24 - 28 Dec 08
Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, FL
Total: 1212 nm, Engine: 2076 hrs
This morning I awoke to the same wind and weather that I saw when I went to sleep last night. The wind was still out of the east at about 20-kts with quickly passing light showers. I had anchored outside of the harbor because the weather forecast predicted diminishing winds for today.
Nav chart of Marathon
Google Earth view of Boot Key Harbor
I prattled about for an hour or so getting Galena and myself ready to go into the harbor. I cleared away the side decks as much as possible. I laid out mooring lines at both bows and on both sides of the stern. The lines each had one end through the haws pipes and secured to a cleat. Each other end was laid over the lifelines and positioned to allow me to easily grab it. I placed boat hooks on the deck at each bow.
About 1000hrs I weighed anchor and heading into the harbor. The channel carried 8-ft all the way in. The bridge tender is very helpful and vocal. He likes to have long conversations with boaters which is very unusual in my experience. I called for an opening (the bridge is 'On Request' 0700-1900). He asked, "Is this your first time entering the harbor?" I guess he could tell by... something. Through the bridge and on into the mooring field. I called the City Marina and asked for a mooring assignment. They gave me "U3" and gave good instructions on how to find it.
I went to the ball and turned into the wind. I was going dead slow and the wind was still blowing 15-20kts. The ball disappeared beneith the starboard bow. I waited until I thought it would be along side and put the engine into neutral, locked the tiller and went forward, picking up the boat hook. I looked over the side in time to see the mooring ball drifing away as Galena's bow was blow to port and back.
Quickly back to the cockpit to give her a goose and a lot of starboard rudder. Again to the bow and the ball was within reach. I grabbed the painter and got my hands on it as Galena's bow again blew to port and astern. But I had the painter in my hand. So I held on and tried to stop Galena's motion. Eventually I was able to get her stopped and to get her starboard line through the mooring painter and back to a cleat.
Whew! She was secured. At that point I could relax. She wasn't secured to the mooring in the manner I would prefer (she was hanging off the starboard bow). But she was secure and that was the objective of the exercise. I cleared the deck of extra pre-positioned lines and gear. Then I secured a large snatch block to the ring band at the tip of the bowsprit. Then I ran a line from the bow Sampson posts to the tip of the bowsprit and through the snatch block. from there through the thimble of the mooring pendant and back along the same route. I left the original line slack and up to the starboard hawspipe as a backup.
Then the usual routine of putting on the sail covers and launching the dinghy. A quick trip to the marina office to pay my fees and get some information about the town. The lady at the office gave me a bunch of forms to fill out and wanted to see my registration for Galena and for my dinghy, too. She had to see my ID and take down my drivers license number. As I was filling out the form she noticed that I had skipped the section where one has to designate where the pump-out fitting is. The fees include twice a week pumpouts and they will do it even if you're not there. I've become a bit tired of explaining my composting head and I figured this might be a sticking point with these guys. So I just told her I didn't need any pumpout service. She stood there looking at me... waiting for more info. I said I had a composting head. She smiled and said, "Wonderful! We love those! Just write 'composting' right there." Cool.
I wanted to rent the mooring for about 3-weeks. The lady explained that a month is cheaper than three weeks ($280 vs $300). So I got the mooring for a month.
On the way back to Galena I noticed that I was moored near s/v Last Dance. Mike dinghied over and invited me over for drinks later in the day. There I met a few other cruisers. Notably Jay and Barb of s/v Walkabout. As we were sitting around chatting, Jay suddenly looked at me and asked, "Which boat did you say you were on?" "That little green one back there," I answered. Jay jumped up and, coming over to me to shake my hand (again) said, "You're my fucking hero!" To his Barb he says, This is the guy on that green boat that we watched pick up the mooring alone."
It seems he had seen me coming into the mooring field. He saw I was alone and about to try to moore the boat. So, having seen several others make a circus of this event in the past, because of the high winds, he called Barb on deck. But, I picked up the mooring without a glitch (from his vantage point) and was very impressed. It's nice to know that sometimes when things go right, someone is actually watching. Usually it's those times when everything goes horribly wrong that people are watching and taking pictures.
Jay and Barb on s/v Walkabout
jay was so impressed with me that he and Barb invited me over to Walkabout for Christmas dinner. Which, by the was was fantastic! There I met Eric and Sandy, a couple of friends of Jay's. We had a great dinner and then played dominoes for a while before calling it a night.
Brian, Sandy, Jay and Barb on s/v Walkabout
On the 26th I finally went to town and walked around a bit. Man is this place in the middle of nowhere! To the north about a mile is a Publix and a Home Depot. To the south about a mile is a West Marine. That's about it.
The marina has just finished building a new bath house but it's not open yet. Some problem with the city sewer permits or something. So 200 boats share two showers and 3 clothes washers. big lines all day long.
I discovered Dockside bar. Just a dinghy-ride away; well a rather long dinghy ride. Nice bar, beers are $1.50 during happy hour and $2 otherwise. Food is not cheap and not really that good. But it's the local bar.
Dockside Bar and Restaurant
29 Dec 08 - 04 Jan 09
Key West, FL
Capt Ron (Remeber Capt Ron? He was my buddy who was going to sail the Bahamas with me but wimped-out and was now wintering in Beaufort, NC). Anyway, he and I had planned to go to Key West for New Years Eve. He had some other friends who would be there and he had booked quarters for everyone at the Navy station on Key West.
He was driving down from North Carolina and would pick me up in Marathon. New Years Eve in Key West was the reason I sailed to Marathon from Miami. I needed an inexpensive place to leave Galena for a few weeks and Miami was just not it. Most places had only slips and they were on the order of $90 per day. Way out of my comfort zone.
Ron made a little detour to finally meet, in person, his internet babe. From what Ron says he had a very, very, good night in Tennessee. In fact, I'm happy to announce that Lydia is all he's talked about all day, every day since we've been here in Key West. Way to go, Ron!
Ron picked me up about 1300 on the 29th and in a couple hours we were at the Key West airport bar waiting for his old buddy, Rich. Rich continually cracked me up from the time I first said, "Hello" to him in the airport until we dropped him off a week and a half later. Rich is a pilot on the St Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes. He holds an Unlimited Master's ticket: Any boat, any size, any ocean. The highest license the Coast Guard issues.
Once Rich arrived and found us, we had a couple more drinks ("T", the bartender was a trip) and then over to Trumbo Point Naval Station where we had a room in the BOQ. Notice I said 'A' room Ron said they were all booked up and although we had a nice, 3-bedroom townhouse for the 3rd through the 8th, we had to share a single room from the 29th to the 3rd.
After the first night of trying to sleep with 3 old guys snoring we checked at the front desk and found that they did, indeed, have another room available. So then it was Rich in his own room and Ron and me in the other. The first day out we followed a friend's advise and had breakfast at the Turtle Craal. The food was ok, but nothing to write home about. And the prices were a bit high.
Breakfast at Turtle Craal
Oh, as we were leaving the Naval Station, Ron and Rich took pictures of each other. Unfortunately the Navy has this thing about taking pictures of the entrance gates at their Stations.
"Delete that photo, mister"
The next day we stopped in at Harpoon Harry's (just across the street from the Turtle Craal) and had an absoultly wonderful breakfast at a fraction of the cost.
We also walked around Mallory Square and found some interesting art that Ron just couldn't keep his hands off of.
Ron is just an art lover
The Navy station is about a mile from Duval Street, where all the action is. Well, at least where all the tourists go. We had a healthy walk each way each night. Sometimes the walk back seemed quite a bit longer that the walk down.
There are a lot of beautiful people in this town. It seems that no matter where I look, I find something that catches my eye.
Side street off of Duval
We found a great little Bar-B-Que place named Eat 'n Grinn and, of course, Barb's smile caused us to come back a few times during our visit here.
Barb of the Eat 'N Grinn
The first afternoon Ron provided a guided tour. Showed us a few of the classic bars that he had frequented when he was last here about a decade ago. We hit Capt Tony's, Sloppy Joes, the Hog's Breath, et al. We staggered back to the room about midnight.
Outside the Hogs Breath Saloon
And inside the Hogs Breath
On the morning of the 30th we had a hard time getting going. I think we were still a bit drunk rather than just hung over. But we headed back to town for lunch and a drink. We found Finnigan's Wake, a quiet little Irish pub.
Finnigan's Wake for a pint of Guinness
We found an artsy souvenir shop named the Art Slut.
The sign at the Art Slut
And, inside, you find...
