Monday, November 29, 2010

Picnic Island

It has been a delightful winter so far, a mixture of low humidity and bright sunshine, evolving into warm summery days with scattered rain, winds coming and winds dying down. And in the end one has no choice but to untie the boat and cast off. So we did.The canal was empty of traffic for the most part but even when one meets the occasional boat it's wide enough to pass easily enough in our little 14 foot long skiff.Flat waters, bright sunshine and a picnic with our goal in sight across Newfound Harbor from the entrance to our canal.It's a five minute ride across the protected waters of what is in fact not strictly speaking a harbor but a large basin protected from almost all directions by land. In the middle of this boating pleasantness lies a small sandy island, the result of dredging to clear a deep water channel up the south side of Newfound Harbor.The early hours of a Sunday morning are the perfect time to tie up at Picnic Island for the rest of the world is either on it's knees invoking God's favor or on it's knees trying to recover from last night's over indulgence. By the afternoon a few dozen boats, perhaps many more will be out here splashing anchors and playing loud disjointed music.
It's a popular spot, deservedly so with a fire pit, ...and a grill and lots of shady sand to set up a picnic table and a couple of chairs and spread out with a thermos of something hot to drink and a newspaper to read.
Some enterprising people have planted palms on the island and by dint of careful watering they have taken root.
They are actually part of an elaborate monument to a former visitor.Every dog is a bestest dog so the sentiments strike a universal chord.Picnic island is a delightful spot, more so in summer when the waters are warm enough to swim. Right now they won't see 80 degrees again till late April, so we prefer to look at them rather than submerse ourselves in them.Cheyenne's picnic is a dollar smoked ham hock from Winn Dixie. These things keep her occupied for a few minutes, time enough to eat the sandwich my wife prepared, Canadian bacon and egg for us humans.This is my idea of heaven, no noise no obligations and the gratitude of a wife who had forgotten how pleasant this short boat ride is from our house.
Cheyenne needs a walk and she doesn't much like to go alone. I get to watch her cool off at the north end of the island, 25 paces from my tea cup.The island can be made to look huge with a small angle on the camera.There's not much going on at Picnic Island at the best of times but the waters around it are teeming with life even early on a Sunday.
It's winter so sailboats are moving around more with the diminished threat of hurricanes and the cooler temperatures. Fishing is always a fashionable activity.
This hovel craft has been hanging out by picnic island for a long time. Noise is a trade mark with a loud radio at every opportunity. It is possible to live on the waters of the Florida Keys and not be bothered by anyone. It is a rather aimless existence I should note, having done it myself.I prefer traveling to vegetating when I am living on a boat. Highway One is visible in the distance, the northern perimeter of Newfound Harbor.The southern tip of Ramrod Key is covered by a small island known to it's owners as Coupon Key. The Spottswoods have listed their slice of Paradise at 18 million dollars if interested. Power and water are piped to the island across the mangrove swamps but human access is by boat. The nice thing is we who live on their side of the canal get our power restored first on Ramrod after an outage. The Keys are nothing if not subservient to the moneyed class.The residents on Ramrod on this side of the island, the eastern side of the main canal, get to run their generators a little longer than those of us on the western side. I had no idea when we bought our little tree house in 2005. Power outages define who we are I suppose. Mind you, this lot have pretty nice views out across Newfound Harbor.Little Palm Island marks the entrance at the south side of Newfound Harbor.And back around to the southeast we have another small mangrove island. Of the three island blobs in the water in the middle of Newfound Harbor only picnic island has sand. The others are just a mass of mangrove roots.When my wife and I sailed back to Key West after our final cruise to the Bahamas in 2002 we stopped here for our last night before going home to Key West. We often remark we had no idea we would end up living in a house here. It was Emma's last sail before she sank into old age and illness forcing us off the boat and into a house. I had that SPCA yellow Lab for 12 years and together we crossed the country four times visiting 23 states and we sailed the length of Central America visiting every country between California and Florida from Colombia to Cuba. Her last night at anchor she spent here. Three years later she was dead, and I still miss her.I have to confess I am not a great fan of black and white photography, not for the kind of pictures I take, but I was playing with the camera as Cheyenne sniffed around. It's not exactly Clyde Butcher.Time to go; people to see, things to do. The water is quite shallow off the beach itself.
Back to our channel.
Cheyenne was ready to get home too.Up the canal......past sunbathing neighbors...
...swimming iguanas...To home sweet home.The tide was high enough I could lift Cheyenne onto the dock. If the tide is out I nuzzle the boat into the mangroves alongside the dock and Cheyenne jumps out and runs up to the house under her own steam.One last look down the canal and its off to do some chores. Laundry anyone?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Rest Beach

