Monday, March 23, 2009

Key West, Florida

Camping at Key West is a dream-come true! We’ve been at Sigsbee RV campground for 5 days, which is a naval base. To dry camp here runs us $12/day, as opposed to over $100 a day at the commercial campgrounds in this pricey neighborhood. Dry camping means we have no hook-ups, which is less convenient. We have to drive the RV about every 3rd day over to get potable water, and also to dump our grey water and black water. It’s only a few hundred yards away, and doesn’t take more than about 20 minutes. The showers and laundry facility are very clean. The best part is we’re just a stone’s throw from the Gulf of Mexico, and we can see the sunrise over the water from our bedroom window. Palm trees are everywhere, and the temp has been in the low to mid-80’s.

We rode our bikes into Key West soon after our arrival. The kids brought their snorkel gear in backpacks, and went swimming from the beach at Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park. They spotted many fish, but not nearly the sights we experienced out on the coral reef a few days earlier. We rode our bikes around the outdoor art exhibit, which was quite unusual, bordering on bizarre. The coolest thing was a huge display of at least 15 wind pipes, each about 20 feet long. You could hear the wind whistling, as the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico. That’s when we spotted all the commercial sailboats heading out to enjoy the sunset. We walked around the old fort, which is still surrounded by a water-filled moat, and the boys spotted a huge iguana.

Thom rented a boat from MWR here on base. The six of us headed out 7 miles across the gorgeous multi-colored blue waters, in search of coral reefs. We spotted Sand Key, an ideal snorkeling spot, and tied up to a buoy. On went the snorkeling gear, and over the side we went. At first, we couldn’t see anything except a beautiful, never-ending blue. Then the reef came into view, along with the unnerving, menacing barracuda. I only spotted two, and just like last time, I kept my distance. We continued on to shallower waters where we saw a puffer fish, parrot fish, and many others. The visibility (about 30 ft.) wasn’t as good as our earlier trip, but it was still captivating and beautiful.

Thom repositioned the boat a couple more times, and the third location was the favorite. There was a channel running through the reef where multitudes of colorful fish congregated. My favorite part was seeing about 5 huge dark purple angelfish. Ben got the hang of free diving! He now knows how to dive down, swim with the fish, and clear his snorkel upon surfacing. It’s a thrill watching the boys interacting with nature and loving every moment. Will bought an underwater camera and dove down repeatedly taking close-up shots of sea life.

Each day we continue our studies with Calvert, and the boys are up to about lesson 107 now (out of 160). We try and spend at least 5 or 6 hours a day at school. Sam’s ahead of everyone and just completed test 140. We want to get started on the 2nd grade Calvert curriculum soon for Sam, especially in math.
Oh, the other day while Thom was teaching outside at the picnic table, he suddenly jumped up and said, “It bit me!” Sure enough, there was a bright green caterpillar he flicked off. Within minutes, he had a bright red, swollen band across the back of his leg. Later the same day, another caterpillar got him on the foot. Luckily, he didn’t need any treatment and the swelling and pain went away. It’s just strange when we come across unexpected insects. There are also “no see-um’s” which bite you leaving mosquito-like bites. Luckily, the mosquitoes haven’t set in yet.

After a full day of school, we jumped in the car and headed to this area’s famous Mallory Square, where everyone goes to watch the famous sunsets over Key West. Street performers were everywhere and included musicians, jugglers, unicycles, comedians, dancers, and mimes. We even spotted a man who was all tied up in chains like Houdini, and within 5 minutes, he’d worked himself out of the chains as well as the straight jacket. The boys took it all in, and loved putting money in the hat at the end of the act.
We took pictures at the southern most point of the US, which is right here in Key West. It’s one of those great towns to just mosey around in, taking in all the sights. We also want to visit Hemmingway’s house before we leave.

One of my favorite stops has been Mel Fisher’s Maritime Museum. Wow! For those of you who don’t know, Mel Fisher was a scuba diver who searched for shipwrecks full of treasure for years. Finally in 1985, his crew found the Atocha, a Spanish ship that sank in 1622. To date, they have brought up over 35 tons of silver ingots (bars), 125 gold bars and discs, thousands of “pieces of eight”, the famed Spanish coins as in “Pirates of the Caribbean”, and loads of emeralds including one weighing 78 carats! Included in the museum is a jewelry shop, selling unique items such as an 80 lb silver ingot for $60,580 and a gold necklace for $130,000. To date, Mel Fisher’s crew has salvaged over $400 million in treasures from the Atocha!

The story goes on. Although Mel Fisher passed away in 1998, his family and crew continue to dive for treasure, since they have exclusive dive rights to that shipwreck. Thom and I inquired about their investors’ program. For $10K, you can join their investors’ club and go diving with their crew for a year. You keep the first treasure you find (up to six times what you’ve invested). Since Thom and I both dive, we thought this might be the ultimate retirement…….maybe in 11 years when the boys are off to college! Ah, we all must have our dreams. It doesn’t get much better than diving for treasure in the turquoise waters off Key West!

No comments: