As the Propellor Turns... 2008
As the propellor turns...
January 2008 ...Re-establishing Ourselves
We slid right back into our old slip at Oceanside Marina, back to the old neighbourhood. A brand new dockbox and it's like we never left!!
Actually, that's far from the truth. We have a lot of new neighbours and it's amazing how much Key West in general has changed in the 8 short months we were gone. Boats are moving around trying to find places to berth as the city makes it more and more difficult to live aboard. The housing market is such that people who were formerly planning on moving away because they couldn't afford to live here are now settling in and buying homes!
As for us, we're still keeping things simple. We bought two new vehicles...
Of course, Travis had to convert his into a double-wide redneck pickup! Mine remains the sleek sports car, ahem. Regardless, they use less than $5/week in gas and parking downtown is a breeze.
Travis slid right back into his old position as Operations Manager of TowBoatU.S. For those of you unfamiliar, it's like AAA on the water, help when your boat breaks down: tows, jumpstarts, fuel runs, etc. This is the routine stuff. They also do marine salvage -saving your boat's butt when it's in imminent danger or just plain sunk! The company is also expanding into marine construction: building docks and underwater cutting, for example. Travis really enjoys his job because it's something different every day and it keeps him challenged. I know that he doesn't tell me about every sticky situation he's been in (read: dangerous!) but he's very competent and it's a career he loves. Especially the crazy stuff. Here's some of what he does:
Just as Travis' boss was anxious for his return, so was Tim awaiting mine at Key West Sail & Canvas, so much so that he was trying to figure a way to make the job more worthwhile for me financially. After some discussion, Travis and I asked if we could just buy half the company. It's a good investment for us and Tim & Barb were happy about the idea, too. We stay very busy, usually booking up to two months in advance on big jobs (a blessing in the current economic situation). Tim & I are a pretty good team. We have fun and most days it doesn't feel much like work. I'm also learning a lot that will benefit us with our own boat projects as well as being a money-maker while we're traveling.
So we were off and running very soon after arriving home. It was shaping up to be a very busy year!
... Grandma's 90th
This is my Grandma Wood, my Mom's Mom, turning 90. You'd never know it -look how great she looks! She is doing so amazingly well, still so independent and active. I'm really proud of her.
Our buddy had a bit of a problem with his brakes. Somehow he managed to miss the boat by only inches and he himself walked away unscathed. Can't say the same for his truck.
February 2008 ...Our New Second Mate
Meet our newest crew member: Sadie Reese (chocolate on the outside, peanut butter on the inside!). When asked what kind of dog she is, we always answer, "She's brown." And she answers to Brown Dog, too. In fact, there are those who don't know her as Sadie, only her alias.
We adopted her from the Marathon pound and the whole process (actually, the lack thereof) came as somewhat of a surprise. Travis was on his way back down the Keys and I mentioned that maybe he should stop in Marathon and see who's there. We'd been looking since having arrived home. So he stops in and meets this cute brown dog that had only been there a few days. She was due to be fixed the following day but Travis was assured that by late afternoon she would be back to normal and we could drive up and both meet her.
We arrived on schedule and were hastily greeted (before the door even closed behind us!) with, "Are you here for the brown dog?" ... "Ummm, well we're here to meet the brown dog..." As far as we knew, the whole adoption process was supposed to take a full two weeks where we would be vigorously screened so this came as a surprise. Well, Miss Sadie had had a rough day. They got in to fix her and discovered that she was knocked up, too, and so she was subjected to a puppy abortion at the same time. The staff was eager to have her recover in a home, but the catch was that we couldn't just take her to try her on, we had to full-on adopt her. However! If it didn't work out, we could have a full exchange on another dog (store credit?!). So we filled out our questionnaire, paid our $100 and were sent on our way with a stoned, puking, pathetic brown thing.
And that's how we ended up with our problem child. Whew! She has been a handful but when we consider that she wasn't treated well at her first home, it stands to reason. We've worked with her a lot and she has certainly come a long way. She's a rough & tumble, big-dog-in-a-small-dog-body and has quite the personality. The little nutbar seriously wears us out some days! But she makes us laugh a lot. She's more entertaining than TV.
