Monday, September 26, 2011

Pole Sitting

The US Coastguard maintains aids to navigation in US waters, but birds take advantage of them.

All over the place.

Cormorants are diving birds and they need to go deep underwater to catch the fish they crave.

To do that they can't have oily feathers because oil would make them too buoyant. So after they have lunched they need to dry out between dives before they get waterlogged.

They look goofy but cormorants spot their prey from high in the air and can dive deeper than you or I on one breath and they reach speeds higher than are legal on the Overseas Highway.

They swim like torpedoes these fearsome birds of prey.

Seagulls are known as rats of the sea because they are opportunists.

They are as nothing compared to the brilliant cormorants.

And there they all are, sunbathing, as any sun loving Floridian should be of a weekend.

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Winter Chill

The thermometer in the car read 75 degrees which is the kind of reading that makes my dog frisky, and it's the kind of low temperature that makes this sign rather ironic, not least because dry anything would have had to have been under cover considering the kind of rain we were having today.

I was somewhat foolish in that I chose not to check the weather radar and got out of the house with Cheyenne in the sure and certain hope of drier conditions up the road.

By the time we had reached Big Coppitt, Mile Marker Ten, it was clear I should have stayed home and given Cheyenne a lecture about how she doesn't enjoy walking in the rain. As it was I got that dose of determination that only the most foolish among us get: we had come out into the appalling weather to take a walk, and by God walk was what we were going to do.

However, in light of the fact the Key West traffic is worse than usual in rain, everyone loses what few driving wits they have in thunderstorms, I elected to take the more prudent path, for a change and we pulled off the highway at Mile Marker Five.

It was high time in my estimation that I added to my store of Stock Island street pictures. Which was a good idea but ambient conditions overwhelmed us. The camera fogged and got covered in large cold rain droplets.

Cheyenne, faced with a large puddle of limitless depth refused to jump out of the car until I stepped into it and proved it was no more than four inches deep, and quite cold by the way, and as she tugged and the camera fogged and my hair dripped water onto my glasses I gave up the struggle and as soon as I had picked up after my soggy dog we retreated to the car, drowned rats both.

Well, I thought, I've wasted gas and time and have nothing to show for it. Perhaps it's raining less at the bottom of the island, I hoped in my despair.

I have this theory that marinas express the damp misery of endless rain at it's worst, even in the tropics, and especially if you live on a boat, so I went to my favorite retreat, the Harbour Yacht Club and figured I could drive around and snap representative pictures of the wet from the comfort of the dry front seat of the Fusion.

Of course we ended up getting out of the car and with my camera tucked under my rain jacket, giving me the decrepit appearance of the Hunchback of NĂ´tre Dame as I leaned forward in an effort to keep the rain off the continually fogging lens, we shuffled round the marina my bedraggled dog and I.

A Suzuki 1100 with wiring problems sat in the rain with no dignity at all as it's headlamp dangled and wires sprouted from the most unlikely places.

Lee Way is a nautical boat name, appropriate perhaps, as it describes a boat's drift downwind which can be an annoying feature of a fat boat made wide and shallow to be comfortable but leaving it helpless when the wind blows toward land, which sailors call a lee shore. My apologies but it is a complicated language and trying to explain the pun of the boat name is rather silly of me. Better that than Fore Play or Breaking Wind which some drunken wannabe sailors consider to be suitable names for their boats.

A great bumper sticker, and new to me. Not that solar panels are much more than a nice pun on land around here.

Being a good neighbor is critical to a happy life when one keeps a boat communally in a marina. Dead fish don't belong where other people might put their possessions later.

Coconuts isn't a bad name if you like brown boats. I've seen reviews of this bulky steel trawler and it is a remarkable boat, shallow draft, filled with comfortable living and economical to move if you can afford to have it built in the first place.

Cheyenne got into the spirit of the rainy walk and dragged me along the walkway. I remember when this was wilderness and Peninsular Marine let boaters anchor in the lagoon and tie stern lines to the shore along here as a cheaper alternative to their slips in the main marina. It seemed a good idea to me.

I usually watch planes come in to land feeling glad I am where I am, but an Air Trans flight to somewhere sunny and dry was looking good about now. It's been feeling too much like Seattle lately around here.

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Bow Channel From The Sea

"Let's go and check out the KOA!" Wayne suggested, so we did. Captain Crabmore pointed the boat at the Bridge and there we were, in new waters.

We looked dubiously at the arches of the old Flagler Bridge and decided that rather than messing with the Bimini shade and taking it down to increase clearance, we had gone quite far enough up Bow Channel.

This was our destination, the Sugarloaf Kampground of America

Family fun in the sun, and this sort of camping will continue all winter long, with considerably more people in place. They are tough Keys visitors, for they swim in winter.

It was a perfect day on the water, a bit windy perhaps for open water swimming for wussies like us, but boats on the water seemed to be looking good from ashore.

A boat with no sun canopy could fit through the narrow arches...

...with no modification. Though running a bridge at higher than no-wake speed is neither legal nor sensible. It's where people wreck because they can't see.

The homes of Cudjoe Gardens look better from the water than they do from the street.

This is the Florida that dreams were made of when the middle class was permitted to dream.

I grew up in large homes, not on the water like these but they frazzled my mother no end with all the cleaning so I got an aversion to large. Besides which I am just a government servant so 800 square feet is plenty for me, especially after living on a boat.

Homes for me are like motorcycles. I look at big fast rides and wonder how often I'd have to change the tires and brake pads and how much gas it would guzzle and how many tickets I'd get. The smaller the motorbike the more I get to ride for the money. "It's more fun to ride a slow bike fastly than a fast bike slowly," is my adopted motto, especially where speed is relative. The same for homes, a modest little shack in a nice climate is excellent.

I look at these massive homes and instead of awe at their size I wonder how even ambitious successful people cope with the complexity and upkeep. And most of them are only used a few weeks in the year.

And with those and a few more reflections about a good boat, fine weather and decent company, Chuck, wearing his boating hat as Captain Crabmore drove us away from one paradise to another.

One last look back...

... Where we ordinary mortals get the pleasure of the view with none of the headaches of ownership of a slice of the American Dream. It is humble but mine own, my 800 square foot fish camp, on a canal far, far away.

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Elizabeth Street

Who, I ask myself has the patience to carve such intricate and lovely gate decorations?

Light and shade. I am pathetic, I guard my chilled air jealously with closed doors this time of year; others are stronger than I.

I am endlessly fascinated by the picket fence motif and Key West greenery spilling everywhere. I see scenes like this and I almost want to live in town.

I have a new bougainvillea plant and despite some iguana assaults is doing the best I have ever seen such a plant grow in any garden of mine. Not like this one but mine is getting bigger.

Who could resist the appeal of this scene?

And miracle of miracles, some people have money enough to keep these old buildings looking good.

And are willing to spend it. Key West has an economy all it's own, in a world gone mad.

Construction workers, the latest endangered North American species.

Cheyenne ploughs on regardless, enjoying her street walk and dragging me willingly behind her.

Soon it will be October and the dreaded Fantasy Fest will be on everyone's lips. For now it's quiet time.

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