My mystery novel series is set in Key West, often called America’s Caribbean island. I am closer to Havana, 90 miles, than Miami, 150 miles, but I am not supposed to go to Havana. I can buy clothing made in Vietnam but am not allowed to smoke Cuban cigars. Go figure.
When I first came to Key West, I lived on a floating home. That’s basically a home on a barge. The one-bedroom structure had a large upper deck with TV, hammock, plants, barbecue and became a hangout for many of my friends. It offered a great view of the Gulf of Mexico and at the end of the marina a seaplane company had its offices.
The seaplanes would taxi to in front of my home and then turn and make its run to take off. The first few times the planes landed it was frightening to see it aim directly at my home. That marina and seaplane business are gone.
So is my floating home, with 30-years of my life onboard. Hurricane Georges, Sept. 1998, blew it away, never to be found. I put my computer in the car, my dog, and a few belongings. I had more than one-thousand books, mostly first editions, signed, and now Davy Jones is reading them.
I bought a 36-foot sailboat in October ’98, and moved into the Key West City Marina to live. Owning a sailboat had always been my dream and to be living in a live-aboard marina was icing on the cake to me.
At the first marina I made friends with Bob, a carpenter and blue-water sailor. We went out often in my new-to-me sailboat and I learned a lot from Bob. The boat, Mustard Seed, draws almost five feet and Key West is surrounded by shallow water, so following the channel markers is crucial.
I’ve sailed to Cuba four times. I was able to do it, with a crew of course, because I am a journalist. After a year of enjoying life in the tropics, 1996 mostly, I needed work and became the business editor/writer for the daily Key West Citizen. I kept the job for about five years.
When the City of Key West decided it needed a public information officer the mayor at the time, Jimmy Weekley, asked me to apply. I was the second choice, but as luck would have it, the first choice enjoyed the nightlife in town and I finally ended up with the job. Lasted about five years with the city too. Jimmy lost an election and many of the people he brought in were let go, slowly because it wasn’t supposed to be retribution. The city manager kept me on in another department, but the mayor and his cronies finally closed most of the department out and I was on the street. Jimmy is on the city commission now and Craig Cates won the mayor’s seat, so things are a little better for the people of Key West.
Now, I continue to write mystery novels, I do stringer work for a local bi-weekly paper, the Keynoter, and am a stringer for Reuters. Hurricanes head toward Key West, I have work. Oil spill heads toward the Florida Keys, I have work. I also do public relations press releases for the Hog’s Breath Saloon, Fury Water Sports, and the Key West Art and Historical Society.
I no longer live on the sailboat, but on land. I still sail and am looking for any excuse to sail to Havana again, before too many Americans discover it. I have been asked to contribute to this blog twice a month and am happy to do so. I will write about sailing, writing and maybe about life in Key West. I hope you enjoy my efforts and I hear from you. As a writer, comments from readers are important. Good and bad responses, as long as they are honest. Even my mother criticizes my work, why shouldn’t you.