PCR past banners
La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our fifth calendar year
    PCR #222  (Vol. 5, No. 26)  This edition is for the week of June 21--27, 2004.

LA FLORIDIANA
Will's Key West Adventure -- Part Two
 by Will Moriaty
THIS WEEK'S MOVIE REVIEW
"Fahrenheit 9/11"
 by Mike Smith
ODDSERVATIONS
KidFlix Florida International Children's Film Festival
 by Andy Lalino
MATT'S RAIL
This Guy's No "Starr"....The MOH website update
 by Matt Drinnenberg
MIKE'S RANT
Getting Better....Movie Music....Movie Notes....Meet The Beatles, Part 22
 by Mike Smith
Archives of Nolan's Pop Culture Review
Archives 2004
Archives 2003
Archives 2002
Archives 2001
Archives 2000
Email PCR
Home
Will's Key West Adventure -- Part Two

Friday Afternoon June 11, 2004...
...Was like an oven in Key West. There was no breeze and the rains that cool down this tropical paradise in the summer had yet to materialize. Add to that mix that I was still on antibiotics, decongestants and Cortisone and I felt like a sponge left in the desert. Hobbling past the Pride Fest vendors parked on Duval Street, I saw a Fury Catamarans sales booth and decided to take a stop. I had planned to do some snorkeling once I got to Key West and thought that maybe the warm Atlantic waters would do my leg some good - - they would certainly lower my body temperature due to the oppressive heat of the island. I decided to take the gamble and invested in the Champagne Sunset Sail package.

A Dose of “Atlantic Fury”
Fury Catamarans' "Atlantic Fury" awaits passengers on a hot Friday June 11th afternoon before setting sail eight miles out to the reefs.
At 4:30 P.M. we left the docks of Key West in the company’s 65-foot long catamaran, the “Atlantic Fury”. It would take about an hour to go eight miles out into the Atlantic to anchor adjacent to one of the relatively few coral reefs in the continental United States. Due to the heat and my dehydration, I drank what seemed like gallons of ice water available to all on board by the catamaran’s staff. Others had beer, wine and Coca Cola.

The color of the water was absolutely exquisite - - the typical Caribbean turquoise. The land that is Key West was barely a sliver on the northern horizon as the “Atlantic Fury” and its passengers pulled up to a protected reef. I was wishing that one of my best friends, Denis Lebrun, could be there as he has a love for corals and marine invertebrates.

Taking the Plunge
Moving away from Key West, the "Atlantic Fury" heads southward into the warm Atlantic waters.
Now it came to take the plunge into the reef. Six feet or so I dropped off the deck of the “Atlantic Fury” into the surface of the warm Atlantic waters. I probably dropped about 10 to 13 feet into the water after my initial plunge. Once I bobbed back to the surface I began to snorkel and discover an incredible world the likes of which I had never seen before.

I was in total awe as I drifted past hundreds of the metallic to almost neon looking fish the Blue Tang (Acanthurus coerleus), as well as hundreds of the blue and yellow Queen Parrotfish (Searus vetula), the black and white striped Atlantic Spadefish (Chaetopterus faber), the black and yellow Rock Beauty fish (Holacathus tricolor), the Queen Angelfish (Holacanthus cilaris) and the Spot Fin Butterflyfish (Chaetodon ocellatus).

The color of the water below its surface was even more dramatic than above its surface! The water was crystal clear, yet the most incredible blue I have ever seen. Another breathtaking sight was that although the sea floor averaged 10’, there were chasms up to 50’ deep or more that were wondrous to behold.

Eight miles out and land has about all but disappeared. Below the water's surface is one of the few coral reefs in the continental United States.
Of course, the other star of this show were marine invertebrates and corals. One of the most incredible sights was a Labyrinth Brain Coral (Diploria labyrthiformis) that was between 5’ to 10’ tall. In addition, the floor was filled with Common Sea Fans (Gorgonia ventalina), Palmer’s Sea Rods (Eunicea palmeri), Crenated Fire Coral (Millepora alicicornis), Staghorn Coral (Acropora cervicornis), Elkhorn Coral (Acropora palmata) and Clubbed Finger Coral (Porites pontes).

It was fascinating to watch the graceful motion of the Palmer’s Sea Rods moving back and forth, even at the greater depths, from the wave action of the Atlantic. I so much wanted Denis to see this, but alas, it was not to be.

Once back on board, we sailed back to Key West and watched the sun set (no green flash this time around) over the crossroads of the Atlantic Ocean meeting the Gulf of Mexico.

