A Travellerspoint blog

Key West Farrago

Anyone, and everyone, who has ever owned a boat more complicated than a canoe or a rowboat has learned a certain, ineluctable truth: that boats are needful things which is why from the first days that men went down to the sea to sail on them, boats have always been referred to as SHE, never it, never him. With a single mistress to serve, the boat, sailors traditionally have considered that any other women were bad luck on boats, except naked women (they were sailors, after all). A naked woman was said to calm the seas, which is why many old ships have a naked woman carved into the bow sprit. All that being said, I have not yet figured out how to convince a 63-year old woman, a skin cancer survivor at that, to dance naked on the bow of our boat to calm the stormy seas. But I am persistent and Carol is way gullible; pictures to follow, maybe.

Despite all the frustrations and aggravations of owning a boat there are compensations that can delight the soul even if they don't salvage the purse:
• There are few things as satisfying to Carol and I as sitting in the cockpit on an evening and watching whatever tableau happens to exist there, past the stern. As wind or tide move our boat, as the sun moves from a cool morning light to a warm evening light, the aspect of everything we see is altered, an endless kaleidoscope where everything changes but still remains the same. Last night after supper we watched the other boats moving into the wind in the mooring field, each moving like a flower to face the sun in its passage. Their were several pairs of Navy jets flying in formation, passing very low over the horizon, in a graceful pavane at several hundred MPH. In counterpoint, a bi-plane was also flying overhead pulling a simple text banner heading west into the fading light. The three cruise ships that we saw on Sunday left last night as we watched. We couldn’t see the whole boat but we could see the tops of their superstructures and the smoke stacks as they left the dock at 45-minute intervals, turned in the channel to head south and steamed below the horizon out of our sight. Of course, once again, the sun did set in the west, a light show of eternal fascination.
• The actual act of sailing provides us a deep satisfaction. There is a rhythm to be boat as it responds to wind and wave, regular, repeating until the body begins to respond to it, to internalize it and to move in the same way, finally, accepting the rhythm as its own. Sailing can be very quiet, only a susurrus, a hint of the friction of air flowing across water and cloth, but sometimes not, a steady drone as the wind thrums against the steel rigging as the bow cuts through the water and the hull forces it aside.

This is how Key West looks and why people are drawn here. We have yet to meet anybody who is from here and are unlikely to do so. People just seem to wash up on the shore down here; some stay and put down roots; the others yield to new winds or tides and drift away leaving no footprints in the sand. There isn't much in Key West, the Navy not withstanding, that does not tie somehow, directly or not, to the tourist industry. The island is "built out" so new construction is not important .... nowhere to put another house and tear downs don't seem to be allowed, although houses that fall down do get replaced. Old Town, the tourist area is charming once you get off the couple of main thoroughfares. It's also obscenely expensive: a two bedroom 80-year old clapboard bungalow that may, or may not, survive the next hurricane goes for more than $1.0 million, proving again the difference between price and value.

This floating structure, price unknown, was in the same place as we saw it last year, and has probably been there many years beyond our knowing. We have never seen anyone on the structure. So, we'd appreciate some feedback on its perceived raison d'etre. (a) It is a floating church which ministers to the boats in the mooring field, about 1/4 mile away; (2) it is the winter residence of the principal chief of the Seminole tribe; (3) it is a sugar shack devoted to the consumption of beer other sybaritic delights; (4) it is a cleverly designed Naval sonar station to track foreign submarine activity in Garrison Bight. What's your vote?
Improbably, I thought that this might be a bald eagle's nest. The bird's body is dark with a light colored head. I didn't think that eagles were this far south, but information about the nature preserves here indicates otherwise. The body is small, but it might be a female since "she's" always at the nest. When I finally saw "papa" it was clear that these are osprey's, possibly with young in the nest.
Carol, again, with bougainvillea, always a favorite in the blogosphere.

One of the more dominant trees along the coast of Florida is the Australian Pine, not a pine tree at all but probably from Australia. When we growing up in Florida in the 60's we thought the trees to be wonderful; the "pine needles," actually very small articulated branches, convert light breezes into tree music, somehow capturing or creating a resonance that is in harmony with the lapping of waves against the shore. These two sounds defined "the beach." Now these trees are classified as an invasive species. Sunrise over the Australian Pines.

Eponymous mimosa blooms for the popular drink, but it seems that the Mojito is more prevalent here, or at least for Carol it is.

We were walking though the old part of town and passed the island's cemetery. It had never occurred to us that Key West has the same water table problem as does New Orleans and that the solution would be the same: above ground vaults.

A salty dog at the dinghy dock, name unknown, but will occasionally answer to Fred.

The dinghy which caused so much consternation and has not yet stopped since we are having trouble getting it registered.

