Sunday, January 4, 2015

We're Conchs...

Today is our last day in Key West.  It's been a great stay, nearly three weeks.  Tomorrow morning we will shove off before sunrise, and I expect to be out of cell range shortly thereafter.  We'll be out of range and thus off-line for a week or perhaps longer, so this is the last you will hear from me for a while.

That said, if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you've probably already seen a couple of posts that looked like "All is well aboard m/y Vector" along with a link to our GPS position.  That tweet is generated by our Spot satellite tracking device, which allows me to "check in" periodically with our position.  (If you are not on Twitter or Facebook you can also see those check-ins here.)

As long as we are incommunicado I will be checking in this way daily.  It's a way to let everyone know we are OK and where we are.  There are also buttons to summon assistance, but those messages do not cross-post to Twitter and Facebook.  Neither should we need them; while we will be out of cell range and thus off-line and unavailable by phone, we'll be well within VHF radio range.

Bourbon Street Pub.  Zoom in to see the giant shoe, in the middle of the row of rainbow flags.

We had a fun time on New Years Eve.  It was actually much lower-key here than we expected; apparently the TV networks have moved on to more fertile ground, and the crowds were more subdued.  We had no trouble at all being seated for dinner at Mangoes, right on Duval Street (quite tasty).  We also were able to stroll quite easily up and down the street, which was blocked to auto traffic after perhaps 8:30 or so.  Even at 10:30 the only crowds were gathered around Bourbon Street Pub, where a drag show was in progress in anticipation of the lowering of the drag queen, Sushi, ensconced in a shoe, and Sloppy Joe's Bar, where bubbles were emanating from a giant champagne glass and the enormous conch was poised to be lowered at midnight.

Sloppy Joe's.  The MC is left of the champagne glass, on the roof.  I managed to cut off the top of the conch.

We had already resolved to spend the midnight ritual on the flybridge of Blossom, which is taller than most other boats in the harbor and where we had a nice, albeit somewhat distant, view of the Pirate Wench being lowered to the deck from the mast of the schooner America 2.0.  We could also hear the music quite clearly, and saw most of the action even though the stage lights were pointed nearly right at us.  As a bonus, we got to blast the air horn at midnight, and Blossom's horn was louder still than a few of the superyachts around us.  Vector has an even bigger horn; I'm sure our neighbors were glad we were gone for the evening.

Our view from Blossom.  The Wench is mid-drop, about where the blue light is, center-frame.  Not that you can tell in this photo -- we needed binoculars.

Since we now live on "cruiser time," generally up before the sun and where 9pm is considered "cruiser's midnight," we struggled for several days ahead of New Years to shift our circadian rhythm to stay up that late, and we barely made it to the Wench Drop and back to Vector before collapsing into bed.  We've spent every day since then working on getting back to our normal rhythm so we can be under way tomorrow at zero-dark-thirty.

Earlier in the day on New Years Eve we made our move from South Dakota to Florida official by spending two hours at the DMV getting our scooters registered and our Florida driver licenses.  We've declared our official domicile to be our new mailing address in Green Cove Springs, where hundreds of other cruisers and full-time RVers also make their home.  That's legal here in Florida and many DMV offices (which are actually run by the counties, as part of their tax collectors' offices) understand the process.  However, that's not universally true, and we've heard that some counties won't issue you a licence at all unless you reside within their jurisdiction.

Monroe County, which comprises the Florida Keys, was happy to issue us licenses and plates.  However, they absolutely insisted on seeing a lease on a physical address in the state -- they knew the Green Cove Springs address is a mail service.  They accepted our slip agreement from the marina as proof of residence, but then insisted on putting that address on our licenses -- knowing full well we'd be leaving in a matter of days.  So I now have a Key West license -- we're conchs!

We'll fix the address in the DMV system on line.  It will cost us an extra $25 apiece to get new licenses with our correct address, all because of bureaucratic nitpicking at the tax collector.  In the meantime, I've been flashing my new driver license all over town; in this tourist city, many bars and restaurants offer an unadvertised discount to locals, usually around 10% of the check.  At that rate, though, we couldn't make up for the fees to fix the licenses.

I spent the first day of the new year attending to some overdue maintenance on the boat.  I changed the main engine oil, oil filter, fuel filter, and air filter, and sent an oil sample to the lab.  The fuel and air filters were the ones already on the engine when we got the boat.  While less dramatic than it was on the bus, it's always sobering to hold a new air filter up against the old one -- I try not to think about what my lungs must be going through.

We bought a pair of scuba tanks on sale in town, so we should be all set for diving from the boat when the opportunity presents itself.  And I picked up parts for several projects that I can tackle on our down-time over the next few days, including the beginnings of our surface-supplied-air system (AKA "hookah rig") for underwater boat maintenance and shallow-water diving.

Among all this we've sampled a few more of the colorful local bars and restaurants in the company of good friends.  The weather has been perfect and we've mostly dined al fresco in short sleeves and sandals, yet it has been cool enough at night that we've not needed to run the air conditioners.

In the morning we will head to the Dry Tortugas, a ten-hour run of some 63 nautical miles or so.  The much faster passenger ferry will pass us on the way out and again on its way back before we arrive at our anchorage.  Blossom runs a bit faster than Vector and they have opted to let us get a head start; they too will pass us and scope out the anchorage shortly before we arrive to join them.

I'll leave you with the obligatory cheesy Key West tourist photo, at the giant plastic fish on the next pier. I'll post again when we arrive in Tampa Bay in a week or so.

This is the only billfish we've seen since we arrived.  It's fiberglass.

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