Merry Christmas to everybody! I know that many of our readers in the US Mainland are experiencing cold, snowy weather, so I will resist the temptation to gloat about the weather here right now…
A pretty place is Key West. Some parts of town are a bit overrun with tourists and the various ticky-tack businesses that pop up to cater to them, but other places are just plain pretty. There is a pretty steady stream of cruise ships that make port calls here, but they tend to be the smaller ones, and there is only room for one at a time so they don’t quite totally overwhelm town like in some places.
When the United States acquired Florida from Spain, Key West was pretty much uninhabited. The U.S.Navy developed a base here in the early 19th century that was initially used to “discourage” the original Pirates of the Caribbean. The Navy is still here, although in a greatly reduced capacity. Just a few hours before we arrived, an Amphibious Assault Ship arrived at the Navy dock. We were told she is the largest Navy vessel to make a port call in Key West since World War II.
Much of the housing stock is 100 to 150 years old, and of a style know as “Carpenter Gothic.” I can only imagine the amount of care it takes to keep a wood frame building healthy for over a century in this climate! Here we saw relatively little serious hurricane damage. Much more prominent were holiday decorations that tend to have a distinctly tropical flavor.
An interesting stop that we almost passed by was the US Coast Guard Cutter Ingham. She was the longest serving ship in the US fleet, in service for 50 years from convoy duty in WWII through drug interdiction service ending in 1988. She was rescued from the scrap yard by a bunch of dedicated (or crazy!) guys who turned her into a museum. It was a much more interesting tour than I expected, and if you have any interest in such things is well worth a stop if you are in the area.
If you do visit the ship, be sure to take some time to chat with her caretakers. They have lots of fascinating stories. Like the visit they had from the German U-boat Captain who had her targeted in his periscope but shifted at the last minute to fire his torpedos at a larger ship nearby.