But did they listen. No, they did not. And now, they are getting exactly what I said would happen to them. Let’s go back and start from the beginning, shall we? Grab some popcorn and read on.
In 2013 I was living at Oceanside Marina on the south east side of Stock Island. I had purchased a boat there with a live aboard slip and all was relatively quiet and stable. The slip was affordable, the marina was ok, nothing special, and the people who lived there were generally pretty nice. As with any decent living situation in Key West, it was not to last. Word began to spread of a buyer coming in to purchase the marina and said buyer was rumored to be intent on ridding the marina of live aboards. Most residents blew it off but I had a bad feeling from the get go things were going to go downhill fast.
Sure enough, the fecal matter hit the wind turbulence device. In late spring, it became official as the marina became the property of one HWSNBN as we all lovingly call him here on the Fritter. He is known by many other names but let’s try to keep it classy for now. He is one of the biggest real estate tycoons in the Florida Keys having developed many resorts and properties. He is famous for taking traditional Keys properties, tearing them down, and building cookie cutter, bland, tasteless resorts in their place. Despite his philanthropic endeavors, he is universally hated and despised by most of the Keys residents, especially those of us who have had the displeasure of dealing with him.
When he took over Oceanside I predicted it would be the end of any live aboard situation there. Nobody believed me. After all, the docks were individually owned and nobody could tell said owners what they could do with their property. They were wrong. When the new ownership came in and took over, the first edict was, “no live aboards”. Everyone bitched, moaned, whined, and sniveled, and later in the year, a meeting was held to clear the air. At said meeting HWSNBN showed off his master plans for the property. Fancy condos, new restaurant, landscaping straight out of the bargain catalogue of Home Depot. Finally, someone asked him directly, what about live aboards. His reply was that he had acted too rash and live aboards were to be allowed as long as everyone followed the rules. Everyone believed him except me. I knew what he was planning and yet still, nobody heeded my warnings.
Not long after the meeting, strange little things began to happen. The ships store closed down, and in one of the more shittier moves, a $125 per month bath and laundry usage fee was added. Live aboards were ok but it was quickly becoming a not very friendly place to live. I had enough and finally moved over to Sunset Marina and away from the bullshit.
I kept up on any news of the marina and once in awhile something would show up. As promised he did start tearing down stuff and getting permits to build his palaces. I hadn’t heard from any of the former residents as to how things were going there. Then, in the local paper, on the very first day of 2016, this headline appeared.
As a holiday present, all the remaining live aboards at Oceanside Marina, about 20 according to the article, were given 45 day eviction notices. The HOA, now controlled by HWSNBN, another prediction I predicted which came true, met and ordained the dirty live aboards did not fit in with their cunning plans. Construction of new docks and sewers was about to begin and these people are in the way. So out they go and don’t come back.
The timing of this seems to go hand in hand with the recent slip fee increase over at Sunset, where the owner is a known cohort of HWSNBN. It all fits in just too nice and neat. A combined attempt to get rid of as many live aboards as possible. At least those who are on the lower economic scale. Hollywood couldn’t write a script this good. Evil developers evict nice poor people in order to make millions. I don’t mean to brag, though I will just a bit, but I saw this all coming from the beginning. I knew this was what they had in mind the moment it was rumored the marina was for sale. Yet, nobody believed me.
There were the lesbians who operated a business out of the marina. They had to relocate across the street. They live on their boats and have rented their respective slips for 20 years. Now they have to move.
My old neighbor and his girlfriend who didn’t like me. They own their slip and rent out two others. They live on their boat in their slip, which they also use to run charters. The others they moor two boats which they rent out. Now they can no long live there even though they own their slip. Not only is their home being taken away, but their business as well.
Imagine you own a place, a house, condo, whatever. You live there. You pay the mortgage and the taxes. You maintain the place. It is your home. Suddenly, a HOA or some other entity comes in and says you can own the place, you just cannot live there. They have ruling power over you and there is nothing you can do about. Sure, maybe take them to court. Good luck with that. Essentially, you have purchased a piece of property which you are no longer allowed to use for what it was originally intended. So now what? Condo fees will be going way up to cover the costs of construction making the slips even more unaffordable. Most people would sell, which is what he wanted all along. Get rid of the old owners, take control of as many slips as possible, raise the slip rates, make money. It was all part of the master plan and it is happening exactly as he wanted. For those being evicted, too bad. Get out and don’t come back.
And just in case anyone from Knight’s Key Campground up in Marathon happens to be reading this, you best be following this story closely because this is your future too.
So HWSNBN got his way in the end. He took a perfectly good marina which was a community in and of itself, and transformed it into his own bizarre creation. Many people were left homeless, had to upend business’s or forced to relocate. He doesn’t care because he is making gobs of money off this project and money is all that counts. With Cuba opening up, and the deep canals and access to the ocean, the marina will be a prime staging area for the big boats wanting to make the crossing to the new promised land.
For those who wanted a simple, peaceful, and affordable way to live in Key West, yet another option has been taken away. The few other marinas which still allow live aboards are no longer affordable, and that’s assuming one could find a slip to begin with. So the other options are either the mooring fields or risk living on the hook.
It’s a damn shame. Living on a boat is really pretty neat. It’s not for everybody but for those who do, it’s one of the more better ways to live life differently. I enjoyed my time on board and if the right circumstances should arise, I would go back on the water. But living here in Key West year round on a boat is becoming more and more unpossible thanks to people like our greedy little friend.
Despite what some may think, living on a boat is not a criminal act. If anything, I’ve found live aboards to be more aware of the environment, of the health of the oceans, and of the wildlife. They appreciate the beauty and fragility of the waters. Not all of us can afford big fancy yachts so not every vessel out there is going to look like it came straight out of the showroom. That is no reason to condemn us. Lies and disinformation about live aboards, spread by the rich to get rid of the great unwashed have done tremendous damage to a way of life most people only dream about and few actually do.
At least I was able to put a few years on the water. Whether I ever go back again remains a mystery. As I said, perhaps if the right situation comes through. I feel sorry for those about to be evicted from Oceanside but, I did predict it, like it or not. It was a shitty situation all around and those in power once again, got their way. It’s how the world works today.