THE END OF THE ROAD – TWICE

Post #42 – THE END OF THE ROAD – TWICE – Day 272, January 29, 2015 – On board:  Paul, Hank (my Dad), Red Southerton, Jim K

Flamingo is the absolute end of the road – it was our next destination after leaving the anchorage in the Ten Thousand Islands, 70 miles away. Located at the very southern tip of the Florida peninsula, it is the southernmost outpost in the mainland United States. I say outpost, because it’s hard to claim it’s a village or a town – no one actually lives there, and it is an hour’s drive down a road through the wilderness to the nearest town. Other than some small out-buildings containing restrooms and the like and a few houses that provide temporary housing for the park rangers, there are only two buildings in Flamingo, one of which houses a small marine/souvenir type store and the other of which houses the southernmost headquarters of the Everglades National Park, the Visitor Center, and, surprisingly, a café with outdoor, screened-in seating that is open only during the winter season.  However, there is a marina and a campground, and there was a surprising amount of activity with campers, canoers, kayakers, and boaters in small boats coming and going – outdoor activities are king here. Flamingo is the southern terminus of the 99-mile Wilderness Waterway, a winding water route through the Everglades from Everglade City to Flamingo.  We were the only cruiser in the small marina, as this is not a normal sop for Loopers on the way to the Keys (or any other cruisers, for that matter). It is about 30 miles out of the way, and the channel carries only 3 feet of water at low tide;  therefore, we again timed our arrival and departure to coincide with higher tides. Mosquitos and “no-see-ums” rule the dusk and the dawn here, and some people walk around completely covered with mosquito netting (I wonder why more cruisers don’t come here…?). However, it is an interesting place with interesting people and an interesting history. Flamingo was originally located 4 1/2 miles west of the current location, but the few residents were relocated shortly after the National Park was created – all that remains of the original settlement are some foundations.  In 1959, a 103 room lodge and 24 cabins were built, but those were destroyed by the 9-foot storm surge when Hurricane Wilma roared ashore in 2005. Wilma did extensive damage to the other facilities as well, which are still being repaired – we had to move the Joint Adventure several times before we could find one of only 2 or 3 electrical stations that hade been repaired from damage from Wilma 10 years ago!

Here are some images from Flamingo:

The modest but sturdy store in Flamingo - one of the two buildings that make up the "town".

The modest but sturdy store in Flamingo – one of the two buildings that make up the “town”.

The Visitor Center/Park Headquarters building, overlooking Florida Bay. The screened-in café is on the lower level, facing the Bay.

The Visitor Center/Park Headquarters building, overlooking Florida Bay is the other building in Flamingo. The screened-in café is on the lower level, facing the Bay.

The screened-n eating area at the Flamingo Café.  The food was surprisingly good, and we had alligator tail for dinner (how could you have anything else in this setting...).  The kitchen is housed in a mobile trailer, seen in the background, which can be hooked to a truck and taken elsewhere during hurricane season.

The screened-in eating area at the Flamingo Café. The food was surprisingly good, and we had alligator tail for dinner (how could you have anything else in this setting…?). The kitchen is housed in a mobile trailer, seen in the background, which can be hooked to a truck and taken elsewhere during hurricane season or if a large storm approaches.

The campground in Flamingo, overlooking Florida Bay. Numerous trails into the Everglades and the Wilderness Waterway originate from Flamingo. A healthy breeze will keep the mosquitos and no-see-ums at bay, but there was no breeze the evening we were there.

The campground in Flamingo, overlooking Florida Bay. Numerous trails into the Everglades and the Wilderness Waterway originate from Flamingo. A healthy breeze will keep the mosquitos and no-see-ums at bay, but there was no breeze the evening we were there, and they came out in force at dusk.

The southern tip of Florida is home to the rare American Crocodile - this handsome specimen is from a picture, not a live one that we saw.  You can differentiate the croc from an alligator by its teeth, which protrude on the outside of its mouth whereas the teeth of an alligator are inside its mouth (now you can tell them apart the next time you meet one...).

The southern tip of Florida is home to the rare American Crocodile – this handsome specimen is from a picture, not a live one that we saw. You can differentiate the croc from an alligator by its teeth, which protrude on the outside of its mouth whereas the teeth of an alligator are inside its mouth (now you can tell them apart the next time you meet one…).

Red & I did some exploring by bike - according to Red, it was the first time in some 20 years since he'd been on a bike -

Red & I did some exploring by bike – according to Red, it was the first time in some 20 years since he’d been on a bike – Yayy, Red!

We left early the next morning before the tide ran out, headed 40 miles nearly due south to the town of Marathon on Boot Key. The weather was ideal and the run was pleasant, though the water throughout Florida Bay is shallow, ranging from a foot or two to 8-10 feet deep.

The sun rising through some clouds as we left Flamingo early in the morning.

The sun rising through some clouds as we left Flamingo early in the morning.

Red at the helm on our way to the Keys on a rare, perfectly calm day on Florida Bay.

Red at the helm on our way to the Keys on a rare, perfectly calm day on Florida Bay.

Paul broke out his "keys wardrobe" on the boat in anticipation of arriving in Marathon on Boot Key.

Paul broke out his “Keys wardrobe” on the boat in anticipation of arriving in Marathon on Boot Key.

