How a week changed our charted course—and that of the whole country’s! Sadly, Steve and I did not return to Red Pearl after our two weeks away. A day before our flight back to Florida, we decided that COVID-19 poses a threat which simply precludes any right to reason through a way in which we can “safely” proceed to do what we want to do. While we might be even better able to keep “social distance” on the boat, there still was no truly isolated way to get down there. And as we watched spring break beach partiers, I was less inclined to want to be in Florida, anyway.Further, as the disease spreads and businesses shutter, it simply is an insecure time to be away from home. So, once again, here we sit in our condo in Goshen, Indiana, the small space which we purchased simply to store our stuff and from which to launch as we travel and visit our aging parents. We have spent way too much time here. How ironic.
As of today, Red Pearl has been tucked in at Legacy Marina in Fort Myers, FL. Captain Pat Davis and a friend of his drove to Key West the last day that services were open. At this time, most marinas are closed, allowing visiting yachts to stay only long enough to purchase fuel. At the marina office, Pat picked up the key and a few Amazon packages awaiting us, returned the laundry card-with- a-chip, and then enjoyed a delightful overnight cruise under a moonless, brilliantly-star-studded sky. At Fort Myers, he cleaned out the fridge (!) and left Red Pearl clean and looking loved. Hopefully the generator will be repaired during this interim, but even if not, dockage fees are 1/3 those in Key West.
Our dream of cruising the Chesapeake now having been foiled a third summer, perhaps there will be a window in which we can safely return and enjoy some Florida Gulf coastal cruising this summer.
What an amazing sociological experiment we all are a part of! Do be well, friends.
Our final days in Key West were marked by looking forward and making preparations for leaving Key West. Here are highlights:
As Mike and Brenda cleaned and moved off their boat, evening bid euchre and Pinochle, Key Lime Pie, and little beers, for the most part, continued. We celebrated one evening with happy hour at Santiago’s Bodega and then watched the sun set over Mallory Square amidst a throng of tourists. Not particularly charmed by having to stand on tiptoe to watch the sun drop below the horizon, we did find the street performers on the square to be in top form. This guy’s gutsy art was enhanced by his awesome sense of humor.
After their closing on Thursday good-byes were bittersweet. We celebrate how perfect timing has been for their adventure and for the sale of their boat, and we anticipate keeping up with these lovely folk. We took photos for them the next morning of that pretty blue boat zooming off for Miami to facilitate a party lifestyle for her single owner.
Our rhythm, though not really changed, felt different with Velsignet gone. Steve and I hopped on our bikes and made an exciting day of errands—Verizon store, Auto Zone, Home Depot, UPS. Each led us further toward town until we were hungry and decided to have happy hour at one of our favorite spots, Off the Hook. And then we were SO close to downtown, where a favorite dress shop was calling….
We played single-deck euchre and shared Key Lime Pie with our dock mates and Gold Loopers Rick and Monica on Best Mate. Lovely folks.
We celebrated Sunday with a bike ride to brunch at Louie’s Backyard, an iconic restaurant on the most beautiful beach in Key West. A hoity toity spot where the folks from the Astoria dine in their swimsuits, we found white table cloths and bike helmet hair totally congruent.
We have been watching the weather for a couple of weeks now. High winds have clocked and are from the north, making a cruise north to Fort Myers imprudent at this time. We have hoped to have our generator repaired and to purchase a new dinghy engine there, but that will have to wait. We finally decided to rent a car and drive to Fort Myers, leaving Red Pearl in Key West for another two weeks, and are off to meet our grandson Wesley and to give his exhausted parents some respite. I will then venture into New York City for some girls’ time with our daughters.
While weather guessers back home warned of snowy, sleety conditions, temperatures soared into the high 80s in Key West this week. These were some highlights:
Our flybridge grill is repaired and functional and, thanks to a fine fiberglass craftsman, it is now “better-than-old.” The last bit is to find replacement grates for an out-of-production unit at a less-than-extortionist cost.
Our week was shaped by Bev and Joel Eikenberry’s arrival on Friday. While it’s always a challenge to clear space for overnight guests aboard Red Pearl, it was delightful to spend mornings with friends from home on the flybridge over coffee during animated discussions covering many topics.
Having seen the highlights already, Steve and I visited second-tier tourist attractions in Old Town while Bev and Joel visited our favorites. We viewed the entire island from atop the lighthouse which functioned from 1848 until its decommissioning in 1969. We were amazed by the stunningly beautiful Fresnel glass lenses, designed for superb light refraction; but we puzzled as to how these massive glass and brass cylinders rotated before the advent of electric power, in order to create the flashing signals which differentiated them from other, steady light sources. *
The view from the lighthouse included the Hemingway house and, of course, the ocean.
The four of us shared afternoon drinks at Moon Dog Cafe and delicious tapas for dinner at Santiago’s Bodega.
We rented a car and drove up to Marathon Key, exploring the Sea Turtle Hospital in which veterinarians and volunteers work to protect and rescue these magnificent creatures and educate the public. After a delightful but windy lunch on the deck at Burdine’s, we ventured on to the Dolphin Research Center, where injured wild dolphins, too, are rehabilitated. These athletic and intelligent guys crave human interaction, and it was fun to see them both cooperate and also exercise their own will with their trainers and to witness their sense of humor. Males and females travel separately in the wild and here, tooare separated here, but there is a corner of the system of pools in which the males hang out, eaves dropping and chatting with the girls in the nearby pool. At sunset, we returned to Key West just in time to watch the sun set over Smathers Beach.
We introduced Bev and Joel to Hogfish Bar and Grill, which we have frequented during our stay here. They serve the best fish and chips ever.