"Bloody typical," I thought to myself, " it's time to turn Rest Beach into a public dormitory once again."Give me a con leche and twenty minutes to drink it and the chances are I'll ride down to this particular beach and spend my break looking south over the water at Cuba ( which lies below the horizon in case you thought Cuba is visible from Key West).I have frequently articulated my lack of fascination with wild chickens on the streets of Key West but as nuisances go they don't rate very high on my list of irritants which wouldn't be missed. Rest Beach is on Atlantic Boulevard, the thoroughfare that extends the Smather's Beach bike path almost to Casa Marina. As a result I also get lots of opportunities to photograph people cycling, which rates almost as high in my book of interesting things to look at, as naked women's breasts.The sight of people enjoying a leisurely pedal in mid winter dressed in nothing more elaborate than a t-shirt expresses to me one of the pleasures of daily Key West living. Naked women are just fantasy objects of the troglodyte element that reads this blog (stand up riepe, blame it on buffett, CPA1234, buffalo bill and bobskoot), bicycle riders are showing us the way to a new and happier future. Oh and coconut palms.Rest Beach used to be the place where they slaughtered cows brought over from the herds on Stock Island and the myth is you can still dig up bovine jaw bones and the like from ground. Hurricane Wilma worked a number along here in 2005 (before I was blogging else I'd have taken pictures of that cataclysmic event) and the city doggedly planted and molded a new landscape along this narrow strip of dirt. The landscaping has paid off and the little waterfront beach is lovelier than ever. The sea oats, those stringy plants that keep the beach erosion in check, are stronger than ever.
Cheyenne frequently enjoys just sitting as part of her walk. She's a dog that enjoys watching the world go by and I like to give her the time she needs. I hate seeing dogs hurried along when they get their brief outings to see the world.
I think living rough has to be the dullest most endlessly boring way to spend your days. Nevertheless we get lots of them in winter in Key West and Rest Beach is a favored hang out.
Name? Rank? Serial number? I am botanically clueless but they look pretty.
Coconut palms get lots of support in he pages of the paper from people who think that they represent Key West's tropical aspirations.
The more practical among us know they require endless work (non natives of all species are like that) and maintenance. The bicycle path is well used:
Some people are too smart to use the path and prefer to share the road with cars, the spandex and helmet crowd that is in too much of a hurry to amble among the cycling amateurs.
This winter's chosen cause to bitch and moan about endlessly in the Citizen's Voice is the parade of jet skis circling the island.
As annoying as they are banning them seems rather drastic but we live in an age where the more we crowd the space the more rules we have to pass apparently. Cheyenne is an object lesson in living peaceably with other species.
Behind the cyclist pictures below are the red earth bocce courts. It is quite the scene in the hours of darkness when the tournaments take place. I doubt they would much care to be photographed though one day perhaps I shall pluck up the courage go by and get yelled at for having a camera.
A family headed to the White Street Pier just before sunset.
Classic Key West cycling, cheap one speed cruiser, a basket and you have what you need and no more.
In mountain bike form:
Rest Beach, always a good place to take a break.