it seems the sky fell in Key West yesterday

Truman Waterfront

Nashville J replied to yesterday’s news that the Navy closed Truman Waterfront harbor (to left of the two cruise ships) to civilian vessels:



So, the powers that be sat on their asses so long that the Navy finally said “forgetaboutit”!

Couldn’t happen to a better bunch.



I wrote back:


I don’t think that was the reason, the Navy only exercised its reserved dominion over the harbor, but left the land part of Truman Waterfront in the city’s control, as long as the city doesn’t do anything there to interfere with Navy operations or security.
I don’t think the Navy cared for the city’s grandiose plans for a city/private/city marina in the harbor.
Also, the Navy is getting pinched budget wise, and maybe the Navy is done with giving land and harbors away to cities and counties, and maybe that was why the Navy sold Peary Court in KW, and other Navy housing around the US, to large developers, instead of giving the housing to the municipalities for affordable housing, which was the older practice.
The other night, the KW Historical Architect Review Committee was about to slam dunk the Peary Court developer’s design, so the developer pulled the application altogether, to go back to the drawing board. The weird thing is HARC never did like the developer’s designs on that property, and the city manager and his staff had to know that, but they waited until the HARC meeting to lower the boom.
Also perhaps in play, the previous city manager was retired Navy, had been the Commandant of the local Navy base, and the new city manager, who came on board last year, is a mainland landlubber with no Navy ties. Whatever sway the city still had with the Navy, left with the resignation, not under fire, of the previous city manager, whose retirement deal with the Navy forbade him from having anything to do with any of the city’s dealing with the Navy.
Key West, where the weird turn pro.

Duck TourDuck  Tour 2

This article ran in The Citizen yesterday:


‘Ducks,’ private boats restricted

Navy closes Truman Harbor to civilians, citing military training needs


The Navy will close Truman Harbor to all civilian boats on Feb. 25, effectively ending the “duck” tours that recently sprouted up in Old Town and possibly jeopardizing the city’s long-held plans for a private marina on the Truman Waterfront.

“Non-federal boat operations create significant, negative impacts to the required national defense mission capability of the harbor and adjacent Naval Air Station (NAS) property,” Key West Navy commander Capt. Pat Lefere wrote in a Feb. 7 letter to Mayor Craig Cates.

“I plan to close Truman Harbor to all non-federal vessel use as detailed in this law,” Lefere wrote. “As the commanding officer, I am authorized to enforce these provisions.”

At issue was the added traffic of Historic Tours of America’s (HTA) “duck” vessels, launched in November as a new sightseeing tour — at 39-feet-long and 8-feet-wide, carrying up to 45 paying customers — with departures four times daily.

Those tours include a 40-minute boat trip around Truman Harbor, which comprises 34-foot deep waters between the Outer Mole pier and the East Quay Wall, where the retired Coast Guard cutter Ingham is docked as floating museum.

“The Navy doesn’t want those ‘ducks’ there,” said City Commissioner Mark Rossi. “That’s why they shut it down. They’re setting a boundary down so that they’re still writing the playbook. The Navy has always written the playbook.”

Since the big blue “ducks” hit the water Nov. 19, HTA has run into scheduling conflicts that have made booking tickets difficult, CEO Chris Belland said Wednesday.

The Navy only has to give 24 hours’ notice to block the NAS boat ramp, but HTA had negotiated a week’s advance notice for harbor closures.

The Citizen on Wednesday obtained a copy of the one-page letter in which Lefere refers to another letter, dated Oct. 12, that “voiced the Navy’s concern that non-federal activities within the harbor may restrict or prohibit naval surface vessel maneuvering and dive training.”

Lefere cited the federal law that designates Truman Harbor a restricted area controlled by the Navy “to safeguard the mission.”

Mayor Cates said the city hopes to meet with the Navy about the issue, but for now, Lefere’s order stands.

“They are going to be closing it,” Cates said. “We’re going to be responding to it.”

City spokeswoman Alyson Crean confirmed that Lefere announced the decision to the city attorney and city manager at a meeting last Wednesday.

Key West’s long-term working relationship with the Navy isn’t at issue in Lefere’s decision, said Crean.

“The recreation and business use of that harbor has become too heavy,” Crean said. “However, they have worked hand-in-hand with us for special events.”

The closure will not affect cruise ships that dock at the Navy-owned Outer Mole pier, or the 15-year plan to build the Truman Waterfront Park, land that belongs to Key West.

The annual powerboat races are exempt from the order, said Rossi.

“It’s in the conveyance of the Truman Waterfront deed,” he said of the exemption. “It’s in the documents.”

It was unclear Wednesday if a planned private marina could get such an exemption. The city has said that revenue from such a marina would support the park.

Rossi and Commissioner Clayton Lopez both speculated separately that Lefere’s decision could doom the marina.

Blue ‘duck’ tours over

HTA’s Belland said the decision sinks the “duck” venture in which the company invested heavily by purchasing the amphibious Hydra-Terra vessels and hiring 11 new workers.

“It puts us out of business,” Belland said, referring only to Southernmost Duck Tours.

HTA has a backup plan to build its own Hydra-Terra-size boat ramp in Old Town, but Belland said it could take 1½ years to get such an application through the state Department of Environmental Protection as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The chosen location is off Trumbo Road. Belland said the company is working on the application.

CityView Trolleys, which just won approval from the city to put its smaller, yellow DUKW, or “duck” replica vessels, on the streets, wants to cooperate in the potential boat ramp project, said Belland.

The CityView duck tours remain in the test-run stage, and President Michael Thomas has said the Navy’s ramp is only one ramp the company planned to use.

But the Simonton Street ramp isn’t safe for HTA’s larger vessels, said Belland.

As of Feb. 25, though, HTA’s big, blue, modern vessels will cease operations, Belland said.

Dragon boats races could be canceled

The harbor closure may have upended plans for the May 11 Battle in the Bay Dragon Boat Festival approved by the city Feb. 5, organizer Karen Bowers said Wednesday.

City Manager Bob Vitas’ office called Bowers last week to tell her of the Navy’s decision to limit civilian access to the harbor.

Bowers fired off her own press release Wednesday afternoon, saying the fundraiser for Reef Relief and Heron-Peacock Supported Living was “torpedoed” by the Navy.

“I am so stubborn and unwilling to let go that it took the United States Navy to make me surrender,” Bowers quoted herself saying in the press release.

Yet Navy spokeswoman Trice Denny said that as far as she knows, the dragon boat races are still on for May 11.

“The only caveat to the approval from the Navy to the city was that event planners be aware that operational requirements in the harbor could take precedence over any special event like the races,” Denny wrote in a public response to Bowers’ statement.

Denny explained that “duck” tours are only one of the Navy’s concerns with the harbor.

The Navy has been reviewing use of the area for more than year, Denny said, adding that military use is increasing.

“We decided to let the ‘ducks’ use the harbor while this review was under way, and the reality is that civilian boat traffic could impede the Navy’s mission there,” Denny said. “That does not mean that the boat ramp and the harbor is closed for special events.”

Denny said the Navy is committed to working with the city of Key West and nonprofits in ensuring that special events such as yacht and dragon boat races continue.

“[Special events] will continue to be handled on an event-by-event basis with the city,” Denny said. “As far as I know, planning for the dragon boat races and other events will continue.”

Navy training missions or other military events do take priority, she pointed out.

Navy flexes its fleet

In September, NAS Key West hosted a dozen frigates, destroyers and other assault ships from allied nations as part of UNITAS Atlantic 2012 — all docked in and around the Truman Waterfront.

In 2011, the Navy hosted the crew of the $1 billion USS Spruance, which is 9,200 tons and 509 feet long, for its commissioning.

Such displays of Navy muscle will be increasing, Denny said.

Less visible to the public is the ongoing use of the harbor by Special Operations Forces commandos and the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team. Some of the special military training done there dates back to the 1950s.

Military commandos often use the retired cutter Ingham as a staging vessel for hostage rescue training.

The Ingham is expected to stay put because of that. The floating museum’s executive director, Bill Verge, declined to comment on Wednesday.

Belland said HTA wants the city to challenge the Navy’s decision.

“After all this time, to do this on such short notice, they’re going to close it Feb. 25,” Belland said. “The waterfront is a heritage of Key West. This has been a port city since the beginning of Key West in 1823.”

Belland said he respects the Navy’s control of the harbor, but believes the city and its residents have a right to share the waters surrounding the island.

“It’s important for the economic survival for future generations,” said Belland. “I’m hoping that the city will be able to work with the Navy to make them change their mind.”

