Category Archives: Key West

Merry Christmas from Key West

Key West, FL
Conch Harbor Marina
Position: 24 33.766N, 081 48.021W
Posted by Bill

The worst thing you can do when cruising is have a schedule, and we broke the number one rule heading to Key West. Our reservation in the Conch Harbor Marina started on the 13, and we didn’t want to miss any days in our one month reservation period, so we headed out in less than desirable passage conditions…to meet a schedule. It ended up being an all day ass kicking…even being behind the reef in the Hawk Channel. The boat was getting thrown all over, rolling back and forth from side to side. Stuff was flying around in the cabin below and it was difficult to keep from getting thrown around in the cockpit. I told Tricia…we said we were going to keep cruising until it wasn’t fun anymore…and if we have to travel in these conditions, we are on our last trip! We pulled in to the marina and got tied up late afternoon and were glad to be done with that trip.

Key West has lots of activities. Our usual daily routine involves hitting a good happy hour somewhere, enjoying the food and drinks, and then walking around in the evening to people watch and catch some good live music. We have been doing that pretty much every day. We also watched the Christmas boat parade in our marina, which was really good as always. We also spent a few days at the pool at Dante’s which is at the entrance to our marina, taken a few bike rides, rented scooters and went to Stock Island to have lunch at Hog Fish, and have taken walks every day. It is nice to be able to just walk off the boat without dealing with the dinghy, and the marina is in the heart of all of the action, which makes it easy to get into the vibe here.

Our good friends Rick and Barb (who have a boat next to us in Southport) came down for Christmas and stayed in an inn just a few blocks away, and we have been having a great time with all of us together again (like at home). We went to dinner at Mangia Mangia, a great Italian restaurant, for Christmas Eve, and then had an early dinner on the dock on Christmas Day. We had some friends on the dock and some we know that live in Key West join us, and we had a group of about 20 people. Everyone cooked/brought something and we pigged out!

My favorite shirt in the Key West stores says “Key West…where the weird go pro!” It is pretty spot on, and a great example is this guy wandering the streets sporting his Christmas spirit:

Also these pictures of street vendor food trucks:

Mass quantities of alcohol are consumed here, to the extent that hang over treatments are a thriving business:

And there is no lack of creative expression, including vehicles:

There are some crazy boaters too. This guy pulled in on Christmas Day, when he knew no staff would be working the docks, and filled up his fresh water tanks with the marina’s water, then took off. Interesting that he had a Victorian couch and wing backed chairs on the back deck…lol!

Hell’s Angels on scooters:

A few shots of the Christmas boat parade:

Cool Christmas lights in the palm trees:

The weather was a little chilly for a few days while a front came through, bringing 40 plus knot winds, but other than that we have had excellent weather…nice and warm, with little rain. Given that we grew up in the north, it doesn’t give you the feel of Christmas like we know it, but I’ll take it any day over the cold!!!

Merry Christmas to you and yours!! I hope you had a good one! The blog will see you in the new year.

The blog is moving…….and so are we!

Key West, FL

The high winds have been blowing all week, and we have to vacate our slip on Sunday. We won’t have a decent sea state until next Wednesday or Thursday, so we are moving to the east side of Key West in Stock Island to wait out the weather, and then move on to Marathon.

We are also moving the blog to a new technology platform, so we cannot update content until it is done, and it may take a week or so. Given that, we won’t be posting until that is complete. See you on the new platform!

Key West Update

Key West, FL
Posted by Bill

We have had a great stretch of weather, both for our trip south, and while we have been here in the Keys. There have only been a couple of bouts of rain, and 4 or 5 days of high winds since we left on November 1st. Yesterday, we got hit with the worst weather so far this cruising season. It looks like the entire country is feeling this one…temps under 10 degrees in Ohio, snow and ice in the Carolinas, and high winds and cold temps in the Keys. Some rain came through with the front yesterday, and the winds have been blowing over 30 knots, and we had a low of 57 degrees this morning…brrrrrr! I know our northern friends and family are playing violins right now, but let me tell you…we have lived pretty much in summer conditions year round for 3 years, and when it gets below 70, I get cold. It truly is all relative. Good thing is, we are tied to a slip and can get off the boat, and if necessary…turn on our heating system. Thank goodness it hasn’t come to that yet. We are getting rocked quite a bit here in the harbor, as the winds have produced some chop, but man…the people anchored out or in the mooring field here are really getting their asses kicked. Glad to be where we are. The Key West Mooring field is very exposed to winds and wakes, especially from the north, which is where the worst winds come from in the winter months. We know friends that are/have staying/stayed there for extended periods, and there have been several times that you can not get off the boat for several days because it is too rough to go ashore in the dinghy. When people ask about our life style, you often hear them make envious comments. We always tell them “it isn’t all sunsets and cocktails”, and this is a good example of the other side of living this way, so it is one of those things you have to endure.

We have been working a routine of running to the grocery store every few days by bike, taking walks through town, doing a little boat maintenance, hitting happy hours, and walking the bars and entertainment at night. Our traveling partners, Sofia Jeanne and Byrd Ketcher, have been having a series of friends visit them, pretty much one right after the other, and since everyone visiting is on vacation, we all end up going out almost every day. It is good because we have become good friends of their friends and it has really been great to see them and hang out with them. The bad thing is that our spending has skyrocketed (although not as bad as we anticipated), and the pace of partying has worn us out. Last night was the first night we took a break and just hung out on the boat watching Netflix. Well needed rest!!!

There is a big sailing race here in Key West in a few weeks and the marina is booked for that period of time, so we have a hard end date of January 16th that we have to vacate our slip. Being the weather fanatic that I am, I have been looking at forecasted contitions for our passage back to Marathon. Right now, there isn’t a great weather window for our escape, and I spent several hours yesterday looking at our options. The holding isn’t great in the anchorages here, and the mooring field and marinas are full. There is a marina about an hour from here up island that is a possibility, so we will continue to keep an eye on the situation. The boat is certainly capable of almost any weather condition, but we have found that we are not fond of traveling in seas where we get our asses kicked. The worst situation is wind on nose, keeping us from getting sails up to steady the boat, short wave periods – 6 seconds or less, and waves over 3 feet…especially beam seas (waves from the side of the boat). Our boat is susceptible to rolling, and beam seas are very uncomfortable. Right now the forecast is calling for 4-6 foot seas on the nose and winds in the high teens to low 20s on the nose, with wave periods around 5 seconds. We don’t really want to deal with that for 10 hours straight, if we don’t have to.

We are also starting to look at our Bahamas plan. Right now, we are planning to work our way back up the Keys, and target a crossing as soon as we can get a weather window after the first of February. We have family renting a house in Key Largo during that time period, so we want to visit with them for awhile on the way back up. We also have to plan a trip to Miami via land, to provision for the Bahamas. That usually involves renting a car for the day, and all of the logistics involved with that. Land based travel is a pain in the ass while cruising. You need to find a way to get wheels, and also a safe place to leave the boat while you are gone. If it is more than a day, you need to make sure you have adequate power to keep your food frozen/cold. Not easy in the Keys unless you find a slip somewhere, which is getting harder to do. We have noticed a significant increase in people cruising this year. Marinas, mooring fields and anchorages are staying full…much more so than when we started. It requires better planning and luck with the weather. We have met quite a few people that are on their first year of cruising, several that have never owned a boat before…WOW…talk about jumping in the deep end with not knowing how to swim!

Key West has been really fun, but we are ready for the seclusion and simple life of the Bahamas. We will miss the people watching…like this guy…who needs bars when you have a 12 pack and a park bench:

Happy New Year!!

