Twenty-four years ago Karen Luknis quit her job in her native Youngstown, Ohio, and dropped everything to become a resident of the tropics.
She had visited Key West twice by this point and was mesmerized.
“With a few thousand dollars and a whole lot of hope, I left my job and moved to Key West,” she said.
To make ends meet, she drove a cab for 7 years “all night long.”
In the day, though, she loved boating. Navigating the opaque sea of blue and green hues that is Key West’s meeting of the Atlantic with the Gulf of Mexico was her true passion. Eventually saving enough money driving her cab, she purchased — within two years — a 16 foot, 60 horsepower boat she used for exploring the waters that would soon become her bread and butter.
It was the beginning of what is now Venus Charters, Luknis’ popular, private boating company offering snorkeling, sight-seeing, dolphin watching, fishing and lobstering (among numerous other available activities). An out and proud lesbian, Luknis welcomes customers from all walks of life, but is most proud to welcome LGBT visitors.
Cruising the waters surrounding Key West daily from 7 a.m. to sunset, 7 days a week, Luknis is also a one woman show of sorts: she acts as captain, host, boss and navigator of every adventure.
Perhaps best of all, though: Luknis ensures that all excursions include only individuals who know each other making for an intimate, unique experience.
“I’ve made it an exclusive thing. It should be comfortable. I don’t like to mix strangers…I want people to have a memorable time,” she said.
All rides include bait and tackle, gear for various activities, are backed by an official fishing license and come in hourly increments which are more than reasonably priced especially when one accounts for the surroundings being both breathtaking and priceless.
Alcohol and food are not served, but there’s a cooler provided and rides range from two to seven hours based on the chosen activities.