Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Citizens Voice

Oh look at that would you - a cruise ship - which is either a curse or a source of income or both depending on your point of view. And if you have a point of view there is only one place to express it, in Key West.

And once expressed anonymously in the paper your comment is subject to anonymous review, by other people with their own opinions...


Some comments are funny or ironic or sarcastic on purpose, others may strike your fancy for reasons that apply only to you. I like the notion that the bike racks are useful for people heavily engaged in yoga. But that's the kind of opinion that divides a city where workers work and visitors have different priorities. All grist for the Voice's mill.

Ah yes, the monied crowd taking over the spaces envisioned for the Rest Of Us. That theme keeps recurring in this narrow and pointed page two column in the daily paper.

Ooh, see why this has to be anonymous? The rich in Key West may not be educated. There's a barb!

This year there were a lot of people who came to Fantasy Fest by bus and left by bus with their food and their coolers. So much so not all hotels were full they tell us. This scenario is what irks some people about cruise ships and now the buses are adding weight to that irritation.
Noise comes up in one form or another in the Voice, motorcycles (I have factory mufflers on mine thanks, stealth = speed in my book) outdoor televisions and rental house parties are sources of anonymous complaint.
If you were thinking living in a confined space with people not yet acclimated to tight living quarters might be fun, perhaps checking the Voice daily might be a good lesson for you. I've lived on boats long enough to learn the basic rules of privacy in exposed living quarters and Conchs are pretty good at it too. But incomers who expect offsets and room to spread out can be sorely disappointed.

"A classier town..." I want to ask Anonymous to define her terms because a lot of people who live here crank up the Model T to go Up North to find proper shopping in malls. This comment below made no sense to me (hence it's inclusion here) but that doesn't mean a thing. The Voice is the Voice and the best thing is it irritates some people to death. Calls to shut down the Voice appear from time to time especially when the comfortable have been afflicted by something said.

I can't think of anywhere that looks less like a giant shopping structure filled to capacity with artificial sights, sounds and merchandise.
Politics rears its head from time to time in the Voice, but unfortunately its usually along predictable partisan lines. This comment "at the risk of sounding liberal" struck me as pretty funny. I guess the conservative half is the beer pong half? You know where I fall as I have no idea what beer pong is.

Or, rather than paying to park why not ride two wheels.

Oh wait, how about this comment? A liberal bastion of boredom? Boredom and politics mixed together. Shall we get personal and decide if liberal bastions are more boring than conservative ones? Packs of phonies we can all agree on, I hope, as it's Key West we are talking about.

Check out the comment above...length of service in Key West is always a precursor to a snobby elitist remark about some damned thing or another. EXCEPT in this case I vote the county deny the race a permit. But I doubt that will happen.

Well said!

However part of getting and having a life is a well honed sense of civic duty...which includes speaking out! Long live the Citizens Voice.

Ah, the intimacies of small town life. Good job Dana and don't forget next week Mr Cranky might be in the post office ready to slander your good name just as cheerfully. Sic transit Gloria Mundi....

I assure you it's like they say about economists, if you put them all end to end they'd still never reach a conclusion. But it's always the best read in the paper. Now if they could put a humorist back on the crime report, à la Tuell, that would make for real competition when you open the page.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Riding Key West

I've collected a few pictures some taken recently and some older to remind us all of the chaos that is coming with the winter months.

Helmets in Florida are optional for adults over 21 years of age and in Key West most people take advantage of the law. I don't think its unreasonable in light of the fact that we have no tax payer funded single payer system so breaking your head may very well break your bank, not mine.

Sometimes I ride without a helmet but I rarely ride without gloves or shoes. The fact is people depend on their two wheels, not because they love to ride but because scooters are cheap and efficient so the idea of togging up in armor plate to get to work or the shops or home is far from their minds.

This easy going attitude to riding drives people from elsewhere crazy sometimes. I think there can be a little too much stress on the notion that passive safety is more important than active safety.

Which is not to say these flip flopped riders don't sometimes ride drunk, or get into wrecks and from time to time break their heads.

