Leaving Key West for the Chesapeake
14 May 2013 | Key West
We are planning to leave Key West on Thursday, heading for Savannah, GA, Charleston, NC and then to spend the summer in The Chesapeake Bay. In my last blog, I told you about a couple that we had met from New Hampshire. They have become our “best buds” and will be our new “buddy boat” going north. Heidi & Bill on “Act III” have had 5 years experience cruising mostly in the Caribbean as well as the whole Northeast USA. Typical of the type of people out cruising, we met them two days before John’s departure to get his teeth fixed in San Diego, and they chose to stay in Key West to make sure that I was okay alone on Mariah. And what a God-send they have been. John took all the good weather with him when he left for San Diego as we had thunderstorms every day that he was gone, only to have the sun return when he did. On Tuesday of that week, rain threatened, but Heidi and I decided to go into town to do some errands with plans to ride our bikes. We left quickly hoping to miss the rain that looked imminent. Let me explain…when it rains here, it generally rains for 10 minutes at a time, so going in on the dinghy with dark skies wasn’t unusual. We got half way in when the heavens opened up with huge tropical rain drops. By the time we got to shore, we were completely drenched. I mean wringing wet. And the rain still came with the addition of thunder and lightning. Well, we couldn’t very well ride our bikes with lightning, so we went across the street to the Thai restaurant, dripping wet, and were offered a seat outside (yes, in the lightning). We found a little table in a protected corner, ordered hot tea, saki and soup and proceeded to wait out the storm. In the meantime, John was watching the storm unfold on his computer from San Diego and giving us reports of when we could venture outside. As it turned out, we sat there for 4 hours, watching lightning hit within 100 yards from us and the wind so strong that it knocked down all the palm trees on the patio. When we did finally get back to the boat, we found out that Bill on Act III had clocked the wind at 60mph and had seen lightning strike a boat about 100 yards from Mariah. Thankfully, our boats were fine, but I was so glad that I wasn’t riding out the storm alone on Mariah. I think I would have freaked. We did talk to the couple on the boat that got hit by the lightning and they said that all their electronics got “fried.” Lights, pumps, batteries, GPS, radar…everything. They were towed the next day to Ft. Lauderdale for months of repairs. Rule of thumb...always moor near a boat with a higher mast than yours. Yikes!
We did buy a brand new West Marine dinghy…long story, but suffice it to say that it was purchased at the 11th hour as we had no way to get back to Mariah because when John tried to pump up the old dinghy “enroute”, the back section of the seal fell off and into the pontoon. He had to stuff his hand into the hole while I drove furiously for shore so that we wouldn’t sink before we could get our new motor off. The good news is that we are no longer “dinghy challenged” and now scoot around in our new dinghy with our new motor. No more whining…just screaming around the bay on full plane and arriving mostly dry.
Did you know that Key West once seceded from the United States? Yessiree! In 1982, the Border Patrol set up a highway checkpoint at the base of the Keys. It so slowed traffic that it nearly shut down the tourist trade on the island. To protest, Key West decided that if the Border Checkpoint was on that side of the Keys, then the Keys must not be inside the US. So, they declared themselves autonomous. This lasted for two days whereupon they surrendered to the Coast Guard. And this action resulted in the checkpoint being shut down. Lucky for us, we were here for the 30th Anniversary of the Conch Republic Independence Celebration. This celebration included a “Drag” Race down Duval Street (and it didn’t include cars), a Captains meeting for the “Bloody Battle,” and “The Bloody Battle.” We paid $49 each to ride aboard one of the Tall Ships, “The Appledore”, on which we cruised the harbor engaging in fire hose battles with about 15 other ships/boats. The Coast Guard usually participates, but did not this year due to the “Sequester” of the budget funds. We all had a great time getting thoroughly soaked by the generator-driven fire hoses on all the boats.
Back to Heidi & Bill of Act III…we have so enjoyed getting to know this couple. They are very similar to us and we have made fast friends. Heidi and I are sure we were separated at birth, so similar are our approaches to life and the things we like to do. But John and Bill must have been conjoined twins. They are both "propeller heads", always discussing how things work and the “why” of it, getting into the deep details of all things mechanical or musical or scientific or..or..or. They get so lost in their conversations together that they forget where they are and it is left to Heidi and myself to bring them back to earth. Yesterday, the guys dropped us off at the Publix grocery store (they had rented a car) and went to the auto parts store. When they returned to pick us up, they went to the wrong Publix and sat waiting for us to come out. Eventually, they looked around, got their bearings and figured out that this store was a different color, and where did the Radio Shack go, and where the heck were they? So, they called to ask us if we knew there were two Publix stores in town. Heidi and I found this absolutely hysterical and are still laughing about it. The guys just don’t see the humor.
As you can imagine, Key West has been great fun. We ride our “circus” bikes all over the island and get smiles from everyone who sees us. They are great conversation starters and have introduced to us many locals who give us great information about where to go and what to see. We also take our dinghy into the Key West Harbor Dinghy Dock to enjoy Happy Hour, oysters and Boce Ball. We’ve listened to Jazz, eaten wonderful ice cream, ridden the Pedicabs and, best of all, people-watched both the locals and the tourists. We are sad to have to leave, but know that more adventures await us at our next ports of call.