Feb-28 to Mar-4 - Monday and Friday were spent entirely on travelling.
Here's the story while the details are all fresh.You'll see where our priorities lie.
The trip was a Christmas present to us from SWPUWM. Had I been paying more attention to the elapsing time since Christmas, I'd have made more than a desultory effort to fit into my wet suit. No matter, as it turned out.
Apart from renting a room at the Pier House Resort and Caribbean Spa, (*****), we had no other plans, ideas or concepts. Totally ad lib. Have the Crab Cake Benedict for breakfast at least once. By all means, bend a bit of elbow in The Chart Room inside the Pier House hotel. Tell Captain Mike the mad boatbuilder sent you. The Pier House was built around the Chart Room.
We had just enough time and energy Tuesday to have dinner at the Roof Top Cafe - Excellent dinner. Sit outside on the porch, watch the people go by below.
Half Shell Raw Bar - Terrific oysters, good conch fritters.
Kelly's Caribbean Bar, Grill & Brewery - Have the Red Bahamian Conch Chowder. And the Rasta Pasta. THREE local micro brews, (a rarety on the island.)
Thai Life Floating Restaurant - On the edge of the marina, near the corner of Truman & 1st St. - Delicious Thai food. Use the sauce caddy liberally.
Turtle Kraal's Bar & Restaurant - It's a BBQ joint, but who can pass up fifty-cent oysters? Try the Beef Brisket.
Sunset Pier - had a great lobster sandwich and mouth-watering calamari.
Before I go any further, let me just say every single meal was outstanding. The food excellent, service exemplary, and the surroundings very pleasant. And dare I say this? Every single bathroom we encountered was spotless.
Tuesday was a walking day through the Old Town, which started with the Cemetery. We took as many side streets and alleys as possible. Duval St., the main drag, is the bastard son of Cape May and Burbon St... on steroids.
Some of these are in better shape than others.
As we meandered between down the aisles, we encountered one of the old black custodians.
"Have you seen the tomb of The Famous Person?"
"No. Who might that be?" I'm sure there are bunches of famous people planted here.
"That was B.P. Roberts. She was ol' an' sick. An' she tol' them doctors she was sick. An' they didn' listen."
Ah ha! That must be it up ahead.
This is it. B.P.'s family mausolium.
Well... She did tell them.
Wry wit ran in the family.
"Now what, Honey?" "Let's go see the cats." We took a longcut around the cemetery; Angela St. to Frances St. to Truman Ave. Good thing we did - the DOLLAR STORE is at the corner of Frances & Truman. Tell 'em the Naked Boatbuilder sent ya. Depending on the situation, I passed myself off as naked or mad... or both.
Back to my yarn... Hemingway's famous polydactyl cats. Neither of us is much impressed with Ernie's style but 40 cats? Now that's worth a look-see. We have 7 at home and 4 on the porch, whom I call The Cousins. We're definitely cat people.
By then it was mid-day and quite sultry. We got to Ernie's house and just about all the moggies were asleep. Asleep on the ground. Asleep on the furniture. Asleep in the bushes. "You can pet them but you can't pick them up."
I took a picture of Ernie's desk, but why bore you with that? You can just take the tour... of the cats, of course.
Wandering around. Our taste in architecture runs to the eclectic, as you might have guessed.
This dude was strutting down Duval Street in the middle of the day
SWPUWM had bought a pair of flip-flops at the 5 Dollar Store in the morning. Who knew torture could be had for so cheap? More wandering around eventually brought us to Kai Kai Sandals. Thirty minutes later, "Joey from Brooklyn" had us in stitches and eventually sent us floating off on the most comfortable "shoes" naked feet can wear. "Maddog!" managed to grab the only pair in my size already-broken-in, the floor model. And we got a free beach bag built to mil-spec. It's one tough bag.
Wednesday became Sailing Day once my poor abused calves stopped screaming at me. We walked enough to buy an entire herd of Camels on Tuesday. But first we went to the Island Book Store Ohmygod! Used books sorted by author and subject. We were in hog heaven for a couple of hours.
DANGER is a 65' Skipjack. She draws 27" with the centerboard up and 5' with it down. We opted for the afternoon cruise and left the slip around 3PM. 20 barefoot strangers and 3 very capable seadogs. After a windless Tuesday, the wind was beginning to strengthen to 15 knots. As soon as we were clear of the port area, we hoisted the jib, main and mizzen. Captain Brian called for volunteers. I got to be the first ever to hoist the brand new jib. Mate Lisa gave a knowing nod and a smile at my work and hustled off to raise the mizzen. Mate Evan raised the mainsail. The engine was silenced, and we were off. It was glorious!
I can't begin to express how impressed I was with Captain Brian, Mate Lisa, and Mate Evan. From the very beginning; the safety talk; the way Brian brought all of us out of our shells with the introductions; to the talk Mate Lisa gave about the history of the islands, to the way Mate Evan chopped up fruit on the rear cabin hatch, they made everything look effortless. They seemed to operate mostly by hand signals. In no time at all we were all talking and carrying on. There was the Minnesota mob, the New Jersey mob, the French Moroccan couple, and I lost track after that. 20 strangers at ease with each other.
The first round of refreshments was passed around - water, sodas and fresh-cut fruit. I spent some of the time on the way to the snorkeling ground, (only 5' deep), shooting details for ALBATROSS.
