Key West cycle tour

by Glen

Friday 7 Jan, cruising days 41: Re-anchor. Cycle tour of Key West and Stocking Island, and wonderful evening out in the town.

Today is a special day for Oana, her “name day”. In Romania most people have their name day on a saint’s day. It is like a second birthday and the person should be treated. Oana jokes that I normally treat her special days with something like a rough sailing passage in nasty winds. Let’s see if I can arrange better today!

In the morning I take a swim over to where we thought the boat had been when we heard something brush against the hull, and surprise-surprise there is a wreck down there, with clearance just about the same as Cloudy Bay’s draft. It looks similar to the jalopies we see moored around us, only this one was allowed to sink. And loads of other junk down there too, scattered over the sea bed. Crates, cool boxes, old anchor chain, twisted metal pieces and all sorts. No wonder the Active Captain comments mention there is a 10% chance of catching something big with your anchor in Key West. Up till now the wind direction has been stable but it will change today and put Cloudy back over this spot. So it’s time to re-anchor. Simple task: – up anchor – move 50m – motor in a circle to check depths – drop anchor in the middle – reverse to tug it back into the sea bed.

Midday and we are heading into town with our GoCycles bikes. But no sooner do we get the dinghy all tied up when I realise I forgot the bike locks. Damn! So it’s back out to Cloudy again, leaving Oana to watch over the bikes. A guy helps me move some dinghies so I can get out, then asks if he can get a ride back out to his boat. Ok, so that was his ploy. Anyway, I take him and no surprise he is one of the “homeless boaters”, as the locals call them. I drop him off onto his tatty motorboat, which also has 3 dinghies and a kayak hanging off the stern. “none of your dinghies working then?” I ask him. “nope” he replies. “None of the engines work and the engine in the boat don’t work neither”. Classic! Another boat likely destined to Davey Jones Locker, for people like us to get our anchor caught into.
And to continue on this theme, when I get back to Oana she has been entertained by a similar hippy-like guy who is greeting all the dinghies arriving and telling nonsense stories to whoever will listen. Apparently, he says, there is a huge geomagnetic spiral over Key West, which has attracted him to come live here! Cool, eh? Wish we had known that!
Oh, and you remember I mentioned the only thing missing from this Marine-Hillbilly scene was a banjo player. Well, what do you know, on the dinghy dock today there was such a person. Wandering up and down, playing a beaten-up banjo, badly. So we just need the pig squeals now 😊

We start our bike tour down Duval Street to the southernmost point, then head east along the coast road, following the tour bus route. We pass some old forts, West Street Pier, old style hotels, an AIDS memorial (rather fitting we thought, given the number of gays here) and a very nice beach called Rest Beach next to Atlantic boulevard. At the end, where the airport is situated, Roosevelt boulevard comes to the end of Key West and turns north towards the bridge over to Stocking Island.

A fellow HR sailor had recommended us the Ocean Edge Marina & Resort located on Stocking Island. We had tried a to book a slip for a few days, but it was full. So we decide to cross the bridge and take a look. Once on Stocking and taking the back streets to the marina, everything is very different to the neat and affluent Key West. It’s disorganized, dirty, poor, and a mixture of industrial and trailer park living. All very rough. Eventually we get to the end of the road and enter the marina. There are barriers and a guard house but using our technique of “look like we own the place” we just cycle through, and security says nothing. Inside, we find the marina is far from full. Maybe 25% of the slips are empty. Obviously, they didn’t want our money, or these are all private slips that are not rentable. Either way, we are glad we didn’t come in. It wasn’t bad but certainly not glamorous enough for us to justify the ~$250+ a day to moor there.
On the way back we take a detour through an RV park where we are very impressed with the size and condition of the HUGE shiny RVs (camper vans to Europeans). But they are very tightly packing in there with barely 2 feet between RVs. We enquire and find it is ~$170 per night for a large RV. Pfff, right up there with marina prices. Everything is expensive here.

Once back onto Key West we attend some tasks in the shopping area. In the UPS store they have literally mountains of Amazon packages for return. All those unwanted Christmas gifts we guess. Then to Verizon to get a USA SIM card initiated before my UK Three phone provider shuts us off in a couple of days. And finally, to a pool shop to buy chlorine to shock treat our water system.

Back in the old town we cruise the streets a bit more then back to our favorite Ram’s Head bar for happy hour. Same nice atmosphere, same good value food and drinks. Mid evening, we are wandering the streets again trying to decide which bar we will land in next. Preferably one with nice music. The ones near the port are very loud and rowdy and others we liked were full.
Finally, we are attracted into a beautiful little boutique hotel bar called La Te Da where they serve very good cocktails and soon we are chatting with our bar neighbours. First set was a pair of ladies who had let their husbands loose for the night, and non-stop talked about what they might be up to. And the next, a couple who just flew in from Pittsburg where they left snow and freezing temperatures just a few hours ago. No wonder everyone looks so happy to be here. It’s summer away from winter.

Next to the bar, in the restaurant, there are a pair of singers performing. At first we don’t tune into them, but when we do we realise they are something very special. And when they are joined by a guy who looks like Jude Law, also with an incredible singing voice, Oana can no longer resist. We move into the restaurant and start dancing to the music along with the others. When Oana dances it makes me glow. I love it. She is spectacle to watch and soon the singers are almost singing to her alone! But sadly, we only get a few songs before they close down at 11pm. Shame we didn’t come in earlier.

Thankfully the dinghy ride back to Cloudy Bay was calm and we were in bed by 1am.
It was a great day and a special evening. Certainly one to remember. Good food, good drinks, good socilaising, excellent music, and for me, Oana dancing was like the cherry on top. I think she enjoyed her name day.

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