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Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Sailing by Key West Chris Rehm

^Listen to "Sailing" while you read the blog!^
Also for CD or download see the website for links!

One of the great traditions of Key West is having the United States Navy here based here. On March 5th, 1822, Lt. Commander Matthew C. Perry sailed to Key West aboard the Navy schooner Shark, planted a U.S. Flag and claimed the Keys and The United States ( years prior to that, the Spanish considered Key West itself, to be “Northern Havana”). Then on April 1st 1823, Commodore David Porter established the U.S. Navy in Key West in order to eradicate piracy, which was running rampant in the area. The United States Navy has been here ever since. In more recent history, Key West was a very active submarine base, in addition to having the Key West Naval Air Station, which is active to this day out on Boca Chica Key, a few Keys up from Key West. The submarine base fell to the wayside with the coming of the nuclear submarine. The new nuclear subs dwarfed the WWII diesel subs and were too large to fit inside the Truman Waterfront. The Navy has given the inner dock and property of the Truman Waterfront to the city of Key West, although they may take it back at any time, if they deem it necessary. The outer pier, named the “ Mole Pier”, remains the property of the U.S. Navy. We often get U.S. Navy ships in for leave, for a few days, as well as NATO ships, from Great Britain, Canada, and Holland also on leave, in the last few years.
In all of the nearly two hundred years of U.S. Naval presence in Key West, the one thing we’ve never had was a U.S. Naval Ship being commissioned here. We do have a nuclear submarine named the USS Key West, which operates somewhere beneath the vast Pacific and carries a crew of 127 Sailors and 16 officers. No question about it, a great honor for the city and one which the town is very proud.
On October 1st of this year, something changed however. The USS Spruance, a 509ft, 9200 ton, $1B destroyer with a crew of over 280, was commissioned here in Key West. She arrived in Key West a week prior and I was fortunate enough to be able to take a tour of the ship. Unfortunately, but understandably, photographs were not permitted inside the ship. I did get several from the outside however. The tour was just fantastic. My Guide was one of the officers of the ship, whose rank and last name, I sadly missed. First name was Rafael and I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m guessing he was an American of Philippine decent. He mentioned on the tour that his father was also a career U.S. Naval officer.
The tour was outstanding on every level. The first thing I noticed was how polite the entire crew was. I’ve seen this before as well, on visits to the Boca Chica Naval facility. From these visits I’ve deducted that the word “Sarcasm” is strictly a civilian usage. And while I myself get somewhat sarcastic from time to time, it was really a breath of fresh air, almost like stepping into a foregone time where values were on a higher level in many areas, than they are today. The ship left Key West sometime on either Sunday or Monday. I went down to see it late Monday night and she was gone. She will be based in San Diego and I wish her, her officers and crew, the very best.
Come to think of it, with Key West being the southernmost point of the United States, I can’t help but think that having a couple of U.S. Navy ships based here, could only make sense.


Now on to the music front! The week prior to the USS Spruance’s commission, there was the Key West Musician’s Festival held at the Smokin Tuna. This was a benefit for Sister Seasons, a philanthropic group here in Key West, who assist artist who become ill. I was happy to donate a fist full of CDs to the cause, plus play a set. I’m not sure how many performers there were, but all were required to be Key West residents. Performances by such artists as Chief Billy, Cory Haydon, Bill Blue, Erickson Holt, Liz O’Connor, George Victory, Paul Cotton, Laura Wood, to name a few! Plus lots of superb people sitting in with many of the above, such as Marty Stonely, Deb Hudson, Chris Cook, Joel Nelson, Mick Kilgos, Kenny Fradley, Bubba Lownotes.
What an event! And hats off to the organizers Steve Mellette and Ken & Laura Floyd, A.K.A. Singing Iguana Productions, who did such a great job putting everything together for the event and Charlie Bauer, of Smokin’ Tuna for being a great host for the event.


Collage photos by Steve Mellette, Gary Ek, Chris Rehm, and who knows? Maybe someone else!

This week’s beer is more than appropriate, Spaten Octoberfest Bier from Munich! Beer in German is spelled Bier, but pronounced the same as in English.The beer is labeled “Ur Marzen”. It’s supposed to have the umlaut over the a, but I don’t know how to do that and it’s 1:24 am as I write this, so just make pretend it’s there please. Marzen means that it is brewed in the month of March. In the old days, it was stored over the summer months in caves in the Bavarian Alps and brought out in the last two weeks of September, to celebrate the coming October harvest. It was originally celebrated for the King of Bavaria, but the Bavarians had such a good time with that, that they found the harvest a great excuse to do the fest every year after that. Spaten Brau was also the original beer brewed for the occasion, so on the label you’ll note it says “Ur Marzen”, which translates to “The Original March Style” beer, which is also known as Oktoberfest Beer. Naturally, it will be found at the Oktoberfest in Munich, along with beer from several other incredible beers from Munich, such as Lowenbrau, Augustiner Brau, Thomas Brau, and Pauliner, all of which are brewed in Munich, Bavaria. Other breweries throughout the Bavarian state of Germany, of which there are well over one thousand, brew the most marvelous varieties of Oktoberfest found on earth. Becks, as nice as it may be, also brews an Oktoberfest, but like breweries on this side of the pond, it can’t hold a candle to its Bavarian cousins down south. If you have an opportunity to get a Bavarian Oktoberfest, do yourself the favor! If there are more than one variety, but them as well and have a taste comparison! You’ll be amazed at how different they are from one another, yet likewise astonished at the superb quality you’ll find in all of them. There’s no substitute for the very best there is to be found.

(P.S. I'll be at the Cork and Stogie Friday, October 7th, from 6 - 9!
Be sure and stop by!)

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