Key West, FL
Posted by Bill

Happy New Year everyone! New Year’s Eve has for a long time been a holiday where we just party at home. We would usually get together with close friends and just hang out. This year was quite different. Since we don’t have to drive, and there is a crazy party going on all through Key West, we got in to the fray. The city closes off Duval Street and some adjacent streets that intersect, and the whole closed off area is jammed with people. On a normal day, Key West does not enforce the open container laws, so it makes for a crazy atmosphere on New Year’s Eve. There are at least 3 “ball drop” events around town that I know of. One is up Duval where the gay and lesbian bars are, and a transvestite rides a giant ladies shoe down. Another is along the docks at Key West Bight, where we are docked, where a pirate wench is lowered from a schooner mast. The third is at Sloppy Joe’s Bar on Duval, where a large, lit up conch shell, rides down and a large “2017” sign lights up at midnight. We (Byrd Ketcher, Sofia Jeanne, and friends Jack and Lori) chose Sloppy Joe’s. We snagged some seats in the back of Ricks, directly across from the conch drop. At about 10:00, things started to get crazy in the streets. They had a DJ standing on the roof at Sloppy Joe’s who was playing loud music and working the crowd up to the big event. People were throwing beads from balconies, and girls were flashing breasts (not as many as New Orleans). At midnight there were people shaking up bottles of champagne and spraying the crowd. The streets were so packed that you could barely move. I was glad we had a front row seat in Ricks, as we had somewhat of a buffer, and a bathroom (lol):
It was a blast to celebrate with our good friends!!!

Leading up to the new year, we made a few runs to the grocery store on bikes, hung by the pool one day, and did our usual happy hour routine. The day after Christmas the crowds started to pick up in town, and it has been really busy. You quickly get tired of fighting the tourists, especially on Duval, but the people watching has been fantastic. Today there is a big pot luck on the dock, which should be fun.

Here is a picture of Darth Vader playing a banjo. We thought our grandson Wrigley would like this one!!

Speaking of grandsons….our latest arrived on the 29th…Liam:15822858_10154049405906689_6814007917258463093_n
Congratulations to Eric and Jessica! This was the first grandchild that we were not there when they were born, which was a real bummer.

Have a great 2017 everyone!

Merry Christmas!!!

Key West, FL
Posted by Bill

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you are having a great one!

Last night we tried to go to Christmas Mass, but the church was packed full. We went to dinner early at a great Italian place called Mangia Mangia, where they make home made pasta and sauce. It was great!! Thanks Ted and Sandy for the recommendation. Afterwards we walked Duval Street to check out the people watching, which was equally enjoyable. Lots of people decked out in Christmas garb:

We walked up to the 700-900 block, which is comprised mostly of the gay bars. There were dudes dressed up like women, singing Christmas carols. Hard to tell these are dudes! Matt and Grady posed with one:
This one was singing “Walking round in womens underwear” to the tune of “Walking in a Winter Wonderland”, and was very surprised when Tricia and I knew the words and joined him!!

Today we called family, Facetimed with the kids and grandkids, then had a great Christmas feast on the dock with our friends, complete with turkey, stuffing, twice baked potato casserole, sweet potatoes, ham, cranberry sauce, gravy, 3 bean salad, green bean casserole, key lime pie, pumpkin pie, and chocolate martinis! It was really good!!! Who says you can’t have great food cooking on a boat!
It was also 82 degrees and sunny!

We hope you and your family had a good one!

Surviving Key West

Key West, FL
Posted by Bill

I have to admit…as frugal as we are, staying here is worth the cost of the slip. There is so much to do within a short walk. We used the bikes (very nice bikes) that the marina provides and did a grocery run the other day, stopping at a really good taco stand on the way. Other than that bike ride, we have been walking multiple times per day and just exploring. Besides the bars, we have been checking out the houses in Old Town. The architecture is very similar to Southport NC, our new summer home, and since we are building a house next summer we wanted to get some ideas. There are many houses that look like this, and it is the same general plan we want to build:
It also helps to have our builder (as well as one of our best friends) traveling with us and giving us guidance. It is amazing what a house in shambles will cost you here in Key West.