Walking by we wondered whether were were watching the pelicans or they were watching us. Maybe, a little of both.

When I was travelling frequently to the Orient one of my favorite stays was in the Shangri-La hotel in Singapore. This hotel had an older section called the Garden Wing, named such because the balcony of every room had a full width planter in which grew bougainvillea in mass profusion. I loved staying in the Garden Wing even though the rooms were not as modern as in the newer parts of the hotel. It was the flowers, after all, and their fragrance that so enchanted me and always drew me back. Coming from Chicago, usually in the winter, it seemed exotic to have the bougainvillea growing against the background of frangi pani trees. So, more bougainvillea, just because they inspire fond memories.

For those of us old enough to remember the 60's, these houseboats in Garrison Bight are reminiscent of Surfside 6, the TV show set in Miami, except that was in black & white and these are in vivid pastel colors.

Sue and Jay came to Key West on Wednesday since we have been unable to get near Marathon ... too many boats. We did the usual at Carol's request .... Cheeseburgers in Paradise ... at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville. Of course, the distaff diners carried the load and had margaritas while Jay and I settled for cold, long neck beers. We later went to the top of La Concha hotel for the breeze and the view, which is the best on the island. There are always a few people on the top but not nearly so many as I would expect given all of the traffic on Duval St. Jay decided that their 50th wedding anniversary will be held there, on the top floor of the hotel, if he can hold that thought for the next 20 years.

While we were heading back to the car we passed a graffiti covered wall and, given my recent blog entries, everyone thought that this picture was important. Personally, I don't get it but it made everyone else laugh.

And then Jay, of course, may have actually discovered the answer to: what's the meaning of life. Now, if he's right, he'll have to let his beard grow and become a hermit on some remote mountain top, not the one in West Virginia. Guru-dom is such a burden.

The oldest bar in Key West is Pepe's, established in 1909; it must be true because the sign on the door says so. Being the suckers for tradition we stop there every year to bend an elbow as have tens of thousands before us. There's not too much to the bar or building which may be why it has survived a century of hurricanes.

The weather has been, relatively, wonderful; nights in the 60's and days in the 70's. We've gone through the progression. When we left it was two blankets, a comforter and long johns in bed. After a few days the long johns went away. In Miami we went to one blanket and the comforter. Our second night in Key West that blanket went away. Now we have hatches open and fans on at night; I keep the comforter on, but the red headed Nordic princess uses only the sheet. It's been so nice that Saturday I actually dove off the boat into the water and did not freeze. It's probably too soon to put all of the winter clothes into storage but the day is quickly approaching.

The water here in the mooring field is quite clear, the best we've seen on the trip. At about 10-ft. you can clearly see the bottom if the wind is not roiling things too much. Today, when I was getting ready to dive into the water, I saw a large fish off the stern. It looked to be about the width of the dinghy, but that's probably the effect of refracted light. It was most probably a barracuda at about 4-ft., large but not unusually so.

Boat casualty update: The anchor chain counter that we installed in Brunswick, with help, has stopped counting and none of the instructions in any of the eight languages in the owners manual offer any insight. On the other hand, the anemometer, which wasn't working when we left has has a Lazarus-like spontaneous resurrection and now tells wind speed fairly accurately. Not a bad trade off.

We have no plan. We're here in Key West and may be for a while. We'd like to get to Boot Key Harbor in Marathon, but they're still full and have a waiting list of boats waiting to get in, now 9 down from 40. We could leave for the Bahamas from here; that would not be a problem. However, my hope was that if we left from Marathon we might be able to travel with another boat or two; there's no way that happens from Key West. We are committed to getting to the Bahamas, even if our time there is short. We've met and talked to many folks that have simply given up on getting there this year. With whatever commitments they may have and the $300 entry fee they've indicated that they're going to have to head north and to write off the 2010 cruising season. There are not many compensations to being old. However, waiting for the weather to cross the Gulf Stream is one of them, so wait we intend to do.

Posted by sailziveli 06:46

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents


AAHHHHHH--Life, She is good and may she remains so. Thanks for sharing the good stuff. For a minute there, I could feel the warm breezes--but I glance out the window and see the snow that fell last night up on Max Patch and am reminded--no warm breezes here. BUT just wait til Saturday when spring arrives! Enjoy the day! Anne

by SCfriends

Warm weather... a plans for Bahamas sound great. We are headed north! Have to get back and see grand kids, so wanted the boat closer to home. Then can take off south
Loved all the pictures! Thanks for sharing your adventure... even the dreamer ones about your wife dancing naked. Does she read these enties before you post them!! ?? Wind Spirit

by anrobertsn

Comment with:

Comments left using a name and email address are moderated by the blog owner before showing.

Not published. Required
Leave this field empty

Characters remaining: