Monday, February 28, 2011

Key West – Last day

The restaurant is nestled in among the palm trees
To celebrate our stay at Key West, we took the Westin shuttle to Sunset Key, their private island, for lunch. The shuttle is free, you just have to make reservations in advance and get a shuttle pass at the reception area at Westin.

The restaurant is located right on the beach where the shuttle docks and the view is gorgeous. With the palm trees, white sand and turquoise water – it’s the picture of a Caribbean island. The food was excellent but the service could have been better. Prices ran about 40% more than at Key West but it’s a great once in awhile experience.

View of the beach in front of the restaurant
After lunch we wandered around the island. Everything is first rate and the grounds are beautiful with flowers everywhere. The shuttle runs every ½ hour so whenever you’re ready, you can catch a shuttle back. By this time it was getting hot with the temperature around 80 so we stopped at a few air-conditioned shops along the way to the boat.

Tuesday we start our return trip north. It’s hard to believe we’ve been here a whole month! We plan on winding up in Newfound Harbor Tuesday night and then move on to Marathon. We’ll move north with the warm weather so it’ll be a slow advance we think. Our thinking now is to arrive back at PYC around the beginning of June (or later if the weather is cool),.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Key West- Artist Displays

One entire street was blocked off for the displays
Key West has a juried art show every year and this year it was today. Every accepted artist has a booth for the display of their wares. I’ve been to many such shows but none with the quality of work I saw today. The works varied from sculptors to paintings to photographic reproductions. One display in particular caught Ann’s eye. The artist worked with digital images but manipulated them to resemble abstract art that were very pleasing to the eye. I think Ann talked to him for almost ½ hour.

Key West continues to get more crowded each day as spring breaks build up with more and more schools having the same week. We saw many more college kids today on the streets but you can still walk around okay. I heard that during the peak spring break period, they close Duval street to pedestrian traffic only – but that hasn’t happened yet.

Interesting a helicopter was used instead of a plane
As we waited to board the fast cat yesterday for our trip to the Dry Tortugas, we saw a helicopter flying a pattern overhead and spraying something out of nozzles under the frame. The array of nozzles looked like what you would see on a crop duster. When it passed over the town, you could see the mist of the spray coming out. They didn’t spray over the harbor. The helicopter was very methodical in spreading the spray in rows in order to cover the entire town. Now I know why Key West is so bug free. It’s the dry season for sure but the spraying must be key too.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Key West – Fast Cat to the Dry Tortugas

The fort at the Dry Tortugas
The choice was whether to take our own boat out to the Dry Tortugas or opt for the high speed ferry that makes the round trip in one day. We took the chicken way out and just took the ferry. The trouble with taking your own boat is that there are no facilities on the island, just an anchorage and that’s not a problem but then if the weather turns against you unexpectedly, then you have to wait it out before heading back on the all day long trip. You could find yourself stuck out there for a week or so if the weatherman is wrong.

They are actually harmless - but they don't look it!
The ride out goes at 30 mph, very high speed for sailboaters! Even so it took about 2.5 hours for the trip to the fort. We had three hours for snorkeling and a tour of the fort. We chose to do two snorkeling sessions of about an hour each and didn’t get to see the fort in detail, just from a distance. You could also make the trip in a plane that landed in the water by the fort but it costs a lot more ($280 vs $150 for the boat). We were served breakfast and lunch as part of the fee.

We had heard conflicting reports on the quality of the snorkeling in the area but we took our snorkeling gear anyway and were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the coral and fish. The barracuda were numerous and very large. They look fierce with their exposed teeth but I’m not aware of any attacks by them on humans. The fans were abundant and the coral looked to be in good shape once you went out from the fort wall to the coral heads in the snorkeling area.

Nice Parrot Fish
It’s an interesting area to snorkeling and I would recommend the trip. However, the water temperature was only 68 which is cool for snorkeling. We all had wet suits which retains a fair amount of warmth in the water trapped next to your skin. Those that snorkeled in just bathing suits didn’t stay in very long and none of them went in twice in one day. Took lots of pictures!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Key West – Ft. Taylor with Civil War Encampment and then Mallory Square

They had tents set up to represent enlisted and officers' quarters
This was the weekend with a Civil War encampment at Ft. Taylor so we went to see the sights. The people there were arrayed in Civil War era dress and they had tents set up to represent various parts of a typical army encampment. However, one tent represented what they call the “Wreckers” who are the ones that salvage boats that run aground on the reefs surrounding Key West. Until the 1930s, Key West had the highest per capita income in the US due to the salvage claims on wrecked ships. We talked at length to one person who represented the wreckers of the past.

He represented the "wrechers"

Tents for field solders, captains, etc. were also set up on display. Ft. Taylor as it turned out was held by the Union all during the Civil War. The saying was that you had to head north to go south! Back then it was an island but now it’s connected to the rest of Key West after the gap was filled in. One person representing the artillery filled us in on how the tactics developed during the Civil War was later used during WWI (trench warfare).

After a brief rest, we were off to Mallory Square to see the sunset and the entertainers. The sun set over yet another island far off in the distance so we once again didn’t see the green flash, oh well. There we dozens of acts going on at the same time and some attracted quite a crowd. It was a real carnival atmosphere.

Still a nice sunset but no green flash!
It is really starting to get crowded here. A walk down Duval Street now encounters sidewalks just packed with people. On Saturday we’re headed for the Dry Tortugas on the fast cat for a day of snorkeling and seeing the fort, should be fun.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Key West – Schooner Wharf Bar

Note the sandy floor and open air design of Schooners Bar
There is one place that’s a tradition in the Key West Bight, the Schooner Wharf Bar. The floor is sandy with gravel scattered about in places. It just kind of grew outward from the central bar with no particular attention paid to having walls. With the temperatures being so mild year round, they are really not needed. Plus, you’ve got to love a place with Happy Hour starting at 7:30 am in the morning! However, it “only” lasts until noon but Happy Hour starts up again at 5:00 and runs until 7:00 (half price drinks during Happy Hour).

The front is kind of "rustic" - typical Key West
During the day they have several sessions of bands, one during the afternoon and another band starting at 7:00 pm so there’s always live music while you eat and/or have drinks. From the bar you can watch the schooners Appledore and Adirondack III come and go along with all the other charter activity in the harbor. If you stay until later, there’s a magician that also comes around.

On Friday and Saturday nights they have their higher quality band which we always try to at least listen to for awhile. There’s never a cover charge but you ought to at least buy a drink or two. I highly recommend the place.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Key West – Don and Liz Bunch arrive

Party Cat - seems to be packed everynight
It’s interesting just sitting on the back of the boat watching the world go by. There is a parade of dinks coming and going and we’ve come to recognize the ones anchored out by the island in the bay. You wonder if some of the dinks will ever make it home. So far they’ve all come back. There’s the high speed shuttle to and from the Dry Tortugas and the island shuttle to the mainland that are located on the other side of the harbor. I wouldn’t want to be any closer to either, they make a racket when coming and leaving.

On the other side of us is the Party Cat which leaves with great fanfare around 5:00 and returns after dark with the music blaring. Then there’s the innumerable smaller fishing charters, the ones that work the “flats”. Our immediate neighbors are sailboats that are also for charter. One bigger than us but two smaller. They all seem to be busy. The larger of the sailboats will back into the slip but he starts backing up several hundred feet away before he enters the freeway to the docks. With that strategy he has a good head of steam resulting in a well controllable boat with good steerage. It’s obvious he’s done it many times.
Beautiful to look at - watch out for allergies

Tonight we ate at Alonzo’s Oyster Bar by the A&B Marina. Between 4:00 and 6:30 pm they offer half price on their appetizers and drinks. So we just had a sampling of several appetizers and drinks for dinner, a very reasonable $25 per couple. The appetizers are quite large and enough for us with the plus that you get to sample a variety of tastes. We set the appetizers down in the middle of the table and we all sampled.

We may be moving on at the end of February after all. We had thought about staying through the first week of March but there are a lot of things blooming around here causing some allergies to act up. The many flowers are beautiful but it may be too much of a good thing.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Key West – Getting ready for the Bunches

Looks like it ought to belong in Disneyland
Since Matthew’s family left we’ve been cleaning the boat to get ready for Don and Liz Bunch who’s due on Wednesday. It’s amazing what accumulates after a short time with seven people aboard.

During my morning run I snapped a photo of the type of car I’ve seen nowhere else. There’s the usual scooters, motorcycles and bicycles but Key West adds one more option: the electric car which is entirely open, no doors. It looks a little strange but they’re all over the place. They have two, four and six seaters. When you go by a lot full of them they’re all plugged in.

I still haven’t seen any of the famous Key West cats with 6 toes nor have I seen the “green flash” at sunset yet. Well, I guess there’s still more to do before we leave. We’ll have the Bunches on Wednesday to help us.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Key West – Matthew’s family leaves, with Matthew and lunch at BO’s Fish Wagon

No Snivelling!
Due to the high cost of charges on the airlines, much of the luggage was sent via UPS which was cheaper than paying the baggage fees. So most of the morning was spent in getting everyone ready for the trip back to the airport.

For lunch we chose to treat everyone to lunch at BO’s Fish Wagon, a spot with a lot of the Key West character. They have a sign out front just before you enter that sums up their attitude (see the photo!) The reference to “accident prone” is due to the multi-level floor surface. If you don’t watch your step, you can go tumbling forward, spilling everything you’re holding. I almost accomplished this the last time we visited the place, catching myself at the last instant. Others have come to grief with platters of beer with nearby customers as participants in the resulting deluge.

The column at right is a live tree!
As previously stated, it used to be a food wagon but the “restaurant” grew up around it like Topsy. They seems to add “walls” as they found discarded cars, trucks, washing machines, etc. There are trees growing up inside the establishment and form part of the inside support for the metal roof.

However, the reason it’s successful and recommended is the quality of the food. The fish sandwiches are excellent and everything else is made on the premises too such as the conch fritters and hand cut French fries. It’s better than it looks!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Key West – The Butterfly Museum and back to the beach

Motor Yacht Freedom
Today is the last full day for the visit of Matthew’s parents so in the morning the kids went to the Butterfly Museum which features live butterflies of every type. We had been to one before so we didn’t go. In the afternoon it was off again to the Ft Taylor beach. We never did get to tour the fort, the beach was just too good to leave. I looked at the weather forecast this morning and the high for the next seven days was all the same, 77 degrees, talk about repeatability!

A 100 ft restored, wooden motor yacht, Freedom, was tied up on the other side of the dock from us. It was gorgeous with varnished wood everywhere. It must cost a fortune to keep up but then I guess whoever the owner is doesn’t worry about that.

Moonrise over Key West
Coming back to the boat, we found the moon rising over the harbor which presented a pretty sight, a nice way to retire for the night.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Key West – Eco-Discovery Center

Had to draw an imaginary aminal with adaptations you think of
There is a very interesting exhibit that’s barely mentioned in all the literature for Key West, probably because it is not commercial but is funded by the state. There is no charge for parking and no charge for admission, our kind of place. Museum type displays cover the Florida Keys with reef aquariums, dioramas of mangroves, interactive displays, movies of reef life and much more.

Mangrove exhibit

We happened to attend the Eco-Discovery Center on the third Saturday of the month which is the only day they have a class for kids about the reefs and how animals interact. Our three kids were engrossed in the projects they worked on as part of the exercises. In one they had to match the feeding adaptation (narrow bill, broad bill, spoon bill, etc.) to the type of food to be eaten by the wading bird by matching various sizes of bowls of Cherrios with pickup implements (spoon, straw, scissors, claspers – representing the types of bird beaks). In the last one they had to run around the room collecting “food” while the elements (storms, predators, etc.) represented by the teacher and volunteers from our group tried to take the food away. It was a lot of very rapid motion – kids at full speed! It illustrated some of the problems the marina life had in finding and keeping food to eat.

