Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Holidays

Despite our sadness over losing Puss, our wonderful 23 year old boat kitty, we had a great holiday spent with old and new friends. Christmas Eve we had a dock party on Coconuts, an old converted tug owned by Lois and Terry which is docked right next to Gypsies. It was a great evening of meeting the rest of our dockmates, laughter, fun and really good food. We have a great group here at the Key West Harbor Yacht Club for the winter so I'm sure there will be lots more fun in our futures!
The Early Stages of the Party
As the Rest of the Folks on the Dock Started Arriving
We left the festivities a little early so we could head in to the Sunset Pier in Key West to hear our friends Scott and Dave perform the opening of what is going to be a long winter gig for them there - they were wonderful as always!! It's a great venue for them to play and I'm sure we'll have our own bar stools before long (we already were getting free beers from the bartender since we obviously knew the band - did I mention I love this place!)
Scott Kirby and Dave Edmisten
Doug, Jill and Brett at Scott and Dave's Gig

There's actually a very funny phenomenon in KW called the local discount which is at the bartenders/servers discretion - if you get to know them (and you don't piss them off), they give you a local discount on food and beverages (this will come in handy I'm sure)!! What they think is fair to charge the tourists is not what they want the locals to be paying - works for me especially now that we are locals! Needless to say we are already on the receiving end of such discount at several of our favorite bars!!! (but then again, come to think about it, we used to get the locals discount back when we were hanging out in KW several times a year - I guess it's just a function of your attitude and how you dress/act or don't.....)

We had a great Christmas with our friends Brett and Jill on Gypsies with way too much food and wine - I take that back, there can never be too much good wine (thanks Brett - we haven't had such good wine and champagne in a long time!!)
I Can't Believe We Ate It All
Gypsies was all decked out in her holiday finery complete with lots of stuffed holiday mooses and a moose nativity scene (we are from Maine after all!)
Moose Nativity Scene
Bootsie loved her snacks of real turkey (not the deli stuff which is OK in a pinch but not nearly as good...) and was seen to be contentedly sleeping off her turkey coma on the love seat in the salon
Bootsie in Her Turkey Coma
Puss Sleeping After Christmas Dinner
while the rest of us watched Xmas day basketball (both the Celtics and the Cavaliers won - Brett and Jill are from Ohio so are fans of our rivals...oh well) with champagne glasses in hand!!! Wonderful homemade cream tarts by a local baker the Muircu crew knows was an amazing way to top off the day! We even had a visit from Santa
Santa Visits Key West Harbor Yacht Club
and a green heron (Stephanie will tell me if I'm wrong since I really don't know the names of birds or trees too well but everyone on the dock thought that's what this guy was!)
Green Heron

After spending several days on Gypsies with Puss (we wanted her last days to be as comfortable and fear-free as possible so she sat in our laps while we watched football and movies), we finally emerged yesterday in need of some fun. We still have our rental scooters so off to downtown we headed with the destination of Irish Kevin's in mind - we wanted to see our friend, musician Bil Krauss who is playing there for the winter.
Bil Krauss at Irish Kevin's
We first met Bil in Georgetown, South Carolina last Fourth of July when September Song and Gypsies descended on the local dive bar, Buzz's Roost (actually we had both headed into town thinking we'd meet up later - on the rare occasions we would split up, we'd find each other by looking for the SS crew in the local candy/ice cream store and they'd look for us in the diviest bar in town - these were usually pretty small towns so it wasn't like there were tons of options!!! They won - we were in the dive bar!) Doug had on a Lazy Gecko tee-shirt (another local KW bar) and Bil immediately stopped singing and started talking with us about KW - from there the afternoon took off and we kept in touch. He was just what the doctor ordered as he had us laughing within seconds of our butts hitting the bar stools - thanks Bil! I'm sure we'll see lots of Bil this winter - he plays from 11:00 am-3:00 pm most days at Irish Kevin's and usually has the crowd rocking so if you're in town, go check him out!!!
Irish Kevin's

