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?