History

History of the Florida Keys and "Wrecking"

Florida
|
|
April 2017
|
By
Capt. Jeff
Werner

The Florida Keys, a coral rock archipelago and accompanying barrier reef, stretch 200 nautical miles from Key Biscayne to the Dry Tortugas. The first European to see Biscayne Bay and sail through the Keys was probably Juan Ponce de Leon, during his voyage of discovery in 1513. He named them Los Martires, or the Martyrs, because from a distance the islands looked like suffering men to him. The name we use for the archipelago today is derived from a Spanish corruption, cayo, of the Taino Indian word for small island.

One of these cayos, 68 nautical miles east of the Dry Tortugas, was named Cayo Hueso, or Bone Island, perhaps because the area's indigenous tribes used it as a graveyard. Today, it is what we know as Key West.

Key West has a famously colorful history, replete with eccentric characters and narrative twists and turns that a modern-day scriptwriter would have a hard time inventing. My favorite period runs from the 1830s to the turn of the 20th century, when Key West was the wealthiest city in the United States per capita. It was the era of the wrecker.

Wrecking was the practice of recovering valuables from ships that foundered close to shore. Wrecked Spanish galleons began littering the Florida Keys with gold and silver as early as the 1540s. The Keys were at the choke point for shipping from the southern United States, Mexico and the western Caribbean to the Atlantic Ocean via the Straits of Florida. Not only did the swift Gulf Stream current make navigation difficult, the waters between the Dry Tortugas and Key West are full of shoals and a dangerous coral reef. It was the perfect confluence of geography for wreckers.

Wrecking became a cottage industry in the early 1800s. Bahamian descendants of colonial Tories salvaged treasure in the Keys and auctioned it off in Nassau, greatly increasing the Bahamas' wealth. Commercial New England fishermen spent winters off the Keys supplying fish to Havana wholesalers. Sensing a use for their boats more lucrative than fishing, the New Englanders began cutting into the business of the Bahamian salvagers. Conflicts between the two groups soon arose. In the 1820s, the U.S. Congress passed a law requiring any wrecks taken in U.S. waters to be valued solely by a U.S. court. Subsequently, Key West became the primary hub for selling the salvaged cargo --- and many of the Bahamian wreckers moved permanently to Key West.

Wrecking vessels would normally anchor at night in protected anchorages along the Keys, then sail out in the morning to see if any ships had wrecked during the night. As a result, a ship that had run aground overnight might attract a dozen wreckers by the afternoon of the next day. The first wrecking captain to reach a stranded ship became the wreck master, determining how many wreckers he needed to salvage the ship and directing the operation. Wreckers had an obligation to save the passengers and crew of wrecked ships, and to  salvage not only cargo but, if possible, the ship, as well. What had been salvaged was taken to Key West, where everything was appraised and often auctioned.

Wrecking became a big business --- in those days, ships ran aground in the Keys on average once a week. Shipbuilding and repair yards and chandleries flourished in Key West. Warehouses for storing the treasure went up close to the wharves. Auction houses were constructed to handle the constant flow of goods --- one prominent auctioneer is known to have made $10,000 in fees in one year, the equivalent of more than  $300,000 today.

Eventually, lighthouses were built on the reef as navigational aids. The introduction of steamships, more maneuverable than ships under sail, also dramatically reduced the flow of wrecked vessels, and, consequently, the livelihoods of the wreckers. In 1921, a federal court issued its last wrecking license in Key West.

Today, cruising Key West in search of its rich wrecking history is best done by finding a secure berth for your yacht and then exploring the island on foot, bicycle or moped. Visit the Bight, a historic waterfront area filled with specialty shops, restaurants and bars that overflow with local musical talent. Take an island tour with the Old Town Trolley or the Conch Tour Train, and the history of Key West will come to life before your eyes.

