Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Key West - Wreckers

A typical "wrecker" boat
Key West as once the biggest and richest city in Florida, a fact not well known. It reached a high point in 1890 and prospered as the center of "wreckers" or crew that salvaged ships that came to grief on the nearby reefs. The Keys is the third largest reef system in the world and it provides protection from storms from the south and for safe passage along the Hawk Channel which is between the reef and the keys. The "wreckers" are ships that positioned themselves ready to run to the rescue of ships that floundered on the reefs, first to rescue the crew and then to claim a share of the cargo. It made Key West the richest city per capita in Florida at the height of the wrecker era and also with a larger population than Miami!

Native crab in blue - for tourists but pretty
Now it is a tourist destination but they are poised to take advantage whenever Cuba is opened up to American tourists. So far it's been a long wait, over 50 years! So we took a walk along the southern piers, only 90 miles from Havana as the signs proclaim, closer than Miami and looked in the shops. There is still a very large Cuban influence from the Cuban cigars to the Cuban food such as Cuban sandwiches which are delicious. The Cuban Coffee Queen is tops in that category.

A sponge gatherer, another important trade in old Key West
We had the last of the tilefish today, still fresh and tasty. On Wednesday we plan on eating out at Mangia Mangia, a small restaurant, family run that make all their own pasta. We'll report back on our experience.