We made it to the Keys, our first stop being Marathon on Boot Key!  Marathon is a dichotomy – the culture is clearly an “island culture” and its residents are on “island time”, while it is the largest commercial center in the Keys. A new and opulent Hyatt Hotel just opened on the Gulf side of the island and there are some large and luxurious homes; however, most of the island’s residents live in very modest homes, many of which are small trailers in fairly dense trailer parks. The large, relatively deep harbor is filled with perhaps a thousand boats, ranging from megayachts to small, old boats containing live-aboards. Restaurants abound, many of which are modest, open-air places with reasonable prices. A portion of the people here are vacationers or retirees, here to enjoy the climate, while the larger portion of the people are working-class people earning a living by servicing the vacationers and retirees. Most of the buildings are 60’s-era.  All in all, it’s a very interesting place. The only certified turtle hospital in the world that is dedicated exclusively to the rehabilitation of turtles is here, and there is an interesting Natural History Museum with a 25 acre preserve with extensive interactive walking trails on the island.  There is both a movie theater and a live community theater as well, both of which we took advantage of.

The perfectly calm weather with which we arrived abandoned us, and we ended up staying an extra day due to high winds. Here are some pictures from our stay:

A magazine article called "Dive Bars - Friends in Low Places" identified eight of the "loudest, rowdiest, most fun establishments on the water" along the Florida coast. Surprisingly, I had been to three of them, though not necessarily during "prime time" - Flora-Bama at the border between Alabama and the Florida panhandle, which we visited on this trip;  Bonita Bills on Fort Myers Beach;  and Bert's Bar & Grill in Matlacha on Pine Island. So we had lunch at a fourth, the Dockside Tropical Bar in Marathon, pictured above. Unfortunately, we didn't make it back there at night when the band plays and it apparently fills up and then some.

A magazine article called “Dive Bars – Friends in Low Places” identified eight of the “loudest, rowdiest, most fun establishments on the water” along the Florida coast. Surprisingly, I had been to three of them, though not necessarily during “prime time”, including Flora-Bama at the border between Alabama and the Florida panhandle, which we visited on this trip.  So we had lunch at a fourth, the Dockside Tropical Bar in Marathon, pictured above. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it back there at night when the band plays and it apparently fills up and then some.

Boudines marina, near the entrance to Boot Key Harbor, featured Happy Hour with live music during the sunset & dinner period. We were docked at the marina next door, so we made ample use of their Happy Hour.

Boudines marina, near the entrance to Boot Key Harbor, featured Happy Hour with live music during the sunset & dinner period. We were docked at the marina next door, so we made ample use of their Happy Hour.

The restaurant/tiki bar at Sunset Point is a larger, more upscale place where crowds gather to watch the sunset, have a cocktail, and enjoy dinner virtually every evening.

The restaurant/tiki bar at Sunset Point is a larger, more upscale place where crowds gather every night to watch the sunset, have a cocktail, and enjoy dinner.

The beach in Marathan was pleasant but smaller then I expected. However, we went for a swim in the warm water amidst the tropical breeze.

The beach in Marathan was pleasant but smaller then I expected. However, we went for a swim in the warm water amidst the tropical breeze.

Most of the original railroad bridge is unusable for vehicles and has been replaced with new highway bridges. the old railroad bridge going west from Marathon is open to pedestrians and used as a walking/biking trail and fishing pier. A section has been removed in the middle, however, to allow higher boats to pass through.  The newer highway bridge can be seen to the left in this picture.

Most of the original railroad bridge from the mainland to Key West is unusable for vehicles and has been replaced with new highway bridges. The old railroad bridge going west from Marathon is open to pedestrians and used as a walking/biking trail and fishing pier. A section has been removed in the middle, however, to allow higher boats to pass through. The newer highway bridge can be seen to the left in this picture.

While cruising Boot Key Harbor in the dinghy, we came upon Dede skippered by Henry and his wife Dede, whom we originally met on the Trent Severn Waterway last summer. Henry & Dede spent four years building Dede themselves to cruise the Great Loop, which they will complete this Spring when they reach their home port of Norfolk.

While cruising Boot Key Harbor in the dinghy, we came upon the vessel Dede skippered by Henry and his wife Dede, whom we originally met on the Trent Severn Waterway last summer. Henry & Dede spent four years building Dede themselves to cruise the Great Loop, which they will complete this Spring when they reach their home port of Norfolk.

As I mentioned above, the only full-time turtle hospital in the world is located in Marathon. The founder, after retiring from his career-job, bought a small motel in Marathon.  It had a salt water pool but his guests were more interested in a fresh water pool, so he built one then converted the salt water pool to a huge fish tank for the entertainment of his guests. One day a child asked him why there were no turtles in the pool, so he decided to add a couple.  However, he found that sea turtles were protected and one could only get a permit to acquire them if they were injured and needed to recuperate in a protected environment. So he obtained a permit to acquire two such turtles; the turtle hospital was born and grew into a full-time non-profit operation which has rehabilitated and returned to the sea over 1200 injured turtles:

We took a 1 1/2 hour tour of the Turtle Hospital and saw many species of turtles in various stages of rehabilitation.

We took a 1 1/2 hour tour of the Turtle Hospital and saw many species of turtles in various stages of rehabilitation.

This enormous sea turtle was hit by a boat - you can see the damage to his shell.  It will take about 6 months, but they will repair the shell, nurse him back to health, and return him to the sea.

This enormous sea turtle was hit by a boat – you can see the damage to his shell. It will take about 6 months, but they will repair the shell, nurse him back to health, and return him to the sea.

This is a creative advertising slogan that I hadn't encountered before...

This is a creative advertising slogan that I hadn’t encountered before…

The winds eased for us for a day, and we headed 50 miles to Key West on a beautiful tropical day. KEY WEST!  The REAL end of the road!Another milestone – the southernmost point on our Great Loop voyage.  From this point on, we start gradually working our way in a northerly direction towards home.

