April 23, 2014:
It had been 20 days, 5 overnight passages and 550 nautical miles, a busted Jenny shackle, a beat-down outside of Charlotte Harbor, and we were finally here – KEY WEST. We were ready to take that town by the cahones! All hail the fighting conchs! And, it seemed fate wanted us there. She’d been expecting us. Because the minute we backed in to our slip at the A&B Marina, we had a buddy there to greet us – Postal Bob! No, not because he is – or had ever – gone “postal,” because he used to BE postal. Bob retired from the good ole’ USPS and now sails his 34 Catalina down to Key West and beyond every year. A sharp sailor, super generous and knowledgeable about the area, and just all-around a great guy. Here he is:
Bob was the perfect tour guide for our first steps off the boat. He showed us around the marina and gave us the inside scoop on the best dives, the coolest beach bars, the marina and the facilities (four free washers and dryers and four locking bathroom/shower suites) – Suite! He also made sure to point out the place where they serve 50-cent oysters at happy hour. I mean … is there really anything better? You’re right – a cocktail … perhaps:
That was certainly on our radar. We spruced up immediately and hit the closest food joint we could find – Alonzo’s Oyster Bar – not 100 yards from the boat!
“We’ll start with mojitos and your oyster platter, please.”
The oysters were delicious – they did them up three ways on the platter – rockefeller, baked with garlic and parmesan, and buffalo style. The mojitos weren’t too shabby either.
But, that was, of course, just for starters. I mean, we HAD been sailing for about 30 hours. We were ready for a full-on, three-course landlubber meal. The catch of the day – Mahi Mahi – done two ways – grilled with rice pilaf and garlic green beans, and
in a juicy wrap with fresh tomatoes and some secret Alonzo’s sauce – YUM!
Full of fish and rum, we were ready to explore! We found the famous conch train tour and decided it was probably the best way to get a good layout of the island right out of the gate and learn some interesting facts about the architecture, tourist attractions and history of the area.
Our tour guide really cracked me up, though. He had the most smooth, buttery voice, and every old house or monument he pointed out in the town was “just lovely,” “divine” or “quite keen, don’t you think?” I would bet if someone lit themselves on fire on the back of the train and started jumping around, he would reply calmly, “Please be sure to contain your flames and exit carefully off the back of the train. Oh, and have a lovely day!” He cracked me up.
But, he was an excellent tour guide. Along the way, he showed us the Southernmost Point of the United States:
Hemingway’s House (that was definitely going on the list):
And some of the most picturesque houses on the island:
Once we had our bearings, we set out on foot and found Mile Marker Zero – the Southern End of U.S. Highway 1.
We also found some not-so-famous, but just-as-fun, monuments as well.
Oh my! Is that the REAL Marilyn, or are you just blowing smoke up my skirt?
Well, you know how us sailors like wind!
We walked to several end-points on the island just to admire the view of the coast.
It was particularly liberating looking out at the Southernmost Point – to look across the water and know the next dry shore was a-whole-nother country. Cuba! We had really brought our Niagara 35′ all the way to the southern tip of the United States. Certainly that was worth celebrating!
And, you know how the Crew of the Rest like to celebrate … that’s right. With a hearty drink! It was time to get sloppy!
We’d heard a lot about this place. Sloppy Joe’s Bar. It was apparently Hemingway’s Hangout back when he used to traipse around Key West, a sloshing drink in one hand and the wadded clutches of a fiesty chap’s collar in another. While we weren’t planning to get that sloppy (at least not yet!) we were hell-bent on stopping in to have one or two, or a few!
Sloppy’s was definitely our kind of salty, sea-bar place. It reminded me a lot of Pirate’s Cove down in our neck of the woods. You remember Jerry Garcia and the Riff-Raff?
We settled in nicely at the bar, and I found the “Sloppy Rita” suited me just fine.
And, Phillip had no qualms downing a pink drink!
Probably because this chick poured it:
How you doin’?
We had a great time hanging at the bar, watching the Key West wildlife and cheersing each other on making yet another successful passage. We ordered another round and then things got … well … a little sloppy:
Nice drunken pic!
Still upright and mobile, though, we decided to stumble on over to Mallory Square where the Captain knew they put on quite a carnie sideshow show every evening at sunset.
It reminded me a lot of Clearwater and the panty-dropping time we had there! It was literally just a few blocks from the boat:
With loads of street performers, tourists and lookie-loos. Total entertainment.
The sunset was “quite keen” as well:
It was a great first venture out in our new locale. Key West … What a sight! After watching the sun dip out of sight, we made our way back to the boat and decided to grill up the massive king mackerel we had caught on our way down there. You remember him:
What better way to honor the poor fish we’d ripped out of the Gulf than to haul him all the way to Key West and grill him up on our boat our first night there!
I guess you could call it a moveable feast!
The mackerel turned out excellent. The Captain grilled it to perfection and we just added a little butter and lemon. With fish that fresh, that’s really all you need. We crashed hard on the boat that night, thankful to have made the overnight passage safely to the Keys, and grateful to be, now, safe and secure at the dock, able to sleep through the entire night. No night shifts tonight! We had made it! And, tomorrow was going to be a big day for us. Day two on the island, Hemingway’s House on the agenda and a pretty significant leaf for the Captain to turn over. The big Four-Oh. So much in store!