Reef aquarium

They had a simulated submarine with interactive displays inside and just a lot of information aimed at kids and also of interest to adults. It’s a shame that it’s not promoted more in the literature. It’s a must attend for the area.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Key West – Late night at Finnegan’s Wake

Finnegan's Wake Pub
PYC South met at Finnegan’s Wake last night. Bill McKeever called us at dinner time and suggested we meet to hear an excellent singer at the pub that comes down every so often from NYC. She was trained in opera and has a resonant voice and as we found out, knows how to play to the audience.

PYC South - McKeevers and Ann Sherer
She sang all the traditional Irish pub songs but then asked for a volunteers from each table for another skit on stage. Philip, my son, volunteers from our table (both McKeever and myself demurred). We soon learned of the devious reason for the request for help and why it was scheduled towards the end of the evening. The song she chose consisted of a series of tongue twisters designed to elicit confusion between sift and s---, and flock and f--- and many other similar words. She wanted the skit to be held after the audience had a chance to sample the 40 beers they had on tap.

Philip with Fiona the singer
It would start with an easy lead in then switch over to the refrain which was the tongue twister. Out of the six “volunteers”(several coerced). I don’t remember all of them but one went:

Sarah, Sarah sailing on a foggy day, all day long she ducks the fog, all day long the fog she ducks…

Sarah, Sarah baking bread all day, all day long she sits and sifts, all day long she sifts and sits…

And, there were many other refrains that I don’t remember, the singer had a bunch. Finally we got back to the boat but it was rather late to do a blog, so with a much clearer head this morning, I’m sending it off…

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Key West – Beach and then Mallory Square for the sunset

Well, it is a pretty beach
Something has bloomed in Key West and it’s been affecting Ann, Monique and Philip causing a mild allergic reaction (stuffy nose). It seems to come and go but never appeared until this past weekend. Ann took an allergy pill and that seemed to have solved the problem for the present. Regardless, it was a beautiful, sunny day so we stopped by the Cuban Coffee Queen shop for Cuban sandwiches and headed for the beach. The beach was packed! I think we’re starting to get into the peak tourist season along with the beginning of the spring break weeks (for the nest four weeks). String bikinis have taken over beach wear, at least for the younger crowd.

Great patter
Returning to the boat to catch our breath, we then headed to Mallory Square for the sunset. As I mentioned before, it’s getting more crowded but it’s a big square so there was still lots of room. It’s fun to watch all the acts that are set up around the square and we stopped to watch one juggler. The entertaining part was his patter, he knew how to play to a crowd. The routine is to perform and then at the end ask for tips which is very fair. If you liked his act, you can tip, otherwise you don’t have to.

Clouds you couldn't see at first got in the way
The sunset was pretty but it didn’t go right down to the horizon. I’ve been trying to get a shot of the “green flash” but haven’t been successful yet. However, you have no chance if you can’t see the top edge of the sun as it disappears below the horizon. Such was the case tonight.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Keyb West - Our guests arrive

Boats at anchor across the channel
Everybody finally arrive around 11:30 pm last night (Tuesday). I think bedtime was commenced in the vicinity of 1:00 am so today wasn’t too active at first. Provisioning was in order as soon as all were functional in the morning and that just about exhausted the adults – the kids were fine and ready to do more!

In the afternoon we walked to the end of a nearby pier and could see the boats anchored out in the bay. There’s not much protection but the price is right even though they have to pay the $80/month dinghy fee if they want access to water, provisions and laundry.

"Flats" boats
In the harbor, there are two types of boats that go out with passengers: catamarans and windjammers. The catamarans provide a stable platform and are fast and so are used for trips to the reefs, to the Tortugas and for sunset and party cruises. The windjammers are used for people who like the historic lines of the ship, mainly for two hour cruises in the bay, especially for sunset cruises. I should also add that there are fishing boats too, both the deep sea type but also the type that do shallow fishing on what they call “The Flats” where the captain stands on a platform over the outboard motor on a 20 to 25 ft boat and poles the boat forward (because it’s so shallow) while the customers fish. Both types are popular but the flats fishing is peculiar to the Keys.