April 2008... The Bloody Battle
Key West, also known as the Conch Republic, is a quirky little place unlike any other US city that I know of. Its unique flavour and sense of humour are celebrated here daily, but every April we have a weeklong tribute to our fair city: the Conch Republic Days. It is a week packed with activities. Some of the events are just plain crazy. Others pay tribute to the history that created the Conch Republic (and are also crazy!). Check it out here. Also, more info at Wikipedia: Conch Republic.
The Bloody Battle is basically a big food fight at sea! Here is an excerpt from the official site:
" Each April the citizens of the Conch Republic don their battle gear for the GREAT BATTLE - held during the Conch Republic celebration. Featured on the Discovery's Travel Channel and the Travel Channel, the battle pits Tall Ships against Coast Guard Cutters for the biggest & baddest Sea Battle held annually anywhere in the world!
As Admiral and First Sea Lord of the Conch Republic Navy, Finbar (along with Vice Admiral Perkins and Rear Admiral Holden) presides over the strategy for this "Bloody Battle" and has brought victory to the Conch Republic each year. A true food fight at sea, the battle is fought each year in the harbor of Key West against the invading Federal Ships (represented by vessels of the U.S. Coast Guard).
Each year, after the Battle Awards Ceremony held at Schooner Wharf Bar, Admiral Finbar ceremoniously accepts surrender from the invader's Commander and the graciously invite the Federal invaders to join in the celebration of the Victory of the Battle! "
So with water cannons spewing and cuban bread flying, we launched bravely into battle...
April 2008... The Wrecker's Race
These days, Key West's economy is driven largely by tourism but there have been many other industries that have supported its economy through the years including sponging, fishing/shrimping, turtling, cigar manufacturing, salt mining and even the smuggling of booze and marijuana. But in the mid-1800s, Key West was the richest city in the US, per capita, thanks to wrecking.
Wrecking had been going on here as early as 1730, mostly by the Bahamians; but following the arrival of the Navy in 1822, boat traffic to Key West increased dramatically. And since it was now an official port of entry, many of these were cargo ships laden with valuable merchandise. However, a great number of them were unprepared for the reef which lies seven miles offshore. Stormy weather or a captain's bad navigation would often result in a wreck.
" On average, at least one ship per week would wreck somewhere along the Florida Reef. The brave wreckers would watch the reef night and day from observation towers (some over 90' high). They would also patrol the reef in their own small vessels. When a wreck was spotted, the cry of "Wreck Ashore" would echo all over the island as men scrambled to the docks to join the race to the reef. The first man to reach the wreck became the "wrecking master" who controlled the salvage operation and got a larger share of the prize. The goods salvaged from the wreck would later be sold at auction in Key West with the wrecking courts awarding anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of the profit to the wreckers, depending on how dangerous and time-consuming the salvage operation had been. "
" According to Birse Shephard in The Lore of the Wreckers, “The wrecker of the Florida Keys was a competent navigator and pilot with a fast, well-equipped vessel and a crew of skilled divers and salvage men who put to sea voluntarily in all weather to snatch survivors and merchandise from a foundering vessel, pull a stranded ship off into deep water or dive for sunken cargo. These men scorned safety ashore and put to sea in any weather without benefit of charts or light (houses).” " (www.oirf.org)
Well, most of us aren't so stalwart these days (unless you're in Travis' profession!). Nonetheless, the Wrecker's Race takes place the last Sunday of January-April every year as a reenactment of the old days, a race out to the reef and back. And while there are prizes awarded, for most of us it's just a good excuse to get the boat off the dock and enjoy a day on the water. We were able to make it to the last one of the year, finally. The folks were just arriving in town for the wedding, too, so it was another good reason to get out there.
And how did we do? Well, Travis says it's like being chased by a shark: you don't have to be in the lead, but you sure as heck don't want to be last! And we weren't.