Key West! What an interesting place. From a distant outpost inhabited largely by hippies, outcasts, and other “interesting” people, it has morphed into an upscale resort area – however, it has managed to retain it rebelliousness, its irreverence, and even some of its crudeness. Restaurants and pubs abound, nearly all of which are open to the streets and many of which have live music which spills out onto the streets as well, reminiscent of Bourbon Street in New Orleans.  You can buy Jello shots and shots of vodka on the sidewalks, which teem with people into the wee hours, even on a Sunday night. Apparently they hold a 10-day Fantasy Fest in October, with parades, balls, drag queen contests, nude body painting, and much more. Our stay was a bit more tame, but certainly interesting.  Here are some images:

We just had to celebrate our arrival at the southernmost point on our trip with a "dockage beer" on the bridge of the Joint Adventure

We just had to celebrate our arrival at the southernmost point on our trip with a “dockage beer” on the bridge of the Joint Adventure

During our "dockage beer", Todd & Kelly, visitors from Canada, were noticing the Joint Adventure, so we invited them aboard to share our celebration. When we asked them about their profession they replied that they are both police officers - we quietly hid our contraband...(just kidding).

During our “dockage beer”, Todd & Kelly, visitors from Canada, were noticing the Joint Adventure, so we invited them aboard to share our celebration. When we asked them about their profession they replied that they are both police officers – we quietly hid our contraband…(just kidding).

My Dad enjoying the view from the deck at the Tiki Bar at the marina -

My Dad enjoying the view from the deck at the Tiki Bar at the marina –

Founded in 1933, Sloppy Joe's is a famous bar on Duval Street, the main entertainment area in Key West. It's most famous patrons were Ernest Hemmingway, who coined the name "Sloppy Joes", and the infamous rumrunner Habana Joe. Mentioned in the movie "Citizen Kane", the bar is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today it features live music from noon to 2:00 AM, including a show band from in the evening, and a dance band starting at 10:00. Of course, Red and I had to check it out, and the bands were excellent!

Founded in 1933, Sloppy Joe’s is a famous bar on Duval Street, the main entertainment area in Key West. It’s most famous patrons were Ernest Hemmingway, who coined the name “Sloppy Joes”, and the infamous rumrunner Habana Joe. Mentioned in the movie “Citizen Kane”, the bar is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today it features live music from noon to 2:00 AM, including a show band in the evening and a dance band starting at 10:00 PM. Of course, Red and I had to check it out, and the music was excellent!

Paul & Red enjoying a beer at Captain Tony's - it is the original location of Sloppy Joe's where Ernest Hemenway spent many evenings drinking and partying with the owner of the bar and their buddies. The bar owner leased the building. However, when the owner of the building raised the rent by $1 per week, Hemenway and the bar owner removed all of the toilets, light fixtures, and equipment and moved them into the new location of Sloppy Joes' where it remains today.

Paul & Red enjoying a beer at Captain Tony’s – it is the original location of Sloppy Joe’s where Ernest Hemingway spent many evenings drinking and partying with the owner of the bar and their buddies. The bar owner leased the building. However, when the owner of the building raised the rent by $1 per week, Hemingway and the bar owner removed all of the toilets, light fixtures, and equipment and moved them into the new location of Sloppy Joes’ where it remains today.

There are bars and bands of all sizes, shapes, and sounds throughout the "downtown" Key West area, but this was by far the smallest, as its sign suggests - about 8 feet wide and 12 feet deep.

There are bars and bands of all sizes, shapes, and sounds throughout the “downtown” Key West area, but this was by far the smallest bar, as its sign suggests – about 8 feet wide and 12 feet deep.

We couldn't resist visiting the fifth "Dive Bar" listed in the magazine article, since it is on Key West - the Green Parrot. It lived up to its image...

We couldn’t resist visiting the fifth “Dive Bar” listed in the magazine article, since it is on Key West – the Green Parrot. It lived up to its image…as I arrived, there was a patron holding onto a wrought iron screen on one of the windows shouting at the top of his lungs to tourists on an open tour bus “Help!  Please help me!  I’m trapped here! They won’t let me out!!  Please come get me out!!

 

This building contains a bar with three levels, the third of which is on the roof. The vegetation around the perimeter is a screen because the top level is "clothing optional".  I talked Red into a visit, arguing that you can't come here and NOT check it out. Unfortunately, the only person with no clothes on was a man sitting at the bar.  Oh, well. It was quite cool while we ere there, so maybe in warmer weather...

This building contains a bar with three levels, the third of which is on the roof. The vegetation around the perimeter is a screen because the top level is “clothing optional”. I talked Red into a visit, arguing that you can’t come here and NOT check it out. Unfortunately, the only person with no clothes on was a man sitting at the bar. Oh, well.  It was quite cool while we were there, so maybe in warmer weather…

There appears to be some snobby places here and there....

There appears to be some snobby places here as well….

These desserts must be REALLY, good...

These desserts must be REALLY, good…

On a more serious note, Key West, we discovered, is more than just a fun-in-the-sun place.  There is a great deal of history and culture here, and many more interesting stories than I could put in the blog. Here are some examples:

 

Mel Fischer was a famous treasure hunter who, after searching for 17 years, finally found the remains of a Spanish ship sunk in 1622 by a hurricane. The recovered treasure is valued at half a billion dollars, the loss of which at the time nearly caused the collapse of the heavily indebted Spanish government. The Mel Fischer museum in Key West is fascinating, featuring displays and artifacts from the ship, including solid gold chains, silver bullions, and a multitude of silver coins, plus extensive displays and artifacts from the many pirates who plied the waters of the Keys, Cuba, and the Bahamas.