Literary History By Bar

Literary giants to make the island their home for months or years at a time, and many of them have used the bars fanning off Duval Street as their muse. Ernest Hemingway and Sloppy Joe's are forever entwined in local lore --- but it's not quite that simple. The current Captain Tony's Saloon and Sloppy Joe's Bar both claim to be the original Sloppy Joe's, and the rights to the name are now the subject of a lawsuit.

As a recent article in South Florida's Sun-Sentinel noted: "Sort through all the stories and this much is true: The original Sloppy Joe's was in Havana, and no longer exists. From 1933 to 1937, "Sloppy Joe" Russell ran a bar out of a former city morgue where Captain Tony's now is located. Some believe the saloon at what is now Captain Tony's was the inspiration for a bar Hemingway called Freddy's in his Key West tome "To Have and Have Not." As the story goes, Russell abruptly moved half a block to the current Sloppy Joe's location in 1937, upset that his landlord had raised the rent $6 a month. His patrons helped him move out --- at midnight."

It appears that the lawyers will have to duke it out to settle this dispute. Tennessee Williams also called Key West home. He first visited in 1941 to write plays and swim. Success soon followed with The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire, and Williams returned to call Key West home for 34 years. You can visit the Tennessee Williams Museum (513 Truman Avenue) and pass by his former residence at 1124 Duncan Street (currently a private home, it is not open to the public).

Other great literary figures who have lived in Key West include Tom McGuane, John Hersey, Shel Silverstein, Tom Corcoran and Judy Blume. To read about their Key West exploits, visit Books and Books at the Studios of Key West (533 Eaton St.), or attend the popular Key West Literary Seminar held in January.

WHERE TO DOCK

  • Conch Harbor Marina accommodates vessels up to 200 feet and offers Valvtect fuel; the marina is in the center of activity along the wharf.
  • Key West Bight Marina located in the bight area and owned by the city, the marina offers 33 deep-water slips for vessels up to 140 feet.
  • Stock Island Marina Village is located next to Cow Key and offers complimentary shuttle service into Old Town Key West; it has 220 slips and state-of-the-art floating docks and it's pet-friendly, too! (305-294-2288, stockislandmarina.com)

WHERE TO VISIT

  • Audubon House and Tropical Gardens 205 Whitehead St, 305-294-2116
  • Customs House 281 Front St, 305-295-6616
  • Key West Lighthouse 938 Whitehead St, 305-294-0012
  • The Key West Shipwreck Museum 1 Whitehead St, 305-292-8990
  • Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum 200 Greene St, 305-294-2633
  • Oldest House & Garden Museum 322 Duval St, 305-294-9501

Capt. Jeff Werner has been in the yachting industry for over 25 years. In addition to working as a captain on private and charter yachts, both sail and power, he is a certified instructor for the USCG, US Sailing, RYA and the MCA. He is also the Diesel Doctor, helping to keep your yacht's fuel in optimal condition for peak performance. For more information, call 239-246-6810, or visit MyDieselDoctor.com. All Marinalife members receive a 10% discount on purchases of equipment, products and supplies from Diesel Doctor.

Related Articles
There Once Was a Basket from Nantucket
|

For many reasons, boat lovers and landlubbers love Nantucket. The well-known island 30 miles off the Massachusetts coast has great maritime history, picturesque scenery, unspoiled beaches, boutique shopping, a nice marina and seafood galore.It's also home to a unique basketmaking tradition developed in the second half of the 19th century by manly men who manned the lightships that warned of dangerous waters around the island.Today, the Nantucket baskets they wove are ubiquitous to the island as both a popular souvenir and a highly collectible object that reflects the island's fascinating history and heritage.

