Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Visitors and a Visit to the Hemingway House

Bill's older brother Bob and his wife, Betty, drove down from their home in Simpsonville, SC, to stay with us for a week. Our time with them was made more special when Bob's daughters -- Jeni Russ and Deanne Fitzpatrick -- joined us.

We had a blast. A tour of the Hemingway House was the highlight of the day we spent together in Key West.

 The great man's writing room. According to our guide, Hemingway came here daily and stayed until he had written 700 words. At that point, he departed for his favorite watering hole to imbibe and recover from his exhausting ordeal.

 This large pool, the first in Key West, was constructed by his second wife, Pauline, at a cost of $20,000. The site was previously occupied by Ernest's boxing ring. She removed that while he was on an extended trip that involved a tryst with his latest lover. Perhaps a soupcon of revenge on Pauline's part?

As unhappy as Hemingway was to discover his beloved boxing ring had been replaced by a hole in the ground filled with water, the salt in the wound was its extragagent cost. Rumor has it he told Pauline if she was going to spend his money like that she might as well take his last red cent and ended his declaration by tossing a penny on the ground. Said penny is now embedded in the concrete near the pool.
Many cats, some with six toes, roam the house and grounds. This one is named Bogie

Cats are a major theme, even appearing in the curtains hung at the upstairs windows.

Then there's the urinal Hemingway liberated from a local bar and installed on the grounds as a watering dish for the cats. It fell short of Pauline's design standards so she added a large urn in an effort at disguise, or at least deflection.

Ernest Hemingway married four times. His wives are pictured below in the order in which they exchanged vows. 

A bit of a non sequiter but I found it interesting -- an antique birthing stool used as part of the bedroom decor.

Our tour guide -- she did an excellent job. Great voice and very knowledgeable.

I will close by intoducing you to three outstanding women: Jeni Bowles Russ, Betty Holloway Bowles, and Deanne Bowles Fitzpatrick. Bob Bowles is a fortunate man!

Friday, December 08, 2017

Fishing and Crabbing and a Surprise

Billy decided to try his hand at catching some blue crabs. My assignment was to be the "netter." This was a task I approached with some trepidation, knowing the likely consequences of failing to net one that was on the line. You don't want to disappoint the Captain!

Down to the dock we went. It wasn't long before one took the bait. The trick is to pull the line in very slowly and steadily and to get the net under them without them seeing it. The net has to be below the water's surface and then quickly moved under the crab in case he sees a motion that makes him turn loose the bait. I netted all but the first one which was kind of small anyway. Only male crabs can be kept and they must meet minimum size.

Mr. Blue Crab

Careful, they bite!
They chow down on the bait in short order so, in addition to pulling in the line when a crab was on, Billy had to keep the other line in to catch bait fish. That takes a smaller hook than the crab line. After a several bait fish and two large branches that were hurricane debris, something big hit the baitfish line. I grabbed the net and we were both surprised to see a nurse shark on the small hook. I netted him but he almost immediately started coming through the net. I got him on the dock and Bill took over to work on getting the hook out. No need, Mr. Shark took care of that, just like he took care of the net.
Checking out the baitfish

We hauled him back from the edge of the dock and Googled whether a nurse shark was good to eat and what size it needed to be to keep it. Turns out they are nothing special to eat and must be 54" long to keep. Bill estimated ours was about four feet. He was heavy; skin was thick with a uniform texture, like fine sandpaper but softer. We turned him loose.

The photos below were taken while the nurse shark was being reeled in -- a job well done given the light line and small hook.

The captioned photo is one from the site of the Key West aquarium and was included for comparison purposes.


Official Aquarium Photo

We ended up with about a half-dozen blue crabs and had a crab boil for dinner. Lots of work to pick out the meat but excellent flavor made it worthwhile. Earlier this week, the ocean provided a mess of snapper for supper. Also an excellent meal.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Our Extraordinay Digs

Our accommodations, that is.

83 Bay Drive is in the Saddlebunch Keys and was acquired by the owners in the autumn of 2016. They'd vacationed at a home on the point of the drive for ten years and when this place became available, they went for it. They are a very nice family and great at being landlords, perhaps from all those years they spent being vacation rental tenants.

Thanks to luck and having been built in compliance with a good building code, the home withstood Hurricane Irma with only minor damage, although the landscaping, which had been a lush designer garden, definitely took a hit.

Below are photos of the view, left to right, from the second story screened balcony. We've had the sliding doors wide open since we got here and love the outdoor feeling. Best of all -- no mosquitoes.

This is the ramp for launching kayaks and paddle boards and walking into the ocean for a swim.

Private Beach!

Bye for now from Captain Billy, Elvis the Wonder Poodle, and me.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Heading South Again

Heading back to the Keys for our winter visit we stopped in St. Augustine for a break before driving the final leg of the trip. We are at a small beachfront hotel with a balcony overlooking Vilano beach. The sunrise was a thing of beauty and now I'm watching a sailboat hoist its main and run with the wind. Eyes closed, I feel the deck tilt starboard, hear only the wind as it blows through the rigging and feel the sun on my face. A sail can almost always cure what ails you.

After a genuine home cooked breakfast, we walked the beach, watching the tide go out. The word is pompano are running; ever optimistic fisher persons were busy setting up their beach rods. One can only wonder if the pompano got the same word.

When I booked two days in St. Augustine it was with the goal of seeing some of the historic sites but the press of people and cars was too much. This tree-lined street near the Ponce de Leon park was the nicest thing I saw.

On the subject of Ponce de Leon, the fact is he never came near St. Augustine, despite all the claims to the contrary. A summary of his activities vis a vis Florida follows:

"Contrary to what our school books taught us, Ponce did not discover Florida. Florida probably was first sighted by Portuguese navigators, or perhaps by the Cabots sailing from England. Either way, it started appearing on maps as early as 1500. By 1510, its distinctive peninsular shape had emerged clearly on maps in Europe. By 1513, when Ponce de Leon first arrived, so many Europeans had visited Florida that some Indians greeted him in Spanish.

Ponce never went anywhere near St. Augustine, the city where he is said to have discovered the Fountain of Youth. He was not an old man. That tale was concocted by Washington Irving more than 300 years later. Ponce was after gold, but Florida had none to be found. He left and might never have returned but for the news that Cortes had found gold in Mexico. In 1521 Ponce - envious, vigorous, avaricious - made the fatal mistake of trying his Florida luck again.

On that second voyage, he achieved one real Florida first, albeit an inglorious one. In a skirmish with native inhabitants, Ponce fired the first shots in what would turn into a 300-year war of ethnic cleansing. More American soldiers would die trying to subdue Florida than in all the Indian battles in the West.

Ponce himself was struck by an arrow. The wound wasn't serious, but the Spaniards were as indifferent to sepsis as they were alert to heresy [and he died from the infection.]"

By T. D. ALLMAN, author of Finding Florida -- The True History of the State

Next post from the house on Bay Drive in the Saddlebunch Keys.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

A Good Time Was Had By All (Except the Fish)

For me, the concept of gainful employment and living in the Florida Keys are mutually exclusive. On second thought, that holds true for me and any significant responsibility. Here it is, two weeks since my last post and this blog is about the only thing on my to do list other than making dinner and occasionally washing a load of clothes. Decadent slacker living and I'm loving it!

My brother Drew and his wife Cathie just finished up a visit. We made it to a craft show in Key West and to a restaurant a couple of times. Oh, and Drew and I got out on the double kayak. It was blast paddling along the canal and out into the open water and over to the closest mangrove hammock. Got back to the home dock without incident and then tipped over the kayak trying to get out of it. Turned out to be a fortuitous event as it got me into the canal and ever since I've been swimming daily. Before that, I'd stayed out of the water based on the neighbors telling me it was way too cold and Billy envisioning shark attacks. It isn't often I find myself grinning ear-to-ear, but swimming in the canal is one of those times.

Bill and Drew had an excellent fishing trip one morning just dropping a line off the closest bridge. Well, more than drop a line; it's important to acknowledge their mastery of the sport. The catch speaks for itself.

That night we had a feast. I cooked and served a pair of each species (grunt, snapper, sheepshead, pork fish, hog fish) so we could do a side by side comparison and finished the taste test with fillets of the hog fish that Drew caught. It is purported to be the best eating ever and we agreed.

The motto of the Keys Police Department

 YUUGE Cruise Ship