Mel Fischer was a famous treasure hunter who, after searching for 17 years, finally found the remains of a Spanish ship sunk in 1622 by a hurricane. The recovered treasure is valued at half a billion dollars, the loss of which at the time nearly caused the collapse of the heavily indebted Spanish government. The Mel Fischer museum in Key West is fascinating, featuring displays and artifacts from the ship, including solid gold chains, silver bullions, and a multitude of silver coins, plus extensive displays and artifacts from the many pirates who plied the waters of the Keys, Cuba, and the Bahamas.

This sign tells the fascinating story of two women pirates during the Golden Age of Piracy

This sign tells the fascinating story of two women pirates during the Golden Age of Piracy

 

Nineteen months after Harry Truman became president, his doctor told him he would suffer the same fate as Roosevelt if he didn't take a vacation. So he was sent to a house on the Naval Base here, and fell in love with Key West. As a result, he ended up spending 175 days - or 10% of his presidency - in Key West. The house became known as the Little White House, and is now on the National Register. It became an office as well as a retreat, and Truman held several cabinet meetings there, requiring cabinet members to remove their white shirts and ties and to wear a brightly colored "key West" shirt. In the evening, he often played poker with his visitors on a table that had a removable top so Bess wouldn't know it was a poker table. The table and virtually all the original Truman furniture remains and is ised today. Other presidents have continued to use the house, including Eisenhower, Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton. There are scheduled tours of the entire house, with knowledgeable tour guides with story after story about Harry and the Truman years.

Nineteen months after Harry Truman became president, his doctor told him he would suffer the same fate as Roosevelt if he didn’t take a vacation. So he was sent to a house on the Naval Base here, and fell in love with Key West. As a result, he ended up spending 175 days – or 10% of his presidency – in Key West. The house became known as the Little White House, and is now on the National Register. It became an office as well as a retreat, and Truman held several cabinet meetings there, requiring cabinet members to remove their white shirts and ties and wear a brightly colored “Key West” shirts. In the evening, he often played poker with his visitors on a table that had a removable top so Bess wouldn’t know it was a poker table. The table and virtually all the original Truman furniture remains and is still used today. Other presidents have continued to use the house, including Eisenhower, Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton. There are scheduled tours of the entire house, with knowledgeable tour guides with story after story about Harry and the Truman years.

Ernest Hemingway spent a great deal of time in this home that he owned in Key West, and wrote many of his books while here. He was a renegade, and stories abound about some of his antics while here. The house is open for tours.

Ernest Hemingway spent a great deal of time in this home that he owned in Key West, and wrote many of his books while here. He was a renegade, and stories abound about some of his antics while here. The house is open for tours.

The Shipwreck Museum focuses on "wreckers" - professional salvagers who made fortunes salvaging treasure and merchandise from the many ships that were wrecked on the shoals along the Keys. At its heyday in the mid 1800's, an average of a ship a week would wreck on the shoals, and most of the population was in some manner involved with the salvage industry in which salvaged goods would be sold at auction - salvage from one ship could bring in as much as $1 million in todays dollars. As a result, Key West during the golden age of shipping became the richest per capita town in the entire country!

The Shipwreck Museum focuses on “wreckers” – professional salvagers who made fortunes salvaging treasure and merchandise from the many ships that were wrecked on the shoals along the Keys. At its heyday in the mid 1800’s, an average of a ship a week would wreck on the shoals, and most of the population was in some manner involved with the salvage industry in which salvaged goods would be sold at auction – salvage from one ship could bring in as much as $1 million in today’s dollars. As a result, Key West during the golden age of shipping became the richest per capita town in the entire country!

This enormous statue is in front of the Art & History Museum in the downtown area

Key West also features an Art & History Museum – this enormous statue is in front of the Museum in the downtown area

This statue is on the grounds of the Art & History Museum. I wonder what that gut on the ground is thinking...?

This statue is on the grounds of the Art & History Museum. I wonder what that guy on the ground is thinking…?

Every evening, upwards of a thousand people congregate on the waterfront in Mallory Square to watch the sunset. There are street performers, vendors, portable bars, and great people-watching. The view is spectacular.

Every evening, upwards of a thousand people congregate on the waterfront in Mallory Square to watch the sunset. There are street performers, vendors, portable bars, and great people-watching. The view is spectacular.

The sunset from Mallory Square on our first night in Key West

The sunset from Mallory Square on our first night in Key West

This enormous monument marks the southernmost point in the continental US, and is the most visited single place on Key West.  But it's a fraud. It WAS the southernmost point before World War 2.  However, during the war, the Navy need to expand the naval base and increased the size of the island to 1 1/2 times its original size - including a substantial portion which is south of this point!

This enormous monument marks the southernmost point in the continental US, and is the most visited single place on Key West. But it’s a fraud. It WAS the southernmost point before World War 2. However, during the war, the Navy needed to expand the naval base, so they increased the size of the island to 1 1/2 times its original size – including a substantial portion which is south of this point!

He may be 90, but my Dad can still spring into action to save this tree from collapsing onto the parking lot...

He may be 90, but my Dad can still spring into action to save this tree from collapsing onto the parking lot…

Here are a few things that caught my eye when wandering around the downtown area:

The sign next to the door of a bar in downtown -

The sign next to the door of a bar in downtown –

You can get a T-shirt that says pretty much anything in Key West

You can get a T-shirt that says pretty much anything in Key West

There you have it....