Baskets Born of Necessity and Boredom

In 1820, the United States began building and converting ships into lightships in coastal waters and the Great Lakes. These vessels served as floating beacons to identify perilous shoals, reefs and shifting channels in places where lighthouse construction wasn't possible. The ships housed bright and navigational light beacons atop their masts to guide maritime traffic.

basket - history - marinalife
Friendship basket purse made by José Formoso Reyes in 1950 | The Nantucket Historical Association[/caption]

xThe waters around Nantucket were well traversed and very treacherous. In Nantucket Sound, sandbars muddled traffic, so the U.S. government placed a lightship there in 1823 to help mark a safe path by the island along a popular commercial route between New York and Boston. It became known as the Cross Rip Lightship.The Nantucket South Shoals off the island's southeast coast proved hazardous for transatlantic shipping. In some locations, the water can be as shallow as three feet. The shoals were a notorious shipwreck site, so the government stationed a lightship at the South Shoals in 1854. A lightship operated at the South Shoals until 1983 when it was replaced by a large navigation buoy. It was at the time America's last working lightship. By 1985, new technologies rendered the old lightship program obsolete.Lightships were manned vessels, and many Nantucket men were hired to work on the ones around the island. Some of these men had been whalers from back when Nantucket was the epicenter of the whaling industry. Rough coastal weather made the lightboat service perilous. For example, they had no onboard electricity, and the crew's only warmth was furnished by manually tending coal-burning stoves always at risk of breaking loose from their mounts and spilling hot coals during fierce storms that churned up mountainous waves that crashed over the ship.It was lonely, too. I've read how life on a lightship was likened to a term of solitary confinement combined with the horrors of seasickness. It's no wonder these men began making baskets to while away the time.

Cross Rip Lightship - history - marinalife
Cross Rip Lightship on station, circa 1930s | The Nantucket Historical Association

According to several sources, it is likely a man named Thomas James introduced basketmaking to men on the lightships. James, the story goes, had worked in the whaling industry and during his voyages supposedly made baskets in his spare time. When he began working on the South Shoals Lightboat, he took up his old pastime while on duty and sold his work on leave in Nantucket town. It wasn't long before he taught his skill to his fellow lightship men.Though the classic Nantucket basket is attributed to men aboard lightships in the mid-19th century, it's important to remember that its distinctive design was probably inspired by baskets originally woven with ash wood by the Wampanoags, the island's indigenous people.Lighthouse baskets typically were round and built on a mold with flat wooden bottoms to which staves (ribs) were attached to form the basic shape. Cane, also known as rattan, was then woven in and around the staves from bottom to top. Each basket was finished with a wooden handle. Tops and decorative elements weren't added until later. These baskets became popular with locals and tourists and thus became known as Nantucket lightship baskets. They're very desirable today among collectors.

Basketmaking Enters the 20th Century

By 1905, the last man from Nantucket manned a local lightship. Shortly thereafter, the federal government banned basket-making aboard lightships to end moon-lighting commerce. The craft then moved on island where it was taken up by a new generation of basket weavers who began personalizing their work and looking for ways to make them stand out and appeal to the growing tourist trade.

Nantucket basket lamp - history - marinalife
The author and Nantucket basket lamp

One of the most significant of this new generation of basket makers was José Reyes, a Filipino with an Education degree from Harvard, who served in the U.S. Navy fighting the Japanese and then after the war immigrated to Nantucket where his wife's family had a home. Unable to find a job in education, he repaired cane furniture and learned to make Nantucket lighthouse style baskets.Reyes is credited in 1948 for adding a top to the lightship basket and turning it into a purse for women. These purses, later known as friendship purses, quickly became de rigour for well-to-do summer residents. Reyes later included ivory carvings to adorn the purse tops. Rumor has it the name originated when a woman carrying one of Reyes' purses while visiting Paris noticed another woman with the same purse. She yelled out Friendship! and the two strangers became lifelong friends linked by their shared love of Nantucket.Paul Whitten, another basket maker, helped elevate artistic appreciation for the Nantucket basket when he was invited in 1974 by the Smithsonian Institution's Renwick Gallery to submit one of his pieces in a national arts and crafts competition. His basket was selected to appear in the gallery and then tour the country with other competition winners as part of a traveling exhibit. Whitten's basket was purchased by the Smithsonian for its permanent collection. Whitten also wrote extensively about Nantucket baskets, which has been important to preserving the history of this unique craft.Today the lightship basket influence can be seen in jewelry, cribs, bike baskets and all sorts of decorative pieces sold on and off island. Yours truly even owns a pair of tall handsome lamps modeled on the classic Nantucket Basket. There's even an auction market for exceptional baskets woven on Nantucket. A recent piece went for more than $100,000. Who'd have thunk it?