And once again we staggered back to our quarters in the wee hours of the morning.
On the 31st we were on Duval street with everyone else for the big conch-drop. There were several parties with big crowds at each. We were at the Conch Drop. Down at the other end of Duval Street was the pink slipper drop where the gay folks were. up the street was the wench-drop. All in all a very loud and fun night.
Duval Street on New Year's Eve
And for a video clip of the actual last ten-seconds of 2008 watching the conch drop, click here for a link to YouTube.
I was standing across the street from Capt Tony's for the big conch drop at Sloppy Joes. Here's a video clip of the event. The streets were closed off and one couldn't move without pushing and shoving. But for all the people, there were no confrontations that I witnessed. A rowdy but ruley crowd.
I met Ron's friend Ric and the lovely Ana. And Ric's brother Robert and his wife. And also Tom and his wife, Dale. Dale was a real trip and more fun than most. We stood around after midnight and Ron headed back
Ron 'put out the old campfire' about 0230-hrs. I stayed out till about 0430-hrs. I'm not sure how I found my way back.
Duval Street after 4 AM
Between the 31st and the 1st I think I either text-messaged or called or was called by just about everyone I know. Even my old friend, Laura, whom I have not seen in years, texted me with best wishes. I think they were in or headed to St Johns, BVI, where her father-in-law has a place.
(I'm now carrying my camera around with me and trying to remember to take pictures of people I meet. I'd like to be able to show you who I'm talking about rather than trying to explain it.)
Andrea and Laura in a picture taken some years ago
The next day we were at it again and, once again, stayed out till about 0400-hrs. We walked all the way to the other side of the island and found Louie's Backyard and that thing that marks the 'southernmost point' in the united states. Everyone takes a picture here.
The much photographed Southernmost point in the USA
on 02 Jan 09 we were out exploring some of the more off-Duval pubs. We had just left the Green Parrot when Rich pointed out that the bar we were walking by was almost empty and quite quiet. The bar was the Meteor and as I looked inside there sat Capt Bill and Norm. Bill and Norm run the bars at the pool and at Red Eyes back at Mears Point Marina. Bill has invited me down every year for the past 4-years. And, now that I was actually in Key West, I had forgotten to bring his number. Ron had just suggested that I call Red Eyes and try to get Bill's number. And then there they were. Very Cool.
Norm, Me, Bill, Rich, and Ron at the Meteor
So we hung there with them for a few more drinks and, yeah, back to the Naval Station about 0300. On the way back to the base we stumbled upon the start of US-1: mile-zero. Just a sign on the side of the road but I thought it had significance and that it was certainly pixle-worthy.
We found that there were a few places that we liked so much we went back several times while we were there. The Blue Heaven was one of those places.
At the Blue Heaven
Although, when we went back there for breakfast on Saturday, we found a 90-minute wait. We didn't mind too much since the Bloody Mary's were very good.
And the next day, at the Blue Heaven waiting for breakfast
Another place we revisited was El Mason de Pepe. A Cuban restaurant with absolutely wonderful food.
At El Mason De Pepe
And the second time there we again bumped into Dan and Joan, who we had met at Louie's Backyard the previous day.
With Dan and Joan at El Mason De Pepe
Both Dan and Joan are very tall. When we first met them, Dan stood up to say goodbye... and he kept going up and up. This is one treetop daddy.
My very good and old friend, Griz, called me and set up a get together. He and his wife, Sharon, were some of the first civilian friends I had made when I got of the service. He was working at the first company I worked with. Then, as I moved from job to job around the Northern Virginia area I repeated bumped into Griz. He had recently moved out here to Sugarloaf Key and so I just had to have dinner with him and Sharon. So I did and it was so very nice to catch up.
Me and Griz cruising Key West
Ron was not feeling well so I had Griz drop me off downtown and found the bar at which we were going to meet Bill and Norm. The place is called "Cowboy Bill's." According to Capt Bill it's the only country-western bar in Key West. A little hard to find (just an alley-way entrance at 610 Duval St.) but once inside it's a very large and fun bar. Live and excellent bands, lots of happy people, and even a mechanical bull! And the bartenders have talent, too.
Click here for a video of the barmaid doing that "Cocktails" bottle-tossing thing.
Once again, I'm crawling home at about 0430hrs.