There you have it….

One for my two lawyer daughters and their lawyer friends -

For my two lawyer-daughters…

Dogs have a tough life sometimes...

It’s hard to read, but the words on the bottom of this picture say “is really slow”. Dogs have a tough life sometimes…

Don't leave home without one....

Don’t leave home without one….

We continue to be laundry-challenged.  After putting the laundry and soap in the machine and inserting the coins, I couldn’t get the coin tray to push in to start the machine.  It jammed and, try as I might, would not go in.  Impatient and angry, I went to the office to complain indignantly and, when asked,  I showed the attendant the coins I had inserted. “Sir, those are dollar coins, not quarters” he patiently explained.  I slinked out with my tail between my legs and inserted quarters.  My Dad then went to move the clothes from the washer into the dryer. He was soon in the same office talking to the same attendant, explaining that he needed help – he had inserted Canadian quarters (which I had given him) and the machine was jammed.  I’m not sure they are going to let us use the laundry machines again…

So we took the ferry for a day trip to the Dry Tortugas, a small group of island comprised of sand and coral 70 miles west of Key West. It was named Las Tortugas by Ponce de Leon because of the abundance of turtles, and the word “dry” was added to early maps to warn sea captains that there was no fresh water to be had there. Since the islands are located in a strategic spot in the shipping channel between the Florida keys and Cuba, the Army decided to build an enormous brick fort and a fleet of battleships there. The fort covers virtually the entirety of the largest island, and is the third largest fort ever built in the US. Construction was started in 1846 and was finally halted 30 years later,in 1875 – the fort was never completed.

Here are some images:

Fort Jefferson on the Dry Tortugas, as seen from the ferry

Fort Jefferson on the Dry Tortugas, as seen from the ferry. When the Civil War broke out, the U. S Army was in the process of installing artillery, but none were yet installed. Shortly after the war started, a Confederate battleship anchored next to the fort and sent a messenger demanding the surrender of the fort.  The fort’s commander yelled back to the messenger:  “You tell your Captain to be gone within 10 minutes or I’ll blow his ship out of the water!”.  The bluff worked, and the fort remained in Union hands – it was critical to the successful Union blockade of the South throughout the war.

A moat was constructed around the entire fort, for two reasons:  First, since the fort covers virtually the entire island, the outer wall of the moat provides the fort some protection from wave action.  Second, the wall prevents enemy ships from reaching the wall of the fort in an attack.

A moat was constructed around the entire fort, for two reasons: First, since the fort covers virtually the entire island, the outer wall of the moat provides the fort some protection from wave action. Second, the wall prevents enemy ships from reaching the wall of the fort in an attack.

The fort has six sides, and the enormity can be somewhat gauged in this picture that shows about half of one side. Sixteen million bricks had been used by the time construction was halted. Bricks were shipped to the fort from Pensacola until the outbreak of the Civil War, after which, believe it or not, they were shipped from Maine.  The cannon in the foreground weighs 50,000 pounds!

The fort has six sides, and the enormity can be somewhat gauged in this picture that shows about half of one side. Sixteen million bricks had been used by the time construction was halted. Bricks were shipped to the fort from Pensacola until the outbreak of the Civil War, after which, believe it or not, they were shipped from Maine. The cannon in the foreground weighs 50,000 pounds!

This interpretive sign highlights the difficulties of building the fort

This interpretive sign highlights the difficulties of building the fort

Sometimes it doesn't pay to hire the lowest bidder...

Sometimes it doesn’t pay to hire the lowest bidder…

 

The fort was used in part as a prison, although it was not designed for that purpose. One of the prisoners was Dr. Mudd, the doctor who was convicted as a co-conspirator after treating John Wilkes Booth when he broke his leg after assassinating President Lincoln. This was his cell.  When the fort's regular doctor and nurses died of Yellow Fever, Dr. Mudd, then the only doctor at the fort, was called into service to treat other patients. As a result, President Johnson granted him a pardon in 1869.

The fort was used in part as a prison, although it was not designed for that purpose. One of the prisoners was Dr. Mudd, the doctor who was convicted as a co-conspirator after treating John Wilkes Booth when he broke his leg after assassinating President Lincoln. This was his cell. When the fort’s regular doctor and nurses died of Yellow Fever, Dr. Mudd, then the only doctor at the fort, was called into service to treat other patients. As a result, President Johnson granted him a pardon in 1869.

This is one of several boats at the fort that successfully brought Cuban refugees to the US. Under Federal law, any Cuban refugee who reached dry land in the US can stay,  As a result, boats reach the Dry Tortugas on a regular basis, and the refugees ride the ferry back to Key West along with the tourists.  None arrived while we were there.

This is one of several boats at the fort that successfully brought Cuban refugees to the US. Under Federal law, any Cuban refugee who reached dry land in the US can stay. As a result, boats reach the Dry Tortugas on a regular basis, and the refugees ride the ferry back to Key West along with the tourists. None arrived while we were there.

A bit hard to see, but we were very fortunate to see a an American Crocodile that showed up a few years ago at the fort.  Sightings are rare, but he happened to come into the moat during our visit.

A bit hard to see, but we were very fortunate to see a an American Crocodile that showed up a few years ago at the fort. Sightings are rare, but he happened to come into the moat during our visit.

So Key West turned out to be much more than we expected, and we could easily spend another week or more here.  However, we expect a reasonable weather window tomorrow, and plan to head east and work our way towards Miami.