Tourists on rental scooters are another proposition altogether because they, like their pedestrian compadres tend to treat Key West like Disneyworld- a place where nothing bad is allowed to happen - and where we who live here are extras in the drama of their lives.

Key West makes for a lovely back drop for vacation pictures and the heat even in winter can overwhelm people not used to it. What seems like a fresh humidity-free winter afternoon to me seems cloyingly hot to someone who was in a snowdrift 2 hours earlier.

I like how bicycles and scooters are daily transportation in Key West used to get dogs to the park, groceries home from the shops. I see renters enjoying scooters on their visits, and riding bicycles too but these pleasures they don't take home with them and start a new way of traveling at home.


Monday, November 23, 2015

Cold Front

From the National Weather Service:

In the wake of a strong cold front, the coldest temperatures of the season will impact locations from New York and southern New England down to parts of the eastern Gulf Coast. In fact, the freezing line Monday morning is forecast to surge south of Atlanta all the way to the central coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Temperatures will warm a few degrees for Tuesday, but still remain 5 to 10 degrees below average.

It's a sad fact of life but I am used to hardened Inuit making fun of me when I talk about cold weather in Key West. The good news is that I do from time to time enjoy seeing people from Up North brought to their knees by temperatures they pour scorn on from a distance. 60  degrees in Key West is for some reason, possibly the humidity or the uninterrupted wind, a frigid temperature when one is obliged to live through it. 60 degrees American (15 Canadian) is actually quite cold, and though it's not supposed to get that cold tonight, we face the first solid cold front of a winter that meteorologists promise us will be colder than normal, whatever that is. We have lots to look forward to apparently before next summer.
I do not enjoy cold weather and for me anything below 70 degrees (21 Canadian) is cool enough so tonight's possible 68  degrees is starting to look uncomfortable to me.


This is after all a city where outdoor living is not meant to be boxed in, where opening up windows and doors is part of the pleasure of winter, where skies are blue and the sun shines is an all year phenomenon.
The fact is that the Lower Keys are not in the tropics, the tropic of cancer runs through the Straits of Florida 60 miles south of here and in winter even properly tropical Havana gets cold gray weather from time to time just as we do.

Mostly cloudy, then gradually becoming sunny, with a high near 76. Breezy, with a northeast wind around 20 mph.
Monday Night
Mostly clear, with a low around 68. Breezy, with a northeast wind around 20 mph.
Isolated showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 76. Breezy, with a northeast wind around 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Tuesday Night
A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 70. Breezy, with a northeast wind around 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

 So much as one might prefer to spend all winter in t-short and shorts, there are occasions from time to time when we must adapt. Socks are de rigeur when Jack Frost strikes.
One hears stories of homeless Americans freezing to death Up North, and how they cope in the snow filled states and Canada I can't imagine. Key West has  beds for the homeless but when it gets cold or wet they tend to fill and some street people just prefer to be left to cope on the streets. In a town where frost has never been seen a cold snap is not exactly life threatening. I don't think pets or humans should be outside but they haven't yet  voted to make me dictator so cruelty remains a viable option.
There are people who dislike heat and humidity and mosquitoes, inexplicably, and they revel in snow and ice and the misery of short days and long nights and the rick of death by exposure. A while back someone sent me a picture of a car with a Key West sticker, and I wonder if they were wishing for warmer weather?
My young colleague JW saw  snow in 1997 once in North Carolina when he was nine and he says he loved it. Not sweating and sledding made his young heart sing. When I told him my wife was going to be in freezing temperatures this week in Northern California his eyes lit up with envy. Man, he said, I have to go and stand in the freezer rooms at the grocery store to feel that cold. I miss cold weather.
My buddy Nick also grew in Key West and last saw snow in New York last winter. He is another pervert who likes snow. He wears the badge proudly saying snow gives him a thrill. He likes to be cold. What is wrong with these people?
I don't know how cold it will really get tonight and over the course of the next few days. The run up to the cold weather was magnificent heavy rain and roiling black cloud and strong west winds that lasted for days, a surprisingly powerful precursor to the cold front. Typically it gets hot and humid and winds blow out of the south and swing round rapidly to the northwest which brings clear skies and cold temperatures.  
Perhaps it really will be cold enough to get us looking like these file pictures I took in winters past, socks, jackets, hats, hoods and maybe even gloves. A lot of people don't have heat in their homes and when it gets crisp around here people start to lose their resistance and everyone starts to sniffle and hack with winter ailments. Pathetic I know, but true.
Personally I'm fine with it being 80 degrees (26 Canadian degrees) and sunny all winter long. If I wanted it cold I'd live in St Augustine. I don't need it thanks, not that the gods are listening to me. My ideal, of which I never get bored:
This nonsense makes Richard in Fairbanks' heart sing:

