Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Edges Of The Cemetery

Its hard to argue with the prohibition on dogs in the cemetery considering how inconsiderate too many dog owners are with their animals, however its a prohibition that does keep me out.
Which is a shame because the cemetery is an extraordinary repository of Key West history and it is filled with some very interesting tombs. They have to be above ground as the water table is quite high and does not permit in-ground burials. Consequently there are all manner of tombs in plain sight much more like a European cemetery than anything found in the US outside Louisiana.  
The cemetery these days finds itself in the middle of the city of Key West though it was not planned that way. In the 19th century a major storm dug up the coffins buried on the south shore of the island (and it was an actual island in those days, not a glorified peninsula as it is today) so the residents felt obliged to move the cemetery to a more secure inland location.
The spot they chose may seem eccentric today but at the time this area of Key West was open grazing land for farming, mostly dairy cows. Truman Avenue a block south of the cemetery was called Division as it separated the city from the open land.
Then as the city grew and expanded it gradually came to surround the cemetery that use to lie on the edge of the city.
It's a struggle to keep the place tidy and organized as the burial marks are well worn. They put up a solid fence around it but people still occasionally climb it at night to wander the cemetery which is a shame because as you can see it is still very much in use and family members come here frequently. LIke dogs, those vandals and thoughtless trespassers looking for a cheap thrill need to be kept out because not all know how to behave.
From 2013 LINK

Monday, January 9, 2017

Boca Chica Bay

Monroe County is slowly working to replace anchors with permanent moorings along the Keys. The idea is to imitate the City of Key West and the City of Marathon who both have implemented mooring fields in an effort to regulate this last form of cheap housing while also they say preserving water quality. 
 I'm not sure how much of the effort will go to preserving water quality in light of all the delaying tactics they used to get sewers installed in the Keys. Boaters are blamed for anchors tearing up sea grass as well a problem that never was  a problem when massive land development was carried out. Nowadays there is time enough to get annoyed by sloppy people on dirty boats cluttering up coastal waters. Not people enjoying the water underway but people living at anchor in unseaworthy boats.
You can see why people have managed to draw unwelcome attention to themselves. For anyone to describe the occupants of this hovelcraft as "boaters" or "sailors" would be bringing the terms into disrepute. These are people looking for cheap housing.
 Actually they are enjoying free housing. Which doesn't bother me as it does some taxpayers with an inflated sense of grievance. I am a proponents of living out of sight especially when you are choosing to be on the margins of respectable society so choosing to live in a junked out hovelcraft, a term coined by a sailing friend of mine, is away to bring critical attention on yourself.

 This is a sailboat that at least looks the part even if it never moves, and most don't:
This sailboat has a dinghy almost as large as the mother ship, which is an indicator of how important access to land is to the cabin dweller. S/He may never sail but they use the motor dinghy daily.
 All pretense of mobility is gone here:
 In this picture some seabirds have made a home of some wreckage, possibly a dinghy or a proeject of some sort:
 Clusters of boats form villages afloat sometimes, with solar and wind power providing the comforts of home:
Modern miniaturization has made life afloat much more like life on land. Mobile phones, satellites, microprocessors, all have contributed to he production and consumption of reliable electricity with little weight and no heat. It's amazing when you think about it.
Some boats look like the products of a depressed state of mind. It happens that boat maintenance, much reduced by the introduction of fiberglass and plastics gets away from the would-be adventurer and it ends up looking like this:
The tent-like awning on this sailboat makes raising sails a much delayed job so they never get raised. The cabin is tiny, smaller than your bathroom by far, with sitting room only so the awning provides a living room and storage area for all the junk hoarders cannot get rid of, to their own detriment.
 There is nothing terribly romantic in my mind to living cheek by jowl in a floating trailer park of decomposing boats, but it is cheap.
Land access comes by way of this launch ramp designed to give anglers access to the sea for free, built and maintained by the county:
 Garbage disposal:
 Access to Highway One at about Mile Marker 5, across from the Key Haven Shell gas station.
 The idea behind a mooring field is to bring order out of chaos. The boats would no longer anchor on their own equipment but would tie up to a ball attached by a  chain to a deeply planted permanent anchor in the sea bed. this is structured to not drag chains across the ocean floor and tear up the sea grass where fish spawn and grow to adult hood. The county would charge rent of a few hundred dollars a month and would guarantee a place to dock dinghies, dump trash and get drinking water. Plus they would supply a system probably mobile on a boat to suck up toilet tanks and dump the crap safely ashore properly instead of into the sea. And thta might be an extra charge of say 10 or 15 bucks a visit, maybe 50 bucks a month.
All of which outrages the guardians of freedom on their hovel craft. Actually it gives them a permanent future in an uncertain world as they gain respectability by being attached to a county mooring. But short-sightedness is a national characteristic these days.In the picture below you can see a trim seaworthy cabin cruiser riding to a Navy mooring just off the Boca Chica Marina at the Naval Air Station.
 The Navy offers inexpensive access to the recreational marina to serving military and veterans and by all accounts its a good deal:
This sailboat a Gemini 105 identical down to the solar panel, to the boat my wife dogs and I sailed to Key West from San Francisco. So seeing it bobbing at a mooring reminds me of good times afloat over those two years as well as lots of sailing on San Francisco Bay:

