhausted at the end of the day. I didn’t understand what was going on at first. The other guys that I was there with were doing okay, but I was wiped out.
I may not wear chemical sunscreen much, but I do protect myself from the sun. I am very careful in the sun and I have seen tons of guides suffer from skin cancer…