Walking down White Street on the way to Key West’s Galleon Marina this afternoon, I smelled chicken on a barbecue – the smell of summer. Turning on Carolina, I looked in a side yard and saw a dozen people sitting outside under a plywood frame, cigarettes and beers in hand. They were watching the NFL playoffs in mid January on a park bench on their lawn. This place is just different – the climate, the attitude, the recreation – and you just don’t get it unless you’ve been here.
If you have, you know that Key West lives outside the normal. Costumes are common, bums provide endless entertainment, strip clubs are the normal spot for everyone to go at 1 a.m., and drugs are plentiful – It’s a fantasy world. The combination of timing, wind, nightlife and competition pull Key West just outside reality – a good thing, because that fantasy helps to block out the painful fact that there are maybe a thousand fewer sailors here this year than last, that the Farr 40 and Mumm 30 classes have gone from robust to nearly gone in just a year, that most of the handicap splits are awkward, and that fewer than 150 boats are likely to be on the lines for this edition of KWRW – down from last year’s 262 entries.