When most people think of Key West neighborhoods, they think of the beautiful homes that New England sea captains built here, in the style of homes in their hometowns of Gloucester, New Bedford, Kennebunkport, Mystic, Provincetown, Newport, Chatham, and others. Or, they may think of the conch houses that were brought over from the Bahamas, and homes built here subsequently in that style. Others may also think of Hemingway's French Mediterranean style home, the only one of that style on the island.
However, there's another neighborhood here in the 33040 zip code that is quite different than any of the aforementioned.
Just off of Key West about a quarter mile, lies Westeria Island. Also known as Christmas Tree Island, it's charted as Westeria. Westeria is an uninhabited island and no one really knows who owns it. It is a man-made island.
No one lives on Westeria Island at this writing. Some have camped there at various stages, however at the moment, it's unoccupied. A man-made island, it was built by the Navy dredging Key West Harbor in the 1890's.
However, it's not Westeria Island that this writing is about. That is only a geographical focal point. What we look at today is actually what surrounds Westeria Island. What surrounds Westeria Island? Well, that would be The Gulf of Mexico. And in The Gulf of Mexico is The Mooring Field.
Those who have regularly read this blog and seen often, me encouraging everyone to get out on the water when you visit. After all, this island was first settled by fishermen. One of it's nicknames is “A Drinking Village With a Fishing Problem”... A bit of tongue-in-cheek humor.
But seriously, why come to an island and not get out on the water???? Hello!!!
Just for a moment, let's explore living in Key West, specifically expenses.
Everything in Key West costs pretty much the same as it does on the mainland, except fuel and housing.
Gasoline is about $.30 - $.40 more in Key West than it is in Key Largo.
When I lived in Cutler Bay, Fla. I rented a 1,300 square ft, three bedroom ranch-style home with a built in pool, a beautiful back yard with a surrounding eight-foot hedge keeping things so private that my sister-in-law used to come over and sunbathe topless next to the built in pool.
The apartment I had on Whitehead St. here in Key West cost the same and was maybe 500 Sq. Ft.... no pool, no hedge, no topless sister-in-law., cost the same as the house in Cutler Bay. The little house we moved into three years ago is $500 more.
Bottom line, housing is a killer in Key West.
With that as a backdrop, let's go back to Westeria Island, or rather The Gulf of Mexico that surrounds it. If you look at Westeria you'll see boats anchored everywhere just off of it. All of these boats are people's homes. Some are pristine, others dilapidated. The people that live here are known as “Liveaboards”.
It must be stated for those not familiar, Liveaboards are anyone who lives on their boat. Some may live on a ten million dollar, one-hundred-foot yacht (33M) docked in a luxury harbor in Ft. Lauderdale, while another could be fishing for their dinner in a crusty, fifty-year-old twenty-foot sailboat. They are both Liveaboards.
(I have heard that people who live in harbors, be they common, mid-class, or luxury want a different name attached to their lifestyle, but I don't know what that is?)
For those liveaboards living off Key West, the living is free. That's right, free. For these folks who are anchored off Westeria Island, they often go by the term “Living On The Hook”, a nautical reference to the anchor.
The only way in and out is via a dingy. Key West dingy dock fees are somewhere around $100 a month and the one in Key West Bight is right at Turtle Kraals.
While it may seem romantic, and in many ways it is, stop for a moment and think about the day it's pouring down rain, the wind is howling, three-foot seas, and you have to go to work.
This neighborhood is fascinating and if you have the chance to sail by it, do so!