February 4-5, 2013 – Key West

Monday – February 4th – Long before dawn, we left for Fort Myers Beach, picking-up Doug and Penny Frank.  Joining us were Ken and Cheryl who had driven down from Sarasota.

Our high-speed catamaran ferry,

was spacious, with some tables able to accommodate six people.

Shortly after sun-up, we left Fort Myers Beach harbor where both pleasure and working craft were floating on calm waters.

 

 Once out of the harbor, the captain advanced the throttles and the two-hulled craft surged through the water at close to 35 knots.

The early morning wind-chill initially kept the 300 hundred passengers below

I was fascinated to observe that, due to the catamaran hull structure, the boat tended to yaw back-and-forth, particularly while the auto-pilot system was in control.  About 3 hours into the trip, the color of the water began to change from dark blue to an aqua while the low profiles of the Dry Tortugas (a group of islands to the west of the Keys) began to appear.

Nearing Key West, sloops

 

and schooners glided across the approaches to the Key West Bight (harbor).

 

Entering the Bight, three large cruise ships were moored along the quay.

As our hotel was some distance away toward the east end of the island, we decided to rent a six-passenger electric cart.  Doug, our negotiator, was able to haggle the $330 two-day price down to a more manageable $200.

Of course, two of the seats faced toward the rear … and guess which couple “won” them?

Striking out from the pier area, we passed by one of the isle’s premier wine stores.

 

As it was now close to 1:00 PM and we could not check into our hotel for another two hours, we opted for lunch at

After checking in at our hotel, we drove back to the heart of the island.  As we’d all been to Key West in the past and toured the Truman Summer White House, Hemingway homestead and other tourist draws, we opted to spend more time seeing and walking some of the more popular areas.

Some of the architecture was what you’d expect of early 20th century upscale in the Keys,

other almost exquisite.

others colorful,

and some a bit more modest and even comical.

In and around Mallory Square, formerly the hub of Key West’s wrecking industry in the 19th century with its craft,

 

T-shirt and other touristy shops is also the home to some of Key West’s historical buildings, including the Key West Museum,

 

the remains of the the wrecking sloop Mary (constructed in 1863).

 During the 19th century, shipwrecks along the treacherous reefs off the Keys were numerous.  Local fishermen and spongers turned the misfortune of others into a livelihood by salvaging thes wrecks.

an old canon,

and a statue memorializing the men of the wrecking crews.

 

With the sun inexorably sinking in the western sky, we found ourselves a patio table at the Westin Hotel with a great view over the bay.

Over the next hour, what we witnessed was magical.

 

 Dinner consisted of cocktails, wine and assorted hors d’ouvres at the

 

On the trip back to our hotel, our electric vehicle began to slowly loose power  …  at which point most of us jumped off and began to push our only means of transportation … before it finally came to a complete stop in a relatively deserted residential neighborhood some distance from our hotel.  After trying unsuccessfully to contact the company from which we rented our vehicle and a walking survey of the surrounding area, we decided we were “deep dodo”.

However, Providence must have been looking favorably on our group of six stranded seniors.  Just as the suggestion was made to call the police, down the street came a police car which we flagged down.

Our sad tale of woe was greeted by a few chuckles by all concerned … including the individual in the cruiser’s back seat whom the policeman was presumably trasporting to the police station.

He did, however, track down a person from the rental company and called a cab for us.   Meantime, we abandoned our bright red vehicle behind a K-Mart.

Our substitute transportation arrived just a few minutes later and the cabbie joined in the “festivities” enroute back to our hotel.

 

Tuesday – February 5th – Unbeknownst to Debbie and I, the rental company called after we’d retired and not only retrieved our “dead” electric vehicle (on which it turns out had been done in by one of the drivers who’d inadvertently hit the “kill” switch) … but also pick up our cab fare and deliver a new electric vehicle to our hotel.

 

While we were now driving a white car, Debbie and I were still looking backwards … which gave us the opportunity to chat with cyclists, walkers, joggers and moped drivers as we passed one another.

After dropping off our luggage at the ferry terminal, we decided to visit the Key West Cemetery to see, among other things, a memorial to the USS Maine.  As the road dead-ended at one of the cemetery gates, the signs seemed somehow apropos.

 

Due to the elevation, all of the interments are above ground, some families crypts are interred one on top of another who passed on at an earlier date.  Situated on a small rise, the highest point in Key West, the 19 acre cemetery now holds the remains of more than 75,000 people.  The memorial to those lose when the Maine was sunk in Havana in 1898 was modest but moving.

 

From there, we visited the Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea,

 

 a Catholic Church whose fully-open side windows made the Nave and Apse bright and airy.

The iconic “Southernmost Point in the Continental US” buoy was next on our schedule.

Technically, however, the southernmost point should really be behind the buoy at the water’s edge.

Heading back to the center of town, we passed the Key West lighthouse,

a local mortuary with a warning sign to tourists,

One wonders how many of their “customers” bring their cars

Mile 0 on US Route 1 which winds its way for 2,209 miles to Fort Kent, Maine as it roughly parallels the East Coast and actually passes only 3 miles from our house,

 

and any number of bike and moped rental shops.

Lunch was at BO’s Fish Wagon

A place where no expense was made where siding and roofing are concerned.  However, the location was convenient and the food very good.

 

Heading back toward the ferry terminal to catch our 6:00 PM ride back to Fort Myers, we followed a “river walk” where modest-sized yachts,

a flotilla of dinghies,

and even a beautifully refurbished schooner once used to lay cable between the US and Cuba were on display.

 

While alongside the schooner, we were treated to a manatee basking under the exhaust water of the boat’s engines.

 

 After a low flyover by an aircraft of yesteryear

were trieved our luggage and boarded our ship.

As we headed out into the Gulf of Mexico, we were again entranced by another incredible sunset.

Anecdotally – As with many other destination cities, Key West is a Mecca for people watching.

 

 and, some people who think their pets are human and almost make even pet watching interesting.

Then there was one of the funniest jugglers we’ve ever seen in the flesh … and he performs on a 10’ unicycle.

Finally, no blog would be complete without glimpses of the local flora

 

 and fauna.

 

 

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