Monday, September 28, 2020

Cruise to Key West

Key West, a cruiser’s paradise. Photo by Francis Diebler

Key West, a cruiser’s paradise. Photo by Francis Diebler

Wow! How lucky can we be to live close enough to make Key West in a long one-day trip or with only one overnight stop.  Key West is about 90 miles, outside, marker to marker. Key West is a destination made for all types of boats, from huge cruisers to smaller sailboats. What makes Key West such a sought after destination is that there is something for everyone, every age, and any size boat. I could not begin to list or write about all that Key West has to offer in this short column. Numerous picture books, guide books, tourist information and word of mouth sources provide specific information. I will only try to touch upon some of the highlights that explain why boaters flock to Key West making that a destination for cruisers worldwide.

Many cruising guides have information about Key West. Dozier’s Waterway Guide, Southern Edition, that includes Florida, the Gulf Coast and Bahamas, is really one of the best. Check your current charts for anchorages and water depths. The city of Key West has mooring balls. Call City Marina on the radio and they will advise you where to go. Pick up any mooring as long as it does not have a red or orange top. There are many marina facilities to call to ask for a slip. Some of the more popular ones are: Key West Marina, Conch Harbor Marina, A & B

Sloppy Joe’s Saloon. Photo by Frances Diebler

Sloppy Joe’s Saloon. Photo by Frances Diebler

Marina, and Galleon Marina. Fleming Key and Wisteria Island, aka Christmas Island, anchorages are near to the town dinghy dock. Check your chart or guide book for directions to the anchorages. Be sure your anchor is secure as the holding can be questionable.  There is a pump-out boat available. Just call them on the radio.

If any town could be called a cruiser’s paradise, Key West would certainly be at the top of the list. There is something there for everyone, including for children. Check the local book stores, marinas, marine stores, and alike to find a guide book of things to do and see as well as how to get around Key West. Busses have routes all over town. Duval Street is one of the main attractions. Stroll along this busy street which has shops and restaurants.  Some of the more famous establishments are Fastbuck Freddies, Jimmy Buffets’s Margaritaville store and restaurant, Sloppy Joe’s Saloon, and Captain Tony’s Saloon which was a Hemingway hangout.

For those who like historical places, there is the Southern White House used by President Truman, and of course the Hemingway House that was Hemingway’s home with the six-toed cats. Key West is the southern-most point in the Continental United States, and is marked by a buoy at the end of Duvall Street. There is even a Pirates Museum and, of course, the grand exhibit of the gold recovered from the Atocha at

Tightrope-walking dog in Butterfly Garden. Photo by Francis Diebler

Tightrope-walking dog in Butterfly Garden. Photo by Francis Diebler

the Atocha Museum.  Many artifacts are for sale, including gold coins.

There is just so much to see and do here. You can visit a wonderful indoor Butterfly Garden at the end of Duval Street.  Go to Mallory Square at 6:00 p.m. to watch for free various street acts, such as jugglers, a tightrope-walking dog, card tricks, vendors with handmade silver jewelry, artists, and characters of all kinds. Stroll or ride the street train, and see some of the oldest architecture in America. The streets are lined with beautiful, embellished home with lots of fretwork many of which offer lodging. Take the free ferry boat over to Sunset Key for lunch. The island is beautiful; the boat ride is free; and the food is excellent, as well as reasonable. You can get the free ferry at the Weston Hotel. Anything and everything seems to be available in Key West. It is well worth your sail down there.  If you can’t do that, drive down. Please don’t pass up a great place to visit. Food, drink, history, entertainment, characters of all kinds, beaches, hotels, inns, and great restaurants of all prices are available for you. Go by car, go by boat, go by Key West Express, and stay a while.  I only scratched the surface of this remarkable city.

Frances is a Commodore of the Seven Seas Cruising Association and a member of Sailing Association of Marco Island and AP United States Power Squadron.

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