Today is our last day with our scooters (before we hopefully buy a couple after the new year) so we plan on heading into town again and then maybe walking back to the boat - it's only about 6 miles and we really need to start working off that Xmas dinner and all the turkey sandwiches that came thereafter!! Hope everyone had a great holiday season and our best wishes to everyone for a happy and healthy New Years. While we will miss Puss more than we can say, we now have a furry guardian angel up in heaven watching over us (and knowing us, that can't be a bad thing!)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Farewell Puss

The last several days have been very sad ones on Gypsies - last night we lost Puss, one of our fearless 23 year old boat kitties. Puss (aka Pussiwinkle, Winky, Winklemeister, Leena and just about any other nickname you can come up with) was one of the sweetest, funniest and bravest boat kitties you could ever imagine. She has been part of our family for more than half my entire life and has given us so much laughter and joy that we can't begin to imagine our life without her. Who is going to sleep on my head all night, or repeatedly jump up on the table when she knew she wasn't allowed up there or calmly step all over her sister Boots while pretending she didn't know she was under the covers?? Luckily Puss adapted to the cruising lifestyle quickly when we moved her onto the boat over a year and a half ago and loved the adventure of cruising the US and the Bahamas (OK as all of our friends know, she stayed inside the boat all the time (usually on the settee in the pilothouse or on the couch!), but she loved how much time we were able to spend with her on our long seagoing trips!) She spent her last several days the way I know she would have wanted to - curled up in our laps watching football (she was a huge New England Patriots fan and the Pats obliged with a win just for her yesterday!) Doug, Bootsie and I already miss her beyond words but her memory will forever be with us as we continue our journey, one furry, lovable green-eyed Gypsy short.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Going Native...

Well we are starting to adapt to living in Key West (and loving it as we knew we would!!) - in fact it's pretty much been a whirlwind since we got here which is why I'm unforgivably tardy with the blog! We also haven't taken many pictures but I promise to do better going forward (it's just that a camera is such a tourist giveaway and we are trying to blend in like locals!) So what exactly have we been doing?

We have gotten to meet most of our dockmates here at the Key West Harbor Yacht Club - all of whom are lots of fun and many of whom are planning on being here for the winter so looks like we will have a great little boaters community here!
Our New Home at Key West Harbor Yacht Club
In fact we are all having a merry ho ho dock party on Coconuts, a great looking tug type boat, tonight!
M/V Coconuts
We needed to solve the issue of transportation (we can't always borrow Brett and Jill's van....and KW is a long walk or even bike ride especially if we're going to be working downtown) so we decided to rent a scooter one day to see how we liked them. Now just about everyone down here rides scooters - they are an inexpensive option since you don't need insurance, plus they get great gas mileage, you can park them anywhere (unlike parking for cars which is next to impossible to find downtown) and the speed limit all around KW is 30 or less so it's not like you hold up traffic (besides Gypsies only goes 7-8 knots so going 25 mph on a scooter feels like we're flying!!!) We thought the scooter place was on Stock Island a mere 8/10 of a mile from us but when we got to where the place was supposed to be, guess what - no scooter store - upon calling them, we learned it had moved to KW (like three years ago!) Well we're tough and given that we didn't have many options, we hoofed it over to Key West (we figured the exercise would do us good!!)

Along the way we passed the KW Golf Course which was sporting some of the ugliest looking ducks we've ever seen - they were as fascinated by us as we were by them and they were not camera shy at al!!

The ibis were also feasting on something along the roadside so we chatted briefly
and then headed across the bridge into KW - yes we are really here!!!!
We rented a double scooter and took off to explore the island - in all the time we've spent down here in KW over the years, we never took the time to rent scooters or see much of the island other than downtown (we were usually on a binge mission for those 3 or 4 stolen days out of the snow!) so we had a great time bombing around the island. Of course all roads lead to the Schooner Wharf bar (at least for us) because we're not really in KW until we have the Wharf's caribbean spiced wings and a bucket of Kalik - mission accomplished!!!
Doug Sits at the Bar at Schooners
We even got to hear Michael McCloud play which is always fun - right away he played one of my favorite songs (about a former waitress there who no one liked called "She's got a butt" - trust me it is not a flattering song and rumor has it was the reason the above said waitress packed her bags and left the island!) so we knew we were home!
Michael McCloud and His Band