May 2008... Wedding Stuff
People keep asking us, "How is married life?" Our usual response is, "Great! Things were great before....we had a big-ass party...and things are still great!" The fact that nothing has changed in our wonderful relationship has garnered everything from kudos to shock and amazement. If anything, it's the "big-ass party" part of the statement that would need revision. Not that it wasn't a party of large fun proportions, but perhaps the laissez-faire attitude with which the statement is delivered needs adjusting. In fact, it was a madhouse of activity even before folks began to arrive. It was a downright frenzy.
After having arrived back in Key West in December we were straight back to work, going non-stop, and there was no time to do any wedding planning whatsoever for the first couple of months. So in basically 3 months we put together a wedding for 150 people that we were doing mostly ourselves. Accommodations were arranged, cakes were baked, decorations, activities, menu, music, venue, flowers, booze and details, details, details... whew!!! What an undertaking!!! Lucky for us, we had friends and family to help us out when it came to crunch time. The Delormes arrived two weeks ahead of time to make a real holiday of it, checking out what Key West has to offer. The Drownes began to arrive about one week before. And friends, family and more friends began arriving from everywhere!! It was a flurry of activity and a bit of a blur for us as we organized get-togethers on top of the general wedding stuff.
Before we knew it, it was time to get to the ceremony... and we were both late to our own wedding! At "I do" time, Travis was in the shower and I was rounding up the appetizers. So how to placate 100-and-some waiting guests? Ring ring: "Jeremy & Crystal, open up the bar, please!". The cocktail hour before the ceremony was a big hit as everyone mingled and got acquainted. Thanks to a vat of white sangria, maybe some didn't even care that we eventually showed up! The ceremony was short and sweet, and there were only a few dry eyes in the house. Dinner was a Cuban style pig roast, thanks to our friend Dan who diligently tended the flames all day. And while the party didn't go too too late, we were later told by many that it was one of the best weddings they'd ever attended. Given our eclectic mix of friends, this came as a real compliment. Our aim was to skip most of the traditional stuff and just throw a big party that everyone would remember. Travis wore shorts and flip flops and I grabbed something out of my closet at the last minute. And while clearly we did not pull off everything as smoothly as we would have liked, a great time was had by all and that's what we wanted.
Again, many thanks to all family and friends who helped on the big day. Cheers!!
June 2008... My 40th Birthday
It fell on the same day as a friend's bachelor party so it ended up being a girls' night. We're pretty sure we had more fun than the guys!!
August 2008... Sadie Gets Gibbled
Did I mention our little lady is quite the tomboy? Just like her mom, I suppose. She tears it up so hard on the grass with the other dogs it's a wonder she doesn't get more injuries than she does. My Mom always figured us kids had guardian angels to keep us in one piece. Well, Sadie ran faster than her guardian angel could fly this time. We figure she caught her foot in a crab hole and she did it up nicely, indeed. X-rays showed that she had a triangular piece of bone that wasn't even attached to anything, plus a hairline fracture running up her foot. It didn't slow her down much, though. After only a few days with the cast she was getting around without even so much as a limp -she sounded like a peg leg pirate walking down the dock.
September 2008... Hurricane Ike
Ok, this one made us nervous! For a time, it was headed straight for us after it wiped out Grand Turk. Then it was predicted to take out the 7-mile bridge on our only road into the Keys. However, it stayed well south of us and we were spared once again. There were some minor messes but overall we were very lucky. The rest of the hurricane season was fairly uneventful.
(Click below for Photo Gallery)
(Click below for Photo Gallery)
September 2008... Green Card
After many screw-ups and much hair-pulling, we finally went for our final interview with immigration. We were to meet with a senior officer whose job is to determine if our marriage is for real or not. We arrived armed with all of our documentation in order and about 80 photos, all of which are to support our claim that we actually do have a life together. But paperwork aside, he's the guys who "feels it out". We had nothing to worry about and I'm sure it showed. The fact that we were willing to sign a waiver to begin without our lawyer present was probably his first clue. He barely leafed through the photos I had spent a week putting together and he took the random papers that he needed. Our interview was more a coffee chat session about our lives on the boat and our travels. He's done some traveling himself and we had some stories to share.