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Key West Dinghy Dock

First published April 10th 2009 I figured this isn't a bad time to put this essay back up as pretty soon winter  boaters will be by and this place will fill up behind Turtle Kraals...

Dinghy Dock

It's behind Turtle Kraals, the dinghy dock that serves the anchor-outs living on the hook off Fleming Key and around Christmas Tree Island (named for the Australian pines that flourished there), known to chart makers as Wisteria Island (named for a ship that foundered there years ago).
The one big issue that faces people who travel on boats is where to park their dinghies when they put down their anchors and want to go ashore. For those with money one of the attractions of stopping off in marinas is the ability to tie up to the dock and simply step off the boat. For those who don't want to spend, typically between $30 and $100 a night (for a typical 30-40 foot liveaboard boat), but a night at anchor is splendid. It's self sufficient, it's got more privacy, better scenery and it's FREE! Then there is the problem of how to get ashore if you want to go shopping or see the town or buy spare parts.Things are always breaking on cruising boats and finding parts is a constant issue. So it is that towns that have boating populations frequently offer dinghy docks. Key West has two official such docks, one at Garrison Bight and this one, more downtown behind Turtle Kraals restaurant and bar ($6 a night or $80 a month, no dinghies over 12 feet in length, trash, showers and water included).I wander along the waterfront from time to time and I watch the comings and goings of the water rats, many of them youngsters, some of them retirees and a very few in between, and I can't say I envy them, though I remember my previous life fondly.I still have opinions about which dinghies make the best vehicles to get ashore, and they fall into two main camps. The inflatable dinghy made of hypalon or some such material:Difficult to tip, easier to stow sometimes, surprisingly tough, though difficult to row. Or there is the hard dinghy camp which I think frequently ends up being the choice of the boater who lives firmly in one spot and rarely moves the "mother ship." Not generally what I call a "sailor" but more of a a liveaboard:One of the observations I have made over many years of living aboard and cruising is that a person's mobility is in inverse proportion to the size of the dinghy. If you see a small sailboat with a large well equipped hard dinghy hanging off the stern you can bet they haven't pulled up the anchor in a long while. There is a form of snobbery among boaters about these things and people are always being judgemental about each other in the way humans tend to be. My wife and I belonged in the inflatable dinghy camp and on our Gemini catamaran we had what we considered an excellent solution for transporting our dinghy:Some sailors think hanging the dinghy off the back of the boat in davits is dangerous at sea, but like I said everyone in the world of boating is a critic. This picture was taken while cruising the north coast of Cuba and we had hauled the dinghy from Santa Cruz California, off the back of our Gemini 105 without a problem. Some people with large boats have large dinghies. I remember being anchored in San Juan Del Sur in Nicaragua when a very large "gin palace" was visiting the town and we felt like peasants when the crew of the big motor boat stepped off a dinghy two thirds the size of our 34 foot (11 meter) catamaran. They had a steering console on their dinghy, but that's a rare feature for we the little people. I found on at the dinghy dock on a regular sized dinghy:Living on a boat at anchor appears glamorous to land lubbers a lot of the time, but when you look closer it takes effort and energy and organization to do it well. You don't want to forget anything on your shopping list because in that case you do without.And you may be anchored half an hour from the dinghy dock across cold choppy waters...On an afternoon when skies are gray and the temperature has dropped to 70 degrees (20C) you might miss the comfort of a commute by car:And while we are pointing out the most romantic parts of living at anchor let's not forget "dinghy