Nantucket Lighthouse Basket Museum

If you're visiting Nantucket and want to delve deeper into the history of these unique baskets and learn more about their makers, you won't want to miss the Nantucket Lighthouse Basket Museum. It features a permanent collection of baskets, special exhibits and basket weaving classes. The museum website also has a variety of fascinating videos, including an interview with noted basket weaver José Reyes.Location: 96 Main St.,Nantucket, MA 02554Hours: May 28 – October 17, open daily 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.nantucketlightshipbasketmuseum.org

Read More
The Origins of Fish Capture Flags
|

I've never had much luck saltwater fishing. My first outing as a young boy was holding a handline over the side of my grandfather Pop Hunter's motorboat in the shallow bay behind Alligator Point east of Apalachicola, Florida. Pop and my father were after redfish, and I wasn't expected to catch anything. Sit and be quiet, they said. So I did, until something grabbed my line, and I let out a scream.[caption id="attachment_324734" align="alignright" width="200"]

Fish flags - history - marinalife

Fish flags | Jodi Jacobson[/caption]My grandfather snatched the line and began battling a strong fish with just his tough freckled hands. That fish turned out to be a small hammerhead shark! When he finally pulled it onboard, he tossed it at my feet where it thrashed about, and I began screaming again certain it was going to bite me until Pop threw it back in the bay. He thought it was hilarious and told the story repeatedly that summer. Somewhat traumatized, I didn't go saltwater fishing again for years. When I finally did, all I managed to hook was a four-inch starfish. Like Pop, the fishing boat operator laughed. It was a first, he said, and he lamented that he didn't have an appropriate starfish flag to hoist for our return trip to the dock.Spend time around harbor docks and marinas, especially in the afternoon when the fishing boats come in, and you'll undoubtedly notice rectangular flags featuring different kinds of fish fluttering on outrigger halyards. Though they might look decorative, they're not. These fish flags, more formally referred to as capture flags, are colorful signals to let others know which fish were biting that day. It's a tradition born in the days before daily fishing reports began to appear in newspapers and on radio.The earliest capture flags on record are attributed to The Tuna Club of Santa Catalina Island, California, a private fishing club started in 1898 by Los Angeles Times editor Dr. Charles Holder for the southern California and Hollywood elite. The Tuna Club refers to itself as the oldest fishing club in the United States, and it's still going strong.Charlie Chaplin, Bing Crosby, Cecil B. DeMille, William Wrigley and George S. Patton were among its early members. Teddy Roosevelt was an honorary member. Members flew large colored flags on their boats to alert their fellow anglers when they caught tuna, swordfish and marlin. The practice quickly spread, and sport fisherman and charter boat captains on both coasts began hoisting flags to announce their catch as they pulled into the docks.In Florida, the West Palm Beach Fishing Club (WPBFC) added a different twist to the fish flag. Founded in 1934 during the Great Depression, the WPBFC's mission was to promote fishing to lure visitors to the Palm Beaches and stimulate the local economy. Given the proximity of the Gulf Stream and its big game fish, the club initiated the Silver Sailfish Derby fishing competition, a celebration of one of the world's most elegant and iconic sport fishes. The Derby was the first serious billfish competition in the country. It quickly became the in thing to do for wealthy tourists. And it still occurs every January.[caption id="attachment_324735" align="alignleft" width="239"]