On the way home we stopped in at Hogfish to check out our local watering hole on Stock Island - it's always good to know the local joint close to the boat for last call!
Tammy at the Bar at Hogfish
Turns out Hogfish has a hopping happy hour each evening during the week with 2 for 1 drinks, cheap (but really good) food and lots of truly interesting characters - honey, we're home!!! We quickly realized that I don't do well riding on the back of a scooter and that I'd probably need one of my own - can you say control issues! So the next day we rented another, different type of scooter for me - and we both were much happier (the blood has returned to my fingers that had been lost while gripping the hand holds so tightly and Doug doesn't have to listen to my instructions on how to drive in his ear anymore!!!) The little things in life that keep marriages happy!! My scooter turned out to be much better than Doug's so we returned his and rented him one like mine - we are experimenting with them trying to decide what we want to buy! So we are a two Honda Metropolitan scooter family at least for this week - we have talked to the rental place and they are going to give us a quote on two used ones after the new year!!!!

So meanwhile we have had a scrumptious brunch on Muircu with Brett and Jill and fellow dockmates Bob and Nancy (who have a beautiful catamaran Sun Luver), have been hanging out at the Green Parrot with our friends Brett and Jill to see Ben Prestage, an amazing blues/southern rock musician who plays some of the most outrageous guitar we've heard in awhile (often on a guitar made out of an old cigar box - his rendition of "Devil Went Down to Georgia" blew us away!!!!),
Ben Prestage Paying His Cigar Box Guitar
have had cocktails at any number of KW drinking establishments including Pepe's where we ran into our musician friend Scott Kirby, his wife Michelle and friend Brook (whose house we stayed at in KW last Xmas!!) and I can tell you that after just a week here, we LOVE it!!! While it will be hard not cruising on Gypsies for awhile, if we have to be land based to start working again (UGH the dreaded w word!), then this just isn't a bad place to do it!

Last night we had a cocktail party on Gypsies with Brett and Jill, Scott and Michelle (who despite Scott's numerous cocktail laden evenings on Gypsies had never before seen the boat) and their friend JL who we had met before at Louie's and other fine KW drinking establishments (he works with Buffett so that was pretty cool). Tonight the party is on Coconuts and then we plan on heading in to KW to see Scott play at the sunset pier!!! Life could be oh so much worse!! Tomorrow is Xmas on Gypsies with Brett and Jill - we plan on eating and drinking ourselves silly toasting all our friends and family scattered around the world! To all of you, the Gypsies (including Puss and Boots) wish you a very happy holiday and a safe, prosperous and wonderful 2010! Our best wishes to all!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

"Home Sweet Home"

I am writing this from our new "home" for the winter - the Key West Harbor Yacht Club which is on Stock Island, a mere 5-6 miles from downtown Key West (ie Schooner Wharf, Hogs Breath, Irish Kevins...you know, the really important parts of KW)! We were met on the docks yesterday by some of our cruising friends, Brett and Jill on Muircu - they were the ones who found this gem of a place and told us about it (be careful what you tell us - we are now docked right next to them!!) It was great to see them and catch up - last we saw of them, they had visited us in Marathon in February before we left for the Bahamas while their boat was stuck in Fort Pierce waiting for an engine part that took months to arrive!! Muircu is back in the water all fixed up and looks great - she and Gypsies are getting to know each other and I'm sure are concocting wonderful party strategies for when we are all off to KW! The marina complex here is just awesome - the docks are in great shape, there is a beautiful infinity pool (which we haven't had a chance to try out yet due to the really nasty weather that rolled in last night), a brand new fitness center (which we did try out this morning - it has all new machines and weights!!), an awesome bar/restaurant that looks out over the water and is the perfect spot for sundowner cocktails (we did some damage there last night!!!),
Cocktails on the Back Deck with Brett and Jill
Sunset from the Bar Deck
and we get free cable and ice (important to cool down our cooler full of beer in this heat without using up all our ice which we can now save for cocktails!) Plus so far everyone we have met both other cruisers on the docks and staff have been lots of fun (Brett and Jill know everyone so we are getting the tag-along star treatment!) - this could be a really fun winter!!! and did I mention we are only 5-6 miles from KW???