It’s due to warm up further on Thursday so it’s a beach day!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Key West – Getting ready for Matthew’s family

The $80/month dinghy dock in front of Turtle Kraals
Anybody that’s been on a boat knows how things accumulate in convenient locations. Well, Matthew’s cabin has been pretty convenient but now we have to clear it out for four more guests and then put everything back together. So now we’re a boat that sleeps seven in two cabins plus the main salon where we’ve placed an inflatable bed. It all seems to fit, in theory at least, we’ll find out in reality on Wednesday. The crew is due to arrive tonight (Tuesday) around 10:30 pm.

Meanwhile it looks like more and more college kids are arriving judging from the sweatshirts with school names. According to the schedule of spring breaks, the flood starts the week after Matthew leaves when we’re still here although it ‘s never as bad as at Ft. Lauderdale.

Harbor entrance - good protection
Most of the restaurants specialized in seafood as you might expect but there is one that prides itself on BBQ, Turtle Kraals which is pictured in the photo. It’s okay but I wouldn’t compare it to good southern BBQ. So far we like the Cuban mix sandwiches at Cuban Coffee Queen as well as anything ($6.00 each).

I’ve included a photo of the entrance to the marina to show that there’s no view to open water. Whatever wave action there is has to negotiate two right angle turns to reach us so we’ve been pretty calm as a result. We're also on the side of the marina away from the mainland ferry and the Tortugas ferry so that’s a plus too. We're happy with the slip. Now we’ll stay up to receive our new guests.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Key West – It warms up

Two boaters on vacation - just playing
Even on a cruise there are certain things that intrude and demand attention. You have to fill the water tanks every so often, the holding tanks have to be emptied, the laundry has to be done. The boat is self contained to an extent but still requires a give and take with the outside world. I suppose I could installed solar cells or a wind generator along with a water maker and just use the sails – if there’s no wind, just don’t go. However, we’re not that much of a purist, we like our conveniences and we’re in a marina usually once per week anyway at a minimum except for stopovers like at Key West – but then there’s only one Key West.

I went to the dock office to pick up my mail and two guys were playing a banjo and a guitar and going at it pretty good. That’s the beauty of Key West, you find music everywhere. It turns out that one of the two had been anchored out by the island for the last 1.5 month. He had two anchors out and still dragged occasionally. He related that the currents were fierce out there and you swung around a lot not to mention the sloppy ride into the harbor when the wind and waves were running high. He still has to pay the $80/month fee for use of the dinghy dock in the harbor but then it’s a lot cheaper than being on a dock. But we’re happy where we're at!

 On Tuesday the invasion starts! Matthew’s family is flying down to Ft Lauderdale and will rent a car for the drive to Key West. The temps are due to be in the middle 70’s all week so it ought to be quite a change for them!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Key West – Conch train

Duval Street musician - take a picutre, give a tip
The cloudy weather has departed and the sun is out! Still, it’s a little cool at 68 but much better than yesterday. Matthew spent the morning on the last of his homework before his family arrives on Tuesday, 2/15. They are visiting over the spring break and will return with Matthew to the frozen north!

With the return of sun and warmth, we decided to take the Conch Train tour. It winds its way all over Key West and provides a good overview of the area. It’s not really a train, it goes on the roads but has cars like a train. We learned that the reason all buildings on Key West have metal roofs is due to the time all of Key West burned down and the residents at the time were in their boats to avoid the fire and noticed that the spread of the fire was from rooftop to rooftop via the burnable shingles used at the time. Since then, all structures must have metal roofs. Also, Key West is twice the size it used to be since the Navy filled in the area immediately to the east of Key West to gain more space. In the process of doing that they also removed the breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Since we’ve been here the last three weeks, we haven’t seen a single mosquito! In fact, we haven’t seen any in all of the Keys.

Shelby Cobra was being raffled off
Returning to the boat, we had hamburgers on board and watched the boat traffic off the back of the boat. Very relaxing.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Key West – We explore the Key West Aquarium

Hope never to meet one snorkeling
With the wind still howling today with an overcast sky with temps in the low 60’s, we decided to do an indoor thing so it was off to the Key West Aquarium. From the street it doesn’t look like much. It appears to be a single room with displays on either side and tanks in the middle and for that they wanted $12 each. We had $2 off coupons so we ventured forth.