red sailfish capture flag - history - marinalife

Derby Queen with red sailfish capture flag | WPBFC[/caption]Here's the twist. Club members soon became concerned that too many sailfish were being caught and not consumed or mounted as trophies. As a result, WPBFC established new rules to restrict the number and size of sailfish captured and brought aboard boats during the derby. To help incentivize the policy, they encouraged contestants to raise a triangular red pennant to signify smaller sailfish that were caught and released so they could still be given their proper due. The national media seized on it with vigor. And in turn, the red pennant inspired other contests geared toward catch-and-release fishing and helped change the nature of big game fishing. It also furthered the practice and the prevalence of flying fish flags.As sport fishing became more popular and accessible to Americans in the 1960s and 1970s, so too did fish flags. This was driven in part by a growing number of game fishing tournaments with affordable entry fees and guaranteed prize money. Competitors wanted to show off their fishing prowess, so flag companies were more than happy to begin making and supplying 12"x18" canvas and nylon flags featuring the most popular varieties of sport fish marlin, swordfish, sailfish, tuna, mahi-mahi, wahoo, etc. that we still see on boats today.Sharks, by the way, merit a capture flag. You can't miss it. It's usually a vibrant red color and features a white shark. To the best of my knowledge, there's still not a starfish flag.

HOW TO FLY YOUR FISH FLAG

[caption id="attachment_324736" align="alignright" width="300"]

white marlin - history - marinalife

White Marlin | Lunamarina[/caption]You need not worry about official regulations for displaying fish capture flags. Protocols vary from location to location. That said, more experienced fishermen tend to follow some informal rules of thumb.

  • Fish flags are generally flown on the port or starboard outrigger halyard and in order of merit, meaning game fish with bills (marlins, swordfish and sailfish) go at the top and others follow in order of size from largest to smallest. Shark flags are often flown on the bottom.
  • It's appropriate to fly a flag for each fish caught, though some say you should only fly one yellow mahi-mahi flag no matter how many you land. In Hawaii, some boats will run a black pirate flag beneath the mahi-mahi when more than 20 are caught.
  • Never run flags all the way to the top of the rigger; keep them about three quarters up the rigger and spaced at least six inches apart as this is optimal for visibility.
  • Flying a fish flag upside down is the most common way to signal a successful catch and release. Some fishermen, however, prefer to fly a fish flag right side up with a smaller square red flag beneath it or a red T-flag to indicate a fish was tagged and released. Red pennants are still sometimes used.
  • A fish flag should never hang on the halyard for more than a few hours, though charter boats might fly them for 24 hours to help attract clients.
Read More
On the Trail of Ernest Hemingway
|

Mornings at the home on 907 Whitehead Street in 1930s-era Key West were filled with the faint sounds of a pencil on paper or fingers flicking the keys on a Royal-brand typewriter. By early afternoon, this illustrious inhabitant had finished his work for the day, satisfied with the progress on his latest novel and went for a walk.

hemingway's boat - hemingway - marinalife
Hemingway's fishing boat, Pilar | Sura Ark

Sometimes, the destination was his favorite watering hole, Sloppy Joe's. Other times, he'd head for the docks and cast off on a fishing trip aboard his beloved Pilar. Still other days, he went to the Key West Arena to referee in boxing matches featuring local fighters of Bahamian descent.Today, it's possible to retrace the footsteps of one of Key West's most recognizable past residents, Ernest Hemingway. The same is true of the Bahamian island of Bimini to the north and Cuba to the south. This trio of tropical locations is where Hemingway lived and visited for more than 30 years and inspired some of the Pulitzer and Nobel prize-winning author's works.Born in 1899 in Oak Park, Chicago, Hemingway grew up excelling athletically and academically. High grades in English led to his first literary pursuit, as editor of his high school newspaper and yearbook. After graduation, he worked as a cub reporter for The Kansas City Star, where the periodical's style guide shaped his writing – short sentences, short paragraphs, no slang, no superfluous words.Over the next decade, he served as a World War I ambulance driver, a Paris-based foreign correspondent, and then transitioned from journalist to writer with the novel, The Sun Also Rises, centered on bullfighting in Pamplona, Spain. Hemingway then married his second wife, Pauline, in 1927, and the two moved back to America.