Citizen staff writer Timothy O’Hara contributed to this report.




That news created an unchallenged joyful noise to the Lord, or to something, on The Citizen’s Blog.

“Duck Tour” closure

Submitted on Thu, 02/14/2013 – 6:27pm by erin

I particularly love that this is such a lengthy article directed at those awful Navy people. The Citizen, clearly siding with the Bubba’s that pay them for said article, are making it very clear that they are pointing the finger at one person. They are making it a Lefere vs. Key West issue. This is ridiculous. How many people in this community, that are not even Navy, actually want those enormous boats driving around on our already congested streets? The article states, “The city has said that revenue from such a marina would support the park. Rossi and Commissioner Lopez both speculated that Lefere’s decision could doom the future marina plans.” So were the Duck tours going to be a fundraising venture for said marina? I highly doubt that, considering the company (HTA) that is backing them. Or were we going to have a bunch of companies start using the marina to generate revenue? How is shutting down one portion of a company (11 employees according to the article) going to cripple an enormous 15-year project? Of course Belland, the head of the company is going to say that “it important for the economical survival of future generations.” Is that a joke? Please consider that your little duck business, under the guise of “Bubba incorporated”, & HTA, has been running since November, (less than 5 months)and that you are only pissed because you spent an astronomical amount of money on boats you didn’t even have pre-approved. Stop acting like bullies and realize that cities and businesses follow rules, and so should you. If you have a non-profit event, I am sure with prior approval it is fine to host it there. However, considering the Navy has owned that land for years, and use it effectively and frequently, the chance of you trying to monopolize and profit off of one more area in Key West on a regular basis might be slim to none. You may be barking up the wrong tree.


Am I missing something?

Submitted on Thu, 02/14/2013 – 3:40pm by Ninja Jane

Why does Mayor Cates think this is an issue that the city should address with the Navy? It seems to me that this decision benefits the city by getting at least some of the oversized behicles off the streets without the city having any liability for it. The Navy is still willing to allow special events and it appears that the only loser in this case, is HTA and I suspect that the rest of us aren’t going to lose any sleep over their plight.


It’s about time

Submitted on Thu, 02/14/2013 – 11:25am by Ocho

FINALLY someone does something about these ridiculous Ducks. Since the city “officials” are way too entwined with HTA they wouldn’t listen to the concerns of the citizens over these massive intrusions on our little city. I’m sure I’m not just speaking for myself when I say “THANK YOU US NAVY & CAPT. LEFERE”!!



Submitted on Thu, 02/14/2013 – 10:00am by *.* CLEARLY the original

I am just remembering the time many, many years ago when a train driver was fed up with Swift and took his train with passengers, parked it in front of Swift’s house on Key Haven and left them there, along with the train. That’s a strong message, any way you look at it. I’m sure Swift didn’t want any of ‘those people’ in front of HIS house, now did he?

Bravo, Navy! I believe Key West is brighter today knowing that these blue beasts are soon to be off our streets.


At last! Amazing news for Key West!

Submitted on Thu, 02/14/2013 – 9:57am by Tina

At last! Amazing news for Key West! This is justice in so many ways. For the first time, Swift and Belland have been unable to sleeze their way into private property for the purpose of lining their own pockets. (For this reason, I have long objected to their ‘ownership’ of Wall Street and property on Eaton by the post office, as well as other publicly owned properties.) They have never exhibited anything but arrogance and total contempt towards the residents and taxpayers of this town and done as they pleased. I’m thrilled to see the Navy has put a stop to this. It is laughable that they want the city to go begging on their behalf. The city has already learned that the Navy can do as they please with the entire Mole Pier issue and the city needs to stay out of it! NO ONE in this town wanted them on the streets and it takes the Navy telling them they don’t want them on THEIR land or waters to get rid of these dangerous monstrocities. If he wants to keep using these horrid vehicle/vessels that aren’t even historic, I suggest that Swifty build a boat ramp and ticket booth by his house on Key Haven and use that.


Thanks Navy!

Submitted on Thu, 02/14/2013 – 9:25am by water worker

Those monstrosities do not belong in Key West.


Yippee!! Yea!! Thank you

Submitted on Thu, 02/14/2013 – 9:20am by Chi

Yippee!! Yea!! Thank you Navy!! On both accounts =-))


Truman Waterfront honestly to be public access?