 

 

 

 

 

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SWAMP!

Post # 41:  SWAMP!.  Day 263; January 22, 2015 – On board: Paul, Hank (my Dad), Red Southerton (my brother-in-law), Jim K

Happy New Year (a bit late, I know).  I hope everyone had an enjoyable holiday season!  After about a month at home in Boston and a visit to my Dad and siblings in Buffalo, we’re back on the water, having resumed our march south to the Everglades this past Friday (January 16). I won’t bore you with family pictures from the holidays, but I did want to share one image:

My Dad lost his hat which he liked to wear on the boat that said "Old Salt" on the front. So for Christmas, my daughters had the three hats above made for the three generations of "Old Salts"

My Dad lost his hat which he liked to wear on the boat that said “Old Salt” on the front. So for Christmas, my daughters had the three hats above made for the three generations of “Old Salts”

Before I describe our recent progress, here are a few statistics that people inquired about over the holidays:  As of the holiday break, we have traveled 4,155 miles on the water, and we’ve used a total of 1,013 gallons of diesel fuel – that averages out to 4.1 miles per gallon.  When traveling at “trawler speed” for various intervals, we got up to 9.4 miles per gallon. Not bad for water travel with a 34′ long, 17′ wide boat – I’ve had cars that got less mileage than that. We’re probably about 2/3 of the way around the Loop Boston to Boston, with around 2,000 – 2,500 miles to go.  A total of 32 people have traveled with us on board at various times for various lengths of time, 5 of which have been on board multiple times.

We’re now at Everglade City, a unique rural outpost adjacent to the Ten Thousand Islands and Chokoloskee Bay  – really a small, rather isolated town instead of a city. Surrounded by mangroves and sea grass and located about 6 miles up a narrow channel from the open Gulf, Everglade City has a population of just 400 people. Outdoors is king here, and Everglade City is home to several outfitters that run kayak tours, airboat tours, alligator tours, and other outdoor adventures centered on the Everglades. If you come to South Florida, I recommend a mangrove tunnel tour by “Everglades Area Tours” (239 695 3633, evergladesareatours.com) – you will travel by kayak into the mangrove swamps and will literally paddle through tunnels formed by the mangroves.  You’ll also see large and numerous alligators in the wild up close and personal, and they will be watching you as closely as you will be watching them.

Everglade City has a colorful history of its own. In 1923, the Florida legislature created Collier County and designated Everglade City as the county seat. However, Hurricane Donna caused extensive damage to the small, rural town in 1960, so shortly thereafter the county seat was moved to East Naples and Everglade City remained a small, anonymous outpost off the beaten path. The combination of its isolated location, the dense surrounding mangroves, and the 10,000 islands around the channel entrance created an ideal location for drug smuggling in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Smugglers would drop bales of marijuana from boats and airplanes, and counterparts in Everglade City would pick them up for distribution throughout the U. S., using the isolated airstrip near the town. With a lack of employment opportunities in the town, many local residents became involved in the smuggling operations.  However, Ronald Reagon’s “War on Drugs” in the mid-1980’s abruptly ended the smuggling operations (as far as we know…).

We didn’t encounter any drug smugglers (that we know of), but we did meet some interesting people in a unique town.  Here are some images from Everglade City:

As seen in this aerial photo of Everglade City, the town is built on a small area of upland (much of it filled) and is surrounded by mangrove swamp. The narrow and sometimes shallow channel winds for six miles through the Ten Thousand Islands and Chokoloski Bay

As seen in this aerial photo of Everglade City, the town is built on a small area of upland (much of it filled) and is surrounded by mangrove swamp. The narrow and sometimes shallow channel from the Gulf into the harbor winds for six miles through the Ten Thousand Islands and Chokoloskee Bay

The Rod & Gun Club in Everglade City

The Rod & Gun Club, where we docked in Everglade City – an interesting place, as described in the caption below

We docked at the Rod & Gun Club on the river in Everglade City. Built in the late 1800's  and appearing from the outside as simply an old wooden lodge, the next few pictures will show the incredible ambiance of the interior. Inside is a time-warp, with the dark hand-crafted wood and the furniture all original from the time it was built. In disrepair and condemned for demolition, it was discovered by the Bowen family when they were stopped on the Tamiami Trail by a downed tree felled by the hurricane in 1960. On the other side of the tree, a man was also stopped as he was trying to go in the other direction. So they simply swapped cars and continued on, and the Bowen family ended up in Everglade City and discovered the Rod & Gun Club building, which they painstakingly restored.

We docked at the Rod & Gun Club on the river in Everglade City. Built in the late 1800’s and appearing from the outside as simply an old wooden lodge, the next few pictures will show the incredible ambiance of the interior. Inside is a time-warp, with the dark hand-crafted wood and the furniture all original from the time it was built around the turn of the century. In disrepair and condemned for demolition, it was discovered by the Bowen family when they were stopped on the Tamiami Trail by a downed tree felled by the hurricane in 1960. On the other side of the tree, a man was also stopped as he was trying to go in the other direction. So they simply swapped cars and they each continued on (how cool is that!). As a result, the Bowen family ended up in Everglade City and discovered the Rod & Gun Club building, which they painstakingly restored.

The natural wood, the original furniture, and the authentic artifacts throughout the building make this a truly unique and remarkable place

The natural wood, original furniture, and authentic artifacts throughout the building make this a truly unique and remarkable place

 

One of many hunting trophies throughout the building from the days when the Rod & Gun Club was a fishing and hunting get-away for the rich and famous. Five presidents have stayed here - Hoover, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, and Nixon, in addition to many celebrities, including John Wayne, Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Sean Connery, Burl Ives, Gypsy Rose (while filming "Winds Across the Everglades"), Mick Jagger, and Ernest Hemingway.