KEY WEST, FLORIDA1928-1939

Ernest and Pauline never meant to call Key West home. The two first arrived at the southernmost town in the Continental United States on a steamship from Cuba after a long cold winter in Paris. It was April 1928.

Finca Vigia - hemingway - marinalife
Finca Vigia, Cuba | JFK Collection

Pauline's Uncle Gus had bought the couple a Model A Ford, and it was supposed to be in Key West when they arrived. There weren't the bridges we have now. Most everything was shipped in by boat or rail. The car dealer was so embarrassed the car wasn't there that he offered Hemingway and his wife an apartment above the dealership to stay. That dealership was on Simonton Street. It was called the Trev-Mor Ford. Today the building is a private residence called Casa Antigua. Hemingway was so inspired by Key West that he finished A Farewell to Arms while staying at the apartment. Just think, if the car had been ready, he might not have lived in Key West, and it would have been a whole other story, says Carol Shaughnessy, a 40-year Key West resident, who works with Newman PR's Florida Keys News Bureau, and is former director of the city's Hemingway Days festival.Pauline's Uncle Gus bought the Hemingways' home on Whitehead Street for them in 1931. Originally built in 1851, the two-story Spanish Colonial-style house undertook a massive restoration and remodeling that included the addition of a pool in the late 1930s. Today, the Hemingway Home is a National Historic Landmark, open for daily tours.His writing studio probably was his favorite room. He was able to get out of bed in his master bedroom and walk across the catwalk and start his day writing. He would continue writing until around noon, says Alexa Morgan, director of PR for the Hemingway Home & Museum, who adds that the author penned a huge portion of his life's work here.Hemingway was an animal lover, so he enjoyed it when a ship captain gifted his sons a kitten and they named it Snow White, adds Morgan. Polydactyl cats are meant to be of good luck. A quote of his, ‘One cat just leads to another,' is one of our favorites, since we currently have 58 (many are six- and seven-toed) cats on the property. We kept his tradition alive by naming our resident felines after famous people from Ernest's time, adds Morgan.Several other Key West places to visit can pick up on the vibe of Hemingway. One of the most famous is Sloppy Joe's Bar, now located at 201 Duval Street. Local legend tells that Hemingway drank with the owner, Joe Russell, before the bar's official opening date of December 5, 1933, when Prohibition was repealed. Hemingway is also credited with encouraging Joe to re-name his saloon Sloppy Joe's, in remembrance of a bar in Havana, which had ‘sloppy' melted ice on the floor.The Blue Heaven Restaurant, at the corner of Petronia & Thomas streets, is where Hemingway slipped in unrecognized at Bahamian boxing fights in the then-named Key West Arena. The SALT Gallery at 830 Fleming Street, a half-mile north of Hemingway's home, was once called Mrs. Rhoda Baker's Electric Kitchen, where he dined on 20-cent ‘club breakfasts.'Hemingway's passion for big game fishing ignited in Key West. He bought Pilar, a 38-foot wheeler, and often fished with Charles Thompson, who owned a hardware store at Thompson's Docks on Caroline Street, the location of Key West Historic Seaport today. The two pushed far into the gulf stream, as well as to the Dry Tortugas, fishing for monster blue marlin and bluefin tuna. Charter boat captain Bra Saunders was at the helm onHemingway's and Thompson's first trip to the Dry Tortugas. Saunders' gnarled hands are said to be the author's inspiration for those of the old Cuban fishermen, Santiago, in Old Man and the Sea.The last time Hemingway and his friends fished in the Dry Tortugas, a tropical storm marooned them for two-plus-weeks at what is now Fort Jefferson. Nowadays, a high-speed catamaran ferry takes visitors on day trips from Key West to Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas National Park.

