I just shared this in a boating group under "Most absurd/hilarious boating experience" and thought I might as well share it here too. It's one of my favorite boating memories!

In the eighties: My father in-law bought a new center console down in SW FL and we were chosen to go pick it up to deliver it to NE FL. Of course we could try it out, so we decided to make our first trip to the Keys with it.

We stopped every where on the way down looking for charts but no one had any except for a set that was over two hundred dollars way out of our budget. At our final stop before putting in, we had breakfast at a restaurant that provided the old school style local map place mats showing locations of the reefs off shore from the various Keys. We already had enough boating experience to be able to follow channel markers and knew the necessity to adhere to them especially among so many numerous reefs and islands, so off we went.

This is not the same placemat but it is a similar representation. The original was far more cheesier and touristy than this but there aren't any images to be found of placemats from that time. I wish I'd taken a picture of it! Hmmm, maybe I did. Next time I look through those pics, I'll keep an eye out.

 We were able to use those silly place mats to locate every reef we wanted to snorkel at successfully, and there were several we visited throughout the length of the Islands! The only time we got a little off course was when we mistook a shipping marker for a regular shore channel marker and ended up near the major shipping lane instead of heading to the reef. We had no fancy electronics other than a plain old compass so we were navigating by sight and compass bearings only, and of course we had no way to know accurate bearings other than to use the compass for a general guage of direction.

We course corrected and had no issue even though by then the well worn flimsy place mat chart had gotten blown out of the boat and was long gone. We had an exceptional time and came back with loads of memories but the best one was simply the memory of navigating the reefs in the keys via a place mat. (Before I get scolded I guess I should add: This is not a recommendation to try it - at your own risk!)

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