But the museum wasn't about the ships themselves, it was about the people that went out to the wrecks to get people off the wrecks and save them and any of the cargo that could be salvaged. The salvage was worth a great deal, and the wreckers were often rewarded 20-25% of the value of what they salvaged. So Key West, for quite some time made nearly all the islands' money off salvage. There was a point in history where the per capita income was greater here than anywhere else in the nation, due to wrecking.
The museum was more about the salvage operations than the ships they saved. There was a point when there were 100-150 ships that went by Key West from the East Coast to the Mississippi River Basin, as part of the expansion to the West. It was easier and faster to get people and cargo across the water than it was to do so by land. With the combination of the reefs, the hurricanes, the uncertain weather, and with that number of ships the sheer possibility of incompetent captains, not to mention the possibility of Key West wreckers sometimes moving lights or buoys or markers, there were wrecks about once a week. Woah. The museum was full of the kinds of stuff that they got off those ships, including marble for the New Orleans' courthouse... sand shakers for sanding ink writing, china, cotton bales, cloth rolls, and lots of other stuff.
They literally made millions off the goods that they got.
Then navigation got a bit easier as maps got better, lighthouses were put in place, markers were set, and lots of other stuff happened. So the wrecking business got less profitable. There's still lots of weird water out here, so there's still a huge Coast Guard presence and some of the old rescue abilities are still needed, but it's not a profit center for the area anymore
It was fun to talk with the guys that were doing some of the "live storytelling" as they really were into the history and stuff. So I had a good time.
I also got a slice of the Blond Giraffe's key lime pie, as I'd been eating Kermit's Key Lime pie most days while I was here. And it was quite different, with a meringue instead of whipped cream, and a more curd-like body to the lime part of it than the other, which was more creamy and Cool Whip mixed with curd kind of consistency. I liked it better.
For lunch we stopped at a laundromat in the Cuban district, and ate at Carla's Cafe. We had real Cuban mix sandwiches with ham, roast pork, pickles, mustard, lettuce, and all toasted on that amazing Cuban bread with the crisp crust, soft interior, and amazing texture. I can see why everyone raves about it, now. I also had the Cafe Con Leche, with the traditional sugar. There was one guy who had a shirt on that said the coffee could also be called "Cuban Speed". Hee. It really was that good. Excellent, rich, strong coffee with plenty of caf to it, and real milk and enough sugar to make it all meld together beautifully. I loved it. I need to get me some more of that.
From there we headed out of town, saying good-bye to everything we'd gotten familiar with and headed north once more. Key West really is pretty expensive, and there just were too many tourist things to do rather than... discovery kinds of things to do. So we were on our way out, and Jet was mildly unhappy as he thought we were going to spend all seven nights there, but we weren't. John found a great beach about four or five Keys north.
It was the Bahia Honda State park, and it had beaches at both ends, with parking and one of the beaches had a lot more sand and waves and room to roam. So we went there, stopped near the rest rooms, and then found a clear bit of sand to park our stuff. This is where I discovered that I lost my hat yesterday as we couldn't find it anywhere. I probably left it at the Cuban restaurant but John called and they hadn't found it. I'm sad, as it's my Sunday Afternoon Hat.
But that's made something each of us has lost. John lost a pair of sunglasses. Jet lost his Sponge Bob baseball cap while on the glass-bottomed boat. A wave hit him in the face, and flipped his hat off his head to add insult to injury. Both John and I just lost our things. Anyway... three times the charm, and I hope that that is the last thing we lose on this trip. I found Jet's iPod when we thought he'd lost it so I think we're through. It was funny as whenever Jet puts on his iPod, he sings whatever he gets as loud as he can, and he has a mix of "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything" and "Animaniacs". Hee.
The beach was wonderful. Jet and I built sand castles. We all went out into the bathtub warm water, and bobbed gently about. The summertime Atlantic is far, far more polite and comfortable than the Pacific. But it's still obviously an ocean. Live water. I always forget just how much water it is until I am out there and get my feet taken out from under me by even the most gentle of big waves. It was wonderful to go out and trust my body to the water again, and just float around like it was nothing...
I miss the ocean. Deeply, dearly, completely. Having lived a good deal of my childhood and adulthood within smelling distance of the Pacific it's been odd living up in the mountains without a seascape in sight, even. Both John and I talked a bit about just how much we've missed being by an ocean...
We stayed a good three or four hours and after all the sun we'd been getting, we weren't that badly toasted.
From there we went to Islamorada and found a little fishing hotel for about a third the price of the Key West hotel. It's clean and old and has firmer beds than the other and a shower with more water power. There's a local restaurant affiliated with a local fish market, the Islamorada Fish Market, and we had dinner there. I had a local yellowtailed snapper just fried to a crisp with fries. Jet ate an entire bowl of noodles with butter and cheese, when he hasn't been eating his habitual grilled cheese sandwiches worth a darn. John had a lovely Island BBQ plate with scallops and local dolphin fish (not Flipper, it's also known as Mahi Mahi). It was all good, all in the beautiful sunset under tiki torches and with plenty of breezes. A thunderhead out to sea rumbled now and again, and as it got darker, gave a beautiful display of lightning within its depths.
We walked a bit around the marina, went back and had some dessert. A big chocolate cake that was quite nice, and some of the mango cheesecake that was redolent with ripe fruit. I didn't eat that much of the cake, but did indulge in a good bit of the mango cheesecake. So it was a good evening.