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The Agent’s Corner: Summer great time to cruise national parks

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The Agent’s Corner: by Capt. Deb Radtke

Summer always gets me thinking of summer vacation, and for many in the U.S. that includes visiting a national park.

In the U.S., we have a variety of protected areas along our coast lines. In addition to our national parks, we have national seashores and national lakeshores. These are preserved coastal areas federally designated as being of natural and recreational significance. They all come under the auspices of the National Park Service. Nine of the national seashores are on the Atlantic Ocean, including two in the Gulf of Mexico. The national lakeshores are on Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, and include my home waters of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

Some national parks accessible by water include Dry Tortugas National Park in the Florida Keys, Acadia National Park in Maine, and Virgin Islands National Park on St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Most of our national parks were the result of passionate residents who wanted to protect the natural resources for future generations. Biscayne National Park near Miami is one great example. According to the South Florida National Park Trust, this is how and why it was established: “Two founding members of the SFNPT – Lloyd Miller and Lacey Hoover – have a special kinship with Biscayne National Park. In the 1960s when developers wanted to build on Biscayne’s barrier islands and open an oil refinery on the shoreline, Lloyd Miller and Lacey Hoover’s father, Herbert W. Hoover Jr., fought to block those plans and establish a national park. The battle turned nasty, but Miller, Hoover and their allies ultimately prevailed. Biscayne National Park was established by an act of Congress in 1968.”

Biscayne National Park is an underwater park – fully 95 percent of the park is covered by water. Biscayne National Park protects Biscayne Bay from Key Biscayne south to Key Largo. To the east, the park protects a portion of the Florida Reef, and to the west, an unbroken stretch of Miami’s mangrove shoreline. Those protected mangroves are partly why there is great fishing in the Florida Keys, as well as in the waters off of Miami.

So how do you go about visiting a national park or national seashore? A link to specific parks and maps can be found online at the National Park Service website: www.nps.gov/index.htm. We recently had a client vessel visit both Dry Tortugas National Park and Cumberland Island National Seashore off Georgia on a cruise of the U.S. East Coast. Even a vessel over 197 feet (60m) was able to find suitable anchorage and discover places rarely visited by large yachts.

Each park’s website will include a link for planning a visit, and an info icon for basic information. There should also be a list of contacts and numbers. I recommend always reaching out to the head ranger. The people who work for the National Park Service have a passion for their jobs. They love talking about their parks and helping people have the best visit possible.

But national parks are not the only protected areas worth cruising. Several areas in the Florida Keys fall under the jurisdiction of either state or federal fish and wildlife services. More information on these wildlife management areas is available online at myfwc.com.

When visiting a protected area anywhere in the world, it’s always best to work with a local agent. If cruising in an area that does not have a reputable yacht agent, check with local guides and marina managers. But remember, in all cases, find out the rules and follow them. “No take” zones are not just for those other guys. One of our jobs as professionals in the yachting industry, whether onboard or land-based, is to be good stewards of our oceans and sea life.

My favorite quote from a captain I recently assisted was: “We are guests here and we will abide by their rules and laws.” It’s something to remember, even with the most demanding guests on board. It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to please guests and procure bragging rights for being able to do something no one else has ever done. But remember, these areas were given a protected status to preserve them for future visitors and generations.

Capt. Deb Radtke owns American Yacht Agents in Ft. Lauderdale (www.americanyachtagents.net). After 16 years working on yachts, she found her niche shoreside assisting vessels visiting the U.S. East Coast and Great Lakes. Comments are welcome at editor@the-triton.com.

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