Dick and Gayl's Cruising Adventures

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February 9-10
A Visit from Roxanne and Lenny
We spent a wonderful Great Loop summer cruising Canada and Lake Michigan with Roxanne and Lenny (on Summertime).  They are spending land time in Venice, Florida this winter, and detoured all the way to Marathon for a brief visit with us.  We picked right up where we left off, and had a grand time, riding our bicycles to the beach, drinking beer margaritas, and playing Rummikub.  We can always count on Roxanne for a creative project idea, and she had us collecting coconuts to paint for authentic Keys kitsch.
Our neighbors recommended one of their favorite breakfast spots to us, promising it would live up to its name -- The Stuffed Pig.  We knew it would be good when we saw it -- a little cinderblock place that was last painted about a dozen hurricanes ago, with a parking lot full of cars and pick-ups with local plates. We got seats in the courtyard at a cement patio table beneath a tree hung with metal fish and gallon freezer bags filled with water. We wondered what the water bags were for, and our server told us they repelled flies, because they don't like to see their reflection in the water.  This was a new one for us, but we vowed to try it on our flybridge next time we hit a plague of flies.
We chanced to be at the Stuffed Pig on the day they were giving awards to people who entered a contest to name their five foot tall fiberglass serving pig statue.  The winning name was announced -- Willie B. Bacon.  The runners up were also recognized (Sir Ham Sirham was our favorite), and all constestants and the wait staff were photographed with the pig by the Marathon Weekly press photographer, who appeared to have an exclusive on this breaking story. (Oh, and the food was fabulous, too.)
Roxanne and Lenny's visit was over far too soon -- they dropped us off at the boat after breakfast.  They headed to Venice, and we headed to the Pigeon Key Art Festival, held in a municipal park a short bike ride away.  Although the show only had about 100 exhibitors, the quality of their work was high, and we spent a long time browsing the tents, talking about works we liked with each other and the artists.  Outstanding live musicians were performing on the stage, so we bought fruit smoothies and pulled up chairs to enjoy the music for a while before leaving. Living on a boat, and using bicycles for transportation serve as great inhibitors to unnecessary puchases, so we left empty-handed. 
The show is usually held on historic Pigeon Key, but this year bridge repairs made that impractical.  We plan to visit the Key while we are here, so stay tuned for more information on this isolated spot that time forgot.
February 13, 2006 
After a seemingly endless stream of relaxing days in paradise, we decided to stimulate our minds at a library-sponsored lecture today.  The brochure promised, "Brilliant, irreverent radio personality and Key West columnist, Bill Hoebee will make us laugh with his trenchant perceptions about life in Key West."  Refreshments were served, beginning a half hour before the lecture, which ensured a big turn-out, and lots of punctual people observing the worried flurrying about of folks in charge as the lecture hour approached and Bill Hoebee was nowhere to be found. 
He showed up two minutes before the appointed lecture hour.  No worries, as they say here. 
He strolled up to the lectern, dumped a pile of magazines and pamphlets from a big manilla envelope, and explained that the woman who types up his columns assembled them in this envelope for him -- he doesn't save his stuff.  His lecture consisted of rifling through the pile, picking a magazine or tourist brochure seemingly at random, flipping through it to find his column, then reading it to us.  When he was done reading, he would just put the magazine back down in the jumble, so as the lecture went on, he spent more and more time shuffling the pile, looking for something new, and improvising as he looked.
We thought the mode of this presentation was more revealing about Key West life than any of its content.   
We watched the Westminster Dog Show that night, and found it refreshing and reassuring to see all those presenters who had prepared for their public appearance.
February 14, 2006
Valentine's day at the Beach
We had a perfect Valentine's Day, beginning with our favorite local breakfast, at Stout's.  As we approached on our bicycles, wait staff women were hopping out into traffic trying to wave cars over, using bouquets of roses like batons.  They had buckets and buckets of roses, along with an elaborate heart-shaped backdrop upholstered with red heart print fabric set up in the parking lot.  We later learned the backdrop was a kissing booth, and they were selling Valentine roses, kisses, and other romantic merchandise as a charity fund-raiser.  Given all the hubbub in the parking lot, we were surprised we could get a seat inside, but luck was with us, and we sat right down.  We just didn't dilly dally as long as usual over our New York Times, in consideration of the line that formed later.
We were happy to move right along, because the weather was perfect for a day at the beach, and we knew that spots in the shade would be snatched up early. 
We rode back to the boat, packed our bathing suits, books, and a picnic lunch, and were off in our dinghy to Sombrero Beach. We were not alone in thinking that the beach was a great place to celebrate Valentine's Day.  We arrived to find a garden of beach umbrellas sprouted on the sand.  Fortunately, there was still enough space under our big beach tree for us to squeeze into a shady spot.
While we sat in our sand chairs watching people cavorting in the turquoise water beneath a clear blue sky, wiggling our toes in the warm sand, Dick called the kids to see how they were doing in the severe weather we heard had hit up north.  Ice storms had downed trees and power lines, and made roads nearly impassable.  It was a bit surreal to be living in such an opposite situation.  The sentiment "Wish you were here" never resonated more strongly than today.
Last time we picnicked at the beach, we enjoyed the antics of a parrot named Kinky.  This visit, there was another fellow with a parrot on the beach. The man looked very much like a caveman from one of the Geico commercials, and his parrot was a bit smaller and less colorful than Kinky. Together, though, they did attract attention.  The parrot sat on a branch of our shade tree and did a few of his tricks, including saying "hello" and letting out a head-turning wolf whistle.  He seemed a little more articulate than his owner, based on our brief observations of their interactions before they left the shade of our tree to lumber on down the beach.

Adderley House

February 20, 2007
A Little History and Natural History
We started the day with a guided walk at Crane Point, a 63-acre tract of land of both historic and ecologic significance located just a few minute bike ride from our boat.  Crane Point may be the last intact thatch palm hammock in North America.  Our walk lasted from 9 a.m. until nearly noon, and along the way we learned about some of the aquatic life, plants, birds, spiders and butterflies here, as well as some of its history.
Bahamian immigrants George and Olivia Adderley bought the 32 acres that form the heart of the property in 1903 with money George made working on pineapple plantations.  It cost them $100, payable over three years.  The simple tabby house they built for their family in 1904-6 still stands on the property, and we walked inside, imagining how oppressive it would seem with all the shutters closed and smudge fires burning in defense against the plagues of mosquitos and no-see-ums that invaded in the warm months.  The Adderley house is the oldest house in the Keys north of Key West. 
The site was also used as a camp for workers building a seven mile long railroad bridge needed to connect the Middle Keys to Key West, the most challenging aspect of Henry Flagler's extension of his railroad from Miami to Key West. Known by some as Flagler's Folly, the 156 mile extension cost over $27 million and cost 200 workers their lives over the seven years it was being built.  Some say that the name Marathon came from the herculean efforts of the workers living here to complete the bridge.  They were racing against time, because Mr. Flagler, old and in poor health, was determined to ride a train on his railroad to  Key West before he died.  Mr. Flagler got his wish (as usual) -- he rode the train to Key West on January 22, 1912.  As he stepped off his private car in Key West, he whispered into the ear of the President of his Railroad, "Now I can die happy. My dream is fulfilled."  He died one year later.

Spiny Orb-weaver Spider

We saw lots of interesting plants and animals on our walk.  The water was so clear that we could just stand on the shore or a dock and look down to see colorful fish that we remember from snorkeling around here.  A new underwater creature that was beautifu to behold was called a Cassieopea, or Upside Down Jellyfish.  It looked like a many petaled white jelly flower tethered to the bottom, opening and closing its flower head. 
My favorite new land creature was a Spiny Orb Weaver, also known as a Crab Spider, because it looks like a tiny crab, the size of a pinky fingernail, with a smiley face on its back.  I had never seen one before, but after we were introduced to it, we kept noticing more of them.  We also learned that the big ugly Golden Silk Spiders, which are plentiful in our yard in Savannah, spin a web that has twice the stretch strength of nylon.  This is an amazing fact, but not surprising when we think about how hard we have had to flail to get their webs off our faces when we have accidentally run into them while doing yardwork.
I Do Laundry Keys Style
I don't do laundry often, on land or sea, but since Dick was busy cleaning the boat hull and I was running out of underwear, I decided to give it a try.  I put the bulging laundry bag and the Tide in our folding dock cart, stuck the bag of quarters in my pocket, and set off to the laundry shack, which is located just past the Dockside Lounge.  In other words, to get to the laundry facility, I had to haul my laundry through the restaurant, providing a little local color for the tourists dining there.  Last time Dick did the laundry, after putting a load in the dryer he returned to the boat with my still-wet-from-the-washer bra stuffed under his shirt.  He told me he was fine with doing the laundry, but drew the line at walking through a bar carrying a bra.
Anyway, when I got to the laundry shack, which holds three washers and three dryers, with a narrow aisle in between -- the table for folding laundry is outside -- all three washers were being used.  I got the brilliant idea of getting the bar's $2 drink special to drink while waiting for a couple washers to become available.  I went back to the boat to get some folding money and a book, and then bought myself a $2 Tropical Hawaiian and sat down at a patio table with a view of the laundry shack to enjoy my drink and wait.  Just as I was thinking about getting a second drink, the woman using the washers emptied them, and I got my laundry started. 
When I got back to put my laundry in the dryer, only one was available.  I filled it, and then one of our new marina neighbors came in to do her laundry, and we got to talking.  She and her husband and their dog were having happy hour drinks while doing their laundry, and she invited me to join them.  Just as I was heading for their table, Dick and our next-boat-neighbor Peter showed up for happy hour, so we all got drinks and had a convivial time waiting for the laundry.  I was feeling pretty proud of my multi-tasking abilities, getting up mid-drink to fold a load of laundry, getting the second load in the dryer while waiting for the next drink to come.  It was only when we were carrying the last load back to the boat at 7 p.m. and I remembered that I started doing laundry at 3:30 that I realized that perhaps I hadn't been quite as efficient as I originally thought.
Dick was thinking that doing laundry Keys style might cause me to take the job away from him. I think he has job security, especially since we only have another week or so here.

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