Cruising on Last Dance

This blog archives the adventures of Glen and Jill Moore and provides a means of communication for friends and family. Exploration and adventure have been synonymous with boats and water for centuries. The joy of adventures shared while exploring new places and meeting new people has built a strong bond for Glen and Jill. Last Dance is the platform for the exploration.

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page." St. Augustine, 354 - 430

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain, 1835 - 1910

"There is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- half so much worth doing as simply messing around in boats." The Wind in the Willows, 1908, Kenneth Grahame, 1859 - 1932

"I've never believed speed and ease are conductive to living fully, becoming aware, or deepening memory, a tripod of urges to stabilize and lend meaning to life." River Horse: a log book of a boat across America, 1999, William Least Heat-Moon,1939 -

The Great Loop -- The current adventure is a circumnavigation of the Eastern United States, cruising north up the east coast through New York into Canada, across the Great Lakes to Chicago, navigating multiple river systems south to Mobile, along the Gulf coast to the Florida Keys and back to St. Augustine. This trip by boat is commonly referred to as the Great Loop. Progress and current location are indicated by the red line on the map to the right. It was titled the Traceless Path in recognition of a German sailor we met in St. Augustine who published booklets of his travels with hand-drawn, detailed maps describing his travels across the water as the Traceless Path.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Key West

Key West was at one time the largest and wealthiest city in Florida, in an economy based on shipwrecks.  It has always been a bit different from the rest of the world and remains so today.  In 1982, the U.S. Border Patrol set up a roadblock at the north end of the Keys to search for drugs, blocking US1, the only access.  Traffic was at a standstill, residents could not get home, tourists canceled reservations.  The protests of the Keys' citizens were ignored.  So, the reasoning that if the U.S. border was north of the Keys, they must be outside the U.S.  Based on that rationale, they declared themselves an independent country - The Conch Republic.  And, so it continues, a different culture, a different country.
The most photographed landmark must be the Southernmost Point monument.  Not to miss a Key West tradition, the crew of Last Dance captured an image to prove travel to the famed point.

Key West is known for the residential architectural style that includes large porches, or galleries, as known in the Gulf coast states.

Houses, both large and small, always have a gallery to enjoy the sea breezes.

This house's claim to fame - the southernmost house in the U.S.  It, too, has galleries on both floors.

The large Seward Johnson sculpture of Marilyn Monroe that stands in Chicago is also in Key West, in a life-size scale.  Appropriately, she is standing on a street grate in front of a movie theater.

Key West has a collection of Seward Johnson sculpture.  A large-scale dancing couple, entitled "Having Fun," stands in front of the Key West Art and History Museum.

Another Johnson sculpture, "The Tourist," is holding a camera as if he is taking a photo of the bronze statue of Ernest Hemingway.  Some claim that Seward Johnson's sculptures are not art, but whatever your opinion on their artistic component, they are fun and interesting.

There's a woman goin' crazy on Caroline street
Stoppin' every man that she does meet
Sayin' if you be gentle, if you be sweet
I'll show you my place on Caroline street

Jimmy Buffett

One of the things for which Key West is famous is the bars.  There are many, filled with lively patrons.  The original Sloppy Joe's was opened on December 5, 1933, the day prohibition was repealed.  Joe Russell had been selling liquor illegally for years; the end of prohibition only changed his place of business.  He named it The Blind Pig.  One of his best patrons, Ernest Hemingway, suggested that he change the name, copying the name of a Hemingway favorite in Havana, Cuba - Sloppy Joe's.

In a dispute over rent, Joe Russell decided to purchase a Spanish restaurant a block away and move the bar.  On the evening of May 5, 1937, he asked the patrons to carry everything out of the old place to the new.  No one missed a drink.  The "new" location continues as a favorite in Key West.

Key West has an array of fauna and flora, some, in the Key West tradition of being different.  The city has chickens.  This one was on the steps of a gift shop and, at first, appeared to be one of the items of merchandise.

Why did the chicken cross Duval Street?

Sloppy Joe's was on the other side.

Butterflies abound.  Well, not this plentiful in nature.  The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory is a relaxing break from streets crowded with people and live music from the bars.  An air-conditioned greenhouse filled with plants, butterflies, and birds creates a soothing interaction with nature.  Many varieties of butterflies flit around, landing on plants and, often, people.

Walking through Key West creates a constant experience with tropical flora.  The streets, yards, and parks are blooming, filling the views with color.

In the forestry category, this example of a Kapok tree stands proudly in front of the county courthouse.  The tropical Kapok has adapted to its environment, often blown by high winds from tropical storms and hurricanes.  It grows large, buttress roots supporting the trunk.  Smart tree.

Henry Flagler

Sculptor, James Mastin, created the sculptures for the Key West Historic Memorial Sculpture Garden.  Many of Key West historic figures are depicted in the Garden.

Harry Truman

Mastin also sculpted the images in the Loyalist Memorial Sculpture Garden in New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay, Abaco, Bahamas - Key West's Sister City.

Ernest Hemingway

To complete the historic experience, the Last Dance crew will have to travel to New Plymouth to view the sculptures in that memorial.

A trip to Key West would not be complete without experiencing the celebration of the sunset at Mallory Square.  Hundreds of people gather to watch the street performers and the sunset.  This young man rode a unicycle while juggling large sharp objects.  An interesting way to earn a living.  (His mother believes he is in Key West to attend college.)

Of course, the real show of the evening is the sunset itself.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Key West - Henry Flagler

Henry Flagler had a large part in creating Florida - from the Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine through the construction of the railroad across the sea to Key West. His railroad opened travel to Florida, bringing people new to Florida.

The train station in Key West functions today as a museum to Flagler's accomplishments and the building of the railroad through the Florida Keys.

During the planning, Flagler was told it was impossible to build a railroad to Key West.  During the construction, it was called Flagler's Folly.

After the railroad was completed, it was called the 8th wonder of the world.  Quite a change in public view.

Henry Flagler and his wife rode the first train into Key West to celebrate its completion, one hundred years ago.  When Flagler arrived in Key West, he said, "Now I can die happy.  My dream has been fulfilled."

Much of the railroad bridges stand today in testimony to the engineering and construction techniques developed for this endeavor.  The seven-mile bridge is so long that the opposite end disappears over the horizon.

The seven-mile bridge still stands strong today, 100 years and many hurricanes later.  When the railroad was converted to an automobile highway, a wider deck was installed and the old railroad tracks were used as guard rails.

The lower end of the 7-mile bridge and the Long Key bridge both have the arched supports that became a symbol of the Overseas Railroad.

The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 changed the history of the railroad.  It was a category 5 hurricane with record low pressures.  A train that was sent to rescue people on Islamorada was unable to return to Miami before the tidal surge washed it off the tracks.  The Great Depression had cash starved the railroad making it unable to rebuild.  The Overseas Railroad was sold to the State of Florida and became the Overseas Highway.

Another book for your reading list - The Last Train to Paradise.  Les Standiford has written a complete, well-researched history of the building of the railroad, in an easy to read, novel style.  Standiford, head of the Creative Writing Department at Florida International University, has also written a series of ten mystery novels set in South Florida, with the character John Deal.  More books for your list.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Key West - President Harry S. Truman

President Truman spent many winter vacations at this house in Key West during his tenure as President.  Because he spent much time here, moved many staff and Cabinet members here to continue conducting the Nation's business, it became an auxiliary Presidential home and office, gaining the nickname: The Little White House.  It is a quite modest home, appropriate for the nature of President Truman.  The house has been used by Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy.  The Secret Service does not allow indoor photography since the house may possibly be used by current and future Presidents and other high ranking Government Officials.

The Little White House was once officers' quarters at the Key West Navy Submarine Base.  First militarized by the Army in 1845 as Fort Zackary Taylor, the facility served a number of purposes before the harbor was used as a submarine base.  Since the harbor was too small for nuclear submarines, it was decommissioned in 1974 and later sold to a developer for $17 million.  For utility easement rights, the State of Florida negotiated from the developer the renovation of the house and its donation to the State.  Thus, a small portion of what has become an exclusive, high-class residential development is still open to the public as a museum.