The view from inside the head
All too soon we dropped anchor. But wait! It gets better! We got to the snorkeling ground. Lisa and Evan got everyone fitted for fins and masks. They had a bucket of prescription masks, and one mask in (or close enough to) my 'scrip, I could see underwater. How cool is that? I'm both a sinker and a wuss about cold water even though it was 72deg. We all donned their shorty wetsuits. OK. Not all of us. SWPUWM and the Minnesotans thought it was bathwater-warm. I opted for the extra flotation vest... too. Bloop. Bloop. Bloop. Bloop... everyone in the water, Evan flew around and called to us to point out marvels. We saw a nurse shark, a manta ray, lobsters in holes, a moray ell, a small barracuda and bunches of "aquarium fish." I wandered off from the frothing crowd and discovered, "Over here! Over here! an engine block!"
Eventually we all got tired and got back aboard without the Skipper having to use the boathook. Redressed, the second round of refreshments appeared; wine and beer.
There was so much to see and do, I had no time or inclination to take pictures. Up the hook, it was off to the mangrove island. Mangroves are islands. Once there's soil and (palm)trees, it becomes a key. I didn't know that.Kayaking was a mixed blessing. The breeze was turning into a bona fide wind; not gusting but steady near 20 knots. As we all loaded into the kayaks, we were in the lee of the island. Easy peasy. Then we paddled around to the windward side. Grunt, paddle, Grunt, paddle. Oooh Egrets! Oooh White Herons! Oooh Blue Herons! Oooh Frigate Birds! Oooh Cormorants! Mostly less than 75' away. Fantastic! On the windward side we tucked into a little gap in the mangrove called a "hurricane hole"; not quite a cove or bay, but large enough to accomodate our ten kayaks. Mate Evan told us all about how these islands form, the four types of mangrove, and their individual roles in the stages on the way to keydom. On the way back to the boat, we virtually flew. Lisa (SWPUWM) and I discovered we had a right-handed kayak. No matter which side we paddled on, she went off to the right. It was all we could do to keep from heading for Cuba. A bit of frantic paddling at the last minute saved the day.
Then it was time to head for port. Wine, beer, salsa and chips. The promised Key West Sunset set behind clouds on the horizon. I don't think anyone really noticed or cared. Altogether too soon, but well after dark, we motored up to the slip, stepped onto the dock to fetch our assorted foot clothing, and ambled off, exhausted and thoroughly happy.
Thursday was Bicycle Day. Everyone who isn't hoofing it around town is on wheels; bikes, scooters, motorcycles, and cars. Bike rentals are all over the place. Completely by happenstance, as usual, we landed on a couple of A&M Rentals seats. Good, sturdy, single-speed, coaster-brake, balloon-tired behemoths. Ours looked brand new. "Once around the island (key)." It's only 1&1/2 miles wide, and 3 miles long. How hard can that be? Not very as we made our way to the Atlantic side of the island. Key West is shaped like a Lima bean lying on its side. It lies East-West. The Gulf is at the top, the Atlantic is at the bottom. The Southernmost USA is not where the sun sets. It sets at the end of Duval Street or Mallory Square, depending on who you ask. It was bit windy in town, but no big deal.
Then we came face to face with the East wind from the Atlantic. What had been winds of 15-to-20 knots on Wednesday, had now turned into winds of 25-to-30 knots. Lisa pedals all round at home. I'd become a computer potato. When I couldn't move the bike forward any more, I walked it. I liked drafting the jogger in front of me for a while, but he pulled ahead and out of sight. Before I give the completely wrong impression, it was fun. The sort of fun you've had after conquering K-2.
The point of the bike ride was to go to the Salvation Army Thrift Shop. Phone book. Flip, flip, flip... Salvation Army... 1934 Flagler Ave. That's got to be between 19th and 20th streets, right? We weren't going to walk it... so... bikes. Once past the airport, the Lima bean road curves left and over to the North side. Flagler is halfway across the island. We scooted down Flagler to 20th, then 19th. It was all gated hasiendas as far as the eye could see. We still hadn't seen the Gulf, so we crossed over back to Roosevelt Blvd. (the rim road) and headed west toward "town". At 1st Street we turned left, I gambled, we explorers call it "dead reckening", that the SA Thrift Store had to be closer to town than the numbering schemes I'm used to. Back toward Flagler Ave. At least it wasn't windy.
Eurika! Half a block from Flagler and 1st Street! I scored a couple of Hawaiian shirts for 6 bucks. Lisa found a couple more books. Our one and only premeditated goal of the vacation accomplished, we set off for the bike barn. They even drove us back to the hotel.
Figuring we'd probably get voted off the island if it ever got out that we'd been to Key West and hadn't seen the SUNSET, we strolled over to Mallory Square a bit before sundown. Most of the good seats were taken. (That's anywhere along the quay not covered in Pelican shit.) The Square is filled with local performers; acrobats, jugglers, fire-breathers, you name it. This lad was a kilt-wearing, bagpipe-playing, unicycle-riding juggler. Sadly, he was so busy, he never got past the first few bars of Scotland the Brave.
Mustafa, here, is the genuine article, a traditional Calypso singer and quite good.
Here is his backup ensemble, The drafted Mallory Square Singers. Lisa is on the left.
Blame this on the Margaritas.
That was it. I hope I didn't bore you to tears.
I'm a sucker for workboats. This beauty brought the truck out to the closest Key off Sunset Pier. The landing door dropped. The truck backed off, went and did trucky things, (probably a beer delivery), came back and drove aboard. This was taken on the return trip to the marina.
This way --> Home.
Got any questions or comments? I'm still "themadmac" only now I'm at verizon.net