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Thursday, March 10, 2016

US Coast Guard ~ "The Boarding"

US Coast Guard ~ Boarding

US Coast Guard ~Safety Inspection
Pano View of Key West
Last Friday, after our Bocce game, we were invited by Sharon and Georgio, our local Bocce leaders/organizers, to an outing on their pontoon boat “The Captain Groovy” . Eight of us were onboard as we left the Stock Island Marina. A quick note about the Marina; The docking area is somewhat limited, but through clever design, it accommodates many vessels of different types. A giant forklift wheels around and picks your boat from large enclosed buildings. It then brings your boat to the water’s edge and lowers it down some ten feet into the water. It is a neat operation!
Leaving the Marina, I got my bearings as to where it is located in relation to Key West and Boca Chica, to the North. Georgio headed along the Easterly side towards Key West. This gave us a good view of the beaches along Atlantic Boulevard. By now the munchies were out along with drinks, which we all brought. The ocean was relatively calm and as things settled down we could appreciate the clear water below. I asked Georgio how deep the water below us was and he looked at his depth gauge, he said, “17 feet". We could see the bottom like it was only two feet deep!
My mind was racing with these thoughts
Looking around, one could also see several types of boats on the water… jet skis, fishing boats, sailboats and a little further out, a Coast Guard patrol boat. It was apparent that the patrol boat was also eyeing us. It was quickly closing in on our pontoon boat. US Coast Guard safety check came over the loud speaker. Georgio shutoff our 75 horsepower motor. The Coast Guard idled their 900 horsepower three outboard motors. A Coast Guard crew member hollered out. “Any weapons on board”, “No” replied Georgio. What followed was a routine Coast Guard Safety Check, but my mind was racing with all kinds of scenarios! Would they send us back to Cuba like the refugees that don’t make land? Helen asked if we could take pictures of the safety check. They said, “yes, no problem”! That was my cue to start taking pictures. The pictures that I took were of a serious nature at the time, but as I started to look at them later my mind exploded with all kinds of bullet statements!
In all seriousness, the US Coast Guard crew were very professional and did an outstanding job of keeping us safe with all of the requirement papers and safety devices!

Key West ~ From the Gulf to Atlantic

After the boarding and a good safety check experience, it was time to get back to exploring the rest of Key West, from the water side. When one rounds the point, by Fort Zachary Taylor, where the two bodies of water meet, it became a little choppy for about three or four minutes. At this time, we, who were sitting towards the bow of the pontoon got a few splashing waves. I’m glad I had left my wallet back in the truck! My iPhone was secured in a plastic baggy.
Two cruise ships were docked down by Mallory Square and made for a nice panorama picture. We continued to Sunset Key across from Mallory Square. Sunset Key is where the rich and famous live. A restricted ferry is the only access to this Key. There are roads, but no vehicles allowed. There is a restaurant which you can make reservations for, but if you’re not on the restaurant reservation list, you not going on the ferry. It’s easy to lay down $100 for lunch! I’ll stick to “Five Guys”.
Doesn't Paul remind you of the
movie "African Queen"
The next closest Key is Christmas Island. Ironically, this is inhabited by vagrants. Go figure! From the richest to the poorest, nearly within shouting distance.

"Angel" come on in!
Sunset Key to the right!
Angel the retriever! 
From the tour around the westerly tip of Key West, we headed back towards Stock Island, but with another destination. Georgio took us to a sand bar. Unfortunately, the tide was higher and about two feet of water was over the sand bar. This didn’t deter our sand bar adventure. Paul took charge and jumped in. He grabbed the anchor and pulled us in closer and set the anchor into the sand. A few of us got off the pontoon boat and walked and explored this “island in the sea”. Angel, the Lab, was pacing back and forth and finally took the plunge and joined into the fun. Sally had brought a ball catapult and Angel had a “ball” retrieving. Reed, Ginny, Sharon, Helen and I stayed on board to take pictures. We weren’t the only ones on the sand bar. A bunch of jet skis were on the far side and were also frolicking in the knee deep water. I’m told that when the tide is at the low point, one can actually have a picnic on the pure sand bar. It’s ironic that Key West doesn’t really have any sand beaches. The sand is brought in, I’m told, but just off shore there is plenty of this commodity. Go figure!

That what we saw and did!

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