We spent our first winter on the road in Key West in 2012 and we enjoyed it so much we had to return! We are fortunate that I am a military retiree which allows us to stay in military campgrounds since the only campgrounds on the island of Key West are the property of Naval Air Station – Key West. The nearest commercial campground is on Stock Island and is not as nice as the Naval campground on Sigsbee Island. When we checked into Sigsbee, the camp host showed us the few sites that were available and you can imagine our surprise when our site from two years ago was open. It took us no time at all to tell him that was the site we wanted!
Sigsbee has almost 100 full hookup campsites with connections for water, sewer, and electric; however, they can handle as many as 500 camping units at a time with “dry” campsites. By “dry” I mean you get a piece of ground and you are on your own to create your own electricity with generators and/or solar panels, and use your holding tanks for fresh and waste water. See our page of Boondocking for more details.
Sigsbee has a “rotation” system for all campers. As soon as you are registered in the campground you go on a list to rotate into one of the full hookup sites for two weeks of easy living until you rotate back out into dry camp. It may seem like an odd way of doing business, but it allows everyone to enjoy the benefits of full service. Consequently you see all kinds of creative ways to make camp life easier. It’s amazing what you can do with PVC pipe and a little glue! I have seen PVC clotheslines, bicycle racks, generator and solar panel stands, and satellite TV antenna supports just to name a few.
We soon settled into the rhythm of the campground and started making friends. Making new friends seems easier than at other places we have camped. There are potlucks, pick up softball games, pickle ball matches, karaoke and all kinds of activities that offer opportunities to get to know your fellow campers. There is always someone who needs your help or is willing to help you, someone who is interested in the way you set up your generators or solar panels, or is interested in snorkeling or some other hobby that you are into. The neighborhood is constantly changing as families rotate into full hookup sites and back into dry camp. Many people are down here for the whole winter, some staying from October through April, while others may stay for two weeks to three months. The fact that we are all active duty or military retirees automatically gives us some things in common.
The Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) office sponsors and advertises opportunities to get together, such as kayak trips, potlucks, etc. A couple of guys who have been coming down here for years put on a class called “RV How to 101” to help out new RVers with the technical aspects. I volunteered to teach a class called “Snorkeling 101” for folks interested in learning about this sport.
I also offered to volunteer as a docent on the US Coast Guard Cutter Ingham. The Ingham was decommissioned in 1988 and is now a museum ship in the harbor of Key West. All of this is a way to give back to the community and continue to serve others.
One of our new friends, John, is really into the sport of Geocaching. Pat and I, with some other friends, helped him to find a couple of geocaches that you could only reach by kayak near Geiger Key. One was fairly easy to find and the other we couldn’t find at all. A couple of days later John and I went out again and we were able to find it. It was not where it had been advertised it was and John was thrilled to have been the “first to find” it. I have to admit that I found it interesting and now I am searching for geocaches all over Key West.
Pat and I have been kayaking or snorkeling most days and biking around the island. Because Key West is only two miles wide and four miles long you can bicycle to almost anywhere and it is a lot easier than driving our big pick up through the narrow streets.
I posted notices around the campground that I was looking for a dive buddy to dive on the USAFS Vandenberg. The Vandenberg was an Air Force ship that was used as a radar picket to track space missions. It was sunk as an artificial reef on May 27, 2009, is the second-largest artificial reef in the world, after the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany. One diver that responded had his own boat. We went out early one morning and beat most of the other dive boats out to the Vandenberg. It was like diving on a ghost ship as we didn’t see another diver the whole time we were underwater. After that we dove on a shallow reef where he hunted for lobster while I took lots of pictures. Later in the week I teamed up with another diver and made two dives on the Vandenberg with a local dive shop, Captain’s Corner. There is more ship down there than you could see in twenty dives, but I think I will have to be content with the three dives I made.
The campground has a small pub by the marina, the Sunset Lounge. We went there a couple nights for karaoke, one of my favorite pastimes. As much fun as I have singing it was especially fun to enjoy it with our new neighbors.
You can’t visit Key West without visiting Mallory Square for sunset. It is quite a melting pot of different cultures with retirees, locals, and spring breakers all mixed together watching the street performers competing for your attention while waiting for sunset. Happy hour at Kelly’s, the birthplace of Pan American Airlines, is also a favorite activity.
John and his wife, Terry, Pat and I signed up for parasailing one afternoon with Sunset Adventures. We had a great time – it was Pat’s first time under a parachute, and even though we were tethered, this old paratrooper enjoyed it as well. We were glad we paid for the picture package as none of us could have taken as good of pictures as their photographer did.
This may sound like we are going all the time, but we have plenty of time to practice the fine art of doing nothing, sitting around reading, playing games with neighbors, and just enjoying the warm weather.