Just over a year after a Florida Keys artist completed an eight-mile Atlantic Ocean swim to promote preserving six aging Keys lighthouses, interested competitive swimmers can attempt the same feat. The inaugural Swim for Alligator Light is set for Saturday, Sept. 21.
Larry Herlth, known locally in the Keys as “Lighthouse Larry” for his detailed, scale metal reproductions of Keys lighthouses, completed his roundtrip open-water swim to Alligator Reef Lighthouse in five hours and 11 minutes.
The passionate 53-year-old hopes participation in the competitive swimming event will grow each year along with awareness about the need to preserve the Keys lights. The large beacons were built in the 1800s to warn ships away from the Florida Keys reef tract.
“We need to bring the attention to a national treasure,” Herlth said of the iconic lighthouses. “These structures need to be saved.”
Modern Global Positioning System navigation has replaced the need for lighthouses in the Keys and, with the exception of their navigation lights, they are no longer maintained.
Swimmers can enter the eight-mile challenge as individuals or as two- or four-person teams. To compete as an individual, entrants must show prior proof of completing a 1,650-meter or one-mile swim in 35 minutes or less.
Individual and team swimmers have up to six hours to complete the course. The event is to have an in-water start and a beach finish, ending shoreside at The Moorings, located at the end of 123 Beach Road oceanside in Islamorada.
Awards await the top three male and female finishers overall.
Registration and check-in is set for 4-8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20, at the Founders Park swimming pool at MM 87, bayside.
Entry fees are $95 per individual swimmer, $75 per person for a two-person team and $50 per person for a four-person team. Admission for spectators is free.