Keenan and Daria, off Key West Bight, in front of a GM pick-up truck currently out of service.  Looks like maybe it belongs to someone on the local dinghy dock.

Not much compares to Key West’s raw charm and eclecticism, especially when you arrive by boat.  It’s like jumping into a Carl Hiaasen novel, smack in the middle of a lively chapter.  The people – characters really – are so colorful, which is why we’ve loved driving down here in our Jeep, with top down and bikes in tow, for years.

Lots and lots of weathered fishermen, big fish, and even bigger fish tales.  The dinghy dock at a local watering hole on Key West bight is something to behold.  If dogs come to look like their owners (or is it the other way around?), the axiom probably holds more true for dinghies and their owners.  Some are hanging on to the dock by a thread, floating day to day, bumping into others, dinged-up, blistered, barnacled, bandaged, duct taped, fed awful fuel, leaking, listing to one side or the other, and just generally in need.  And you should see the dinghies!

So, how’d we get here?  On Sunday, Jan. 9th, we departed Boot Key Harbor on Vaca Key at first light and were offshore just about in Hawk’s Channel by sunrise.  With a 15 knot tail wind and following seas, we averaged 8-ish knots and arrived at a city mooring field off Garrison bight around 2:30 pm (1430), a 45+ nautical mile journey.  This particular mooring field is exposed to NE winds, and we had ‘em nice and strong upon arrival.  Fortunately, no ocean swell this side of Key West; but, still a strong Gulf side chop.

After settling, going through our mechanical and electrical shut-down checks, we lowered Mudcat (Keenan works the davit like a veteran crane operator), drove the dink into town, and toured the thumping heart of the city on foot with the kids.  Can we print all we saw?  Nah.

We returned to Muddy Waters past 9:00 pm (2100) in choppy seas, a honking headwind, and a pitch black night.  Kids were terrific and jumped to their tasks (lines, fenders, etc.) without us saying a word.  Although we’ve sailed a fair amount over the years off Miami, the Bahamas and Virgin Islands, we’re really just getting the hang of everything on Muddy Waters and Mudcat.  Keenan and Daria take turns driving the dinghy, and Jennifer and I worry that if one of us is called upon to drive it, we won’t have enough hours behind the wheel to know what to do.

We returned to shore Monday under much calmer conditions, this time with our four folding bikes, and Jennifer found an organic produce market and cafe where we drank up cactus juice and fresh coconut milk, and generally gobbled-up a lot of good green stuff guaranteed to keep us on the go.  If you know what I mean.

We also took the kids through the Truman Annex (former U.S. Navy base and Truman winter retreat) and then into the Hemingway House, where we enjoyed a terrific tour of the grounds where Ernest Hemingway lived for nine years and where “Papa” composed most of his life’s major literary works.  It was a nice field trip for the kids’ home schooling, and Jennifer and I bought a few Hemingway books to read, or read again in some cases.  Naturally, we bought Old Man and the Sea for the kids.

Jennifer just finished a book on Hemingway’s first of four wives.  (Thank you to Vivian of Books & Books in Miami Beach, our favorite book shop, for the book.)  We’ll write more soon about Keenan and Daria’s home schooling curriculum so you can follow – and encourage and even contribute to – their studies.  We hope they’re learning lots.  The teachers are.

We have a weather window today, before a cold front currently icing up the southeast United States comes our way and brings big winds and waves on our nose.  Having touched-base at mile-marker 0 in Key West, we’re now traveling E and then NE back to Marathon under sunny skies and in 70 degrees, calm seas, and light and variable winds.