Terry, Ellen, Richard and I began making plans for a recent trip
to Florida, one of the most important things for all of us was
a return to Key West. We had never been there together as a group
of four, but all of us had traveled to the Keys… and all of us
love the area. We wanted to spend at least one night in Key West…
perhaps two. But amazingly, since we had all seen the Hemingway
House and other landmarks, we couldn’t quickly identify a specific
thing to do that we hadn’t already done in some way.
West is legendary for sunset. Whether enjoyed on the water or
experienced at Mallory Square, a sunset viewed while in Key West
is one of those things you should just put on your I’d-love-to-do
list right now. Because it’s not just an amazing and wonderful
thing… which a beautiful sunset is when viewed from so many fantastic
locations. A sunset in Key West is a celebration.
some miracle of search engine good fortune, Ellen and I eventually
both stumbled across a combination of words when looking for things
to do. We didn’t enter them in as the actual search, but we spotted
them in one of the results…
on… a sailboat out of Key West that offers a wine tasting at sunset?
We reacted about as enthusiastically as Peter does on Family
Guy when he comes across the red feety-pajamas.
we weren’t familiar with the name, we quickly decided to take
a chance and book our evening with Danger
Charters. And on May 5, 2009, we hopped on
board and left the dock for one of the most fun, laughter filled,
life-long memories experiences we have ever had.
~ ~ ~
a Tuesday evening, we arrive in Key West. A trip to the hotel…
bags left behind… and a cab called. We’re heading across the island
of Key West, to a boat belonging to Danger Charters.
arrived a little more than an hour before we were scheduled to
board, and this presented a slightly unexpected problem… what
to do. See… it was warm and muggy for an early May evening. And
you don’t exactly head to Key West hoping to enjoy the air conditioning.
So there we were… dressed for the casual formalities of a wine
tasting cruise, to be followed by an evening on the town… looking
for something to do that didn’t involve a ton of physical activity
that would leave us hot and drenched before we even got on the
thing… if it weren’t so warm that evening, the area around the
marina would have been perfect for wasting that hour. A few shops,
a couple of food options, and even a restroom were all within
short distance of the dock. We stopped for some ice cream… which
was ok, but amazingly overpriced… wandered through a couple of
stores, and then eventually settled near the hut we checked in
at for the final fifteen or so minutes until the crew came to
pick up our full group and walk us to the boat. And from that
point on… it was a great evening…
had been hot, muggy and downright uncomfortable was… no surprise
here for those that sail often… absolutely beautiful and perfect
once we were moving on the water. Our three-person crew for the
evening consisted of Haig (the captain), Don (first mate) and
cruise featured an assortment of wine and promised a variety of
appetizers. Actually, let me quote the web site on this one: “In
addition, an array of quality beer, and hors d’oeuvres are also
served…” You’ll notice the word “quality” doesn’t appear next
to the food. There’s a reason for that… the food was average.
(Ok… look… it wasn’t bad. Veggies and dip… cheese and crackers…
more cheese… more veggies. But heck… let’s face it… if you’re
out on the water for a Key West sunset, the quality of the veggies
shouldn’t be determining whether or not you had a good time.)
wine was outstanding. Haig and Don both credited Sarah for making
the selections. And, unless they were pulling our legs about it
(highly possible), she did a fabulous job. We started the evening
with a Grandial sparkling wine that everyone agreed was pretty
good and had a nice taste. We progressed through a Lurton Pinot
Gris that was very good into a Yangarra Chardonnay that we all
felt was ok. After that… a rose and on to some red wines… and
the boat was on open water, the sun was going down, and my notes
don’t cover everything else that was poured for us. I was distracted
by, well, everything. (I do recall later being served a Fresca,
which was a completely unexpected treat and kicked off a string
of Caddyshack sailing with Judge Smails jokes. “How about
a Fresca?”… “Spalding, get your foot off the boat.”… “You’ll get
nothing, and like it!”)
the wine was outstanding and… most importantly… plentiful. The
crew was wonderful, including lots of jokes and stories playing
out over the night. One of them started when Haig and I had a
discussion, which I made up and blamed Don for, about an encounter
with a legendary Bluefin Tuna. That one kind of died quickly,
but the conversation kept moving when someone spilled wine on
Haig’s shirt. Ellen pulled out a Tide stick, Terry took care of
the stains, and the next thing you now… the legend of Tide Stick
Man took over the night.
the other reason for the cruise? The sunset. And… well… words
I mentioned, Key West is one of those places where a sunset isn’t
simply a part of every day. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that
“Key West Sunset” is actually a religion. And quite worthy of
such a possibility, the sunset we viewed on the boat certainly
could be credited as evidence of a higher power.
the end of our sail, we stepped off the boat and it was still
early. A fantastic evening would have been had by all if the night
simply ended there. But we had more to do… and Duval Street was
just a few steps away.
~ ~ ~
Charters runs sail excursions out of Key West.
The marina they operate out of is at the corner of Whitehead and
Greene streets. Whitehead is notorious for… along with several
other things… Mile Marker 0 of Route 1 and the Southernmost Point
Buoy. You’ll be very close to the mile marker while at the marina…
not so much the buoy. In addition to the sunset sail, they also
offer trips for snorkeling and other possibilities.
let’s get the serious stuff out of the way… there is alcohol involved.
My guess is you have a hotel room booked, possibly on Key West,
so call for a cab and get a ride down to the marina. It’s pretty
reasonable cost-wise to get a ride across the entire island of
Key West, and Duval Street really is within incredibly easy walking
distance of the dock. You know you’re going to drink… I know you’re
going to drink… so don’t fight it. Kick back, relax, and leave
the driving to someone else. You’ll be very happy that this has
been taken care of, and that you’re free to enjoy anything and
Don’t forget a camera. Sunglasses… yes. Suntan lotion… sure. Tide
stick… now I’m just trying your patience to make a funny connection
to our story. But your cell phone is not going to capture the
true beauty and fantastic colors. Bring a camera.
I hate to say this… but the food on the boat was fine and that’s
it. We’re talking veggies and dip… cheese and crackers. Not chicken
skewers… not unlimited shrimp or steak… they will not be airing
any footage of your journey on Top Chef or the Food Network.
In fact, to use a thought from the classic world of South
Park, the food on this boat is what you eat to make you hungry.
So plan on having a late lunch or early dinner before you head
out to the boat. And if you are debating it at all… see the note
above about Duval Street. You’re probably planning on the Crawl
and not fine dining options for after the boat ride. (Maybe you
are. Whatever. Just do not expect an endless and diverse assortment
of overflowing trays to parade past you for two or three hours.
to wrap it up... if Haig, Don or Sarah are introduced as part
of your crew, say hello for us. Then relax... because you’re in
great hands and you’ll have a fabulous time.