Monday, March 2, 2020

Old Town Frills

I wanted to title this picture "Old and New in Key West" and I rather like the effect of highlighting the color of the Corvette.
Mind you so much of Old Town is white painted wood that the use of black and white doesn't always stand out!  These pineapples were a traditional symbol of welcome in the Key West of old. Nowadays a realtor and an open check book are the more usual symbols of welcome.
I was walking past the bike shop and saw a mechanic with a  whole selection of tools laid out and a ghost standing right next to him.

Rusty in color in a monochrome world. I won't keep doing this but I did want to experiment a little. For some reason he posed when turning and looking at me.  A rare piece of cooperation from a camera shy dog.
Only block alley if you are living here be it ever so briefly and loading your car momentarily.
Sepia cyclist. I have resorted to using sepia tint to colorize Key West on flat overcast  days. Aside from the helmet it looks slightly olde worlde I think.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Cruise Ship Docking

Cruise ships are money. The statistics are out of date and not always clear but most recent numbers show about three quarters of a million cruise ships visitors a year which generates $85 million annually for the city through landing fees, 1300 assorted jobs and the money the passengers spend in the city, mostly on Lower Duval. So no matter how much opponents talk about pollution, aesthetic ruin and over crowding money talks louder.  
Key West has three pairs for cruise ship docking. Mallory Square is the smallest owned by the city but constrained by the nightly sunset celebration, a private cooperative that leases the waterfront from the city and thus finds itself in occasional conflict with cruise ships that want to stay docked through sunset...
The Outer Mole (above) is owned by the Navy and used by the city under threat of closure in a national emergency. The pier is a "secure area" behind a locked gate and passengers come into town only on Conch Trains that are contracted by the city for the job. Pier B is the dock behind the Margaritaville Resort formerly the Westin which was part of the navy base and thus sold by the city when Truman Annex was ceded by the Navy to the city which promptly auctioned it off to nascent developer Pritam Singh. The Westin Hotel property and waterfront plus Sunset Key, known then as Tank Island was all sold in a brilliant move by the city for the princely sum of eleven million dollars. Not their finest hour but they did retain portion of the landing fees payable to the hotel by cruise ships. Between the three piers the city res in, if memory serves, about two point five million dollars a year. 
It's no small thing docking a cruise ship. I once saw a schematic of that worldwide symbol of luxury cruising, the liner Titanic of 1912 laid up against a picture of a contemporary cruise ship which is about 900 feet long. The Titanic was about a third the size over all of the ship you see above. Not only that, but protestors have succesfully stymied attempts to get supersized cruise ships into Key West, the giants that require even deeper harbor access. There was a protracted battle to stop harbor dredging which was proposed originally to "help improve military access" for the Navy, a scheme that was revealed as a way to get 1300 foot cruise ships to dock in town. These ships with 3,000 passengers each are quite large enough in a. town of 25,000 especially when they all walk and shop three blocks of Duval only despite best efforts to move them further down the famous street.
As much as they are disliked they are also found to be fascinating, these huge hotels, these self contained entertainment palaces always seeking to be more exotic than last year's floating entertainment offering, they come complete complete with the huge kitchens, an on board doctor with medical facilities and yes, a supply of coffins for those that cannot complete their last cruise in this life. Cruise ships are amazing organisms, self contained, polluting, energy hungry and incredibly complex offering very popular vacations. And they come to Key West all the time because this is a popular destination as evidenced by people wandering lower Duval with little round stickers on their shirts.
Docking a cruise ship is a business in itself and requires port workers to show up and attach the dock lines...
 The ship's crew drops thin pieces of rope first and attached to those lines are thicker lines with a  big loop in them which you can see in the bottom right of the picture below:
The ship is held against the docks by thrusters which are controlled from the bridge, propellers facing sideways at the front and the back which allow cruise ships to maneuver without the old fashioned help of tugs.
 Meanwhile the process goes forward as the harbor crew wait for the lines to reach them so the ship and be winched in an held firm:
 Once the cruise ship is docked it's held  by a cat's cradle of lines, which incidentally will need to be released in reverse at the end of the ship's stay.
It's hard manual labor docking a ship. The sailors poke the lines through holes in the hull (hawseholes if you want to be technical) and they control the tension with winches  but the port workers have to handle the ropes with muscle power alone.
The ship is directed into the harbor  by a harbor pilot who takes over control of the bridge from the captain and gives specific directions on how to arrive safely at the docks. The pilot is taken out to the sea buoy by this boat whereupon he (no women pilots as far as I know in Key West) climbs a rope ladder up the side of the ship which sounds creepy enough to put me off ever thinking about this well paid job as  a career choice, And of course they do the same in reverse when the ship leaves.
By the time the ship is tied up, the pilot's gone back to the office and the gang plank is down there is only Customs and Immigration to deal with if the ship came from a  foreign port. While all this is going on the ship flies a yellow flag, known as the "Q" flag as it represents that letter in the naval flag alphabet. In sailing days ships communicated by raising flags to send messages across the water and the yellow flag was adopted as the symbol of a ship that hadn't been cleared for entry when it arrived from a foreign country. You may have heard of the cruise ship passengers in the Far East quarantined on cruise ships for fear of their carrying the dreaded the Coronavirus so the Q flag pratique still can have serious consequences for seafarers.
Once the Q flag comes down passengers and crew are allowed ashore and you will see members of the crew catching up on their shopping in Key West. It may come as a surprise Key West is a cheap stop compared to many ports on the cruise ship circuit, so if you need shampoo or toothpaste CVS is your place. And as a way to save money and skirt strict health and safety regulations cruise ships travel under "flags of convenience," and pretend they are based in small countries glad for some income and not too fussy about regulations they can skirt. That's why you can see flags of Liberia, The Bahamas, the Dominican Republic or some small island state like the Marshall Islands...
Which means they offer no work to US sailors and  take advantage of desirable US ports. Fair enough; it's how the industry works.
Walking Rusty along the waterfront we had to dodge numbers of people pausing their vacations to observe the activity, which was actually what prompted me to write this essay. I guess peopled really do find cruise ships fascinating. 