I'm really glad we got here when we did because the weather rolled in last night and today the winds are howling, the rain is coming down horizontally and the waves out in Hawk Channel do not look appealing at all!! We had wanted to spend a few more days enjoying the Keys on our way down but when we saw the weather forecast and what was supposed to be rolling in, we skeedadled rather than brave the front and hightailed it for our new home off the Boca Chica Channel. As it was, after a morning shower followed by a gorgeous double rainbow,
Double Rainbow
we wound up rockin' and a rollin' with the swells on our trip from Marathon trying to dodge the squalls - we didn't quite manage it but the trip wasn't too bad - we only ran into one bad squall that lit up our radar like the fourth of July!
Squall in Front of Gypsies
Rain Squall a Couple Miles In Front of Us
Towboat US claims there is "plenty of water" in the channel leading to the marina but I wouldn't want to try it at a real low tide nor when there was lots of current running!!! The marina entrance is a little tricky but once through the channel the docks open up and you've got some protection! The marina is starting to fill up and many of the people who we talked to are planning on spending a good chunk of the winter here so we've got a little cruising community thing happening here!!

We did sneak in a beautiful day up around Lignumvitae Key - to avoid the SE swells and some nasty winds the afternoon before, we had crossed into Florida Bay under the Channel Five Bridge and anchored off of Lower Matecumbe Key (just us and the crab pots until some big boat decided to join us later that evening).
Gypsies on Anchor at Lower Matecumbe Key
We dropped Hobos and spent a wonderful day in the sun exploring Lignumvitae and the surrounding keys.
Cute Little Keys House Near Our Anchorage
From where we were, there was one little channel with very skinny water for boats to get through a large bank - we just fit with a catamaran coming through!!!
Catamaran Approaching in the Channel
We saw lots of pelicans,
and cormorants
but the highlight of the afternoon was seeing two huge manta rays gliding through the water and then slide underneath our dinghy - way cool!!!!
Shadow of the Manta Ray Going Under Hobos

The next day we headed back out through the Channel Five Bridge
The Channel Five Bridge
Sentinels Guarding the Channel Five Bridge
accompanied by some very frisky dolphins
Dolphin Playing in Gypsies Bow Wave
and went on to Marathon where we anchored outside of Boot Key Harbor - given the weather forecast we only planned on being there for a day so didn't see the need to wind our way in to a marina! While we were doing the anchoring dance we had a whole pod of dolphin frolicking next to us which caused my attention to wander from the chore at hand but we got the anchor set nonetheless!!
Dolphin Pod Watching Us Anchor
We dropped Hobos and wandered into Marathon for the day - quick stops at the book exchange at the Marathon City Marina and the $1 book sale at the library were well worth the trips as we replenished our book supply and then it was on to lunch at Porky's
Lunch at Porky's
where the pelicans kept us quite entertained before heading back to Hobos.
Pelican on a Post Outside Porky's
Another quick stop at Burdine's Tiki Hut for a couple coldies on our way out of the harbor was in order before heading back to Gypsies where we watched yet another gorgeous sunset light up the sky (unfortunately one little cloud bank on the horizon thwarted our attempt to see the green flash!!!)

We had a lot of fun when we were in Marathon last year, but we're both very happy to have found this new marina so we are closer to KW (Marathon is still just a $3 bus ride away if we feel the need to go hear the Florida Straits Band at Dockside some Sunday afternoon!!!)

We had planned on hitting KW today but we'll see if the rain lets up any time soon - at the moment it doesn't look like it will ever be sunny again (but this is the Keys so we know this too shall pass!) We're just a little excited for Schooner Wharf wings, some coldies and everything else crazy that is what draws us to KW!!

Click here to see our location at Key West Harbor Yacht Club. The satellite picture is old so doesn't show all of the new floating docks.