WorldsLooniestAnkorageBy virtue of its geographical detachment from the rest of the United States, Key West, Florida, has always been something of a retreat, an outpost, a “last resort” that catches much of the human flotsam and jetsam washed up on tropical shores. The Conch Train stopped at “Houseboat Row” to allow tourists in baggy drawers and funny hats an opportunity to snapshot what was commonly referred to as “The Anchorage.”

I lived there on Gandalf, a 17-foot sailboat. I found the island’s romance and allure irresistible. After all, this had been the home of the Great Guru Ernest Hemingway—and was where my girlfriend, a six-two stripper from The Pirates Den, lived.

While I frequently set sail for adventure and ports unknown, there was no experience quite like returning to The Anchorage under reduced sail at sunset. The air itself seemed to turn, well, wacky. Few places in the sailing world offered a body politic that diverse—but which I looked upon as downright loony.

As in many conventional communities ashore, The Anchorage was composed of two distinct and non-interactive neighborhoods—Park Avenue, and “the other side of the tracks.” Along Roosevelt Boulevard stretched “Houseboat Row.” Snobbish and sniffish. Some of its houseboats were valued at more than a quarter-mil and were so permanently attached to the seawall that barnacles anchored them in place. The most seas any of them had ever seen was when their bathtubs on city water overflowed. The singing group BeeGees owned one of the boats.

The rest of us—the riffraff, the rabble, the hoi poi, the unwashed–lived out in the channel in everything from a Gandalf to the Kraut’s 45-foot ketch. Cabin cruisers, trawlers, sloops, floating “house shacks,” virtually all in various low stages of seaworthiness. Two cormorants, a pelican, and a loud-mouthed gull might be perched on the protruding shard of a craft that had succumbed to the last storm or high wind and given up the ghost to Davy Jones’ locker.

But if the craft were dog-eared, they were nothing compared to the assortment of salts and misfits who occupied them.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

Vikings were also seafarers. “Thor, god of storms, banged his mighty anvil and sparked lightning down the rolling black surface of the Irish Sea. From the bow of one of the lead long boats, Norse warrior Brak Bloodaxe caught glimpses of other warships. . .”

From Bloodaxe, by Charles W. Sasser, a best-seller on Amazon when it appeared. Available on Kindle from Amazon.com.