Land Ho in the good ole USA. It felt sad and tremendously surreal to be sailing up to the US port of Key West. We were disillusioned with the lack of crystal clear water and brilliant blue skies. Not to mention an overabundance of boat traffic; fishing boats, tour boats, power boats, sailboats, jet skis and even a helicopter. We were officially depressed, all five of us. Not one of us was excited to be in Key West. As we lowered the sails and headed up the channel, I held back tears and had an overwhelming urge to turn the boat around and head back to the Bahamas. We couldn't help comment on all the negative aspects of being there...."Look at all these people; It's so crowded; It's not as pretty as the Caribbean; Look at how many boats there are; I wish we were in (insert any number of places in recent memory)!" However, we were very thankful we decided to bypass Miami for our US port of entry. We knew the laid back island town of Key West was definitely more our style and easier to navigate than a big hectic city like Miami (which was our original plan).
As it was, little city or not, the check-in process into our own country proved to be very painful. We had to find the city courthouse, the correct courthouse as it turned out, on foot. Need I remind you that the US is not laid out in such a manner that anything is convenient if you are traveling on foot. We did not find the proper courthouse on the first go 'round. We were exhausted from our 2 day passage from the Berry Islands and went to the wrong courthouse. Who would have thought there was more than one courthouse in a small beach community? Lucky for us, there were some nice security guards that pointed us in the right direction. It was hot. It was humid. So walking further was not something we were thrilled about. And we had the girls in tow, who were also tired, hot and wanted to walk less than we did and made sure we knew it. We had to find the courthouse before it closed at 2pm within 24 hours of making landfall, which added to the stress of it all. Once we found the right courthouse, we entered the building and were immediately confronted with not 1, not 2 but 3 security guards. Holy homeland security. Really? It was a little overkill in our minds after the last 15 countries we visited without so much as a hand shake and a stamp of the passport. There were signs posted everywhere stating NO cell phones or electronic devices in the building. I mean really, it wasn't enough to just turn them off, we couldn't even enter the building holding one (I wasn't even allowed to stand just inside the door where it was air conditioned!). I guess the US expects you to leave your phone in the car, which works great if you have a car. I'm just saying. Not only that, the US requires that ALL members of your party must be present for the clearing in. In all the other countries...yep, that's right, just one person could clear everyone in. Needless to say, I had to sit outside on the steps of the courthouse, in the heat and the humidity, holding our cell phones and i-pods while Craig cleared in with the kids. And then, a miracle happened. A nice costumes agent came out to check my passport, which eliminated the changing of the guard or cell phones, as it were. I was thankful for small favors!
'Kids say the darndest things', wasn't that the name of Bill Cosby's show? As Craig was clearing into US customs, they asked if we had any fruits and vegetables on board. He started to shake his head no when Kate honestly answered "Yes we do dad! We have lots..." As Craig felt his face flush, he simultaneously gave Kate the stink eye while reassuring the customs officer that we only had onions and potatoes (which was the truth, I promise). We left the courthouse and headed back to the boat feeling less than excited to be officially back in the US. Woo Hoo. Imagine how you feel when you walk through your front door after a 2 week vacation....we felt like that, only 100 times worse. We weren't home yet and we knew what lay ahead of us as we prepared to put AG up for sale.
But don't start crying yet... we were in Key West and we had never been there, so we wanted to make the best of it and play tourist. We met the family aboard m/v Grand Lady that was docked next to us in the marina. They were veterans of Key West, visiting several times a year. It was an easy trip for them from their home near Tampa. We quickly got acquainted and they shared some of the must see items in Key West. We were invited aboard their boat for cocktails (champaign to be exact - in honor of our safe return), we enjoyed a sunset at the waterfront and we even shared a scrumptous meal at a local restaurant in town while all the kids hung out on our boat eating pizza. It was a little like being in the islands. I think it's a boat thing.....boaters are just nice people, plain and simple, especially cruisers.
Heading into Key West
We treated ourselves to a little dockside pampering; A/C and endless water to wash the boat
The streets of Key West
Sloppy Joe's was the local hangout for Hemingway
US burgers all around at Sloppy Joe's while grooving to the live music
Sightseeing and shopping!
We didn't eat here but thought it was a fun picture since we know all of Jimmy Buffet's songs by heart!
Sunset at Mallory Square where we enjoyed the street performers and kiosks of local flare
Hanging out with Caroline and her friend, Jordan, from our neighbors in the marina
Ice cream and nightlife in Key West
The girls make friends with a local puppy dog dressed to impress, lookin' like Bono.
Enjoying a morning croissant at the local bakery
Have you ever seen 3 children this excited about CEREAL (and fresh cows milk by the gallon)?! Finally a box we could afford! I let them pick out what ever they wanted, no matter how awful!
Our new marina friends aboard m/v Grand Lady. Thanks for the wonderful hospitality!
Riding around Key West on bikes was loads of fun
We found a street just for Liv
No trip to Key West is complete without the Southernmost point photo.
View of the lighthouse from Hemingway's balcony