The days went by quickly with excitement in the air. We had been gone for a few days when Greg announced we would be stopping in Key West for a day or so. Some of the crew had spent some time there previously, working for Greg on his boat, The Silver Seas. I had never been there and couldn’t wait. The plan was to anchor about a mile off shore. Everyone anticipated going ashore for some r & r and to explore the area.
When we arrived we dropped the anchor. It was late afternoon and the air was warm and sultry. With our work done for the day, someone suggested we go swimming. Since the ship didn’t have a dive platform we had to figure a way to get in and out of the water. We decided we would jump from the railing of the stern, which was about three feet below. We attached a ladder off the stern which allowed us to pull ourselves back onto the ship. A few of us that weren’t great swimmers were a bit afraid of the current, so Gary suggested using the life preservers to hold on to. They attached a 25’ rope to three of them and tied them off the ship. Once that was done, we quickly jumped in. The water was cool at first but wonderfully refreshing. We splashed around holding onto the life preservers for dear life. It was a blast! Matt and Gary took turns diving off the ship (they were both excellent swimmers). Shawn had to be coaxed into the water. Here was a big tough guy afraid of the ocean. With a lot of coaxing and jibbing, he finally decided to go in if Julia and I jumped in with him. We all held hands, counted to three and jumped. Once in, he loved it and didn’t want to come out. The sun was setting behind us like a giant orange beach ball. It was a beautiful site. I think for that hour of swimming, we played and felt like young kids. It was wonderful.
The next day, there were some repairs to be done so everyone pitched in to finish the job. We were all anticipating going ashore to see what Key West was all about. Around dinner time, Brian got into the crane to lift our tender (Mini Me), into the water. We needed it to get to shore. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t work. Not only were we upset over the crane, as Greg had spent a lot of money in Houma having it fixed, but now there was no way to get ashore.
We now had cell phone service, so we started calling local marinas to see about a water taxi. I couldn’t believe there weren’t any. I guess everyone either has a boat or knows someone with a boat. The guys had about given up, but not me. Where there’s a will, there’s a way! I was determined to go ashore. Julia suggested trying to wave down a boat but I knew Greg wouldn’t go for that. I racked my brain and then remembered a friend of mine, Sam, back in Maine, had recently lived in Key West. Fortunately I still had his number and gave him a call. After explaining our dilemma, he said he would make a few calls and would get back to me. By then, Greg had just about given up too. He said if I could get us a ride, he, Julia and I could go ashore. I felt really bad for the guys, but I wasn’t going to miss this chance. Sam called back with good news. His buddy had a parasailing business there and was on his way home when he got his call. He felt bad about us and decided to turn around and come and help us out. Sam gave me his name and number and said he would be there in half an hour. I thanked him and ran to my room to change. With only a few minutes to get ready, I quickly pulled my hair back, threw on a little make up and put on some comfortable shoes.
Just as promised, his friend was there in a flash. His 24’ boat looked tiny next to the Sea Hunter, but it was a welcome site. The waves were picking up and it was a bit tough climbing into his boat, but we made it safely. After quick introductions, (his name was Mike) he sped to shore. We offered to buy him a drink so he drove us to a local tourist bar. Since Julia and I had never been there, we were stretching our necks catching the sites. It was just as I imagined, brightly painted buildings, tropical flowers and trees, and lots of tourists. Mike pulled into a parking area where he was greeted by the attendant. He looked like he was 100 years old. He greeted Mike by name, and instead of collecting the $5 parking fee, Mike handed him a joint. The old timer took it with a giant toothless grin and waved us in. Yep, Key West was everything I had heard it was.
After a quick drink, Mike excused himself to go home. We decided to walk around and see the sites. It not only felt great to be on stable land, but to be somewhere I had always wanted to visit. Julia and I were typical tourists snapping pictures. We wanted to walk all of Duvall Street and check out the tourist bars. Greg was accommodating and enjoying our excitement. He then suggested we go to a place called “Garden of Eden”. It was a couple stories high and the roof deck overlooked the street below. As we climbed the stairs to the deck I noticed the sign posted on the wall “Clothing Optional”. I turned to Greg and said, no way am I taking off my clothes. He chuckled and said everyone does their own thing and to just relax and enjoy it. Julia couldn’t wait to get to the top but I was a bit hesitant. I had never even been to a strip club. The bar was comfortable and nicely decorated. The view was also spectacular. There were only a few other patrons (it was early) in the bar. Looking around I did notice an older guy sitting at the bar with no shirt on. Upon closer look, he was sitting on a towel and was completely naked. I was feeling a little strange, not sure I would be comfortable there. Then, in comes a bunch of ladies my age and we all got to talking . This relaxed me a bit. Before you knew it, the bar was filling up with all age groups. Each time the DJ reminded everyone that it was clothing optional, a top, a skirt or pair of pants would come off. The drinks were flying and the music was blaring. People were dancing and everything was shaking. Little by little (or drink by drink) I was starting to relax and join in the fun. Who knew if I would ever make it back there? I quickly thought about how I was starting a new venture in my life. All the firsts I had experienced so far, being away from home, living and working on a ship. These were things I never thought I would do. Now, here I was, in tropical party town. I decided to relax and throw caution to the wind, and that is exactly what I did!