BIMINI, THE BAHAMAS1935-1937

Hemingway's love of fishing, bolstered by his adventurous spirit and 1933 trip to hunt big game on Africa's Serengeti plains, enticed him to stalk giant bluefin tuna. In 1935, he first ventured to Bimini, with catches of 514- and 610-pound tuna soon to his credit.

Hemingway House Facade - hemingway - marinalife
Hemingway House Facade | Hemingway Home and Museum

When he wasn't aboard Pilar, he was at his home on Alice Town's Main Street, where only cinder rubble and a commemorative sign remain today, or at a small hotel and bar called the Compleat Angler. This hotel burned down in 2006, and with it all the Hemingway memorabilia, though a monument stands there today.Across the way, at the Bimini Big Game Club Resort & Marina, two framed photos on the wall at the bar are real finds for Hemingway aficionados. One is a 1939-written letter from Michael Lerner, of New York's Lerner Corporation store fame, to Hemingway, in what was initial correspondence between the two avid anglers to promote releasing rather than killing their catch. The second is Hemingway's concurring reply.We don't have a chair at the bar where we can say Hemingway sat, but the old-time Bimini vibe, the way it felt when he was here, is still very much alive, says Stephen Kappeler, the club's managing director. We have guests that come to soak up that feeling of when Hemingway was here. Of course, they also come here to sport fish off their own boats as Hemingway did or on charters.Just west of the club off Queen's Highway is the Dolphin House. This museum and home were hand-built from recycled materials by Ashley Saunders, a fifth generation Biminite. Saunders' relatives boxed with Hemingway on makeshift rings on the beach. Open to the public, the museum showcases Hemingway artifacts, his sayings like Write drunk, edit sober on the walls, and old photos such as Pauline cutting his hair outside.

HAVANA, CUBA1940-1960

Hemingway divorced Pauline, and with his third wife Martha, he bought a home he called Finca Vigía in the San Francisco de Paula neighborhood, about 15 miles south of Havana. The 1886 property, with its incredible view of Havana, is where Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea. It's now a museum, and the grounds are open for public tour. He and later fourth wife, Mary, enjoyed Havana's bohemian nightclub scene in the late 1940s and 1950s with Hollywood glitterati like Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn and Ava Gardner. Up until the last year of his life, Hemingway continued to sport fish.

hemingway - marinalife
Ernest Hemingway on a dock with a tuna | JFK Collection

In 1960, Hemingway last participated in an Ernest Hemingway International Billfish Tournament. It was then that he and Fidel Castro, also a participating angler, met. When we founded our Hemingway International Yacht Club in 1992, we wanted to recall the history of the former International Yacht Club of Havana, which, in 1950, organized the first Ernest Hemingway International Billfish Tournament. We have a seat of honor at the club and photos on the wall that show that meeting, says Commodore Jose Escrich.The area between the Morro Castle at the entrance of Havana Bay and the town east of Havana called Cojímar is known as the Hemingway Mile. Here he frequently fished aboard Pilar. Escrich says anglers competing in the tournament today catch most of their fish in this area.

Hemingway Days

Immerse yourself in the life, legend and lore of Ernest Hemingway, at the Hemingway Days festival in Key West. Set for July 19-24, 2022, to coincide with Hemingway's birthday on July 21, the week-long celebration features a Hemingway Look-Alike Contest at Sloppy Joe's Bar, a Running of the Bulls where contestants and past contest winners parade down Duval Street with hand-built bulls, a fishing tournament, 5K run and paddleboard race that are both a nod to Hemingway as an avid sportsman, and the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition, coordinated and judged by the author's granddaughter, Lorian Hemingway. For more, go to hemingwaydays.net

Read More

Want to Stay In the Loop?

Stay up to date with the latest articles, news and all things boating with a FREE subscription to Marinalife Magazine!

Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.