Friday, March 6, 2009

Keys Disease

The locals have a name for it. What occurs is easily transmittable, not curable, and not even terminal—but is something most everyone catches while they’re in the Florida Keys for any length of time. Louis and I have had a bad case of it too—I don’t know if we’ll ever recover—it’s certainly not something you want to voluntarily get over. Keys Disease is a state of mind. And as I don’t want to forget one moment of our time here, I’m taking this opportunity to put most of it down here—so when we get back home into our daily routines, I can hopefully catch the disease again periodically—I’ll just pretend to be Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, close my eyes and click my ruby red heels together three times.

We arrived here in Marathon exactly 5 weeks ago today—it was Tuesday, January 27th. We came in with “C-Life” and “Wanderin’ L & M” quickly followed a few days later— all three boats have been here together. We had planned to stay a month—the thought of staying in one spot for four weeks was a welcomed change. Not once on this whole trip of ours have we stopped and enjoyed one particular place for four complete weeks! Most everyone on the Loop takes the time during the winter months to either linger and enjoy the Florida Keys for several weeks or make a quick stop somewhere here (like Key West) and then go over to the Bahamas for a few weeks. We had fully intended (when we left Morehead City in May of last year) to go over to the Bahamas and Abacos during this time period joining other Loopers—we had all our documentations accurate and up to date—but after we got back to the boats in late December and were exhausted from Christmas and such, we decided we just needed to stop. And what a better place to do just that than at Dockside Sombrero in Marathon! And stop we did—life slowed way, way down—we got into a lazy routine—and all of us caught Keys Disease.

The days flew by—none of us knew where the time went. Our days were spent in a sort of glorious limbo—we were always outside enjoying the high 70’s temperatures—it never rained during the daytime—how lucky we were! We would begin our mornings with walks—even Louis got into the habit of walking with the guys at 7am! The girls would walk @ 8:30 more briskly and longer—at least 2-4 miles each morning. My thanks go to Ellen on “Our Turn” for “keeping the pace” with and for me. I walked every day but one and will miss terribly that part of my morning as we ride “Bella Luna” home. After our daily walks and breakfasts, the rest of our time here has all melded together in a kind of blissful haze.

We only had two things that were scheduled each week that we needed to do. First, we looked forward to the farmer’s market bringing the freshest and prettiest fruits and vegetables to the side of the road for us to buy every Saturday morning. Truly, we’ve never had better fruits and such. And second, we welcomed our pump-out time every Friday morning sometime after 10am. Every thing else we did was just a spontaneous decision/choice. We recycled bottles and cans. How wonderful—we had developed full blown Keys Disease. Twice, we had large Looper cocktail parties (40 or more)—thanks go to Barbara on “Gone Cruising” for organizing Dockside’s one. Early on, we had wonderful visits with Lisa and Jim on “Kismet” and Linda and Charlie on “Freedom’s Turn” (they both have gone to the Bahamas). We saw friends from home—Betsy and Curtis (Raleigh) bringing their precious friends, Susan and Bill Carter, for us to finally meet; Eva and Tom Higgins (Chapel Hill) who were spending the month of February in a nearby beautiful Key Colony home; we had an unexpected surprise visit from Liz Stagg early one morning—we thought she was knee deep in snow!; and we had a special two-day visit with Judy and John Woody. We owe them both a special thanks for making the efforts they did to come see us—not once, but twice now! We also spent several days with Alice and Phil Priemer on “Wonderland” up at Boathouse Marina—they were very gracious to keep coming back and forth getting us with their car. We also had a couple of occasions to get back together with gold Loopers, Carol and Lee Kirwan, whom we met last April in Morehead. Having Brenda and Brantley “Reel Estate” for a week or so right in the slip beside us was very special too. We also enjoyed vicariously the Creech’s and Ross’s grandchildren when they came to visit—think stars, fishing, and youthful enthusiasm & laughter!

We took three day trips too—the first to Key West, stopping at No Name Key for a delicious pizza lunch at the hard-to-find No Name Pub—the second was to the Dolphin Research Center (actually we went there twice) and thanks to Buddy Barnes for making that possible both times—and the third day we spent at the once-a-year marine flea market up at Islamorada. All three of those days were a blast! Also, Louis and five other guys one day chartered our old friend’s boat for a successful day of off-shore fishing—we can always count on Capt. Steve Leopold on “Yabadabado” to put us in the fish!

