We almost skipped Key West on our way home to St Petersburg from the Bahamas. But we had a line on a new dinghy outboard, and our two buddy boats were anchored there, and…well… Key West is a lot of fun!
We arrived just in time for the Minimal Regatta. Teams build their own boats out of a short list of ingredients:
1. One sheet of 4′ x 8′ x 1/4″ plywood
2. Two 2″x 4″ 8′
3. One pound of fasteners
4. One roll of 2″ x 60 yard duct tape
5. No caulking or adhesives – Epoxy paint is permitted
6. Painting of boats is optional
7. Oars/Paddles must be made out of these materials
Teams dress up in costumes and cheer their paddlers on. Some slice through the water like dolphins, some drag slowly, others sink all together. Prizes are awarded for best costumes, themes, best paint job….The crowd, fueled by adult beverages, has a great time regardless.
Celia and Todd from SV Eileen live in Key West. They’re “fresh water conch” which means they’ve live there over 7 years. (You’re not a full-fledged conch unless you were born there!) The last time we saw them, in Boot Key Harbor, they wrote me out a detailed guide to everything fun to do in Key West. So, we stayed an entire week and checked as many things off the list as possible.
- The Customs House Museum – has an excellent exhibit on the history of Key West (did you know, it was once the biggest city in a Florida?) and Guy Harvey’s Old Man and the Sea illustrations.
- Lighthouse Museum – Tells the story of the men and women who kept the lights shining and kept the ship’s off the rocks for hundreds of years. Also has photos and history of all the other lighthouses on the Florida reef that we’ve been sailing past for a week. Cool to finally learn about them.
- Tropic Cinema – Amazing Art Deco Theater (and great place to escape the heat) with full bar and homemade popcorn and art movies. We saw a wonderful movie about “Notorious RBG”
Yoga Sanctuary – This lovely and peaceful studio is a fabulous place to practice. I made it there three times, and always felt welcome although I hadn’t been to my mat in ages and felt a bit rusty.
Swimming: So remember… it’s June. In Key West. Which means it’s darn hot. Every day, I left the boat with a bag of everything I’d need for the day. Including a swimsuit. And every afternoon, we sought out a pool. Some, like Dante’s are completely open to the public. Others just might have been intended for hotel guests only. But, as long as we bought a couple of drinks from the bar, no one ever complained!
Eating and Drinking:
I have to admit…we did a lot more of this than we did exercising. Key West is a bargain hunter’s delight at happy hour time. Even at the historic waterfront district, you can find cheap drinks and delicious eats. Heck, at the White Tarpon you can not only get oysters for $1 each, you can get a whole rotisserie chicken for $6. Why would a thrifty cruiser ever heat up the galley with deals like that? And the happy hour at Mary Ellen’s, just off Duval St, starts at 11:30 and offers gluten free pizza!
Once again, we made good use of Todd and Celia’s Key West knowledge and noshed our way across the island, sampling tapas at Santiago’s Bodega, tacos at Mellow Cafe, breakfast at Harpoon Harry’s, shrimp at the Half Shell Raw Bar, and oysters at Alonzo’s. And we became regulars at the Sunset Tiki Bar, where Todd used to work. We introduced ourselves as sailing friends of Toddo’s and were immediately welcomed with open arms. And with the best margaritas I’d tasted since Colorado! Most evenings found us on a bar stool at the Tiki Bar appreciating the gorgeous Key West Sunsets.
Our last day in Key West was spent celebrating Pride. I love the fact that so many different types of people – Navy enlisted men, members of the LGBTQ community, sailors, artists, tourists, and families – all get along in Key West. We had a great time joining the festivities at the Pride Parade where everyone we met was happy, welcoming and ….. Proud!