settled Key West, once known as Bone Island for its
plentiful source of Indian burial sites. Key West
began to hustle in 1822 when it gained a naval base
and Anti-Pirate Squadron, which eventually squashed
buccaneers’ attacks on the area.
The Keys has meant
different things to many people over the years, especially
after Henry Flagler built
his Overseas Highway, that runs from Florida’s
mainland to Key West. In the early 20th century, bootlegging
was the draw, and in the 60’s World War II benefited
from Key West’s location, where a naval base
was revamped. Since then, Key West has become quite
the tourist destination, attracting people of all
ages and interests, from around the globe.
Today a visit to Key
West, for great many travelers, includes lying on
the beach, and drinking margaritas.
Some, however, are more fortunate. They sail away
on the Schooner Reef Chief, a 65-foot wooden boat,
in the fashion of the American classic sailboats.
The vessel transports seafarers to another world
abundance. The far-reaching sea becomes close at
hand. Some choose to lounge on the deck of the
take to the unforgettable fishing.
Built in 1972, the
Reef Chief is a classic traditional wooden schooner,
comprised of exceptional teak and
cypress. Today, Reef Chief is Coast Guard inspected
and certified, and sailed by Captain Al.
Ecology & Environment
Captain Al has a great deal to showcase. The world
around him is a stage of natural beauty. The ecology
of Key West is legendary. The tropical foliage
is bountiful. The ocean-going creatures are
The Reef Chief
travels to a specially chosen coral reef. Since
the Reef Chief sails from the furthest point
of the Keys,
it is, at most times, the only boat to visit this
reef. The reef is unspoiled, presenting vibrant
even more vibrant fish. Captain Al claims that
you will see the largest lobsters of your life,
aboard the Reef Chief. The site of manatees, loggerhead,
or green turtles may also delight you. You just
have to get out there to be fortunate enough
Look towards land and
you will be just as enlightened. Key West’s flora is magical. You will find yourself
daydreaming about the lush environment long after you’ve
visited. The hammocks within the forest, next to
water, thrive and support countless numbers of plant
including gumbo limbos, and one of the hardest woods
in the world, lignum vitae.
There are freshwater
marshes and sawgrass, swamps featuring cypress trees,
wet and dry prairies with
and upland wooded areas thriving with shrubs, pine
and oak. Over the years, some exotic flora has
been introduced, such as Australian pine and melaleuca.
Under the sea near
Key West live the most unique and largest of North
America’s coral reefs.
The reefs are fragile, due to pollution and global
don’t miss a chance to capture the beauty.
The Reef Chief can take you there. Captain Al says
he takes people to the largest and most protected
Area Attractions & Events
The Schooner Reef Chief will keep you busy and
fulfilled throughout the duration of your stay
in Key West.
Nevertheless, if you are one of those whose energy
levels never waiver,
there are other things to do and see.
The Key West Aquarium,
built in 1932, offers touch tanks full of starfish,
sea cucumbers, barracudas,
angelfish, sea turtles, and much more. For the
adventurous, there is the Aquarium’s ‘Pet a Shark’ exhibit.
Dry Tortugas National
Park is a must see natural wonder southwest of Key
West. The Tortugas are a
of seven islands. Ponce De Leon first discovered
them 300 years ago. The islands were named, in
to their lack of fresh water. In 1846, a fort was
built on the islands, and named Fort Jefferson.
were many over the years, but eventually the fort
was designated a national monument by President
Roosevelt, and ultimately changed to Dry Tortugas
by President Bush, in order to help preserve the
of the islands. When you visit these days, you
can trek and camp, snorkel and dive, and enjoy pure
peace and quiet. To get there, take a ferry from
Margaret Street in Key West.
For a more social affair,
don’t forget the Hemingway
Days Festival, held in July, where Ernest Hemingway
look-alikes show up to celebrate at Sloppy Joe’s
Bar. Attendees conduct readings and short-story contests,
compete in a Key Lime Pie eating event, and participate
in a unique version of the ‘running of the bulls’.
There are festivals all year round in Key West, including
Fantasy Fest, a 10-day, non-stop jubilee.
The Reef Chief sails exclusively to the Ecological
Reserve where the coral reefs live. The Captain
sail to the largest, most protected and abundant coral
reef in the Florida Keys.”
There can never a dull
moment on the Schooner Reef Chief, unless you choose
there to be. From the start,
you can help hoist the sails and lead the boat
to the reef. Along the way, keep your eyes pealed
the dolphin. He and his pod find the boat and swim
along frequently. You may also catch a glimpse
of frigate birds or ospreys.
Captain Al’s trips are 4 hours in length, with
2 full hours spent at the reef. On the way out to
the reef, Captain Al sets guests up to troll. The Reef
Chief will take up to 34 passengers. Snorkeling is
offered at the reef, the Florida Keys National Marine
Sanctuary, throughout the year. Captain Al provides
wetsuits and corrective masks for those interested
If two’s a crowd, even, then consider the Chief’s
custom private charters. The boat is available for
birthdays, family reunions, corporate charters, and
weddings. The Chief’s web site states, “You
and your guests will enjoy a uniquely unforgettable
ceremony and celebration when they sail into the sunset
on our big, comfortable, classic schooner Reef Chief.
Surrounded by romantic music, beautiful flowers, the
fresh sea breeze, the flaming sky at sunset and . .
The Schooner Reef Chief
is even a superior choice for family activity. The
boat has a bold music and
system that makes for a lively day afloat. Captain
Al sticks with the “no booze cruise”.
The Reef Chief is located at the far southern end
of Key West. The closest hotels are Days Inn and
Inn, both suitable for families and available at
reasonable room rates.
Captain Al says there are many fantastic restaurants
in his area. He recommends Seven Fish.
Seven Fish likes to be known as Key West’s hometown
bistro. The restaurant is located within walking
distance from Duval Street. Their web site states, “Call
it a fish-style bistro, where mahi-mahi and sashimi
mingle with meatloaf and steak,” and “Our
offbeat location, cozy environment and satisfying
food will make you think you’ve found yourself
a new hometown.”
There are two airports to choose from when flying
into Key West. The Key West International Airport
most frequented, and Marathon Airport, offers limited
If traveling via land
is more your style, you can take a greyhound bus,
from Miami’s Bayside
Station, for a five-hour journey to the Key West
buses leave several times per day from Miami, or
you can get picked up anywhere alongside the Overseas
otherwise known as US 1. Just be sure to stand visibly
and waive assertively so the bus will see you. You
can also travel via your own car via I-95 south to
US Highway 1. Keep driving till the highway ends
in Key West.
When traveling around
Key West, remember that there’s
one main road that will take you to wherever you
want to go. Parking is tough in Key West, so consider
around via the public transit system, or rent a scooter
or bicycle for a thrill.
The Reef Chief offers
two coral reef trips daily, morning and afternoon.
The times vary, so it is suggested
you call ahead to reserve your ticket to paradise.
A crowd is something of your past, and freedom
of spirit becomes the here and now when sailing on
Key West Aquarium
1 Whitehead St.
Key West, Florida 33040
Dry Tortugas National
PO Box 6208
Key West, FL 33041-6208
Hemingway Days Festival
3990 South Roosevelt Blvd
Key West, FL 33040-5204
305 296 2388
3852 N Roosevelt
Key West, Florida 33040
3841 N Roosevelt Blvd
Key West, Florida 33040
623 Olivia Street at Elizabeth Key West, FL 33040
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