Full day in town

by Glen

Monday 10 Jan, cruising day 44, Key West: Visit Hemingway’s House, and more happy hour and live music.

Today there is a welcome lull in the wind which we must make the most of before the wind kicks-in again this evening when another cold front is due to arrive from the north.

I’m a bit concerned where we are anchored, if we are to get the forecasted 20 gusting 30kts of northerly wind tonight. On the chart we look very exposed from the north, so I go for a quick dinghy ride over to the anchored boats on the west side of Flemming Island, with a view to find a more sheltered place. On the way over I chat to a nearby boat, and he tells me they have ridden out a 30kts wind here with no problem. Apparently, the sandbank just north of us gives good protection from any waves that you might expect to build up. And on my way over to Flemming I run the dinghy firmly aground at full speed on that very same sand bank, and I get thrown into the bow. What a numpty!
Having paddled the dinghy over the bank and back into deep water, I finally arrive to the Flemming anchorage and spot what I think is a decent sized space to anchor. But when I ask an old guy on his small boat about conditions there, he tells me there is a wreck right where I planned to anchor. No wonder there is a nice space there! He also tells me there is up to 3kts of current passing here, which switches with the tides. That means we would get a wind over tide situation and be riding over our anchor chain. This is something I will always try to avoid. So that seals it. We stay put right where we are and tough it out.

Back at Cloudy Bay we quickly get ready and are soon heading into town armed with shopping bags. From the dinghy dock we take an Uber to Publix supermarket which is $14 for a 5-minute ride. Seems nothing is cheap here, and that includes the supermarket prices, which feel more like “island” prices than the USA. Luckily, we just need fresh produce: fruit, veg, meat and dairy so we are quickly through, with 4 bags full and $250 the poorer. No wonder the average worker here has to live on half sunken boats like a bum. Poor them.
Another Uber gets us back to the dinghy where we take our goodies back to Cloudy to get them stowed into the fridges.

And one coffee later we are back on shore again. This time we have a mission to visit Ernest Hemingway’s house. He was probably the most famous 20th century American writer. The house and gardens have been kept in pretty much the same condition as when Hemingway’s wife (I cannot remember which wife) sold it in the 1960s. We have a very interesting guided tour and we learn not only about the house but also the key points of Hemingway’s life. We can easily picture him with his daily routine in the house: breakfast on the veranda, morning in his writing studio overlooking the beautiful garden, afternoon out fishing, and evening trawling the bars enjoying not only a drink but also picking up stories for his novels, from the colourful people who lived in Key West at that time. And what life he had too. Active in WW1, journalist for the European campaign in WW2, a keen boxer, loved sport fishing, travelling and, obviously, a big weak point for women of which he married 4 in his relatively short life. Short, because in 1961 he took his own life, aged just 61. So sad. Anyway, all very interesting and especially that he was born in the same year as my grandmother.

From there we take a stroll heading to the State Park on the western end of Key West. From Google maps it looks interesting to visit because there is a well-preserved fort there from the civil war. But it is quite a long walk to the entrance gate and by the time we arrive the park is just about to close. So that will have to be for another day. Back in town we end up in our now familiar bar, the Ram’s Head, for yet more happy hour drinks and appetizers.

Now we have a choice, do we head back to the boat before the wind gets up, or stay in town and again see the wonderful singing duo at La Te Da Hotel, where they play every evening. Luckily Oana makes the decision. La Te Da it is. I say lucky, because it will now be on her if she gets soaked in the dinghy on the way back tonight! We settle at the bar just as they are about to start. But while their voices are still excellent, the audience is not so in tune tonight as it had been 3 nights ago. And this affects their energy and performance. We do stay till the end and enjoy the entertainment, but it’s a bit disappointing. Maybe once you’ve had a good experience, you shouldn’t expect to repeat it every time.

The ride back to the boat is in a cross wind of about 15-18kts. It’s a bit bumpy and we both get some spray, but nothing like as bad as expected.
As we go to bed the wind starts to howl through the rigging. Tomorrow will be a bumpy on-board day.

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Kari Viitala January 12, 2022 - 12:04 pm

I was a great admirer of Hemingway, when young! I was working in a German wine farm in 1961. The farmer invited me to drink some whisky in the farmhouse. There I herd in the radio what had just happened to Ernest. This just to tell you a story!

Allan Moore January 12, 2022 - 3:43 pm

Yes – Everything is expensive in Key West! Hope you find things less expensive when you get over to Mexico.

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