Time for Dinner
After forty minutes of snorkeling and two hours of sailing, I was ready for dinner at my favorite restaurant in Key West, El Meson de Pepe, which is located next to Mallory Square. I capped off this wonderful day with Picadillo Haberinero, yuca, flan and Cafe con Leche, all with a back drop of a great Cuban musical band of Conch stock (or Caya Huesos heritage to be exact) - - it was definitely muy bien! To someone conceived in Cuba and born in Florida, this day, this music and this meal was paradise!

I wandered back to Marrero’s tired yet elated - - there is truly no place like Key West.

Saturday - - A Day of Rest and Relaxation
As the Trees Florida Conference was not until Sunday morning, I decided to take it easy on Saturday. Oversleeping the continental breakfast at Marrero’s, I had a hearty Southern style breakfast at the Flamingo Diner on Duval Street.

I next walked up to the City’s Boardwalk located at the Key West Bight Marina area where I saw 6’ long Tarpon (Megalops antlicus) frolicking between the docked boats in the Bight’s crystal clear waters - - how magical and exciting!

Another Key West treasure was yet awaiting me as after my journey to the Boardwalk. After a brief rest at Marrero’s, I walked over to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. With snorkel gear in hand, I walked past the Truman Naval Station Annex then down the winding road that currently serves as the entrance to the Park.

Sails in the sunset as another perfect day in paradise is drawing to a close.
I marveled at the tropical native foliage such as the Gumbo Limbo (Bursera simaruba), Mahogany (Swietinia mahogani), Jamaica Dogwood (Piscipida piscipula), Coco Plum (Chrysobalanus icaco) and Buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus). I also enjoyed surveying the components that made up the adjacent naval base. At the end of the road was an Australian Pine (Casaurina equisitifolia) forest that bordered the Park’s beach.

This was the most unique beach I have ever swum. The water was warm and clear, and the floor consisted of white calcified shell. Upon surveying it through the snorkel mask, it resembled being in an aquarium of pure live rock and sand. No more than 10’ from the land, the water was already over my head (I stand at 6’). At about 20’ out the depth had reached 15 to 20 feet deep. Suddenly the ocean floor was alive with hundreds of Palmer’s Sea Rods, wistfully moving back and forth with the tides. Then a multitude of fishes described above became apparent. Another incredible treat is that I ended up swimming with a school of 6’ long Tarpon! There was also 2 to 3’ tall Labyrinth Brain Coral, as well as Staghorn and Elkhorn Coral. I then snorkeled back to the limestone boulders that comprise four breakwaters at the Park’s beach.

Where Is Cheesetta?
Almost feeling as if I had been reborn again of the water, I walked again past the fragrant Frangipani’s and colorful Royal Poinciana’s populating the Truman Annex and Bahamas Village back to Marrero’s.

After a short rest I called a fellow D.O.T. employee, Susana Thompson from our Fourth District in Fort Lauderdale, who was also attending the Trees Florida Conference, to see about possibly having dinner at the Conch Republic Seafood Company next to the Boardwalk at the Key West Bight. She agreed, and the ever dependable John at Marrero’s summoned a Friendly Cab Company taxi for me which seemed to make it to the Guest Mansion about two seconds flat after his call.

The taxi’s driver was indeeed a friendly gentleman named “Dash”. If you need to get around Key West by taxi, call for “Dash” at Friendly Cab - - he is a courteous, thoughtful and timely driver for a great company that lives up to its name.

A spectacular sunset serves as a backdrop for the "Atlantic Fury" which has returned from her sixteen mile round trip voyage.
Upon my short wait for “Dash” at the verandah at Marrero’s, the thought had occurred to me - - I had not yet seen the Guest Mansion’s unofficial mascot (the official being its ghost), the black and white cat that haunts the grounds known as “Cheesetta”. Another guest on the verandah told me that he saw Cheesetta poolside the night before.

Like the Loch Ness Monster and U.F.O.’s, I was concerned that I might not have a “Cheesetta Sighting” before I left the island paradise.

Susana Thompson and I had a wonderful dinner complete with Department gossip, Conch fritters, and Key West Pink Shrimp. After dinner I returned to Marrero’s where I put my tired toesies and legs in the warm water of the Jacuzzi wondering where the mysterious black and white cat, Cheesetta, was.

...Maybe tomorrow.

After all, John said Cheesetta came out a lot during breakfast in order to chow down at the artistic food bowls left for her in the pool/Jacuzzi area, and I would be finishing my last full day in Key West getting up early in order to visit some of its most unique and historic gardens.

Next week we conclude our series where I tour some of Key West’s most unique and historic gardens and meet ghostly pirates at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park!


"La Floridiana" is ©2004 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.