Shark tank feeding time!

We were pleasantly surprised. The aquarium is much larger than it appears and the displays are first rate. The central tanks have sharks, rays, turtles and other fish that apparently can survive the company although they don’t mix the sharks with the other creatures. The displays on either side are very well done with a great assortment of reef fish, all brightly colored that included a 400 lb grouper, a 10 ft eel and jellyfish. The coral and anemones were as good as any I’ve ever seen.

A small shark was passed around for touching

Continuing to the rear of the hall you come upon outdoor tanks with huge turtles and more sharks which were interesting to watch at feeding time. Back inside to the right is a re-creation of a mangrove habitat with at least 100 fish of all sizes including a 500 lb grouper, eels, tarpons and small sharks. Alligators, a hawk and an iguana were thrown in for good measure. They return the marine animals to the wild when they can but several of the large turtles were injured (missing flippers) from boat accidents and so will remain with the aquarium. They raise their own coral fish so none were taken from the reefs. I would definitely recommend the aquarium when in Key West.

Still cold here, supposed to reach the 50’s tonight but warm up to the upper 60’s on Sunday.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Key West – Big change of weather

A solid gold spoon
We\never saw the sun today, lots of wind with our max gust registering 26 kts and with temperatures in the 60’s. Everybody was all bundled up although it wasn’t all that cold.

Solid gold ingots, wow!
It was a good day to do something inside so we decided to explore the Mel Fisher museum. Mel had a dream of finding Spanish gold from galleons that were sunk by a hurricane before they could make their way to Spain back in 1622 near Key West. For 16 long years he searched with the support of “investors” with a similar dream to find the motherlode. On July 20, 1985 he finally did find the treasure he had looked for so long! A $450 million treasure cache. He was in a position to reward all his many investors, mostly private citizens with small stakes, for their loyalty through the years. Except that now the state of Florida claimed it all belonged to them, 100% of it!! He was to get nothing from his 16 years of sweat and blood. Mel Fisher withstood over 100 lawsuits and finally wound up in the Supreme Court where he won his case and the treasure was his and his investors.

Price tag on this sold gold bowl was $1,000,000!!
The museum in Key West displays the story of his long search and eventual success. Solid gold bars are on display along with many items made of solid gold, quite staggering to see in person. Also on display are many silver ingots and items. There is a store associated with the museum that has on sale objects from the treasure find. As you might expect, the prices are out of sight but you can buy replicas made from the metal (gold or silver) found from salvaging the Spanish galleon. In that spirit, I bought Ann a Spanish coin made with silver from one of the recovered galleon treasures. She owns a piece of history, neat.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Key West – Feeding the Pelicans

The fish are cleaned - the pelicans eat
There is a row of pelicans that routinely sit on top of the turtle exhibition hall waiting for fishermen to clean their catch by the dock, hoping for leftovers. They are a great attraction for tourists taking photos (including me!) What the pelicans miss (not much!) the harbor tarpons scoop up. Both the pelicans and tarpons appear to be well fed.

Meanwhile, we discovered that we landed in the middle of the woman’s football league that’s in Key West this week, the 20th Annual Kelly McGillis Classic! You may remember Kelly McGillis as the female lead in Top Gun, she has a restaurant here, Kelly’s. There are teams from the USA, Mexico, Finland, Sweden and Canada. They all play a tournament this week and then continue the tour, playing at New Jersey, Denmark, Chicago, Montreal, Sweden, Ptown (MA) and Mexico City.

One of the "floats" in the parade of the woman's football teams

I had never heard of this league before. The football they play is not full tackle, it’s call flag football where if you grab a piece of cloth hanging out of a player’s rear pocket, then the player is considered “tackled” and can go no further. The actual tournament competition started today but we haven’t seen any of the games, they’re across town.

