History

On the Trail of Ernest Hemingway

Key West, Bimini, & Cuba

By
Carol
Bareuther

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, FLORIDA

1928-1939

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 on Hemingway'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 BAHAMAS

1935-1937

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, CUBA

1940-1960

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

Related Articles
Hurricane Hunters
|

Hurricanes are nature’s grandest, most ferocious storms. They fascinate us, and they repel us. As a radio news and weather reporter in Miami for 30 years, my grandfather was obsessed with hurricanes. (Confession: I am, too.) Using colored pencils and a wooden ruler, he meticulously plotted their paths onto an enormous paper map tacked up on the wall of his study. It was a beautiful and mesmerizing record of these ferocious and complicated storms that somehow feel alive as they zigzag and wobble across the ocean like drunken sailors.

Science has improved dramatically since my grandfather’s era. A fleet of Earth- observing satellites providing real-time data now help thousands of scientists around the world answer three age-old questions: Where and when will the hurricane hit and how strong will it be? Modern forecasts are pretty accurate. Long gone is the day when a storm could sneak up and hit without any warning. Here are the stories of three men who helped pave the way.

Three Who Paved the Way for How We Track & Predict Hurricanes Today

Father Hurricane

When the regime of Queen Isabella II of Spain collapsed in 1868, many who supported her thought it wise to flee the country. Father Benito Viñes, a Jesuit priest and educator, was one of them. He emigrated to Cuba and found a position as director of the meteorological observatory in Havana. Shocked by the damage hurricanes regularly inflicted upon the island, he made it his mission to learn everything he could about them.

Within five years of arriving, Father Viñes knew more about hurricanes than any living person. He was the first to discover that the cloud pattern and the behavior of the wind well in advance of a storm could be used to track it accurately. Using this information, he designed the “Antilles cyclonoscope,” a kind of slide-rule that could estimate from a considerable distance the current position of a hurricane and calculate its likely path. Up until then, weather observers could tell when a hurricane was coming but not where it was going.

His first forecast was published in a Havana newspaper on September 11, 1875 — two days before an intense hurricane ravaged the southern coast of Cuba. Many lives were saved because of the timely warning. Throughout the 1880s he exchanged hurricane information with other weather observers across the Caribbean via telegraph. It was the first hurricane warning system and a model the United States. Weather Service later emulated it. Father Viñes was so well-respected that for a short time hurricanes were even called Viñesas and identified numerically. The pronunciation, however, was difficult for Americans, so the practice ceased. Father Viñes died in 1893.

The Aerial Acrobat

Len Povey

Len Povey was a self-taught pilot who flew with the new U.S. Army Air Service until 1922 when he left to pursue a more “colorful” career testing race planes, flying bootleg liquor and barnstorming over the Great Lakes as a headliner with a flying circus. His aerial acrobatics at the All-American Air Maneuvers show in Miami in 1934 caught the eye of a Cuban Air Force official who hired him to train Cuban pilots and serve as the personal pilot for Fulgencio Batista, the chief of the armed forces and later president and dictator of the island nation.

When Cuba’s Weather Service detected a storm intensifying several hundred miles east of the island in early September 1935, Len Povey volunteered to help pinpoint the location and movement of the storm. He jumped in his Curtiss Hawk II, an open cockpit biplane, and flew over the Straits of Florida where he located the hurricane farther north than predicted and moving northwestward toward the Florida Keys. The Cubans dispatched a warning, but it was too late. Later that same day, the storm roared ashore at Islamorada, FL, with winds of 200 m.p.h. and a 20-foot storm surge that drowned more than 400 people, mostly Army veterans who were building the Overseas Railroad.

Povey later joined the faculty at Embry-Riddle, a private Florida college focused on aviation and aerospace programs, where he was a tireless advocate for aerial hurricane patrols. However, the type of reconnaissance mission he envisioned didn’t happen until July 1943, when Air Force Colonel Joe Duckworth flew a plane directly into the eye of a hurricane churning toward Galveston, TX. Len Povey died in 1984. His obituary claimed he survived a mid-air collision and an encounter with a turkey buzzard that sheared off a portion of his plane’s wing.

The Data Cruncher

One of the most recognized voices on hurricanes in the late 20th century emanated ironically from a mile-high lab at Colorado State University. That voice was Dr. William Gray, a professor of tropical meteorology from 1961 until 2005.

Bill Gray grew up in Washington, DC, wanting to be a baseball player. He was a standout pitcher for George Washington University until he hurt his knee. During service in the Air Force, he turned to a career in climatology. He once told the Los Angeles Times he was inspired to study hurricanes after he flew a plane through one off the east coast of Florida in 1958.

Dr. Gray was an outlier when it came to hurricanes. He eschewed computer modeling, focusing instead on observational science: historical storm data, old maps featuring storm patterns, and statistics on wind speed, water temperatures and other meteorological factors. He was the first to determine that the intensity and frequency of storms in the Atlantic was cyclical and that likelihood of a hurricane reaching the East Coast of the United States depended on a variety of factors including the amount of rainfall in Africa and the impact of El Niño (the periodic warming of the Pacific Ocean that produces powerful winds that shear off the tops of storms developing in the Atlantic). In short, he figured out Mother Nature’s recipe for powerful storms.

In 1984 Dr. Gray unveiled the first Atlantic seasonal hurricane forecast and quickly became a hurricane superstar and media darling. He, however, considered his greatest legacy the students whom he taught and mentored, many of whom went on to become leaders in weather research and forecasting. He died in 2016.

Check out Marinalife's recent article about How Hurricanes Get Their Names.

Hurricane Tracking Apps for Your Phone

You don’t need all six of these apps, but we’re certain you’ll find one here that you like. All are available on Google Play and the Apple App Store.

THE WEATHER CHANNEL

Rain radar, storm tracker and severe weather warnings help you prepare for hurricane season, as well as storms and heavy rain. Monitor live radar updates, an hourly rain tracker, storm radar news, and local weather forecast on the go. Free. Available in English and 30 other languages.

NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER DATA

Official data, custom graphics, updates and maps from National Hurricane Center (NHC) experts. Considered the grandparent of all hurricane trackers. Free. Available in English and French.

WEATHER UNDERGROUND

Reliable, real-time and hyperlocal forecasts combining data from 250,000+ personal weather stations and a proprietary forecast model provide an incredibly accurate local forecast. Interactive radar and customizable severe weather alerts. Free. Available in English and 30 other languages.

CLIME

Previously called NOAA Radar, this is a good hurricane tracker app, because it lets you overlay rain, radar or satellite images on top of the tracker. This gives you a detailed look at what’s happening in the storm. Add multiple locations to the map to get alerted if you’re in the path of a hurricane. Free. Multiple languages. Paid upgrade packages available.

RADARSCOPE

If you’re willing to spend some money on an app favored by weather nerds and professional storm chasers, then check out RadarScope. The learning curve is steeper than with others, but it features high-resolution radar data sourced from NOAA’s next generation radar and Doppler Weather Radar. Available in English, French, German and Spanish.

HURRICANE – AMERICAN RED CROSS

Monitor conditions in your area or throughout the storm track, prepare your family and home, find help and let others know you are safe. Free. Available in English and Spanish.

Read More
How Hurricanes Get Their Names
|

Historically, hurricanes in the United States were referred to by their time period and/or geographic location, e.g., the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900. In the West Indies, they were named after the particular saint’s day on which the hurricane occurred. A colorful Australian weatherman named Clement Wragge began assigning Greek and Roman mythological names to Pacific cyclones in the late 19th century. He later began naming them after politicians he particularly disliked.

During World War II, U.S. Air Force and Navy meteorologists plotting storms over the Pacific needed a better way to denote tropical cyclones while analyzing weather maps. Many began paying tribute to their wives and girlfriends back home by naming the cyclones after them. In 1954, the National Weather Bureau officially embraced the practice of giving hurricanes women’s names. Because America led the world in weather tracking technology, the practice was adopted elsewhere.

In response to pressure from women’s groups, the National Weather Service and the World Meteorological Association began using both men’s and women’s names starting in 1979. More recently, the lists of names, which are predetermined and rotate every six years, have been further diversified to reflect names used in the many regions where tropical cyclones strike. Names of devastating storms, such as Katrina in 2005, are permanently retired.

Read More
The Fishy Side of Ocean City, MD
|

With its sandy beaches and boardwalk attractions, Ocean City is the quintessential family summer vacation destination. It’s also a popular spot for sport fishermen and boaters traveling up and down the East Coast. But it wasn’t always that way. 

Ocean City was established on a barrier island called Assateague that extended 60 miles from the Indian River Inlet in Delaware to Chincoteague, VA. The section of the island belonging to the State of Maryland had no outlet to the sea, and early visitors came to bathe in the surf and take in the fresh ocean breezes. These travelers arrived by ferry boat from the mainland until 1876 when a wooden trestle train bridge was built. 

In its younger days, Ocean City was half resort town and half fishing village. The fishing was “pound fishing,” a style I’d wager few people today have ever seen. It was practiced originally by Native Americans and became popular in the 19 century along the East Coast from Maritime Canada to the Carolinas.

Pound fisherman used wide nets attached to wooden poles to catch fish. They drove these tall poles into the ocean floor about a half mile from shore, creating permanent structures called pounds. When fish entered the open end of a pound, they were then corralled by the nets and couldn’t escape. 

With no passage into the Atlantic, crews of Ocean City fishermen needed to launch 40-foot boats from the beach directly into the ocean and row out to the pounds. To harvest the fish, the crew would remove the ends of the nets from the poles and pull them up by hand. The fish were then brought back to shore, carted across the island, packed in barrels of ice and shipped via railroad to fish markets in Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York.

It was laborious work, and for years local businessmen petitioned state and federal agencies to create a manmade inlet to connect the bay directly to more fertile fishing grounds farther off the coast.

A Fierce Storm Carves Out a New Inlet

In August of 1933, a hurricane came ashore in Norfolk, VA, and then tracked up the center of the Chesapeake Bay, bringing up to 10 inches of rain per day and flooding the back bays to the west of Ocean City. Oceanside, wind and waves destroyed homes, hotels and businesses on the town’s boardwalk. 

When the storm subsided, the railroad bridge and fish camps had been washed away, replaced by an inlet 50 feet wide and eight feet deep that formed when built-up water driven by high tides rushed east over the barrier island from the swollen back bays to the ocean. Mother Nature did what governments wouldn’t do, and it changed Ocean City forever.

It didn’t take long for officials to take advantage of this event and enlarge the inlet to ensure its permanence. As a result, a commercial harbor, marinas and docks began sprouting up around the inlet and across the bay on the mainland. Most fishing was commercial in those immediate post-hurricane years, but a few captains realized the recreational fishing potential in the shoals and fertile canyons offshore that were teaming with billfish and other species. During World War II, a lack of fuel and the presence of German U-Boats in the Atlantic virtually shut down offshore fishing. Things picked up after the war, and by the late 1950s and 1960s more and more fishermen were coming to Ocean City. 

But it was the white marlin that really put Ocean City on the sport fishing map. A challenging fish known for its beauty, the white marlin wows anglers with its speed and jumping antics. These fish travel in packs and are prevalent in Maryland waters in late summer and early fall. 

Sport fishermen have been chasing white marlins off the coast of Maryland since 1934 when President Franklin Roosevelt visited and caught two of the feisty billfish. To celebrate this exceptional fish and attract more attention to Ocean City, local fishermen launched the White Marlin Open in 1974. Fifty-seven boats entered that first year. By contrast, the 2021 Open drew 444 boats, more than 3,500 contestants – including NBA superstar Michael Jordan – and awarded $9.2 million dollars in prize money making Ocean City the undisputed “White Marlin Capital of the World.”

Ocean City today counts eight marinas, 20 fishing tournaments and numerous charter boats. According to the city council, boating and sportfishing are significant economic drivers bringing tens of millions of dollars annually to the local economy. 

So, whether you’re a hardcore sport fisherman, casual angler or a boater who simply enjoys a cocktail dockside at sunset, there’s something for everyone “Goin’ downy O, Hon!” as native Marylanders like to say about a visit to their beloved Ocean City.

Check Out Three World-Class OC Fishing Tournaments

Ocean City Tuna Tournament
July 8-10, 2022

Entering its 35th year, this has become the world’s largest tuna tournament with more than 100 participating boats and a record payout that eclipsed $1 million in 2021. 

White Marlin Open
August 8-12, 2022

First held in 1974, the WMO is inarguably the highlight of the Ocean City fishing tournament calendar. Now the biggest and richest billfish tournament in the world, the WMO drew 444 boats and 3,500+ contestants last year.

Poor Girls Open
August 17-20, 2022
Launched in 1994, this is the largest ladies-only billfish release tournament benefitting breast cancer research. Despite its charitable overtones, the tournament is all about the fishing, and the hundreds of boats and hundreds of competitors take it very seriously.

The Orange Crush: A Cocktail Born on the OC Docks

Orange Crush | Susan Elnicki Wade

The Orange Crush is a staple cocktail in most Maryland bars. It’s basically a screwdriver with a shot of triple sec and a splash of lemon-lime soda. The secret to a good one, though, is fresh-squeezed orange juice. And there’s no place better to try one than the Harborside Bar & Grill in Ocean City where the cocktail is said to have originated on a slow night in 1995 when a couple of bartenders were bored and playing around with a bottle of orange-flavored vodka.

Harborside is a wooden establishment whose backside opens onto the commercial harbor in West Ocean City. Gritty is the word that comes to mind. As you would expect, the sign out front boldly announces the home of the Orange Crush, as do newspaper articles framed on the walls and t-shirts for sale. Inside, people pound crabs and watch the Orioles play baseball. Ceiling fans whirl, and it smells of Old Bay and French fries. White lights strung across the ceiling add a festive touch. It doesn’t get more Maryland than that. 

To try your first Orange Crush, visit Harborside Bar & Grill, in Ocean City, MD, 410-213-1846.

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.
Marinalife articles