As many of you know, we made our first landfall in Key West Florida after a great first passage. Many cruisers and other people “in the know” had told us to go to Marathon FL (Boot Key Harbor) as it is a cruiser haven but Dani and I had made up our minds that Key West would be our first stop. It appealed to me for many reasons. The great party vibe, the fact Hemingway had made his home here, Quest crew’s recommendations, and the fact that it just HAD to be warmer than the freezing ass cold we were enduring in Louisiana. We were right.
When we arrived we dropped anchor initially between Tank and Wisteria Islands. This was a newbie mistake. The commercial boats would swarm through the cut between the two islands throwing monster wakes that would send the boat rocking and rolling. It was almost as though we were still at sea sometimes!
Whilst anchored between the two islands I got to witness my stated “worst sailing fears” in action. Probably an hour after we put down our anchor we watched boat drag through the anchorage and collide with the boat right in front of us. There was a loud bang and spray of fiberglass erupted from the spot marking the collision. As though this wasn’t enough, they tangled their anchor rodes and we looked on in horror as the man that had drug worked to untangle and then reanchor. (No one was on the other boat.) When he reanchored I watched as he dropped what appeared to be a 13lb Danforth on rope rode.
Later in t he day we watched as another boat drug. Then on the second day a boat came by with someone very angry at the helm who shouted at me, “The holding sucks!” We’d had enough. So we upped the anchor and moved to Fleming Key far from the commercial boats and anchored there. Again we witnessed many boats drag but I’ve said enough of that. Luckily we’re finally settled in a little nest with a bunch of the big anchor crowd and hopefully we’re safe.
So far our 60lb Manson Boss anchor “Jefe” has not budged. It probably helps having out about 150ft of 3/8″ BBB chain. Dani and I sleep well. Although raising the anchor is hard work, I don’t regret the oversized robustness. And an added benefit, the clean waters here in Key West have scrubbed all the Louisiana mud off of our anchor gear.
Speaking of gear… I know some of you were curious how the 10ft Porta-bote would work out. So far so good. We set it up onboard for the first time. I hoisted it by the staysail halyard while we put it together vertical. It worked great. 10 minute assembly.
Amazingly, our little 3.5HP Outboard also started right up despite having not been used in almost 3 years! I thought for sure we’d be in for some service calls as the outboards are so known for being cranky. But what a champ. We use the dingy each time we leave the boat to visit KW itself. At the dingy dock (the equivalent of a parking lot) we often get unsolicited comments on our little boat. People give us backhanded compliments like, “That is nicest crappy little boat we’ve seen.” and the like. This suits Dani and I fine because we want to be under the radar. We hear dink theft and outboard theft are big business in some places.
And before I get on with what we actually DO in Key West, I thought I’d share this photo from sending Dani up the mast to retrieve the halyard that got away from us. As you can see, the water is beautiful and yes yes, the solar panels are still there despite me joking about them flying away in the video.
I knew KW must be okay by its schooners before we even rolled into town. We’ve been surrounded by these old gals, all beautiful in their own ways. They head out for sunset sails and pass right through anchorages, sometimes firing cannons.
Many people call Key West “Key Weird”. It is sort of strange in its own ways. For instance, chickens and roosters just roam around the town freely. One night at Schooner Wharf Bar we saw a rooster laying in an umbrella above a table using it like a hammock. One morning I was awakened by a rooster crow. And just walking around they infest the place.
Duval St seems like a street from somewhere in the French Quarter except it is much cleaner. Little shops run all along the path and each has its own unique feel. Tourists are everywhere. So far we witness between 1-3 cruise ships stopping into town each day. It makes for a “tourist” town, but that hasn’t stopped us from making friends with at least a few of the locals.
What better way to bond with people than a shared passion, mine of course being that of the tobacco leaf. (I know I know, you smoking nazis, just back off. I don’t do cigarettes.) Through my research we found Key West Cigar Club and met both the owners. John or “Juan” pictured below. Great selection.
But more than that. Every time we went into this place, we met new friends. You just go in, sit down, and people start talking. The first time there some people just offered us cocktails. Great! And of course Pete (the dog) fell in love with Dani.
One of the locals we made friends with at the Cigar Club was named Jim. He suggested we go see a show at Rick’s bar. He cautioned us many times that it wasn’t for the feint of heart or the easily offended. And boy was he right. The guy singing at the bar made fun of the audience in a near continuous smear of humor that tested the limits of the vulgar lexicon. But if you can handle it, it was hilarious. I highly suggest checking out Adrian @ Rick’s if you come by.
Hemingway’s ghost looms large over KW not because of any sort of ethereal connection but because of tourism. Everyone wants to see his house and be associated with him. We found this mosaic of him particularly disturbing.
His house, less so. Dani insists that I look like him. You know I’ve been pondering going for the Tom Selleck myself. What do you think?
One of the sort of creepy things about Hemingway’s house was how many Asians were there. We found out over mojitos at a dive bar from a Polish guy (no lie) that the Asians come from all over to see the six toe’d cats. I don’t know what it means in their culture but it was no lie. The line was filled with Asian people.
And on a final note about Key West, Pepe’s is great at happy hour. Just look at the smile on that face. Five dollars for one of the best margaritas we’ve ever had.
Whats coming up?
We had thought of setting out over the gulf stream soon but SO many people have told us to visit the Tortugas that we’re giving that serious thought. So in a week or so we’ll turn our eyes to the weather and begin plotting. We can’t stay here forever but so far it’s been great.