Friday, May 1, 2009

Went Boating

I was making my way home from my disappointing visit to a crowded Tarpon Belly Key so I stopped at this point just south of the Niles Channel Bridge on Ramrod Key. There wasn't much there to recommend it, just dirt and mangroves:Had I had the forethought to bring along my folding chair this would have been a fine spot to pause and check out passing boat traffic:Or pick up some trash, though why anyone thinks an empty box of bait improves the nature of the place, I don't know:So I tried to focus on the positive, and in my search I came across a stick, which juxtaposes the warped nihilism of nature with the geometric simplicity of the abandoned bait box. Then I saw the faintest trace of a trail through the bushes and I abandoned my artistic pursuits and got back to exploration.I was wearing rather inadequate rubber shoes,highly suitable for walking the boat through the shallows- useless as snake protection. The reptiles were, happily, all in my imagination and the trail soon broke out onto a mysterious dirt roadway:But then I saw a wooden board which had lost it's message but I'm ready to bet dollars to doughnuts it bore the classic Keys greeting: "No Trespassing!" so I withdrew, deciding as usual that discretion is the better part of valor.Especially as I'm almost certain the road leads to the home of one reclusive homeowner with a commercial fishing boat docked close to Highway One. He's probably armed too, and all I had was my good looks. Besides it was hot.
The water was looking good and on my way home I decided to stop for a swim. First I motored past the Spottswood's island which has a couple of houses on it as a weekend retreat. In the newspaper they claimed they are selling the exclusive pad owing to lack of use but they speed up and down our street every weekend in spite of the claim. This island and their parking lot on Ramrod Key where they keep their caretaker's boat would set you back $18.5 million if you paid the asking price:I would miss the Spottswoods, were they to leave. I doubt Keys Energy would reactivate the electricity on my street quite as promptly after a storm, if the Spottswoods weren't there to get the level of service they are entitled to. Noblesse oblige, I guess.
Picnic Island, a small spoil island in the middle of Newfound Harbor, is surrounded by shallow waters good for dog and child walking, and deeper waters for those of us that like to swim. It also has a real, if minuscule beach and a fire pit and a great deal of solitude usually early on a weekday, say before lunch. Otherwise it is party central:

There is usually a whole mass of boats hunkered around the beach and as far as I can tell from my more peaceful perch it's a well behaved spot, drinking yes, but not crazy, no fights and at worst gruesome loud music which quite drowns out the peace of the natural backdrop. Yet a short distance away, upwind and in deeper waters one can still find protection from the prevailing southeasterly winds and hardly be disturbed by the party. On less windy days there are lots of private places to drop the hook......put up the dive flag and let out some anchor line......and go for a swim with nothing on the horizon to break up the view (in one's imagination) of the mountains of Cuba to the south. And in the fullness of time one returns home, a final ten minute leg in the skiff to the outdoor shower and a nap in the recliner on the dock, shaded by the mangroves:There was a time I used to think I might like to try living in Alaska, but I'm too old and too tropical to put up with all that ruggedness. Besides I like to feel the evening air on my skin as I watch the setting sun across the salt flats, on those evenings when I'm not at work. This reminds me why I like to live well outside Key West itself, my own private Mallory Square:Suburban living as it should be lived, rumpled bed and all.