Monday, August 2, 2010

Home Sweet Home

"We're taking you out on the boat Sunday," Wayne told my wife. So we went.Ray was visiting from Dallas and he wasn't going to be left behind.
And even though Chuck and Wayne's dogs weren't coming, herself wasn't going to be left behind. She spent the entire trip out and back in the cuddy cabin, snoozing and occasionally opening one eye to make sure I hadn't stepped off. For me, this trip was a day off, a passenger ride in someone else's boat. For Chuck it was apparently a nerve wracking exercise in running a boat with visitors on board. Wayne was determined nothing should go the slightest bit wrong, so to protect everyone's identity we decided to call one of them Al, the other Fred and whatever happened on the boat stayed on the boat.
What happened on the boat was that we had a splendid day, the sort of day people pay good money to come to the Keys for. Five of us on the guys' boat had plenty of room to stretch and sprawl so we did, for the fifteen minute ride out to the reef. After we broke loose from Sugarloaf Sound it was wide open across a trackless, windless sea that California boats can only dream of.
But wait- before we got into open water Chuck had to show us how to navigate the mangroves and we all stood around and watched the master at work. Wayne supervised as the consummate back seat boater.
That's Sugarloaf receeding...
This is the mangrove channel, trafficked and busy on a Sunday afternoon.
A bicycle on the old state road is no bad way to get here, but I reserve those kinds of jaunts for winter when mosquitoes and heat are at a minimum.
Then power up again through the long straight portion of mangrove channel at 25 miles per hour.
Our destination was the light at American Shoal half way between Big Pine and Key West, a place I had never previously been. It was eye ball navigation across turquoise waters. Ray, silently observing the Keys he had never seen before, from the water, suddenly decided it was time to get out of the heat and into the proper medium. As soon as Chuck stopped the boat, he flipped off the stern.
After establishing there were no mooring buoys we found a sandy spot away from the other boats and dropped the hook.
And there we were. One for the straight boys. Wayne immortalizes the dude that steered us unerringly to this spot.We swam, we paddled, we talked, we took in the blue sky, the turquoise waters and the absence of sound. "We need tunes" Ray said at one point, "and noodles," giving my wife an idea for a boat warming present. "What's wrong with the peace and quiet?" Wayne asked. We pulled the anchor up after a good long while of vegging on the water and pointed the bows for home.
"You've got Marcello Mastroianni for a figurehead," I told Chuck and the wheel twitched as his heart missed a beat. Then he understood I was just remarking on Ray's remarkable resemblance. He's known Ray too long to mistake him for a movie star on vacation. We spotted a curiosity in the mangroves heading home. A boat secured and stripped for hurricane season. Nicely done. The mangroves will absorb lots of the energy in wind and wave produced by a storm.
Soon enough the boat had us back working our way by zigs and zags up the sound as Chuck effortlessly checked off the markers.
Highway One.
And home. The final challenge: stepping up to the corner dock.
Cheyenne was ready to be back on land after her couple of hours spent in the shade of the cabin. She is not a water dog.
My Sunday afternoon as a passenger continued into the evening as Wayne and Chuck waited on us hand and foot.
It was a very nice welcome home but I'd be afraid to get used to this. The captain removed one hat and put on the pizza chef headgear while Wayne whipped up sangria and roll ups for appetizers.
I was ready to pass out but by dint of sinking Yuengling I managed to stay more or less vertical and more or less coherent.
The pizza was a success, the sangria was refreshing, the ice cream filled me to bursting. Ray paused the proceedings with the prnouncement that he had never seen this side of Keys living. He had previously only been in Key West itself, far from the stunningly beautiful waters that surround the islands. "Makes me understand why people live here," he remarked. Home made and magnificent, lower Keys pizza is nothing to sniff at.
Now I know I'm home. You couldn't do this in Bend, Santa Cruz, Ogden or Wichita or even Birmingham. And even though a storm, the future Colin, is heading our way, the oil they promise isn't, so things couldn't be better.