Blowing The Cobwebs Off The Rigging
(click any picture to start a slide show)
As we had stated in earlier posts, our intentions of keeping the boat in the St Pete area allows us to sail as much as possible while we dissolve our land lifestyle. We continue to learn the ins and outs of Cream Puff and our goal is to move onto the boat as soon as possible. We have a couple of minor hold backs like selling a house and a business. We decided it was time to take a break from this and head down to Key West for a few days.
Many many many years ago when Cindy and I we first married, young and naïve, one of our first vacations was to Key West. This instantly brings back a memory of a really funny story. A tradition long in Key West is to toast the sundown from Sunset Pier. We had heard the crowds swarmed the pier and we wanted to make sure we had a great spot. So, we arrive at the pier about two o’clock in the afternoon to scope out the place. We found a bar. We found two empty stools at the bar with a great view of the West. We sat down and ordered a margarita each. We figured we would rest for just a very short while. Our feet hurt from a morning of window shopping. Come to think of it, this might be where one of our life long traditions begun. It didn’t dawn on me to this very moment. Whenever Cindy and I travel we tend to do an awful lot of walking. Cindy has always joked; we walk until our feet hurt then we drink until the pain goes away. Key West may have very well been the place where it all began. Well, I’ll be!
Anyway, back to the funny story. Here we sit on the two bar stools enjoying a terrific view and sipping our ice cold margaritas on a sunny Key West day. The margaritas were really good. Two o’clock turned to four o’clock. Four o’clock turned to six o’clock. Before we knew it, it was seven o’clock and the sun was setting. And, we were absolutely hammered! After the spectacular sunset, the temperature dropped. It became a little chilly. Cindy spotted a guy selling tee and sweatshirts. We had two options. First, we could walk back to the hotel, about a mile away at the other end of Duval Street to get a light jacket each. Second, we could buy sweatshirts from the street vendor, stay put and keep drinking. Guess which option won? We both became proud owners of extremely overpriced Key West sweatshirts.
After a couple more margaritas and one for the road, we left our sunset perch and started to stroll (more like wobble) down Duval St. We saw Sloppy Joe’s Bar.
Hey, this place is famous, we thought. We heard what sounded like a big party and music coming from inside. We persuaded ourselves we must be missing out. We needed to get in on all the festivities. We should stop in for a drink. To this day, almost 30 years later, I still remember the name of the guys doing the entertainment, “Two Guys Having Fun”. One of their song lyrics was, “We don’t do Buffet and Buffet doesn’t do us”. Two Guys Having Fun sung dirty lyrics to songs everyone knew. It was hysterical. We hooked up with a few people in the bar who were also enjoying the entertainment and singing with us. They seemed especially impressed by our tolerance for alcohol. It seemed as though they wanted to test the limits of our capabilities. We didn’t mind. You know, time flies when you are having fun. Next thing we knew, it was 2 am. We had now been drinking for twelve hours. You gotta love Key West! I would be willing to bet if you charge a 5% surtax on liquor, residents could live there property tax free.
We ventured back onto Duval Street to seek out something to eat. We found Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville.
Based on the events of our day, this seemed like the perfect place to get something to eat. Perhaps even, a cheeseburger? Sporting our new sweatshirts and slurring our words (just a little), we managed to get an order in. I explained to the waitress, we had just come from Sloppy Joe’s. She replied, “I can tell”. We were the last to leave the restaurant and I’m not entirely sure how we made it back to the hotel. Oh, the days of our youth.
We can’t drink like that anymore. However while on vacations, we still walk a lot and when our feet hurt we drink till they stop. Nowadays, this is just one bottle of wine and then we fall asleep.
The sub-title of this post is “Blowing The Cobwebs Off The Rigging” because that is precisely what we did. Recently out of the boat yard sporting new bottom paint and boot stripe, Cream Puff needed to stretch her legs. What better way to try out the new paint than a nice sail somewhere.
This is why we decided to take a trip to Key West. On this trip we considerably pushed our comfort levels. Our goal is to strengthen our sailing skills prior to taking off full time (see The Plan).The only way to gain experience is to continue to push ourselves a little harder. Oh boy, did we do just that. We departed St. Petersburg on Sunday in a Small Craft Warning issued by the National Weather Service. We untied Cream Puff at about 6 am and sailed south across Tampa Bay to the Sky Way bridge and entered the Gulf of Mexico via the Southwest Channel (just south of Egmont Key). This is where we had our first glimpse of the weather offshore. Winds were from the North at 20-25 knots (23-30 mph) and the waves were 2-3 meters (6-10 feet). Yuck.