Docked at Key West, 1951 Presidential Visit
There is a boat in this story.  The Presidential Yacht, U.S.S. Williamsburg, began life as the motor yacht Aras in 1930.  She was taken by the Navy in 1941, converted to a gunboat for the war period, then commissioned as the Presidential Yacht in 1945, serving in that capacity until 1953.  President Truman traveled on the Williamsburg for the first vacation journey, but due to the length of time required for boat travel and the fact they encountered a big storm, it was his only trip to Key West by boat.  The Williamsburg was always docked in the harbor when the President was in Key West, serving as additional housing, a modern communications base, and her galley used to prepare all meals.

Key West was, at times during the Truman Administration, functioning as the Nation's Capital.

Key West - Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway remains one of Key West's most famous residents. His home is a national landmark, operated as a house museum. A great example of Key West architecture, it is located on a large, garden filled property.

Wide roof overhangs and galleries shade the house to keep it cool. Large, multiple french doors allow breezes to flow through the rooms.  Hemingway's bedroom on the second floor demonstrates the amount of wall space dedicated to ventilation.  Below, the view from the bedroom gallery.

A building behind the main house has the entire second floor dedicated to a study and writing room for Hemingway.  Again, designed for natural light and ventilation.

The gardens surrounding the house provide a quiet, colorful environment, and fresh Key Limes for a drink mixer or pie.  Just stepping outside the door brings the communing with nature experience for relaxation and inspiration.

Harry Truman still lives in Key West.  That's him pictured at left. Hemingway had a passion for cats, having numerous cats with free roam of the house.  Their descendants carry on the tradition.  All the cats are named for famous people, including a recluse who lives under the house, Howard Hughes. The cats carry a mutant gene which gives about half of the offspring 6 toes, making the front paws look like they are wearing mittens.

From the attention and press they receive, the six-toed cats may have become more famous than their master.  The kitchen curtains depict a true scene of cats walking across the dining room table.

One of the Hemingway tales crosses stories from his drinking, his cats, and his wives.  A favorite drinking establishment, Sloppy Joe's, was in a building just off Duval Street.  The landlord was charging a Depression-era rent of $3/week, but felt that he needed to up the rent to $4/week.  The owner protested, told the patrons that if they helped move the furniture they would get a free drink.  Enthused cooperation quickly moved everything out of the old location to the new, including the urinals from the restroom.  Hemingway talked him out of one of the urinals, which he installed in the garden as a drinking bowl for the cats, much to the dismay of his wife-at-the-time.  Not winning the battle to have it removed, she decided to try and camouflage it by installing a large vase from which the water would flow and Spanish tiles along the edge of the urinal.  It stands in the same state today.  Lore has it that some cats still refuse to drink from the urinal, jumping on the vase to catch the water as it flows over the top.

With a boat-themed blog, how could a story on Ernest Hemingway not include his boat?  Easy, as his beloved boat, Pilar, resides at his home in Cuba, near Havana, not at his home in Key West.

Hemingway had Pilar built to his specifications in 1934, a modified 38 foot Wheeler Playmate.  One modification was adding a roller to the stern, to ease boating of large fish.

Fishing may have become more of a passion for Hemingway than writing.  In 1935, he won every fishing tournament in the Key West, Havana, Bimini triangle.

Ernest Hemingway, wife Pauline, and sons, Bimini, July 20, 1935

While Hemingway harvested many fish from the seas, he also worked with researchers from the Smithsonian Institute in documenting fish and sea life in this area.

His time aboard Pilar is claimed to have inspired two of his novels, The Old Man and the Sea, and Islands in the Sun.

His home in Cuba, Finca Vigia (lookout farm), is operated as a museum, with everything left as it was when he died, including his 9,000 book library.  Pilar was left in his will to his Cuban boat captain, Gregorio Fuentes, who, at the age of 101, gave it to the Cuban government to be included in the museum exhibit.  The museum is open  7 days a week.  Our Canadian friends can visit the museum.  Those of us with U.S. citizenship can be imprisoned for researching history at this museum in person.

Your reading list has grown -

Pilar - Painting by Paul Rothacker