©1997 REESE PALLEY
Unlikely Finds a Home
We were returning, after 17 years sailing around world. We had spent the last two years of the circumnavigation in Cuba and when Castro showed so little good sense as to shoot down American planes, we left for the States.
It was, anyway, time to come home. Our vessel, Unlikely, a 46 footer from the pen of ted Brewer, had not been home since we fitted her out in Miami in 1979. She and I were aging, she most gracefully, and I perhaps not so. I began to feel the need for a small piece of American earth. A place in the States to settle in for a bit after the 'alarums and excursions' on the wilder shores of passage making.
The problem was where. The States proved astonishingly expensive after the Third World. I wanted Unlikely by our side wherever we settled and that meant we had to find evermore scarce shoreline. Marina life suited neither of us...too social and too expensive, so we started out to find a solution that was both within our budget and gave us access to Unlikely.
I came up with a 'brilliant' idea. We were to find a piece of property in the Keys which we could buy, tie up Unlikely and live aboard her. Problem was that there are few places in all the Keys that will accommodate a six foot draft.
We had almost given up when we found a sensational lot on Key West right on the Atlantic just a few miles east of the City. It was completely out of the tourist zone and bordered by a deep canal. Best of all, the canal emptied directly into the Atlantic and the entry would, with a bit of weather eye to the moon, take our six foot draft.
Alas the property, we discovered, was not for sale, our real estate agent sadly informed us. Indeed it had not been for sale for 20 years and was unlikely to ever become available. We departed dejectedly.
At 10 AM the next morning the agent phoned.
I understand that your vessel is called "Unlikely.
Yes we replied, sore puzzled why he had asked.
As I told you the site you asked about was most unlikely to come up for sale.
So?, we queried.
Well, like your boat's name, the unlikliest thing in my experience happened this morning. After 20 years of being off the market the lot you want came into my office for sale. Do you want it?
Buy it! we screeched and that evening we had bought our dream place. All of our problems of where to dock Unlikely and where to live in the Keys were solved. Hallelujah!
But, as the saying goes, 'Man plans and God laughs.' He was surely chortling away that day since, after buying the property, we were informed by the Monroe County Code enforcement inspector that no one could live aboard on the canal and, what was worse, no boat could be permanently docked on a property that had no house.
We were the owners of a piece of expensive land on which we could not live aboard UNLIKELY and and hundreds of feet of concrete bulkhead where we could not even dock UNLIKELY.
What to do? The obvious, of course....build a little house.
But because of the stringency attached to the granting of permits in the Keys our 'little house' acquired the equivalence of castlements and spires at the same speed that our bank accounts ebbed.
Luckily the ebbing stopped at ground zero just as the last code required improvement was put in place. We now have a hurricane proof, reinforced concrete abode which, bordered to port 20 feet away by a deep canal and to starboard 20 feet away the blue Atlantic stretched out for 3000 miles.
The house took a year to build but the day finally came when we were able to bring Unlikely alongside and secure her to concrete in a protected canal. At breakfast, on the front porch perched 15 feet above the flood plain, we are able to look down on our beloved vessel and recall the great passages of the past and plan the ones to come.
It all worked out very well especially since if we had found we could not settle in the Keys we had planned to settle in Charleston. We need not remind you that lovely harbor was wiped out that same year by a very nasty hurricane while Key West has been untouched since 1935.
Man plans and, sometimes, God is too busy to laugh.