We enjoyed our dinghy rides every other day or so—going at least twice weekly to Burdines for the very best and freshest Rubens, fries, and fried key lime pie (oh yes, so delicious!). One day while in our dinghy, we got to sneak alongside a big fat manatee and watch it drink water dripping from the fish market’s supply of ice. We also went fishing another day in the quiet and secluded mangroves up Sister’s Creek for small snappers where only dinghies and canoes can go, and other times we would just ride around looking at other boats and boaters—people watching at its very best. Having the opportunity to see pelicans and ibis perched on the branches of the low lying limbs and not the least afraid of us was special to witness too—so was the 3 foot long iguana sunning in the tree-top right behind our boat. We also had a resident manatee that would almost daily pass behind our boats and head up the canal hoping to find a water hose—we followed it one day. Thank you again, Deb, for selling us your dinghy!!

We also had time to get some work done on the boat. Bonnie and Bruce from “Phantom of the Aqua” were able to make and put on for us new white sun screens all the way around the windows of our boat—boy, did they ever do a great job! Our interior is now so much cooler—and we love the privacy the screens allow us. Louis was able to get the zincs changed and a slightly bent prop blade fixed. I planted a small herb garden. Louis “up-fitted” the dinghy with a solid floor and a comfortable seat he got from Phil—although I still think it looks like a toilet seat! We probably put around 300 miles on our bikes too—always going somewhere and glad we had them! Publix (grocery store), Winn-Dixie, CVS, Home Depot, West Marine, Boaters World, and K-Mart were all very close and easily accessible by bike. Having spent so much of our trip going to various Wal-Marts around the Loop, we all were disappointed in the K-Mart here only having a fourth of the merchandise we had been used to prior to coming to the Keys—the shelves were sparsely furnished and selections limited. I doubt they’ll be in business much longer here.

We enjoyed nightly music from our own Dockside’s Bar—Joe Mama and Florida Straits being our favorites. We sometimes ate (just five boats down from us) ribs on Thursday nights, Saturday and Wednesday nights were Prime Rib—all cooked on an outdoor grill. There also was a delicious Super Bowl Sunday Chili Cook-off, a pig roast another day—but not as good as Louis’s by a long shot, and all day Mondays and Tuesdays were “happy hour” at Dockside. We quickly got to know the staff there too on a first name basis—Roy, Ron & Tom on the docks—Debbie & Popeye, Stephanie & Janet on the inside taking food and drink orders. “Buddy” the dock cat came to visit us daily on board our boat—even climbing up the steep ladder to the flybridge with us on several occasions! We went to Keys Fisheries several times—having lunches and dinners and buying stone crab claws to take back with us to the boats. We went to Island Grill several times for the best calamari we ever tasted—went once to Hurricanes for their $5 lunch—went to the Stuffed Pig for another delicious meal too. Having a Chinese lunch buffet within walking distance wasn’t bad either! But probably our favorite local spot to go to was Sparky’s for their “happy hour”—25 cent shrimp and wings, beer $1 and you had to go early to get a table because it was always so crowded! What delicious fun.

We have “penciled in” our names for the winter of 2010 for more of the same—middle of January to the middle of March. “God willing and the Creek don’t rise” (Thank you, Phil, for telling me about this 200 year-old prayer!)—hopefully we’ll make it back—I’m certainly going to keep my fingers crossed until then. This has been the most special time for us that I can ever remember—people who know us well know we don’t stay still for any length of time. And when we first heard about Keys Disease, we had no idea what the locals were talking about. “Nonsense”, we both said. But now we know—we know first hand. TYJ


Jay Stockard said...

Glad to see you back in the land of the "bloggers!" Hopefully Nancy and I can have the opportunity to catch Keys Disease sometime, but hope you and Louis are never cured! Drive safely on the way up the coast, and we look forward to seeing you cross your wake and return to NC!

Anonymous said...

My name is Elizabeth, I came across your site as I was looking for the definition of "Keys Disease" for my younger brother. I began to read your story when I came across that you're from Morehead city. I was born and raised in the Fl.Keys, I'm from No Name Key/Big Pine Key, and now live in Havelock NC. I just thought what a kool couple you are, and how lucky you are to beable to leave this cold weather to travel down south where its always 5 o'clock somewhere. I'm happy you've got to experience the good side of the "Keys disease." I drive home atleast every month.Great story by the way.