One of many hunting trophies throughout the building from the days when the Rod & Gun Club was a fishing and hunting get-away for the rich and famous. Five presidents have stayed here – Hoover, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, and Nixon – as have many celebrities, including John Wayne, Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Sean Connery, Burl Ives, Gypsy Rose Lee (while filming “Winds Across the Everglades”), Mick Jagger, Ernest Hemingway, and many others.

He looks happy, but I still wouldn't want to mess with this guy...

I wouldn’t want to mess with this guy in the wild…

The picturesque City Hall in Everglade City

The picturesque City Hall in Everglade City

Airboats are iconic in the Everglades.  Powered like an airplane by an enormous propeller mounted on the stern, they draw only a few inches so can go in very shallow water and through the grassy swamps. Airboat tours are widespread, but I recommend tours in an outboard powered boat instead. The airboats are so noisy that they scare away the wildlife long before the airboat arrives, and earmuffs must be worn the muffle the noise.

Airboats are iconic in the Everglades. Powered like an airplane by an enormous propeller mounted on the stern, they draw only a few inches so they can go in very shallow water and through the grassy swamps. Airboat tours are widespread, but I recommend tours in an outboard powered boat instead – the airboats are so noisy that they scare away the wildlife long before the airboat arrives, and earmuffs must be worn the muffle the noise.

Although it is hard to see in this picture, we encountered this sand bar which was covered with hundreds of rare white pelicans on our way through the Ten Thousand Islands along the six mile long channel into Everglade City.

Although it is hard to see in this picture, we encountered this sand bar which was covered with hundreds of rare white pelicans on our way through the Ten Thousand Islands along the six mile long channel into Everglade City.

Due to some shallow spots in the channel, we had to enter and leave Everglade City near high tide. High tide was in the afternoon and our next stop was Flamingo, 70 miles away, so we decided to leave the next afternoon and anchor in the Ten Thousand Islands – doing so enabled us to leave the next morning, ensuring that we would have ample daylight to reach Flamingo. Here are some pictures from our overnight anchorage:

The view from the bridge of the Joint Adventure at anchor - the opening to the Gulf from the Ten Thousand Islands is in the background. Somehow this empty Heiniken bottle ended up in the foreground...

The view from the bridge of the Joint Adventure at anchor – the opening to the Gulf from the Ten Thousand Islands is in the background. Somehow this empty Heiniken bottle ended up in the foreground…

Red Southerton and I took the dinghy out for a spin among the mangrove islands. The Joint Adventure at anchor is in the background.

Red and I took the dinghy out for a spin among the mangrove islands. The Joint Adventure at anchor is in the background.

Paul and Hank watching us as we head off into the wilderness in the dinghy

Paul and Hank holding down the fort as we head off into the wilderness in the dinghy

We had met Bob & Diedrie on the vessel "Tide Hiker" at the dock in front of the Rod & Gun Club, and we both anchored the next day in the same area. They invited us aboard for Happy Hour, so the four of us piled into the dinghy and joined them for an hour and a half of drinks, snacks, stories, and many, many laughs

We had met Bob & Diedrie on the vessel “Tide Hiker” at the dock in front of the Rod & Gun Club, and we both anchored the next day in the same area. They invited us aboard for Happy Hour, so the four of us piled into the dinghy and joined them for an hour and a half of drinks, snacks, stories, and many, many laughs

Knowing we would be at anchor, Paul bought some fresh grouper right off the boat in Everglade City, and Red prepared it in the galley then cooked it outside on the grill after we returned from our outing on Tide Hiker. Best grouper I ever tasted!

Knowing we would be at anchor, Paul bought some fresh grouper right off the boat in Everglade City, and Red prepared it in the galley then cooked it outside on the grill after we returned from our outing on Tide Hiker. Best grouper I ever tasted!

The history of the Everglades is a fascinating story with all the elements and intrigue of a best-selling novel.  Known as the “River of Grass”, the Everglades is literally a slow-moving river 60 miles wide and 100 miles long, conveying water from as far away as Orlando to the southern tip of Florida. It is shaped by water and fire, with an endless cycle of flooding in the summer wet season and drought in the winter dry season. Humans first came to the Everglades about 15,000 years ago, and the Calusa Indians dominated the area when the Spanish first arrived in the late 16th century. Evidence of the Calusas abound in southern Florida, primarily in the form of enormous mounds formed by discarded shells. The Calusa’s were decimated by disease and conflicts with the Spanish, and had virtually disappeared by the late 18th century. However, the Seminole Indians retreated into the Everglades in the early 19th century during the Seminole Wars when they were forced from northern Florida by the U. S. Army. The Seminoles learned to live, fight, and hide in the hostile environment –  despite a concerted effort and several attempts, the Army was never able to remove the Seminols and re-settle them in the western plains, as was the fate of other tribes. Today, the Seminoles live on reservations in the Everglades region and – you guessed it – run gambling casinos.

