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Swing Set

Dec 30, 201209:10 AM

Swing Set: Cruising Full Time

A Hostile Environment

(page 2 of 3)

This is our official first sunset on the hook since we got to the Keys. While sunsets in Boot Key Harbor were pretty, with all the sailboats and all, this one was the first with a view of the open water before us. Had I known just how much things were going to deteriorate by the next night, we would have stayed put for a few days at least.

Here, we are rounding the western edge of Key West. Tank Island had no homes on it when we had our boat down here last, about 25 years ago, but it's chock full of them now. Wisteria Island is still uninhabited, but hundreds of boats are anchored all around it, and on the west side of adjacent Fleming Key, much more than we remembered.

We pulled into Key West Bight, just to get the lay of the land, so to speak. The already small harbor was much more crowded than it was years ago, but that is to be expected. The rent in this harbor is beyond comprehension for us, anywhere between $3.50 and $4.50 per foot, per day. Rosie made a few calls and found out that, for the lightening low price of $160 per night, which "included everything," we too could get a slip and enjoy the New Year festivities without the worry of having the boat, and Holly, out on a ball or on the hook while we were on land bringing in the New Year. "Does that price include tax?" Rosie dutifully asked.

"Oh, no. That doesn't include tax, and there is a five-day minimum."

My gut feeling about finding an affordable place to keep our boat was coming to fruition, my gut feeling not being a good one. We motored up through the Key West Harbor, where all the boats are at anchor, some on homemade moorings, most likely cement blocks, engine blocks or some other cheap, heavy material...no telling about the condition of them.

I didn't want to be in the midst of such questionable surroundings, not only from the anchoring standpoint, but also from the shifty appearances of the clientele that seem to inhabit such places. We headed up Fleming Key and rounded the northern tip to inspect the Garrison Bight mooring field, where we had intended on renting a mooring ball for a week or so. We didn't like at all what we saw. The views were dismal, and as advertised by others, there was no protection from the forecasted northerly winds that were coming in with the cold front.

We decided to give the anchorage on the west side of Fleming Key another look. Just around the tip, on the west side, was a small cut, just big enough for a handful of boats. I judged there was room for us in a place that would protect us from waves coming in from the north, and a little wind protection from the spit of land that would lay just on our bow when the wind shifted.

We had talked to the folks that manage the dinghy dock and pump-out station for this area and asked about protocol. I had reservations about slipping in on someone else's "territory," knowing how people are, and we were told that there were "no rules, just don't tie up to someones 'mooring ball,'" even though it wasn't a mooring field.

As I was dropping anchor in front of a smaller sailboat, but giving them plenty of room, I noticed the two inhabitants of said sailboat peering through their windshield, with their heads poking up just far enough to be noticed as little as possible, like a couple of prairie dogs. I mentioned them to Rosie, and she kept an eye on them, but they just hunkered down and watched. But when I left the bridge, the female of the pair had stepped out from behind their dodger, so I gave a friendly wave. She ducked back behind the dodger, and I noticed that she had been taking a photo of our boat. I realize now that her intentions weren't from any type of admiration of our vessel, but she was just gathering evidence for the calamity that she was sure would take place due to our intrusion upon "their space."

While I was trying to decide whether or not to deploy another anchor, a dinghy with a man and small boy came by, and I waved. He waved back and came over. I think he meant well, but he warned me to not be surprised if anyone came by and gave us the "stink eye" because we were on anchor with questionable holding, and that everyone in there was on a mooring. I mentioned it was my understanding that there were no moorings here, just boats at anchor, and he answered that they were "homemade moorings," whatever that means. I asked him about how were we supposed to know what the rules were, and he said that there were no rules. I said, "Exactly," and made up my mind to do what we wanted.

I did decide to put out another anchor, plus dive down on both anchors to confirm a good hold. I felt good about having deployed two good anchors, one to the east, and one to the west, figuring to have a good hold no matter which way the wind decided to come from.

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