My green card arrived in the mail only a few weeks later, which was a surprise. It's not actually green, but it has a green strip on the back. It also has a GPS tracking chip in it and I'm supposed to carry it on my person at all times. If there is some lonely guy in a cubicle somewhere watching the blip on the screen, he sure must think I'm a homebody.
September 2008... TriState Tour
Our whirlwind tours are typically descriptive of only our Canadian vacations. Not this time. We flew into Maryland, drove to Pennsylvania for a wedding, through DC, into Virginia to visit family, back to Baltimore and home all in about a week! Pennsylvania was lovely -chasing our breath around the parking lot was a refreshing break from Key West weather at this time of year- and Jeff & Kylene had a charming fall wedding.
Bill and Maureen have a terrific home in Virginia and they were kind enough to escort us through the sites of the nation's capital that they're probably already bored with. It was very interesting for this first-timer, though, since I've seen these places only on TV and in movies.
06 November 2008... Grand Cayman
Upon hearing of Lindsay's plans to visit the girls in Cayman, it didn't take me long to book a ticket to crash the party! In the weeks awaiting my departure, Cayman Scareways changed my flights not once, not twice, but three times. Downside: I had to fly from Key West to Miami to avoid driving in the wee hours of the morning = $ I wasn't planning on spending. Upside: I got bumped to first class = fun, and an interesting experience as I boarded the plane and noticed who was sitting behind me. It was only a very small double-take on my part, and a small smile, which was returned. It was Iggy Pop. How fun. As I sat there with a grin on my face, sipping my mimosa, Hi Tide came over the sound system and it happened to be one of the tracks I did the background vocals on so I was listening to my own voice. And as if there wasn't enough to chuckle and be happy about, I was only hours away from seeing my girls. Life is good.
I was on one of the last flights in to the island... Most of my friends know I'm a weather magnet. Seriously, clouds have been known to follow me around. When you invite me out for the weekend, you'd better pack your rainjacket/umbrella/snowshoes because you're going to see some precipitation!! This time, it was Hurricane Paloma. Unfortunately, it ruined Lindsay's trip -she couldn't find a flight in. It also did some damage on the sister islands. On Grand Cayman, it was a weak Category One that passed directly over us. As you can see from these photos, we took the situation very seriously...
15 November 2008... Travis' Birthday
It reassured Travis to know that at the age of 35 he's still limber enough to be handcuffed from behind. Heck, for a brief second, he even considered the fact that he might be able to make a break for it and outrun them -if it weren't for the flip flops he was wearing. Outrun the cops -really, honey?
While it was all a joke, they are real cops and those are her issue pink handcuffs that she uses daily.
December 2008... Ohio Bound
To better help myself and the business, I decided to take some classes in specialty marine canvas and upholstery. Sure, there is a school right here in Florida. It's closer, obviously warmer and even cheaper. But the best school for what I wanted is in Port Clinton, OH, right on Lake Erie, so off I went. The first week was a basic canvas class where we built mini mock-ups of a convertible boat cover and an over-the-windshield boat cover. The second week was upholstery. While I already had some experience in these fields I picked up some useful tips and trips so it was definitely worthwhile going. I'll take the next round of classes in the new year.
But what the heck is all this white stuff?!
It was around freezing the whole time I was there. Luckily, I came prepared. I have three layers on underneath this jacket. "Mom, I have to pee!!"
Darting between school, car, hotel, car, store, car... there wasn't much change to get cold, anyway. Ironically, my rental car was a Sebring convertible. It came equipped with an ice scraper and, fortunately, a good heater. My hotel room had a good heater, too. I'm sure Port Clinton had a brown out for the duration of my stay.
December 2008... Key West Lighted Boat Parade
This Christmas event is one I look forward to every year. Most years we're actually participating whether it be on our boat or one of Travis' work boats -it's much more fun to be part of the action! This year I arrived back from Ohio just in time to jump on Santa's Party Barge. I even escaped having to do any work, cha-ching!
The festivities included lots of people, lots of food and the cops.
Click below for Photo Gallery