Standing defiantly in the distance off Islamorada is a century-old lighthouse that has survived much more than the wimpy winds of Hurricane Irma.
The Alligator Lighthouse was built in 1873, before Miami even existed. The name honors a pirate-fighting schooner that sank there in 1822 and was blown up so brigands couldn't use it. The lighthouse is in the midst of a $2 million rehab that is partially funded by an annual swim that has been canceled, coordinators said yesterday.
About 400 people from all over the world had planned to head to Islamorada/Lower Matecumbe Key for the nine-mile swim, which was celebrating its fifth year. They would have come from as far away as Australia and England, says Betsy Keteltas, an organizer of the event.
"There is so much debris in the water that it is not safe for boats, let alone swimmers," she says. "We are asking swimmers to donate their entry fees, and almost everyone has."
Besides funding the lighthouse, the swim also supports Friends of the Pool, which helps swimmers in the Keys. Next year's swim has been scheduled for September 15, 2018, she says.
"The safety and health of our community is foremost on everyone's mind," Keteltas says, adding that several of the swimmers, including some from Sarasota, have scheduled charity events to help those in the Keys.
For more information, check out the Swim for Alligator Lighthouse website.