"Lighthouse" Larry Herlth has done it again.
The 52-year-old artist and lifelong Keys resident swam through jellyfish, "stinging red hair" and against a strong current Saturday around Sombrero Lighthouse and back in just under seven hours.
For the second month in a row the Islamorada resident has completed an ocean lighthouse swim in order to throw light on the need to save the decaying iconic structures. Herlth swam around Alligator Light off Islamorada in August and says he will swim around another oceanic lighthouse in a month.
"Oh, man, what a day," he said as he emerged from the water at Sombrero Park from where he had embarked six hours and 57 minutes earlier. "There were lots of blue jellyfish as well as clear globs containing what looked like red hairs. I'd burn if I touched them."
During the 9.2-mile swim Herlth consumed three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, two gallons of water and a gallon of Gatorade.
"I'll see how much weight I lost," he said after the swim. "I easily burned 10,000 calories. It felt every bit of 10 miles."
Herlth said the current was brutal.
"I was using 80 percent of my power grid and making little headway," he said. "I can swim comfortably at two miles an hour, but I was probably doing half of that."
Herlth took four hours and three minutes to make the lighthouse against the current and slightly less than two hours to return.
The Fighting Manatees club, which provides support for the Islamorada Founders Park Pool, swam tag-team style with Herlth to keep him company.
"We swim in 20-minute increments," said Manatee member Rob Dixon.
Dwayne King escorted Herlth and the swimmers aboard his 25-foot SeaVee, the "Lone Wolf."
Eliza Colmes, Tom Strobel, Katy LeVasseur and Beth Kaminstein, also Fighting Manatees, swam along.
Herlth hopes his Herculean effort, month-by-month, will spur the community and agencies that grant money for such efforts to step up and help save these structures, whether through a citizen-government effort, by having a club or group buy one and take over its maintenance, or having private individuals purchase lighthouses for their own use.
"We need an aggressive approach in Congress. A passive approach is not cutting it," Herlth said Saturday, showing some degree of frustration.
"I swim my butt off to raise awareness for these lighthouses with the hopes that the public will phone, email, fax, tweet and write our representatives in Washington and Tallahassee to get behind this," he said.
Herlth says he will next swim the Sand Key Lighthouse off Key West in about four weeks.
"It's in extremely bad shape," he said. "But, like Carysfort Light [in the future], those will be one-way swims since they are at least seven miles from shore."