The Everglades was originally considered to be a wasteland – however, the fertile land was coveted as prime farmland, if only someone could figure out how to get rid of the water. The first attempt to drain the Everglades occurred in 1882, and nearly a century of effort created an immense series of canals, dikes, and control structures which ultimately converted nearly 50% of the original Everglades into urban areas or farmland, much of it used to grow sugar cane and graze cattle.  However, in the 1970’s, as the environmental movement took hold, efforts grew to halt the destruction and attempt to restore the remaining Everglades. These efforts gained traction when UNESCO designated the Everglades as one of only three wetland areas of global importance in the entire world. Finally, in 2000, Congress approved the “Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan”.  Originally estimated to cost $7.8 billion and take 30 years to complete, it is the most comprehensive and expensive environmental repair project ever attempted. The key elements of the restoration are (1) restore the natural flow of water to the south, now impeded by the man-made barrier of the Tamiami Trail and many diversion canals and structures, (2) restore the amount of water flowing into the Everglades, much of which is now diverted elsewhere for irrigation and flood control, and (3) remove the nutrients and pollution from the water, which originates from cattle grazing and sugar cane fields. However, politics being what it is, battles in Congress over funding have plagued the project – although some progress is being made, the Everglades continue to deteriorate.

Since huge amounts of money have been involved from the earliest attempts to drain the Everglades and create valuable farmland from a worthless swamp, the full story of the Everglades is packed with intrigue, drama, lawlessness, greed, fraud, and every other facet of human nature as various figures competed for power, money, and control. The full story from the earliest human occupation to the present day is expertly told in the fascinating book “The Swamp” by Michael Grunwald – it reads like a novel and you won’t be able to put it down.

Back to our trip. The evening before we left Fort Myers Beach, my Dad and I had dinner with my Dad’s cousin, Bob Conley, and his wonderful bride, Mary Conley, who live in Cape Coral:

Bob & Mary Conley and my Dad at Matanzas Inn on Fort Myers Beach

Bob & Mary Conley and my Dad at Matanzas Inn on Fort Myers Beach

Our first stop after leaving Fort Myers Beach, before we reached Everglade City, was the affluent city of Naples. The 35 mile run was calm, warm, and sunny. We were fortunate that Paul’s college fraternity brother, Walter Lewis, lives in Naples and spent the afternoon and evening as our tour guide, showing us the sights and taking us to a wonderful local restaurant for dinner. Here are some images from our stay in Naples:

Most marinas in Naples were booked, but we found space at the Naples Bay Resort, an upscale marina surrounded by condos, a hotel, retail shops, and restaurants overlooking the docks

Most marinas in Naples were booked, but we found space at the Naples Bay Resort, an upscale marina surrounded by condos, a hotel, retail shops, and restaurants overlooking the docks

Fifth Avenue, the main retain area in downtown Naples, is pleasant, well-designed and beautiful - and expensive

Fifth Avenue, the main retail area in downtown Naples, is pleasant, well-designed, beautiful – and expensive

An alternative shopping/dining area to downtown is Tin City, a funky collection of old metal industrial buildings on the harbor that were converted to restaurants and shops

An alternative shopping/dining area to downtown is Tin City, a funky collection of old metal industrial buildings on the harbor that were converted to restaurants and shops

 

As one might expect, the beach in Naples is spectacular, with white, sugar-like sand.

As one might expect, the beach in Naples is spectacular, with white, sugar-like sand.

Before dinner, Walter took us to his home for some pre-dinner cocktails. Here's Walter telling one of his many interesting and often humorous stories.

Before dinner, Walter took us to his home for some pre-dinner cocktails. Here’s Walter telling one of his many interesting and often humorous stories on his back porch. Walter was smart and visionary enough to buy a modest home in the 70’s before real estate prices skyrocketed, then rebuild it to his liking. Today home prices in the downtown Naples area (not on the water) start in the low to mid $2 million range.

Walter took us to Tulias for dinner, where we experimented with dishes not readily available in New England, such as this appetizer plate of pig's ear and pasta with chunks of wild boar meat.

Walter took us to Tulias for dinner, where we experimented with dishes not readily available in New England, such as this appetizer plate of pig’s ear and pasta with chunks of wild boar meat.

Walter's tour included a synopsis of the Naples Real Estate market and a look at some of the mansions in Naples, the most expensive of which you can purchase for a mere $80 million. This is one of many such homes overlooking the 2-mile long entrance into Nape harbor.

Walter’s tour included a synopsis of the Naples Real Estate market and a look at some of the mansions in Naples, the most expensive of which you can purchase for a mere $80 million. This is one of many such homes overlooking the 2-mile long entrance into Naples harbor.

Leaving Naples, we wanted to take the interesting but sometimes shallow, 15 mile-long inside water route from Naples to Marco Island, rather than the outside route in the Gulf – being able to go where many other cruisers can’t is a major advantage of a shallow-draft catamaran. However, we needed to time our passage with the incoming tide, so we left later in the morning than usual. Walter joined us on board for the day, and we docked at one of the many marinas on Marco Island. There is no pedestrian-oriented retail center on Marco, and the island consists mostly of single family homes and high rise condominiums along the beach and waterfront areas. Man-made canals throughout the island provide boating access from the back yard of many of the homes. Here is a picture of the beach on Marco:

The beach on Marco Island is lined with high-rise condominium buildings and was well used.

The beach on Marco Island is lined with high-rise condominium buildings and was well used.

From Marco Island, we ran 40 miles to Everglade City, as described above, where we’re now at anchor. Our next stop will be Flamingo, an isolated outpost at the very southern tip of Florida on Florida Bay, 70 miles away by water along the open Gulf.

A couple of parting shots. I’m not a big shopper, but when I’m wandering through gift shops, I often read some of the sometimes clever and sometimes insightful signs on display.  Here are a couple that I liked:

No explanation needed....

No explanation needed….

How true....

How true….

 

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