Swimmers from all over visited Islamorada on Sept. 11 for a swim to Alligator Lighthouse and back. Near the top of the finishing list was a 16-year-old from Islamorada. 

Coral Shores junior swimmer Corley Smith placed fifth overall in the annual Swim for Alligator Lighthouse, an open-water challenge of 8 miles. Her clock time was 3 hours, 30 minutes for a second-place finish among solo females. She was just behind top female finisher Brooke Bennett, 41, of Clearwater, who finished the race in 3 hours and 19 minutes. 

Tampa Bay resident Connor Signorin, 29, was the top individual swimmer with a time of 3 hours, 5 minutes and 37 seconds. Tampa residents Andrew Lashlee and Robert Skaggs posted the fastest two-person relay time at 4:03:58. 

Corley Smith and her Lighthouse Swim kayaker in dad Cale Smith. MARGIE SMITH/Contributed

Swimmers Michelle Dalton, Sara McLarty and Misty Bacerra, all of Clermont, Florida, won the three-person class in 4:15:32. The winning four-person team was a mixed relay of male and female competitors from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Tim Shead, Harold Wagner, Serge Wenzel and Ann Kilpatrick posted a time of 3:34:42. 

Just over 460 swimmers took part in the race that saw some choppy conditions on the way out to Alligator Reef Lighthouse from Amara Cay Resort in Islamorada. Race staff monitored the course while boats from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation and U.S. Coast Guard kept incoming boats from getting near. 

The annual race, which was canceled last year due to COVID-19, raises awareness about Alligator Lighthouse all while raising scholarship funds for students interested in competitive swimming. Built in 1873, Alligator Lighthouse is named after the U.S. Navy schooner Alligator, which was used to protect the Florida straits against pirates and slave ships. The ship went aground in 1822 and was blown up after removing as much as possible, to prevent use by pirates.

Recently, event organizers Larry “Lighthouse” Herlth and Rob Dixon received word that their nonprofit, Friends of the Pool Inc., will receive the lighthouse to restore and preserve. Efforts to secure Alligator Lighthouse go back more than two years, when the U.S. Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security determined there was no need for them to own and operate it.

“It’s just goosebumps,” Dixon told the Weekly following word that the nonprofit would secure the lighthouse. “A lot of our activities around here focus around Alligator Lighthouse. It’s just our place to go, and it’d be tragic if it ever fell.”

Estimates to rehab the lighthouse are around $9 million. 

The annual swim to Alligator Lighthouse returns Sept. 10, 2022. Visit swimalligatorlight.com for more information.

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