Jan 16, 201408:37 AM
Swing Set: Cruising Full Time
Even the Weather in Key West Can Be Disagreeable
As anyone who might be mistakenly reading this blog may know, the very northern part of the United States was deep into a deep freeze during the first part of this year, and even though Florida escaped the most frigid temperatures, Key West's climate was less-than-desirable for the last two weeks. But we managed to have some fun, and I was able to scrape together some boat-related items to pass along for this blog, which is getting increasingly harder to do with us camped here at the dock.
We were able to get out in the dinghy on the weekend just after New Year's day. We didn't venture too far because a front was due to arrive, and I wanted to be able to high tail it into the harbor if the weather started to turn. We gathered up Holly and slipped on over to the southwest tip of Boca Chica Key, where there is a somewhat shallow spot just off the shore that has a nice, clean sand bottom, just a few inches of water, and enough activity in the way of Jet Ski tourists and local boaters to provide a modicum of social activity.
We talked to a few locals who came over to meet Holly, and we also met the owner of Hurricane Hole Marina, who added some juicy tidbits to our knowledge of the area. I'd say we had a full afternoon before the clouds rolled in and we scampered back into Stock Island Marina Village just as the weather turned sour for the next couple of days.
The much anticipated visit from two of Rosie's cousins arrived on January 8th. In the picture, Rosie's cousin, Don, is on the left, then his wife, Michelle. Then, it's Denny and Rosie's other cousin, Roseann. We were at the Conch Republic, having all taken the taxi downtown from Stock Island. While we were there, I got a message that another acquaintance was in town from St. Louis with a friend of his, and we were soon joined by Joe Boyer and his friend Vickie, who lives in Orlando. We finally cashed in our chips at the Hogsbreath Saloon, much later that evening than we should have.
The group was staying here at the marina in one of the "boatels," which are little floating motel rooms. The location was great for us, as it allowed us to visit with everyone when we wanted to, but they also had the freedom to do what they wanted, leaving us out of some of the touristy stuff that we've gotten our fill of.
Roseann and Denny were visiting us in the cockpit of Swing Set one afternoon last week when we saw one of the staff here showing a couple around the facility, coming onto our dock but stopping short of getting within "howdy-do" range. The principal character was none other than Jimmy Buffett. He flew in on his seaplane to scope out the marina. One of the things he did was buy some Landshark Beer. Poor fellow. I didn't take this picture above, Jimmy is on the left. I call him Jim.
We took a full contingent out aboard Swing Set last Saturday and caught a late sunset just off the cruise ship dock. Seven went out and six came back. We had to drop off a seasick Michelle in downtown Key West. We managed to carry on without her well past sunset. Her husband was not callous in the least. He tossed her cab fare as she stepped off the boat and blew her a kiss. Vickie, Rosie and Roseann were shedding tears about it just before I snapped this photo.
The rest of the week was filled with some of those other touristy things I have spoken of, and the week-long visit was winding down, but I wanted to get back out in the boat one more time before our guests left. Last Tuesday looked promising, so I called a friend who was visiting in nearby Sarasota (seven hours away by car) and told him to come down, because if he wanted to get out on our boat, we wouldn't be able to wait until Wednesday, the day he had originally planned to arrive, due to another weather change. Being flexible because of the weather is just part of the process in these parts.
Our other visitors (Joe and Vickie had left for home) had their own plans, but I may have sensed some reluctance in regard to them coming out, so we invited a local couple who we have been seeing around town to join us. When Dan arrived promptly at 1 p.m. after an eight-hour drive from Sarasota, Todd and Debra had joined us and were waiting in the cockpit of Swing Set.
We made a quick departure from the dock and set a course for some reefs two miles south, so Todd and I could do some snorkeling. As we were leaving the harbor, I tried to play some music from the iPad at the helm and it wasn't working. My quick diagnosis was that I had a bad wire on the cable plugged into the head unit in the salon. When problems arise, I tend to fixate on them, so the trip out to the reef was mostly enjoyable to everyone but me. Then, it got worse.
The Garmin GPS unit that we had just gotten repaired locked up. One more thing to occupy my brain. Then, it got worse.
We heard a very loud escaping air sound, and within a few seconds (just after soiling myself), I realized that one of our automatically inflatable life vests had deployed just behind Debra's head. She may have done some soiling herself. So, that gave me another thing to think about while Todd and I were bobbing about, trying to snorkel in some fairly rough seas.
We anchored in seven feet of water, and the visibility wasn't bad, even with the wind. There wasn't a whole lot to see, but there was an abundance of conch on the ocean floor. When we ever get a taste for large snails, I'll know where to get some. After our short snorkeling session, we took a pleasant cruise toward the sun, turning homeward in time to get back to port before nightfall. My concerns over the stereo, GPS and the task of re-arming the life vest were diminished in direct proportion to the number of Bud Lights I took in. Who says beer is bad for you?
That evening, Dan came over with us to the Red Grouper to hang out with Denny, Roseann, Don and Michelle. They had gotten a good head start in the cocktail department, and it was to be potluck night in an attempt to eat up the groceries that had purchased just after arriving a week ago. All four of them had spent the day out on two scooters Don had rented. They did more touristy things and had a great time. The stories flowed freely, and it was after nine o'clock when I asked when we were going to eat some of the vittles they had been promising. I know from our history with Roseann that strong hints need be dropped if one wants to get fed. Denny existed on Cheezits and catsup in his early years. Hugs and tears were shared all around as we left to go back to Swing Set, with promises to meet up in the morning before they all left to return to the Great White North.
At 10 o'clock Wednesday morning, here they all came down to the dock, arms full of grocery bags with junk no one got around to eating during their week long stay. We had hit a gold mine. Dan took some pictures and the goodbyes were short. The waterworks started right away for Rosie, and I was only able to see them up the dock ramp before my emotions got the better of me. I hate goodbyes.
Dan had a car, of course, and he took us on a shopping spree for some bulky items that would have taxed the capacities on our bike. We went to Home Depot, Walgreens, Key West Marine Supply, West Marine, Radio Shack and the dive shop in downtown. In between all this, we had lunch at Bo's Fish Wagon, a eclectic restaurant near the Historic Harbor Boardwalk. It's a place we had been wanting to visit. Now, we can say we did.
When we got back yesterday afternoon, I re-armed both life vests with kits I had bought at West Marine. This is something that should be done every three years. I had forgotten, but the one life vest had not.
Dan and I also figured out our stereo problem, even though I had bought a new cable at Radio Shack. After an extensive continuity check with my handy Ohm meter, I finally decided that one of the pins on a jack I was using had some minor corrosion. A quick use of fine sand paper did the trick. Another problem solved. I was not looking forward to running a new cable.
Last night, we had an impromptu dinner of leftovers, thanks to our guests, and then Rosie, Dan and I played three games of dominoes, with each of us winning a game. How polite.
Dan slept on our sofa in the salon. His girlfriend had stayed in Sarasota, so sleeping arrangements were easy. I teased Dan about him taking up my napping spot, but we've known him and his ex-wife for lots of years, and it was a small consolation. I still resisted his attempts at serenading us with the guitar he lugged onto the boat. My friendship does have boundaries.
The cold front has moved in, and we got buffeted around in our slip last night. We all slept good with the drop in temperatures, even though Holly barked in earnest every time Dan would make the slightest noise, if you call snoring and farting slight noises.
The three of us went to El Mocho this morning for a cheap breakfast. El Mocho is a Cuban restaurant here on Stock Island, and it was a very popular place this morning. We snared a table in quick order. Rosie and Dan had Chorizo omelets, and I had the regular special of three eggs, hash browns, a half pound of bacon and a pile of Cuban bread. Rosie and I had big cups of Cafe Con Leche, and even though Dan was facing an eight-hour drive, he was satisfied with the one cup of coffee he had before we left the boat this morning.
Dan dropped us off back at the marina before heading out. He wanted to do a little more sightseeing before heading back to Sarasota, and then eventually back to Boyne, Mich. where he lives.
It was nice to have visitors who we knew were coming weeks, if not months ago. Dan had actually wanted to come earlier, but I told him we'd be pretty busy with Rosie's cousins, so he waited, but stayed flexible with the weather situation.
Rosie and I spent the rest of the morning in relax mode, but I also solved the problem with the Garmin unit by rebooting it. Another success!
I have a self-induced list of chores waiting ahead of me: I need to wax the boat hull, run Barnacle Buster through the fuel cooler on our port engine, replace the screen in our salon door (this involves removing both solid doors, a pain), plus a bunch of little things that have been accumulating, which they always do.
Before we know it, it's going to be February when some other folks are coming down. Spring is right around the corner!