Submitted on Thu, 02/14/2013 – 8:45am by mango

crap, bet Spottswood’s and Swifty have their panties in a twist over this one…But alas some kinda back door deal will happen, and the powers to be will not only get their 4 acres/ private marina and Duck boat but an expansion to what was first dreamed up. Stay tuned…


Finally ; Good News !

Submitted on Thu, 02/14/2013 – 8:00am by trapper

Mayor Cates , needs to sequester himself on this one. Backing the ducks might be political suicide.


Welcome news!

Submitted on Thu, 02/14/2013 – 7:57am by Mac

Congratulations to the base commander for exercising the military authority necessary to cease or severely limit commercial activities in our Truman Harbor. Now if he could only halt cruise ship traffic.

But now Belland and his group think they can commandeer the docks at the Toxic Triangle. Got news for ya, Chris… Coast Guard isn’t going to be happy about that. Although I know the School Board is ready to hand over its Trumbo Road property to the highest bidder.

If duh mayor will stop being so pig-headed, this move by the Navy offers the City a legal “out” from the court-ordered issuing of licenses fairly to duck tours. City, take advantage of this opportunity!


So wait…

Submitted on Thu, 02/14/2013 – 7:50am by TheHatchet

…so the Navy waited for the Duck tours to invest all that money in boats and personnel, and then right after it was all set up, they closed it, effectively costing the company hundreds of thousands, if not millions? Something fishy here. Did HTA not do any due diligence in all the years of fighting to get the tours to ensure they’d have water access? Did they act on an assumption that turned out to be wrong? Or did they have a deal that fell through after people saw how the tours actually work? I can’t believe that with all the fighting that has gone on for years about these ducks, that this is the unforeseen result and all the investment is down the drain. Maybe it is…I guess the concept of having that kind of money to lose is just unimaginable to most. Where’s the rest of the story?


Good Morning!

Submitted on Thu, 02/14/2013 – 7:50am by 666

This made my day. Now lets see if our mayor and City Commission do the bidding of Ed Swift, or realize virtually every Old Town Resident hates these things and let The Navy rule stand.


Great News! Ding Dong the Duck is dead.

Submitted on Thu, 02/14/2013 – 6:41am by Black Panther

Let the citizens rejoice. Duck season is officially open and the sharp shooting military is the first to shoot and bag some ducks. I propose this Valentines Day massacre of the Ducks be declared a local holiday. An annual event should be held to celebrate the day the ducks died. The celebration shall include a duck bar-b-que, duck shooting gallery, and parade down Duval with everyone humming their duck kazoos. Let’s hope this new wrinkle also scuttles the mega marina causing the waterfront plan to be revised back to what the Navy intended when they originally transferred ownership to the City of Key West; a park and related public amenities for the citizens of Key West. Quack Quack Heart Attack. Dead Ducks in a gunny sack. Dry them carcasses on a smoker’s rack.



Submitted on Fri, 02/15/2013 – 12:41am by Rabbi Flanagan



How’s it feel?

Submitted on Thu, 02/14/2013 – 5:45am by cwew



Bravo, NAVY!

Submitted on Thu, 02/14/2013 – 5:20am by *.* CLEARLY the original


“It’s important for the economic survival for future generations,” said Belland. Nonsense. It is only important for the pockets of Swifty and the portly Belland . It’s also encouraging to suspect the Spottswood’s private marina idea is gone too.


Truman Harbor

Submitted on Thu, 02/14/2013 – 5:05am by Cafe Conleche

If this means no “Ducks” you can count us in.


All I can say is

Submitted on Thu, 02/14/2013 – 9:42pm by loaded

Good maybe someone can get rid of the annoying trolleys next.


Nice to see some agree and

Submitted on Fri, 02/15/2013 – 12:48am by loaded

Even salute one of our navy heroes (to me all servicepeople are heroes).


So much for Conch Secession…

Submitted on Fri, 02/15/2013 – 12:44am by Rabbi Flanagan

According to the comment, membership has its benefits.



Conch TrainOld Town Trolley

I felt for over a decade that Key West should rid itself of the conch trains and trolleys, and I feel the same way abut the ducks running around city streets. Somebody who runs for mayor later this year just might score heaps of voter capital by campaigning to rid the city of the aforesaid street and neighborhood polluters and quality life destroyers, which I imagine cater mostly to another major polluter and quality of life industry, cruise ships and their passengers.

