After enjoying an arrival beer upon anchoring in Key West harbor, it was time to notify Customs & Border Protection (CBP): we’re back ‘Merica!
In advance I had filed an itinerary in CBP’s Small Vessel Reporting System (SVRS). This web-based system allows “trusted travelers” to arrive in the US on a private boat and check-in with CBP by phone instead of in-person. To be a trusted traveler, you need to do an in-person interview with CBP, get your fingerprints recorded, etc. Luckily, all four of us had gone through the trusted traveler process as part of joining the Global Entry program for air travel, so joining SVRS was simple.
Since this was my first time using SVRS, I was not sure whether it would work as easily as advertised. However, it did – a quick phone call to the CBP call center and they said that we were good to go. Luckily there were no questions about how many liters of French wine I was carrying in my bilge for personal consumption! We’ll see if it is also easy when we return from our trip to Cuba in a few weeks…
Pale Tourists, Pale Ale
After a much-needed post-passage slumber, we hauled anchor and motored into the Key West Bight to fill our diesel tanks after the multi-day motoring we had done. Then it was on to our slip at the Galleon Resort Marina. It is a nice facility with friendly staff – and pretty quiet even through it is not far from the crazy action on Duval Street.
Once squared away in the slip, we ventured into town for lunch. The very first thing I noticed having spent the last 5 months in eastern Caribbean islands where the residents are almost all black is how white Key West is. Walking down Duval I think I saw one black person and the rest all white (and I mean pale, pasty white). Just the beginning of our re-adjustment to our home country…
We made the required visit to Hog’s Breath Saloon for lunch where I had my first India Pale Ale (IPA) since I ran out of my personal stock in Guadeloupe during January. Boy was it good! Although it was a lot higher in alcohol content than the Caribbean beers like Stag, Banks, and Presidente to which I had become accustomed. Some moderation will be required.
We celebrated Erin’s 14th birthday at one of our Key West favorites, Louie’s Backyard.
For Those About to Rock
After a couple of days in Key West, we flew to Virginia for a six day visit.
While in BVI, I figured out that my classic rock band at home, Curtis Knocking, was playing a gig the night we landed back in DC. With the proceeds going to Special Olympics and being at the cool venue of Fraternal Order of Eagles in Old Town Alexandria, how could I resist joining.
The band has been continuing to play in my absence, with my last two gigs with them being in June 2016 and November 2016. That is a long time of getting rusty when the setlist is around 45 songs per show.
Luckily, I have notes on the chords for the songs on my iPad and I got to brush up a bit during our mostly calm passage from BVI to Key West. So when I landed at 7pm then took the stage at 9pm, it was pretty much like I had never been away from the band (even during the handful of songs that I had never played with the band before). After six months of my equipment sitting in the basement, I was happy that my Nord keyboard still worked and my guitar strings were not rusty. The only things I forgot on the boat were my guitar strap and picks which our guitarist Zeke was kind enough to lend me.
During the week home, I also got to practice with the band (only after the gig, of course). That will be helpful as our next show is at Westover Beer Garden just after I get home for good in early July.
You Can Go Home Again
Since our neighbor Karl is still living in our house in Vienna, VA, we took up residence at the Hyatt House in Merrifield, VA. It is part of a growing mixed-use neighborhood called Mosaic District. So it was super convenient to walk to nearby restaurants and a Target. The kids were mostly excited about the unlimited high-speed internet, something we had not experienced since last November.
Part of the timing of our visit was for Andy to attend the first rehearsal for the Virginia-wide concert band he will be touring with in Europe this summer. The tour leaves mid-July, two weeks after we return home and hits 7 countries in 14 days. So on top of all of the Caribbean countries we have visited in the last 6 months, he will add Britain, France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Germany, and Liechtenstein to the list. The rehearsal was held at West Potomac high school and they were kind enough to let Andy borrow a tuba so we didn’t need to track one down at his home high school. (No we did not bring a tuba aboard the boat!)
Continuing Erin’s birthday celebration, the first night we arrived, she immediately went to a sleepover at her friend Brooke’s house. Then the next day, we took a group of her friends for a birthday dinner at her favorite Melting Pot fondue restaurant. Kristin, Andy, and I had our own table just out of earshot from the insanity in the other room. Luckily there were no cheese fondue fights.
The rest of the week was mostly filled with regular doctor appointments, with the most exciting one being Erin getting her braces off. She has teeth!
Our other big task while we were home was registering the kids at McLean High School for classes in the fall. Andy will be returning as a junior and Erin as a freshman. Based on our discussions with the school prior to our voyage, we had some concern that the school would attempt to pressure Andy to return as a senior since he has enough credits to graduate with only one more year. However, that issue was never raised during our visit. So he will have the two more years in high school he desires. Returning to “land school” will be quite a readjustment for both kids after our relatively light-duty “boat school” this year. Back to the full seven courses load, heavily laden with honors/AP classes.
We were able to do some socializing during the week in Virginia. Kristin’s parents stayed at the same hotel for a night so we could catch up with them. And a number of friends joined us at happy hour at Tysons Biergarten. That was a very fun night, with a good cross-section of neighbors, former ACF colleagues, and the old Andersen Consulting crew from the 90’s.
Back to the Country
We landed back in Key West in the midst of the Key West Songwriters Festival. So the town was extra busy, with even more live music than normal. One might make the assumption that a songwriters festival would include all sorts of genres – rock, folk, R&B, etc. As it turns out, this one is just for country music songwriters who are associated with the BMI music rights organization. BMI makes sure songwriters get paid when their songs are published, recorded, or performed.
Country music is not really our thing – but what the heck, we love music in general. We started at Garbo’s Grill with taco truck dinner and watching Alyssa Jacey perform a great set of alternating originals and covers.
Most of the shows during the day are free, so we saw a few of them, with the best being a group of artists at the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon. Sitting at the bar with a great view of the stage, we happened to meet a woman from Nashville who said, “yea that guy on stage is my boyfriend”. I took that to mean “I WANT that guy on stage to be my boyfriend”. But it actually WAS her boyfriend Matt McGinn who turned out to be well-known as he wrote some #1 country hits including Kane Brown’s “What Ifs” and “Heaven”. We chatted with them for quite a while and learned a bunch about the Nashville music scene and making a living as a songwriter.
We closed the night with the big concert by Tyler Farr on closed-down Duval Street. That was more my style with a full band cranked up – and one of the guitarist with a giant mohawk.
Key West remains one of my favorite places with its anything goes attitude and live music scene. We’ll be back – by land or by sea – someday soon.