* After stumping the young docent with our question, a Google search revealed that clock works rotated the heavy glass Fresnel lenses, creating unique flashing coastal warning signals to seamen.
Our second week in paradise was marked with finding an island rhythm. The touristy highlights having been hit, we are beginning to slow down. These were the highlights:
Days lost to reading, crosswords, and conversation around the pool.
Boaty punch-list tasks, like polishing isinglass, removing rust, passing our Vessel Safety Inspection, and messing with the outboard motor again to finally determine that we need to buy a new one for the dinghy.
A solo escape for a haircut in Old Key West by a Hoosier stylist. We had an in-depth conversation about her girlhood experiences showing livestock at the fair!
Docktails with our dock neighbors from Evansville on Best Mate.
Two bike rides to Smathers Beach, one without and one with bike locks 🙄
Discovery of the nearby Cuban French bakery, which specializes in croissants—and toooo many tempting restaurants! It’s Steve’s and Mike’s mission to rate the Key Lime Pie at every one of them.
A Valentine’s Day dinghy flotilla “around the corner” to Hurricane Hole for lunch. After an unusually big lunch, we nixed our dinner reservation and enjoyed eclectic dining on leftovers, steamed mussels, and wild rice and edamame salad on Mike and Brenda’s aft deck. The girls whopped the boys at Bid Euchre AND Pinochle!
Here are photos of the dinghy flotilla:
Today we eagerly await news of our grandbaby’s arrival!….
No drama = Bliss. It was a boring week of exploring in the sunshine and seamless contentment.
With delightful cruises oceanside down the chain of keys, we arrived in Key West a day ahead of schedule. Some of our first looping friends, Mike and Brenda Finkenbinder on Velsignet, had arrived the day prior, and it is so much fun to be with them again. Right away they invited us for lunch on their flybridge, and we have been going back and forth all week. Afternoon exploring, early dinners followed by cards are the routine, but not the rule. Here are some of the sights we loved.
The Laundry Room
A Super Bowl Party
Emphasis on “Party,” the TV setup and arrangements complements of Mike and Brenda in the marina Captains’ Lounge. Twelve of us gathered, docktails style.
The Hemingway House
Hemingway lived here from 1931-39 and owned it until his death in 1961. The 1851 house sits on a beautifully-landscaped, one-acre property on which 59 cats, all decendents of Hemingways’ 6- and 7-toed cats, still rule. The house is simple but lovely, and features beautiful chandeliers and the first bathroom in Key West with running water. Hemingway’s cozy writing studio here is where he wrote The Green Hills of Africa and To Have or to Have Not. The docents enjoy regaling guests with stories of this renowned, colorful and accident-prone author, who struggled with bi-polar disorder his whole life. They particularly enjoy telling the story of the extravagant $20,000 in-ground pool which his second wife had built during the Great Depression. To make room for it, she tore down Hemingway’s boxing gym. She had always wanted a pool, but through it, she got revenge for his galavanting around Europe with another woman. This story and others are a striking backdrop as one views his hallowed writing studio lofted above the carriage house. Of course, the myriad of cats lend their unique zen.
The Butterfly Conservatory
Beautiful and calming. A sacred experience.
The Truman “Little White House”
Another walk through a snippet of history. The house was built in 1890 as the first officer’s quarters on the submarine base naval station. It was redesigned as a single-family residence in 1911, and Pres. Taft was the first president to visit. Thomas Edison resided here for 6 months during WW I while developing 41 underwater weapons. Truman’s struggle with depression was abated in the warm climate and away from the microscope and hostilities of Washington D.C., and he spent 175 of his presidential days here—more than any other president—as commander in chief of the naval base and in meetings with his cabinet. Continuity of his many accomplishments was prioritized here, but Truman enjoyed plenty of light-hearted camaraderie as well, including evenings around the custom-made poker table. Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Carter also spent working vacations here, while the Clintons retreated here for a weekend following their attendance at the Trumps’ Miami wedding in 2005.
Rum, Gin, and Vodka Tasting on Site here at the Perry Hotel
A distillation tour is always an interesting chemistry lesson, but the taste is not one I am work to develop anytime soon.
The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum
Full disclosure: Brenda and I shopped while the guys took in the museum. This tells the sensational story of Mel Fisher, who as an Indiana boy was riveted by Stevenson’s Treasure Island. He went to Purdue, came to Key West as a treasure hunter, and subsequently learned of a treasure-filled Spanish ship which wrecked 50 miles off the shore of Key West in 1622. After a 16-year search, and many losses and set-backs, Mel discovered the ship in 1985 with its $500M worth of treasure. The Spanish wanted it back. Florida wanted tax revenue. Others held claim for various and sundry reasons.But after a 4-year legal battle, the Supreme Court ruled that the treasure go entirely to Mel—and his lawyers! There are still artifacts—mostly silver coins—available for purchase today. Here we are, hearing more stories at a local jeweler which features sale of some of the last of these treasures.
We had arrived in Key Largo and had just finished washing the brine from the boat and were beginning to think about an early dinner. The smell of something hot arose, but of course, it wouldn’t be coming from OUR boat…. Then we heard the calls from people eating at the nearby waterside restaurant: “Your boat’s on fire!” From OUR flybridge, smoke was pouring from the electric grill. Steve grabbed the fire extinguisher from the galley, and I flipped off the switch on the main electric panel. Fire leapt up as Steve opened the grill, and it was quenched in a moment.
The cause?… two people who knew that there was a double switch system and, each, for reasons of their own,switched one switch, not knowing that the other person had flipped the other. Despite the mess, the inconvenience of yet another repair,we are counting our blessings. There will be no photos. 🥵