 Some people just keep on keeping on.
But they find us equally interesting apparently: 


Not everyone needs huge amount of help to make like a leaf and blow. Key West in the rear view mirror and no one noticed:

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Head In A Box

I suppose a discount can't fail to pull in customers can it? Even when the purchase involves a disembodied head in a case? Seen on Fleming Street.
"We're at our best when we're together," that gratuitous piece of advice from an annoying corporate message on Duval Street. I usually drink tea if we stop at Starbucks on the road but I marvel how visitors drop in to Key West and turn their backs on that most ethnic of foods, Cuban Coffee in favor of one more cup of the familiar. 
One cup of Starbucks didn't make it and was abandoned by some thoughtful shopper. The scene of the crime:
I have thought about grouping together a whole bunch of these pictures and titling them "Urban Forest."  This one is on Whitehead Street and it's there if you look for it:
I really liked this next picture, over exposed and fuzzy of focus.  Documenting Key West pushes me to take as much care as I can of the basics of modern digital photography but this one got away from me. I like the effect of light and speed and blurriness as much as I am annoyed I wasn't ready to take the shot.
From time to time bees take up residence around Key West coming from as far as Cuba I believe.  We live in a time of bee stress so it is now popular to leave them alone and encourage them to not die off. The inconvenience seems worthwhile especially as I wasn't looking at the time for parking at the county courthouse.
A face in the plywood. If I can see it I sure hope you can! Angry isn't he? On Whitehead Street.
We started with a head in a box and end with a face on a plank. Yup, Key Weird it is.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Higgs Beach

It is said that photographers hate bright sunny days and prefer moody gray skies. Not me. I love tropical brilliance primary colors and sharp shadows.
So  naturally it was gray and overcast on my visit to the beach so i tried to make some drama out of the cloud cover.  I like Higgs Beach which is actually maintained by the county even though it is an enclave in the city. The sand, imported, is actually thick and real underfoot, not a composite of pebbles and small rocks typical of the Keys "beaches."
Monroe County has off duty deputies to patrol the beach and keep order which means you can enjoy a family day at the beach and use the two childrens' parks without fear of being accosted by panhandlers and the like. Or  you can hang out and mediate at will:
The Martello Tower is half ruined as it was used in the 19th century for target practice  by the gunners at Fort Zachary at the southwest corner of the city. Nowadays it is home to the garden club of Key West.
And the brickwork offers a different silhouette in a town made of wood.
  You can bury your feet in the sand and look out across the straits of Florida. 
You can see various boats off the beach but you cannot see Cuba as some wags would have you believe. The Earth is actually round and the curvature of the surface will prevent you seeing the mountains of Cuba 90 miles away. That alone should convince you the Earth is round but I am astonished by the number of people who take the flat earth belief as reality.
  The moon of course is a flat disc made of silver cheese. Everyone knows that and here's the proof:
Cactus spikes don't hurt, and to prove it you can try touching these examples at the garden club. You can run your finger over the screen with no problem at all:
I stayed for a while at the beach and waited for the sun to get closer to the horizon.
After such crappy gray skies some golden light was a welcome change:
Lighting up time on the shrimp boats getting ready for night fishing: