25 October 2002... It took almost a year but we finally got to meet a couple manatees up close & personal. They cruised into the marina here in Key West and hung around awhile so we got a chance to get a few photos. Check the white scar on the mother's back. It was caused by the prop on a boat. You'll have to trust me on this: you really don't want to get downwind of these critters!
31 October 2002 (Update #36 )... I'm happy to report that we survived Fantasy Fest 2002 here in Key West. No small feat considering the enormity of the event! The number of people to crowd onto this tiny postage stamp of an island (Key West is all of 4 miles long by 2 miles wide) is really amazing. Of course it's important to the local economy since this is the biggest money-maker of the year. We heard of one couple that took a 10 mile cab ride from Big Coppitt Key into Key West for (are you ready for this?!) $70US each way. Yikes!
We had planned for some time to see the parade with no real idea how we would find a parking place. We checked the map and decided that our best hope was to take one of the back streets the tourists might not be aware of. Which took us past the high school where we saw a sign for parking and a school bus with locals climbing aboard. Cool. So we parked on a side street and paid our $5US each for the round trip to old town (sign on the bus: "Tips greatly appreciated!"). First problem solved.
Fortunately we heard from a local that if you want to see the parade without being crushed, staying off Duval Street where this shot was taken was a good idea. So over to Whitehead we went, near the start. By sheer chance we stopped at a place (the only place!) that had a spot light shining on the parade route and a even had a few empty perches along the curb where these 2 aging bodies could rest and watch and take a few pictures. Second problem solved. Check the drag queen complete with heavy moustache and tenny-runner pumps!
We sat down and waited. And waited, and waited and waited... you have to understand that this is pretty normal stuff in Key West. We've come to expect that nothing happens in a rush around here and never on time. We weren't disappointed.
But waiting wasn't so bad a thing because you can crowd watch. Which is a really OK thing to do because anyone walking down the middle of the street in a costume (or not) wants to be watched. Duval St. is probably the best crowd watching spot, but Whitehead wasn't so bad and you didn't have so many bodies in the way that you couldn't snap a few photos.
Mr. Clean here drew quite a crowd. Popular guy judging from all the ladies wanting to jump in the shower with him. Btw, this year was perhaps a teensy bit more tame that prior years since the female crowd cooperated with the police by using body paint to cover bare breasts. The effect was much the same as hanging a neon sign above the person which screamed "Hey! Look at me!" Whatever makes it legal!
A lot of the body paint was self applied, but there were a lot of people that had spent some big bucks for really artistic painting. The most elaborate was this guy that had complete head to foot body paint done in black & gray that looked like reptilian (?) scales. Great job! [ You'd have loved it Paul! This was your kind event! ]
Eventually the parade got underway with the Key West Police Department's mounted patrol leading the whole thing followed by Bell South employees carrying their banner (4th year as sponsor). And that was the last of what you would consider normal parade stuff. From there on out was nothing but wild and crazy stuff done by a bunch of wild and crazy people. Loud music, lots of percussion, some of the wildest costumes you could imagine and antics that kept us entertained from beginning to end.
Btw, I have it on good authority that these two guys dressed as serpents are twins. The Admiral did careful research; she closely examined their buns and determined they were identical! Hmmm... sounds like fun. I decided to do a little research of my own and see if there were any female twins. But I came up empty handed... the Admiral made me keep my hands in my pockets!
For a couple weeks prior to the parade we had seen people wearing colorful bead necklaces, both men and women. We assumed it was part of the tradition of the event to go buy some beads, but Mrs. Bowman's little boy wasn't about to go spend $1 on a plastic necklace much less wear the thing. Once the parade started we saw what it was all about. If you make a lot of noise, the performers in the parade throw beaded necklaces to you. Show a little skin and you'll probably get more beads than you can carry home! One of these kindly giant M&Ms with an eye that spun around in circles stopped and gave us some beads so we didn't get left out (yeah, I wore them!). The 5 year old girl beside us cleaned up: nearly every float sent someone over with beads and candy for her. When she got about 20 necklaces on, she passed them to her dad and started over. She must have had a couple hundred of the necklaces!
Remember those places on the curb we were so thankful to get? Well, there was a trap there that I should have seen coming. When we tried to stand up after sitting there for 4 hours we found we couldn't! We put on as good a show as anything folks had seen on the street. I walked away looking like I'd just ridden a plow horse all day. It's been almost a week now and I'm pretty sure in another couple days I'll be able to stand up straight again. As my sainted mother used to say "Getting old is hell, but the alternative is very permanent!"
By 10 o'clock we'd pretty well had enough and headed back to the bus stop. From what we could see of Duval St. on the way out, I'm not sure they'll get it clean up in anything less than a month! Thankfully, not our problem. The bus ride plus the drive home took another hour and we had collapsed in our bunk by 11:30. What a show!
28 November 2002 (Update #37 )... It's Turkey Day here in Key West... gobble-gobble!
You guys need a break from all those dinner table calisthenics, so here's a little "what? me worry?" reading from the other world!
It's been about a month since the last update and there's not much to talk about except work we're doing. Even the laid-back attitude of Key West won't make it go away, so these 2 ex-Californians had a little fun in the sun with a small break to rainy Melbourne, FL for the annual SSCA meeting.
We managed to get the sails bent on and we rove the reef lines. The new batten from Dave Bierig (we launched the old one into the Golf Stream early this year) fit like the original. This time, though, we'll have the other half of the snaps installed to help keep it in place. The sails look terrific... no sign of wear on any of the stitching and the fabric looks great. Just need some new tell-tales on the roach to finish.
We've had an ongoing problem with the solar panels not delivering the current we should expect from them. It's taken many hours of digging, but at long last I found the culprit: an improperly crimped wire at the terminal strip. In the process of fixing this I installed a Blue Sea bulkhead water dam (allows wires to pass through the deck without letting water leak in) to replace the corroded "leak-proof" Perko 2-pin connectors. Seems to work like a charm.
Celia has gotten a lot done with her sewing machine (the one we got from SailRite) these last few weeks:
A big change was to install additional refrigeration to augment our reliable Dometic LPG/115 VAC. We bought an Engel 45 which looks for all the world like an old Coleman metal ice chest. The difference is a lot of high-tech insulation and a tiny compressor that allows it to function as either a refrigerator or a freezer. Not sure which way we'll use it in the long run, but right now it's doing duty as a fridge. The Admiral is very pleased!
The trip up to Melbourne, FL was an easy one and the admission price is an affordable $14 each for all 3 days. We sat through several interesting presentations by several notables, e.g. Nigel Calder and Steve Pavlidis, but the thing we most wanted to see was the presentation on the newest changes to AirMail and WinLink. AirMail is the software we use to send & receive e-Mail via our SSB radio. Unfortunately the room was so crowded we couldn't even get in to stand against the wall! We did manage to buy a copy of the newest CD which contains Jim Corenman's most recent updates to AirMail. He has also created a couple programs to assist in gathering weather faxes and to display some sophisticated weather products that are available from WinLink and SailMail. Wish I could have heard his presentation, but his software is so intuitive I had it up and running without much stumbling.
The local West Marine store supports the annual SSCA Gam by providing transportation from the local marinas to the Eau Gallie Community Center where the gam is held. Pretty cool for the cruisers that come here for the event to get a ride from the dinghy landing up to the gam. Another couple supporters are HF Radio On Board in Alameda and Icom who generously donated a brand new Icom 710 SSB radio. I almost expected to win it since we already had one and don't need another.
After 3 days we were ready to get back to Key West. Especially after the tornado that touched down at the local Sam's Club about a 1/2 mile from where we were staying! Plus it was getting pretty cold. I walked around for all 3 days with blue legs sticking out of my shorts... now there's an ugly sight! :-)
We unfortunately had a problem with the fresh water pump and had to replace it. But there's a challenge trying to find a FloJet pump. The convenient places all carry ShurFlo and Jabsco. We opted for the ShurFlo which has the same performance specs as the FloJet (though it requires 50% more current to do the same job). What we didn't realize when we bought it, though, is that it's loud! Couldn't believe it the first time it cycled. So if you're happy with your FloJet pump, you'd better start early to find a replacement for it. Friend Fran who hangs out in Annapolis says that Northern Tools and J. C. Whitney catalogs carry them.
Friend Ric, who is probably freezing his buns in the frozen north of the Chesapeake, reports he's about to close a deal on his new Beneteau 473. Congratulations Ric! But really... two TVs?! You're still bigger than Sean... make him give up the remote! :-)
Friends Maxine & Larry on Shingebiss2 tell us they were getting pounded on the way to the Caribbean and decided they didn't need the aggravation. So they sailed back to Miami for a few more groceries and left for the Azores. Sounds like they had a great time there. Cool! Also sounds like a place we want to visit. Celia's ancestors lived on San Miguel in the Azores before they emigrated to Hawaii in 1882 to work in the cane fields. Seems like someplace we need to see!
That's about it from Key West where we're suffering through 75 deg weather from the current cold front. Life is hard here in paradise! :-)
Btw, my eye is doing great and I should be able to get glasses before we leave
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