As I mentioned in the last post, the town is decorated for Christmas. Here are some pictures:

In addition to the crazy people you see here, there are some interesting vehicles too:

Kurt and Sharon (Byrd Ketcher), and Matt and Shirley (Sofia Jeanne) have been here for monthly stays several times in the past, and have helped us identify some of the good places to eat and drink. We contributed some of our favorites too. The other night we went to Turtle Kraals and watched the turtle races:
The bar hands out tickets with a number that corresponds to a turtle. If your turtle wins, you pick a key from a board of almost 100 keys. If the key opens the lock on a treasure chest, you win at least $250. Several of us had the winning turtle number, but no one picked the right key, however…Tricia picked the key right next to the winner. Oh well! We really like going to Rick’s on Duval Street (the main drag through Key West, where most of the action is). There is a regular entertainer there called Adrian. Our travel partners know him very well. He has stayed at Matt and Shirley’s house when traveling. He plays dirty songs and picks on the crowd, and is hilarious! Great fun. Here is a picture of him that Shirley snapped:
Kurt snapped this one of all of us at Rick’s last night:

I’ll leave you with some random pictures of the marina, starting with our view from the end of our dock:
The pool:
And a view of the fish around the dock:
Speaking of fish around the dock…there has been a very large bull shark visiting us almost every day when the fishing boats come in. People feed it and the tarpon. It is BIG! We won’t be swimming in the marina!

Key West

Key West, FL
Position: 24 33.749N, 081 47.998W
Posted by Bill

We wrapped up our visit in Marathon with a stop at Harbor Cay Club to visit with our friends there. Having stayed there for a couple of winters, we have made some good friends. It was good to catch up and we hope to see some of them in Key West while we are there. A few of the boats were not home, so we missed a couple of people unfortunately. Maybe we can catch them coming north in January.

On the 14th, we shoved off and cruised to Key West, the of the road if you are traveling by car in the Keys. There was a lot of sea grass floating around, especially in the first half of the trip, and several boats had to clear their raw water intakes a couple of times. Other than that, the trip was uneventful, and we pulled in to Conch Harbor Marina in Key West Bight in mid-afternoon. Here is what Key West looks like as you are coming up the channel:
(Mallory Square where the sunset gathering is:)

We have been to Key West several times via land, but this was our first time here in our boat. It is sssoooooo expensive to pay for slips here, and we are pretty frugal, so we never opted to do it. This year we decided to splurge and check it out for at least one time. Everyone says that Christmas and New Years is a blast here, so we opted to stay until the middle of January. The other reason we have not stayed here on our boat is because we thought we might need a liver transplant if we stayed longer than a week (the longest we stayed before this was 5 days, and it about killed us!) If you are not familiar with Key West, it is known for an endless chain of bars and “anything goes” behavior. There is live music everywhere you turn, and plenty of shops and stores with some unique stuff. One of the best things is the people watching. You can see pretty much anything here.

The marina we are in is gated, has pretty decent restrooms and showers, free laundry (yes, I said free), a nice pool right outside the gate, free bikes, and is right in the heart of the action in the most popular area of Key West called Old Town. The pool is part of a restaurant/bar called Dante’s. Right next door is Half Shell Raw Bar and Schooner Wharf Bar, so if you have been to those places you know where we are. I’ll post some pictures of the area in the next couple of posts.

The night we got here, there was a Christmas boat parade that we could watch from the end of our dock. It was very cool, but the pictures did not turn out too good. Here are a few:

We jumped right in to the happy hour scene and have been having a great time the last couple of days. I’ll post more every couple of days. Everywhere you look, the town is decorated up for Christmas. It makes me think of my Mom. She loved Christmas, especially the lights and decorations. She would be loving this!!! Sure do miss her!