 The Boca Chica Marina, with docks and moorings:
I was riding home from Key West and parking the Bonneville out of the traffic lane made it easy to stroll back to the bridge to take a few photographs, so I took one of the bike as well. It helps me to not miss being on the water on days when nostalgia overcomes common sense. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Wooden Bridge

The solstice means it's quite dark until close to seven in the morning. I get home at 6;30 change out of my uniform after my fulsome greeting by Rusty, then we get in the car and rive to a different location each day for a walk. I have found variety fuels a dog's imagination as much as it does a human's though I do tend to choose longer walks for days when I feel fresher after a night spent taking 911 calls. Some mornings I am too frazzled for much.
The plan this morning was a quick walk at the end of Niles Road on north Summerland Key. I turned north opposite the Mobil gas station and drove to the end of the pavement. I noticed the tide was extremely low and I got an idea. We arrived at the old wooden bridge to nowhere and before Rusty knew what I was doing I swept all sixty pounds of him into my arms and put him on the bridge. He liked that, as he has a lively curiosity.
Years ago Cheyenne and I came out here but she wasn't going on the bridge as it was beyond even me to lift her 100 pounds over my head...I did walk the bridge the last time in 2008 the year before I got Cheyenne so I knew what was at the other end of it (nothing).
Nowadays there is a massive ladder attached to the end of the bridge where in the old days I scrambled up using steel spikes hammered into the pilings by somebody for that purpose. You can still see them sticking out of the wood.
From the bridge the view was quite lovely at dawn and the gnats and no-see-ums hadn't found me- yet.
Some fisherman left some reeking bait in a bag on the bridge. Rusty was grateful even if I wasn't.



It was a hefty construction apparently designed to carry vehicles. The bridge looks very similar to the bridges I have seen in old pictures connecting the various Keys before the single unified road was built. I took this picture of a bridge near Key West from the book Charlotte's Story.

I was kicking myself for leaving behind my big camera,m the one with the telephoto lense but as usual my iPhone 6 acquitted itself remarkably well all things considered.
The northern end of the bridge does not present an implacable cliff figuring I guess that if you got this far you might as well have an easy step off into the mangroves.
However the trail is nothing but a small line between cleared bushes, more or less muddy with no sign of any construction of any kind. It's as though someone thought about developing this small island and built a massive bridge before plans fell through. I timed it as a 15 minute stroll to a point where the trail got more muddy than it was worth struggling to walk on and we turned back. It seems some people land near here by boat and have built a fire pit now overlooked by a rather severe sign:
The blue dot marks the spot as screen- shot on my iPhone map:
At the bottom of the picture you can see the asphalt parking area at the end of Niles Road and the trail to the bridge, the straight gray line. The island is utterly devoid of traces of development. Which suited Rusty.

Oddly enough there was a solar shower hanging in a bush which was also decorated with several shampoo bottles perched in the branches. At first glance it seems idyllic but there again you weren't walking in a swarm of no-see-ums which landed on the tiniest piece of bare flesh not exactly sprayed with repellent.  I swallowed them by the mouthful when I breathed. It was obnoxious walking with my head in my own private cloud of hovering gnats. To strip naked to wash seemed like torture of the worst kind.
The only problem remaining was the descent back to Summerland Key by my sixty pound Carolina Dog who, when he realized he had to throw himself into my arms got rather restless. I stood in the shallow water and reached up for him while making soothing noises. He allowed himself to be caught when all other options were clearly not going to work. I carried him safely to the dry land and the walk was about done.

It was a memorable morning one way and another.
He forgave me for manhandling him.