butt" which is the experience of getting your backside soaked while traveling to or from your boat. Going to the boat isn't so bad as you have (I hope) clean dry clothes on board. All you have to do is strip, rinse and hang your underwear on the lifelines right between you and the sunset you wanted to admire. Coming to town "dinghy butt" is a whole other world of hurt. Imagine walking all day, shopping, going to the movies, sitting on a bar stool, or even standing at work for eight hours, with a salt water rotted crotch. Yes, you can pump out your dinghy all you want but that one small, mild mannered wavelet will leap up three minutes from safety and dump salt water all across your nether regions.Then there is the problem of dinghy motors. Hardly anyone rows any more, and even though some still do almost all anchor outs rely on small, two and increasingly, four stroke motors. Which don't always start when they haven't been cared for properly:See, there I go being critical. Actually she sounded a little miffed too when she hissed: "Just get it started!" he was commendably restrained just pulling the rope in silence until finally he was rewarded with a grudging, choking cough. I'll tell you what though, if he doesn't get it sorted and reliable he will be single handing soon enough. This guy appeared to be single handing already and he was working on a recalcitrant old British Seagull, the original two stroke outboard motor developed in World War Two. And notoriously unreliable:Actually they are very dependable if serviced regularly and treated with the care a small engine deserves in a harsh environment. If they won't start they are horrid, as the starter rope has to be wound round the flywheel for each try:He too suffered in silence, pulling away and guiding his dinghy with his paddle between pulls:He was smart, though, or experienced because he carried alternative propulsion with him, even it was just a paddle. A dead motor is crippling especially in Key West harbor waters which have fierce currents and lots of assorted traffic. Eventually he buzzed off as can be seen further up this essay. There are rules about what you have to carry including lights, fixed in this case though an all-round white flashlight will do if your dinghy is slow, less than seven miles per hour (12km/h):You need life jackets and flares to be legal and registration if your boat has a motor in Florida. And if you don't you can expect to get stopped by the Marine Patrol, known these days as Florida Fish and Wildlife and get fined if you aren't in compliance. Occasionally Key West PD gets in on the act too, and because Key West is, effectively, a border town the feds are here in force, every letter of the alphabet soup, DEA, FBI, JIATF, and no doubt CIA though I'm sure they couldn't care less if your dinghy has lights or valid registration. Naturally anchor outs fancy themselves rebels so they make a point, many of them ,of flouting this or that. I always preferred to fly under the radar and not draw attention to myself. Which is why I still have factory mufflers on my motorcycle. I am a milquetoast rebel.
Once you get used to the idea that many working people live on boats you can get to recognize them by certain signs they give off. Live aboard boats need electricity so some have wind generators like this:Others have solar panels like this, in Gun Cay, Bahamas, though they work fine in a marina too:Bicycles work well for people who live at or near the docks and boaters tend to prefer small wheeled fold up bicycles thinking they are easier to carry in the dinghy:Which they are but they are never easy to get back on the boat. Plus they are cumbersome to store in most boats and end up living on deck and rotting away...that's my opinion and I'm sticking to it! Liveaboards are identifiable too, certain clothing choices, a certain swagger perhaps because they think they live a cool "lifestyle" which I suppose they do:"Be safe!" she called out as though the dinghy ride to the boat is less safe than a roadway commute, a touch of the high seas adventure for people who's boating tends to be limited to the harbor waters. That became the problem for me. Living on the boat and working a job turned the boat into a parked vehicle, too cluttered to sail, too tired to clean up and take off. Now I live in my house I go out on my little boat far more than I ever did when I lived aboard, even in a marina, and held down a job. For youngsters and would-be adventurers the big back pack, the small boat and the envious stares of the land lubbers make it all worthwhile: