Chances are pretty good that by next year at this time I will be living someplace else. I’m not sure where, I’m not sure if it will be on a boat, an rv, in an apartment, or under a bridge, hell I ain’t even sure it will be in the Keys. But I do know, it will most likely not be here in the marina where I am currently docked. How am I so sure? Two words:
If you are unfamiliar with the name, Pritam Singh pretty much owns most of the Keys. He is one of the most successful real estate developers in the country. He has come in and bought up huge swaths of land in Key West and the rest of the islands over the last 30 years and redeveloped that land into high end expensive hotels, resorts, condos, and other monstrosities of the modern world. If there is one single man who is responsible for taking everything that the Keys was, bulldozing it over, and turning it into a rich man’s playground with sterile cookie cutter resorts, gated communities, and destroying any chance of an affordable lifestyle for us great unwashed, Singh is that man. He has his fingers into nearly every major redevelopment project in the Keys, and he is fixin’ to buy the very marina where I currently reside.
If you read over Singh’s website they portray him as a kind soul, a philanthropist, someone who respects the environment. He is into Sikh religion, changed his name to the current one, but make no mistake. He is a ruthless and greedy son of bitch who will let nothing stand in his way to build more resorts here in the Keys. And he is about to wrap his claws around my happy little home.
I’ve been asking around about what is going on here with the sale. As a renter and not an owner, information I get is pretty well diluted by the time it reaches my lower level. There are lots of rumors flying about what is in store for this marina and how it will affect those of us who live here. But I can pretty much guess where this is all going.
The marina is two separate entities. There is the marina operation itself with boat storage, fuel dock, bait store, and some boat related businesses on site. There is a ramp where anyone from the outside can come in and launch their boat for a fee, pretty much your standard marina operation. Then there are the docks, most of which are individually owned in what is called a dockominium. Like a condo only wetter. There are owners, a home owners association, and said owners have options to live at their slips, rent them out to others as is my case, or operate a business such as charter fishing from them. So what will happen when the Singh Corporation gets a hold of the marina end? That is where the rumors will fly.
No doubt one of the first things that will happen is the big boat storage buildings will come down. The hundred or so boats stored within will have to find someplace else to keep their boats. These are dry storage racks, btw, where you pay to keep your boat high and dry on rack and when you want to go out on the water you come down, the marina picks up the boat drops it in, and then puts it back when you are done. Most likely, these storage buildings will be replaced by hotel/condo/townhouses. More over priced high end residential units because they make more money than some renter with a 20 foot boat who comes down once a month to go fishing.
Then, they will set their sights on the dockominiums. Slowly but surely, offers, big fat offers will be made to buy out each and every slip on the docks. Once a controlling interest is achieved, and trust me, it won’t take long, then Singh can make up whatever rules he wants. And I guarantee you, those rules will not allow the likes of me and my little scow to remain in this happy little place.
This is all rumor, conjecture, and paranoia on my part, but I am pretty sure this is what is about to happen. Nobody is going to come, drop millions of dollars to create a high end resort, and let some broken down old captain with a boat that ain’t seaworthy stay here. Ain’t happening. The biggest question is simply, how soon will this all come about?
The actual closing of the sale of the marina is to happen sometime in June. I hear there are delays for the usual little things that happen in a huge deal like this but the deal will be finalized this summer. After that, it is hard to say how soon all of us live aboards will be kicked out. It could happen quickly, it may not happen for a year or two. Either way, it is time for me to start planning and looking for something else.
Live aboard slips in Key West were hard to come by to begin with. The marina where I had the apartment is undergoing a major upgrade, as is the marina on the north side of Stock Island which has changed owners and is getting rid of liveaboards. That leaves the city marinas, where prices are high and there is a waiting list for slips, the mooring field, which brings up a whole ‘nother set of issues, or sailing away to someplace else. Marathon, the upper Keys, it’s pretty limited. So, I will be keeping all options on the table:
Keep this boat, get it in sailing condition with what little resources I have, and find another slip someplace. Unlikely as the boat is simply not worth the money nor effort. I would be better off to sell it outright.
Find another boat, like I was trying to do with the ODay. A better option in that the ODay would be in more of moving type condition so I could bring it here and stay until they force me out at the point of a cutlass. Then what?
Get on the list for a possible slip at Garrison Bight? That could take years. Go to Marathon or one of the other islands and see what I could find?
Take whatever boat I wind up with and become a cruiser, rather then a stationary live aboard. Sail from port to port around Florida, maybe even go off to the Bahamas on occasion. I can continue to build apps as long as I have internet someplace. I can keep a land address at the UPS store. Very tempting to do so. How long I would want to live like that and how difficult it would be remains to be seen. Whatever boat I had would need to be very self sufficient. But it bears more than a passing thought. A year or two sailing around might not be such a bad way to live.
Or, get off the boat and:
Find an rv. I lived in rv’s for years, always enjoyed it, and I would have no qualms about doing it again. Find something small, maybe a Class B or a small trailer towed by a jeep. It would mean back into a vehicle again, and rv lots in the Keys are a bit scarce and expensive, especially in winter. Or go do some boondocking around the country. Get some travel in while I still can.
Or sell the boat and find land based accommodations. An apartment or whatever. It would mean more expensive rent, high utility bills, landlords, leases, and all that bullshit.
The options are there. It’s now just a matter of timing and expense as to which way I want to go. I do not want to leave Key West. Not yet anyways. I like it here and it took me a long time to get here. I can do fine in Marathon or one of the lower Keys even, but I really like Key West, despite all the hardships and expense. Down the road, Hawaii beckons, but not quite yet. These islands are where I want to be right now. The smaller boat or the rv looks like the best options for the moment. Cruising or boon docking both have a lot of appeal, even though I wouldn’t be in the Keys all the time. And as usual, I am operating from a position of weakness, meaning no money. But I have been in similar situations before and I do have some advantages.
I have no debt, own no property, save the boat, and have no job tying me down. I may lack the funds but not the ability to move. Packing up the backpack and slinging a cat over each shoulder is a heluva lot easier than a moving van. So it’s just a matter of choosing my next adventure.
As for the marina sale, unlike the saga over at A Simple Life Afloat, I have no need nor desire to fight this sale. It will go through and my poor, broke ass ain’t gonna stop it. People like Singh rule the world, or at least think they do, and peons like myself get swept into the gutters. It’s the way it is, and the way it will always be. I knew full well when I finally made it to Key West that my time here would be limited. Sooner or later, something or someone would come by and stomp my island living dreams into the mud. On the other hand, stranger things have happened and I could wind up here for a very long time. Either way, I am cool with it. I have built my simple lifestyle to be able to adapt to just about any situation that comes long. I’ll enjoy whatever time I have here and look forward to any change as a new adventure, a new opportunity, and a chance to go in new and unknown directions.
Should be interesting.