"Good," I replied, waiting for more.
"It's by the water..." they said as though that should settle exactly which hotel it was.
It's rather the same way with marinas, there are lots in Key West and they are all on the water. Conch harbor just happens to be one of the more upscale ones. When I say "upscale" I mean eye-watering expensive.
It so happened I was an invited guest and as such I was carrying, as usual, my pocket camera, which meant I might as well take some pictures of this delightful place. I was a guest of Neil's crew Tim and Tiina and the four of us went out to lunch. Neil started out the meal by studying the choices in barbecue sauce at Turtle Kraals.
I had the shrimp po'boy, Tim went for brisket and the austere Tiina, dieting, enjoyed a fresh air sandwich. Neil was an engineer before he retired to the Santa Cruz mountains in California,where he developed a company that developed solar power projects. Nowadays he sails around on a 58-foot sailboat, picking up crew as he goes.Tiina, joined Neil in Cancun for the 360 mile passage to Key West, where Tim came to join his girlfriend for the 600 mile passage to Georgetown, South Carolina. I think a 58 footer is too small a space to share with a couple of lovebirds but Neil's mind was on his wife who was getting her retina re-attached in the nation's capital after a diving accident.Conch Harbor is on Caroline at Grinnell, a corner of lush landscaping and home to Prime 951 a steak house well liked by visitors to Key West.I came here once for a fund raiser but it's not really my kind of place, perhaps it is too plush or perhaps it is simply aimed at guests who seek amenity that is not of interest to me. Its a nice enough spot, no doubt.Swimming is okay though even if other forms of locomotion are severely restricted.This is the sort of place Hemingway would have found happiness I expect, much as he cultivated the working class stiff image, the adventurer portrayed in his books.This was the sailing boat (in it's $200-a-night berth) that came from Santa Cruz to Key West with Neil and his wife on board.All too often people forget to show the inside of the boat which frequently remains a mystery to people not used to going sailing. I thought a tour might be in order.Tribute draws eight and a half feet and spent low tide aground which is not something that would happen to sport fishing boats, the normal residents of this place. Looking down the hatch we see the chart table and nowadays that involved a computer as electronic navigation is the primary way to get around. I reluctantly embraced a lap top as a navigation tool and loved it immediately.My chart table on my 32 footer was of similar proportions but my catamaran had two hulls to Tribute's one. This is the main sitting area frequently called the saloon. The settee on this boat has nice square corners and vertical backrests which make for comfortable sitting though compound curves are more fashionable among people who don't sail very much but like interior design. The galley where the cooking gets done. Lots of counter space and a tight U shape to keep you in place when the boat is leaning and bouncing.The owner's bedroom at the back of the boat. Notice the black round fans above the bed to keep the occupants from suffocating in the tropics. This boat has central air and heat so the owner has lots of repairs and bills to think about. Everything you bring on a boat will break sooner or later. Sailors talk about B.O.A.T. units: Break Out Another Thousand. Traveling by sailboat is a matter of learning to fix your boat in exotic places at vast expense. Thats why Neil has a work bench, with a broken electric motor on it... The guest cabin forward to the left, which doubles as the library.The front of the boat, the pointy place is where there is the most motion and Tribute stores sails and ropes and stuff up there. Very sensible. Lots of boats put beds here which makes them impossible to use when the boat is moving.
The chart table showing the traditional paper chart of the Keys which will continue to reveal the boat's position after the computer breaks. (Remember: everything you bring on the boat breaks sooner or later). Tim is looking forward to taking off on his own boat when his 13 year old daughter flies the coop.Tiina plans to be there, perhaps not in a red, shore going dress. Me? I'm glad I did the sailing thing in my youth and I expect I will, most likely, do it again at some time in the future. For now I enjoy being ashore. Tim and Tiina were enjoying each other last time I saw them.
Tim called yesterday from Georgetown, South Carolina saying they had a great 72-hour trip, arrived ahead of the rain and Tiina wants more sailing in her life. All's well that ends well.