One thing about being in such an attractive town is that people want to come visit, not only to see us, hopefully, but to have a mini-vacation. At times, a "vacation from a vacation".
Neal and Monica hail from our old home town and were visiting a friend in Cape Coral when they jumped on the Key West Express and endured the three plus hour boat ride to come and see us for a quick five hour visit. Their daughter was here over New Years and we didn't get to see her, but Andi and her boyfriend bought Neal and Monica their Express tickets at a discount, so they decided to make the trip.
The boat is huge. Equipped with four Detroit Diesels that propel it to 40 miles per hour from Ft. Meyers. Neal and Monica stepped aboard Swing Set shortly after docking here in Key West Bight. We popped some icy cold Bud Lights, caught up on some news from "home", and set out on our walking tour. Monica had a list of souvenirs that she had to get for friends back home, so we visited many of the places that we hadn't yet been to in Key West.
Five hours doesn't last long when you're having fun, and it was soon five o'clock and time for them to get boarded on the Express for their trip back to Cape Coral. We packed them a care package of some Bud Lights on ice in a plastic bag. Rosie couldn't bear the good-byes, I held up rather well, knowing that Neal and Monica are frequent travelers and that we'd see them again, much sooner than we may see other good friends. The beers were most likely gone before the boat cast off at 6 P.M.
After we left them for our walk back to A-B Marina we made a couple of stops. Our last stop was at the White Tarpon where we had a light dinner of shrimp and a shared Reuben sandwich. "We'll have fries with the sandwich", I told the bartender.
"Only comes with chips", was his reply. The shrimp were tasty, but the sandwich came and I thought we were being served toast, the thing was so thin. On the side was the smallest bag of potato chips that Lay's produces, I'm certain. The only upside was that the beers were $2.50, but we won't go back, and I suggest you don't either. I like this power of the pen.
We are loosely planning for our travels to the Bahamas. That means I've started discussing the trip with others here on the dock, and doing some networking on the America's Great Loopers Cruising Association discussion forum. We've applied for our Border and Customs decal to place on the boat for our entry back into the United States. Re-entering the U.S. after traveling abroad is the most important issue. More important than leaving in the first place, I think.
Our application for Holly's entry permit into The Bahamas may or may not be making its slow way through the offices of the Bahamas Agricultural Department. We've got the wheels in motion for Holly's trip to a veterinarian in Marathon, and her subsequent certificate of health, which according to Bahamian Immigration policy, must be presented within 48 hours of receiving it. This may prove to be a major snag because weather could delay a crossing. Bribes in the Bahamas can eliminate snags, or so we hope. We may need to have the veterinarian office get creative in their paperwork, namely omitting her date of examination so we can enter a date that works for us. Where there is a will, there is a way.
We also need to decide on a port of entry. Ask five people where the best port of entry is in the Bahamas and you will get five answers. Bimini is closest, or Gun Cay, but checking in at West End on Grand Bahama Island will put us in the Abacos, which look attractive due to the many islands and anchorages that line the northern part of that island chain.
We've ordered two guide books from Amazon and we'll (me) start studying them. But guidebooks are not as good as a resource as simply talking to others who have been there.
We've been there too, but not by boat.
Our first time was for our honeymoon, which was in the preceding century. We went to Grand Bahama Island, and to a resort in West End. We wanted to leave before we even spent one night there. First, we envisioned a nice room with an ocean view. Why be on a tropical island without an ocean view? Our porter lead us to our room and the further we got away from the beach, I knew our room was going to be nested way back among the mangroves and trees, and it was. It gets better. We enter the room and resting comfortably on the two sagging twin beds were two very large Bahamian men happily watching a basketball game on the small color T.V. They barely acknowledged our existence and I told the porter to take us back to the front desk, we weren't going to be staying in this room.
Back to the front desk we went. I explained to Rosie on the way that the two saggy twin beds were bad enough, but the help was comfortable enough to use the rooms for their own personal crash pads and recreation, and the room was also way back in what we would now call "Kidnap City".
We were assigned another room, which I was assured was one with an "ocean view". I guess if you opened the drapes of a side window in the bathroom and craned your neck some, we could barely see a sliver of ocean from our room. I was already exasperated, but figured it could be worse. At least there wasn't a party going on in the room when we arrived. Well, it got worse.
At the crack of dawn, a small bulldozer started up, right outside our window. Workers began digging up a sewer line. I went out and asked them how long the job was going to last. "A couple of days" was the answer. Right. Nothing only lasts a couple of days in the Bahamas unless it's the time to get your order in a restaurant.
So, they don't work long hours in the Bahamas, right? By four o'clock we'd have peace and quiet for the night, and if we leave the room early each morning, we could avoid the noise. Yes, but you can't avoid the smell from an open sewer all night long. I was ready to leave.
We met three guys with a private plane that was heading back to Ft. Lauderdale and they offered to fly us back to the U.S. with them. As much as I was wanting to get out of the Bahamas, the looks they were giving Rosie gave me some reservation, and the looks they were giving me were more unsettling. The looks said, "This guy can be taken by the two of us who aren't flying the plane, and he is small enough to fit out of the cabin door without too much difficulty, for a long drop down to somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean." I don't like those type of looks.
We wound up staying put, and we met another couple having a similar bad experience, and we joined together and made the most of things. The saying, "Misery loves company" was very appropriate of our situation.
Years later we visited Paradise Island a few times. I have a cousin who once was married to a pit boss at what has become the Atlantis Hotel. We stayed on the Island and visited my cousin and her husband during a few of the days of our stay. That's when I learned how to lobster fish. They had a small boat and it was great fun. The beach on Paradise Island was full of pretty girls from the cruise ships and we had our first experience with a topless beach. This too was great fun.
Nassau, however, was dangerous then, and is even more so now. If we go to Nassau, we don't plan on anchoring out anywhere near there, or leaving the boat unless we are at a secure marina. I really don't see us visiting Freeport or Nassau. If we want danger walking around a city, we could go back to St. Louis.
Last week I used the Hookamax and checked our boat bottom for barnacles. What I found was some very small ones, easily scraped off with my plastic putty knife. I was probably only under the boat for a few minutes. Before I got under the boat I place my diver flag topside, turned the keys off, and posted Rosie as a lookout. A few days earlier, a diver was working under a boat when the captain started the boat and put it in gear, running over the diver. She is in critical condition and still may not live. This is a horrible accident and can easily be avoided. My safety training at the beer factory has perhaps made me overly cautious, but most accidents can be avoided by adhering to some simple procedures. Little slip ups can have devastating results. I may take chances, but for the most part, they are calculated risks, and we employ safe procedures when they are warranted.
With that in mind, we continue to plan for our diversion over to the Bahamas. Our adventure won't be complete unless we go there, as much as we are spoiled by our visit here in Key West and consider living here full time. But if things don't go as planned, we won't push it. We can always go next year if we think we are too rushed to go this spring.
In addition to planning for the Bahamas, we are also planning a route back to Marathon that will include some secluded anchorages along the northern side of the lower keys. We want to spend some time in Big Pine Key and get to know the area. It may turn out to be our next "favorite spot".