National Geographic : 1971 Jan
canvas supported on four inner tubes. A rudder had been fashioned from a board wedged into an old bicycle fork. Aboard was only a water can and a tire pump. "Night before last, in the Gulf Stream, we picked up two refugees on that," said Coast Guardsman Robert Moore. "But they'd had a luxury cruise compared to the way some of them make it. We find them out there on nothing but bare inner tubes." He pointed to a little green 14-foot-long rowboat. "Whole families come over on craft little larger than that-including pregnant women and mothers with two- and three week-old babies at their breasts. "You have to admire the guts of people who want freedom that badly." Highway Ends, but Not the Keys The Overseas Highway ends just outside the Key West Naval Base, but the keys go on. Another dozen or two islets-depending on how small a speck of coral sand and red mangrove you want to consider a key stretch 70 miles westward. My teen-age son Kendrick had joined me in Key West for his Easter vacation. Now photographer Emory Kristof, Ken, and I looked at the charts and made a hard decision: Sally wouldn't do for this part of the expedi tion. Emory and Ken wanted to dive, and we all wanted to try the Dry Tortugas' famed fishing grounds-projects that would be all but impossible from my high-sided little motor sailer. So we changed to the 41-foot Lookout. She had low sides and a roomy cock pit with fishing chairs and enough space for air tanks and diving gear. In her cabin hung an awesome array of rods, reels, and lures. Lookout belongs to veteran Key West fish ing captain Gainey Maxwell. A cherubic face and a tangle of damp curls under an old fish ing cap belie a long Navy background and a speaking acquaintance with what seemed to be every fishing spot, shrimp-boat skipper, and sunken ship in the western keys. We knifed past the uninhabited, mangrove mantled Marquesas, 20 miles out of Key West. Then, beyond the low ring of islets, loomed an incredible sight: a great ship, rusted and shattered, but looking as if she were still afloat. "The Navy ran her up on a sand bar so they could use her as a bombing target," Gainey explained. Cormorants stood at attention on the gunwales of the battered 300-foot-long hulk that had once been a proud destroyer Key West: the old bones SPANISH EXPLORERS roaming the site of Key West saw sun-bleached Indian skulls littering the ground. They named it Cayo Hueso-Bone Island-which settlers later corrupted to Key West. In recent decades the charm of the city has attracted a legion of writers and artists. Playwright Tennessee Williams (below) came in 1952 and still maintains a home here. Novelist Ernest Hemingway's house is now KODACHROMEBY BAlE5 LIIILtHAL b U N,.. a museum. Many other venerable homes have been restored, though not all boast a shiny Model A at the door. As its dwellings reflect a Bahamian style, so does the city's music. When pianist Wil liam Butler and the Junkanoos entertain at Capt. Tony's Saloon, customers tap their feet to a Bahamian beat. In Pirate's Alley, 77-year-old George Cul mer rolls panatelas. In the 1880's Key West produced 100 million cigars a year, mostly from Cuban tobacco.