Our readers must have been wondering where we have disappeared to. It's been a month since I last posted on the blog. Right now we are in Key West, the southernmost city of the USA. The Florida Keys begin at the southeastern tip of the Florida peninsula, 15 miles south of Miami and extend southwest in a gentle arc all the way to Key West and on to the Dry Tortugas.
If you don't want to come here on your own keel, as we did, other than flying by plane, you could drive the 120 mile long Florida Keys island chain on U.S. 1, the Overseas Highway. You'd be crossing 42 bridges and the longest one being the famous Seven Mile Bridge which connects Marathon on Knight's Key to Little Duck Key. This bridge was built from 1978-1982, replacing the old one which was constructed from 1909-1912 as part of the Flagler Railway but after extensive damage from Labor Day Hurricane in 1935, were it blew a full passenger train off the track into the ocean, it became restored for automobile use. A large part of the old bridge is still standing, running parallel to the new highway.
And this is only the half of it!! I took this picture while we were passing though the center, where the bridge rises to a 65 foot clearance for boat passage.
Traveling south you will pass paces like Key Largo, Islamorada and Marathon before arriving in Key West. Back in the 80ies we traveled this route as well and have wonderful memories of the time we spent in the anchorage of Boot Key Harbor in Marathon, on our sailboat Najade. This is a busy place and was nicknamed Hong Kong Harbor. Nothing ever stays the same and passing through this time we were not surprised at the overwhelming number of boats that have made this place their temporary home. Some, it seemed, permanently. The once vast anchorage is now regulated by rows upon rows of mooring balls. A marina office staffed by a lady acting like a sergeant handed out our dinghy parking permit, access cards to facilities and scheduled the mandatory pump out after collecting the hefty mooring fee. There was no wifi reception in the mooring field, but we could cozy up to other computer users on benches along the wall in the very drafty warehouse type hall overhearing everyone's Skype conversation. The place was as busy as a train station at rush hour and cruisers lugging heavy bags abandoned their borrowed grocery shopping carts from the mile and a half located Publix supermarket at the end of the dinghy dock. If you wonder why this is such a popular place, the harbor is totally protected from all wind and wave directions and the temperatures are subtropical. In addition there are plenty of stores and restaurants within walking distance or tourist attractions. I have to say that the city has done a good job of improving and prettying up the waterfront and general area since our last visit.
Benno took a picture of a fellow cruiser passing our boat in Boot Key Harbor. If it wasn't for the outboard motor, I would have thought he was the real deal (Viking).
Key West is a charming town. Strolling through the residential areas with lovely restored houses and well kept yards lush with tropical vegetation is a nice contrast away from the touristy streets lined with outdoor eateries and boutiques. There is much to do and see here and if you want to take it all in, you'd have to have deep pockets. At the Hemingway house, as an example, there is a constant throng of people lining up on the sidewalk trying to get in to look at the rooms and furnishings. With cruise ships docking here year round, spilling off thousands of vacationers each day, these attractions are raking in multimillion dollars in revenues. Having read "The Old Man and the Sea", the book that earned Hemingway the Pulitzer Prize, we were interested in more info and conducted our own research on the internet. It revealed that after his death, the house was sold without furnishings or books and he only kept peacocks and no cats at this location, so the bunch of famed descendents are to be found in Cuba and not here. But, it's an interesting place nevertheless.
All in all, Key West is a place worth visiting. Yes, it has a huge mooring field with amenities like in Marathon, but also a much larger anchorage in the flats where you have the option to pay for dinghy docking and services when needed.
Sloppy Joe must be one of the most famous restaurants/bars in Key West where Hemingway was one of the regulars during his stay!
Both of us are having the "Cheeseburger in Paradise" lunch Jimmy Buffet sings about in his song while taking in the ambience of the Margaritaville Restaurant, sorry the picture was taken thru the dirty window glass and Benno mentioned the onion rings were greasy too.
Benno goofing around at an old car placed as an attraction in town