Very warm today, we had the A/C on all day.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Key West – Lunch at BO’s Fish Wagon

BO's Fish Wagon - Interior shot
Today was Dick and Barb’s last day so they offered to take us to BO’s Fish Wagon for lunch. They had a grouper sandwich for $12 which we all ordered. We found a “table” in the corner and went to order the sandwiches (they have no table service, you order and fetch your own food). The place grew up around a food wagon on the same corner. There are no walls as such, just a collection of impediments to casual entry: an old car there, the remains of a fence here, some barrels on one side, etc. You have to watch your step since the floor is a combination of stone and wooden planks, all at different levels, hard to see in the semi-darkness. Having a dog quietly under the table is no problem in this place.

An "exterior wall" of BO's Fish Wagon
However, the reason they are still in business is their food which is very good. They are routinely voted as having the “Best Fish Sandwich” by the locals in a newspaper competition. There was no music playing during lunch but the place was still packed.

We saw Dick and Barb off after lunch headed north to their winter home around Tampa. Such crazy weather the north has been having but we’ve haven’t seen it down here, thank goodness. Matthew’s parents are due to visit from 2/15 – 2/22 and will return home with Matthew so he can continue this schooling in Connecticut. With all the snow days up north, I think he’s ahead of his class since we don’t honor snow days in Connecticut down here! We tried to convince Matthew that he’s lucky not to miss any school but he somehow remains cool to the idea – but he does like the warm weather!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Key West – Cuban Sandwiches on the beach

The best Cuban sandwiches!
A cold front came through last night with a strong north wind that pushed us against the leeward piling causing a loud banging sound after we’ve retired for the evening. So up out of bed I came to investigate. It was the first time we had wind from that direction and the lines were not tensioned enough to absorb the force of the increased wind. So in the middle of the night I’m up on deck pulling and resetting all the lines, getting a bloody toe in the process from stubbing it on something I never did see (but I did see the blood on the deck in the morning!) It was one more lesson learned on my cruise south that you have to anticipate wind direction changes even at a dock. It’s not so critical when cleated to a floating dock but is much more critical when tied off to pilings where you invariably have more play in the lines (they are longer) and from the fact that the pilings themselves move around.

The beach looks south, protected from north winds
The Key West Bight harbor is very protected in general but a north wind can cause some motion in the boats docked in the northern part of the harbor. We are on E dock and it’s the most protected of all the docks owned by Key West Bight Marina. We felt the wind but no wave action.

In the morning the temperature had dropped to the middle 60’s and with that you can tell the natives from the tourists. If you see someone riding a bike in a sweatshirt with the hood up and tied, you know it’s a native. In the 60’s, the tourists will still walk around in shorts and a tee-shirt (so much warmer than at home!), the natives will have a sweatshirt and usually a windbreaker on top of that. I even saw a down-filled jacket on one!

One of the many windjammers that sail out of Key West
For us, it was warm with a high to be 70 so we headed for the beach and decided to introduce our guests to Cuban sandwiches from Cuban Coffee Queen. They are served hot on Cuban bread with lots of meat, mostly marinated pork. On to a day at the beach. A great day.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Key West – The advance of technology?

Dick and Barb Burns from Maine
Dick and Barb Burns drove down to visit today. Dick went to Maine U. when Ann also attended. He’s a state of Maine native but comes south to Florida for the winter. State of Mainers love to tell stories – like – the advance of technology.

When he was young they you had to dial the operator to place a call. Well he wanted to talk to Burt and told the operator to connect him to Burt’s home. She did but there was no answer. Where’s Burt? Why, he’s over at grocery store, you want me to connect you to the store said the operator? Why yes. Presently, the two are talking. You going to the wedding Sunday? Why yes – the operator interrupts – oh, that’s been cancelled, Ben got cold feet – he’s out lobstering by the point but Sarah has a cake you might want to sample… (and the story continues on in the same vein)

A Key West rooster
It only took technology 50 years to catch up (e.g, cellphones) to what was routinely being done back then all the time.

Mallory Square sunset
Meanwhile, I took a photo of a Key West rooster, they wander all over the place and seem to all be of the same type. There are also 6 toed cats that Key West is famous for but I haven’t seen any of those yet. We also took in another sunset at Mallory Square but still no green flash – yet. We did find an excellent fish market, Eaton Street Seafood Market. I bought two pounds of huge shrimp, just excellent