Our weather information had prepared us for this nastiness but the winds were suppose to be NW and the waves were suppose to be NW. We were headed south. Our plan was to take the weather on the back quarter of the boat (this is called a broad reach) and this normally produces a fast comfortable sail. However, we found ourselves with more northerly winds and more westerly waves. This made for a churning motion of the sea. The best way I can describe this, it’s like trying to sail in a washing machine. Cream Puff is most certainly designed to handle much harsher weather than anything we were going to experience on this trip. That gave us a mild sense of comfort.
The wind pushed the boat one way and then we would turn as washing machine waves pushed us another way all the while raising and falling. It did not take very long before the dreaded queasiness kicked in. We both started to look a little green. We did have some light at the end of the tunnel. We knew as we progressed further south, the weather would get better. Also, we had no chance of rain in the forecast. We poled out our jib sail and churned our way south.
For dinner that night, I warmed up some beef stew (more on the food later). It is important to eat and drink regardless how bad we feel. It is just really a question of what will stay down. We both picked at it and ate what little we could. We feed the rest to the fish. Speaking of fish, we had a wonderful encounter with some dolphins. Yes, I know they’re mammals but I couldn’t resist the literary transition. We could see them swimming in the waves behind the boat. Some of the higher waves were about 12 feet and as they approached the boat we could see straight into them and watched the dolphins play. I’m sure the dolphins were saying, what are these crazy humans doing out here in this awful weather.
You might ask at this point, where are the pictures? Well, just to stand up took a real effort. At one point, I wanted to put on warmer clothes and found I had to lie on my back to change pants. We had latched cabinets and drawers fly open and spew their contents onto the floor of the boat. I now have a list of worn latches to replace. So here we are… sailing in a washing machine, both queasy, stuff scattered all over the inside of the boat, watching dolphins in huge waves behind the boat and hanging on for dear life. Fun, huh?
Things did get better. By Sunday night, the wind and the waves had calmed just a little. We felt like we might even survive the adventure to live another day. That night, we were treated to crystal clear skies and no moon until 4 am. Throughout the night we alternated watch and both slept topside in the cockpit. We were too queasy to go below. Being able to see the horizon helps curb the seasickness. We lay on our backs in the safety of the cockpit staring at the stars. Being off shore miles away from any city lights in complete darkness gives a view of the stars …. well… I am not a good enough writer to even try to describe this. Perhaps one word: glorious.
By morning, things had improved to a point where we both enjoyed hot showers and a scrambled egg and sausage breakfast with hash browns. It wasn’t long before we entered the turquoise waters that trademark the Florida Keys. By noon, land ahoy! At 3 pm, 31 hours later, we were safely tied up at the Galleon Marina in Key West where we stayed for the duration. Cindy coined a new phrase, “Any landing you make where the E.P.R.I.B is dry isn’t all bad”. (EPIRB stands for: Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. Cream Puff is equipped with a Category 1 EPRIB. This means if it gets wet (submerged) it begins to transmit via satellite a MAYDAY signal and our position. The EPRIB floats and is automatically activated when submerged). I hooked up a water hose and washed beef stew off the sides of the boat.
Fun in Key West:
Key West is renowned for big cocks.
Well look here… you can buy children of all sizes in this store and they are up to 50% off!
Read the sign on this charter boat – very creative.
Let’s talk food for a moment. Cindy and I love to cook and entertain. We have eaten well our entire marriage and have a reputation for throwing scrumptious dinner parties. Cindy planed all the food and meals for this trip. She did a phenomenal job. With the exception of one lunch out, we cooked all meals aboard Cream Puff. And, we ate like kings. One night our meal was pan butter sautéed shrimp with tomatoes and spinach in a cream sauce over spaghetti pasta with fresh parmesan cheese. The food was nicely pared with a bottle or Pinot Noir from Oregon. You see what I mean? Yum! I just had a thought; I think I will start a recipe page on this blog for 20 minute one (two at most) pan meals.
More Fun in Key West:
The walls and ceiling of Willie T’s are covered in money:
Even the streets of Key West are paved with money:
This was really cool. It was sponsored by the now debunked Eckerd Drug.
Fancy door handles at the Wyland Gallery
Who can resist this on a hot day!
It’s 90 miles to Cuba but it is 128 miles to Wal-Mart.
Very cool rooftop garden
and colorful towels
The Key West Cemetery shows off some of the resident’s humor…
Adam Scott Rote Gallery
For $29 each, you too can ride the Conch Train. We walked for free and saved the money for when our feet hurt
Key West really is a photographers dream
Our view from Cream Puff in the Galleon Marina
I think this bird is in the yoga lotus position
Walking the main drag
As I sit and write this now, we are on our way back to St Petersburg after a most enjoyable stay in Key West. We have calm seas, moderate winds, we are sailing upright, Cindy is asleep below. It is about 3 am with no moon and once again I am in awe of the stars on this perfectly clear night. It’s a good day.