Thursday, February 21, 2013

Key West

Joe listening to the morning net on VHF 68
      During the recent morning help section of the Boot Key Harbor cruiser's net a question was asked by one of the residents of the harbor inquiring about recommendations for the best anchorage in Key West. The unanimous consensus was...Boot Key Harbor! Others offered practical advice to take a left out of the marina onto the Overseas Highway and cross the road at the light to catch the local bus for $4.00. The reason being that the anchorage in Key West is less than desirable. It offers minimal protection, it's exposed, choppy and the dinghy dock onshore is a long ride. It seemed that everyone was in agreement that taking the bus to and from Key West was the best practical solution.

      Originally, we'd planned to sail down to Key West, but armed with this bit of local advice changed our minds and decided to hop on the bus and make it a day trip. We located the bus schedule for The Lower Keys Shuttle online for departures from our location in Marathon. The trip would take nearly an hour and a half with so many local pick ups along the way, but it would also give us the opportunity to see the lower keys without the hassle of renting a car and finding parking in Key West.

     We boarded the bus around 10:15 AM and made numerous stops along the lower keys picking up passengers who were on their way to jobs and those who were just coming off a night of drinking and debauchery. The bus reeked of stale cigarettes and booze. It was a colorful crew of individuals in various states of incoherency to say the least. We arrived in Key West just in time for lunch. Surprisingly, Key West wasn't crowded, but we were told that we'd chosen a day when no cruise ships were in town. Apparently, the tourist area around Duval Street and Mallory Square can become packed with passengers when
the ships are in port.

     Key West certainly has its tourist traps along the main esplanade of Duval Street. However, we prefer to stroll along some of its residential side streets without an agenda. The architecture is distinctly Key West and when it's time for a beverage it's easy to find a local hangout like the Green Parrot Bar. The brightly-colored folk art murals on the exterior and interior are one of the highlights and of course the clientele always add some spice to the ambience.
Mural at the Green Parrot Bar

Bahama Village Mural
     During our afternoon stroll we meandered into Bahama Village on Petronia Street or I should clarify what used to be Bahama Village. A mural depicted what life in the village was like in the past. However, it seemed that the descendants of the original Bahamian settlers to Key West must have sold out during the real estate boom because we didn't see one Bahamian in the Village. Even the former resident roosters and chickens have moved nearer the bars on Duval Street.

Mallory Square musician

      One tradition that you can set your watch to is the carnival atmosphere of the nightly sunset celebration at Mallory Square. Street performers begin their acts well before sunset while the afternoon pilgrimage of tourists are drawn like lemmings toward the oceanside square from their day-long soirees at the bars and beaches. We joined others in the march toward the west to bear witness the the last of the sun's rays and the plethora of entertainers on the square.

      Jugglers, fire eaters, sword swallowers, smart aleck magicians, musicians and acrobats vied for attention from the crowd. It was a sluggish night gratuitously for street performers since it was a sparse crowd, but the cruise ships were scheduled for the following day and things were certain to pick up.

     At sunset all eyes turned toward the west. It was as though it was a spiritual experience for some. We cruisers take our sunsets in stride. Somehow if we miss today's fiery ball sinking into the horizon, God willing they'll always be another one tomorrow.

Fire eater at sunset

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