• Key West Changed My Life, Joe Offshore

    by Joe Offshore

    Don Johnson

    At 23 I accompanied a friend to the races at Key West. Awe can’t even begin to describe what I felt as we explored the race camps in Mallory Square. New boats, old ones, wooden, glass and aluminum ones were arranged casually about. Crated engines bagged and ready to be installed for the next day’s race. Engines going in and out, grinders spinning and wrenching in every direction. The sounds of engines running filled the air and seldom stopped. Boats from overseas on trailers the likes of which I have never seen. This is where we both wanted to be, racing here next year. We explored the water ways, restaurants and bars around the island as well. It truly was paradise.

    The next year and years that followed drew me back again and again. First I returned as a crew man delivering and preparing a race boat. Eventually I came to race. I structured my existence around the racing. The jobs I took, the businesses I started, the compromises I made all centered on being available for the next race and next season. I soon found many others from around the country suffered from this same obsession. My best friends are racers and people that work or follow boat racing.

    The food is great, the bars are better; the noise will drew you down the side streets and into alley bars. Blue Heaven, Hogs breathe, Louie’s Back Porch, The deli on Southard, and of course Sloppy Joe’s are a few of my favorites. Parties on Duval and the outer mole are truly unique. I have found someone sleeping under my truck, seen the doors of Sloppy Joe’s closed, and wormed my way thru the last night of Fantasy fest. I have stayed on the south side, the east side, Stock Island and once at Broward. I have gotten lost trying to find a short cut thru the center and even got hurt during a race and visited the emergency room. I have been thrown out of a cab and once pondered hijacking the Conch train……My head is flooded with various memories… I have left broken and hurt and on top of the world.

    Beware if it’s your first time because you too will be changed for life. You will NEED to return every year to feel alive. The treasure chest in your memory will be filled with Key West experiences. Now that I am 50 I realize more than half of my life was spent looking forward to the November trek. There is no cure for being a race whore.