I also think somebdy who runs for mayor this year might make even more heaps of voter capital by campaigning to stop cruise ships from coming to Key West at all. What do you wanna bet they don’t dump their grey water and garbage and partitially-treated or just plain raw sewerage in the ocean beyond the territorial limits of the US and other countries?

I suppose most folks in Key West by now are familiar with the cruise ship wallowing up in the Gulf of Mexico, and the great fun time its passengers are having, and the generous $500 per passenger in damages, refund of the cost of their tickets and their lodging costs in Mobile, Alabama, the cruise ship line has offered the seriously over stressed passengers. I have yet to see this channel dredging photo in The Citizen or at a city commission meeting:

cruise ship mud


I saw this link on Facebook yesterday, provided by two Key West men. As you read the article,  ponder, especially if you live in Key West, how you feel about your city and its elected and hired employees partnering with cruise line companies, and aiding and abbetting the employment practices described in the article below.


What cruise lines don’t want you to know


What cruise lines don’t want you to know

By James Walker, Special to CNN

updated 3:21 PM EST, Thu February 14, 2013

Editor’s note:

James M. Walker is a maritime lawyer and cruise safety advocate involved in cruise ship law and maritime litigation with his law firm, Walker and O’Neill. He has represented crew members and passengers against cruise lines, including Carnival and Royal Caribbean. Formerly, he worked as a lawyer for the cruise industry.


— A Carnival cruise ship was adrift 150 miles off the coast of Mexico after an engine room fire. Cruise passengers were complaining about the lack of air conditioning, hot cabins, cold food and toilets that wouldn’t flush.

As I watched the news broadcast, I thought it was a documentary about the Carnival Splendor, which suffered a disabling engine room fire in November 2010 off Mexico. But the story was about the Carnival Triumph, which caught fire early Sunday after sailing from Galveston, Texas, with more than 3,100 passengers.

The cruise industry says cruise ship fires are rare, but they are not rare. They happen with alarming frequency. In the two years between the Splendor and the Triumph fires, more than 10 cruise ship fires were reported in the media. Several cruise ships were completely disabled, including the Costa Allegra, the Bahamas Celebration and the Ocean Star.

The Azamara Quest was partially disabled and had to crawl back to port in Indonesia. The Allegra and Quest broke down in waters where pirates frequent, to add to the drama.

A fire aboard the Queen Mary II was later determined to have been caused by a “catastrophic explosion.”

Other cruise ships experienced what the industry would either deny or call “minor fires,” including the Adventure of the Seas, the Crown Princess, the MSC Musica and the Allure. But there is nothing minor about a cruise ship, filled with thousands of passengers, catching on fire on the high seas, even for a matter of seconds.

James Walker

I have attended seven congressional hearings since 2005 regarding issues of cruise ship passenger safety. At the last hearing, before Sen. Jay Rockefeller, cruise expert and author Ross Klein said fires broke out in 79 cruise ships from 1990 to 2011. Most of these fires received little coverage in the U.S. press. It is a topic that the travel publications avoid and travel agents do not like to hear.

Concordia disaster focuses attention on how cruise industry operates

The cruise industry does a remarkable job advertising that cruising is a safe and affordable family vacation. It certainly is affordable, in large part because major cruise lines such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean are incorporated in foreign countries like Panama, the Bahamas, Bermuda and Liberia. Their ships fly the flags of foreign nations and thus avoid all U.S. federal taxes, labor laws and safety regulations.

In 2011, three-quarters of the nearly 16 million cruise bookings worldwide were made from the United States, according to the industry group Cruise Lines International Association, which represents 26 cruise lines, including the world’s largest, Carnival and Royal Caribbean.

You can’t find a cheaper vacation than spending a week on one of these “fun ships.” But the vacation comes with a hidden price. The cruise lines are working their crew members excessively long hours and paying them extremely low wages.

The Cruise Lines International Association says its “crew members are provided wages that are competitive with international pay scales.” But a cleaner aboard a Royal Caribbean ship, for example, will work 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for as little as $156.25 a week with no tips. U.S. labor laws are not applicable to provide protection to crew members at sea, nor is there any real oversight of the cruise lines’ operations.

The cruise industry insists that it is regulated and that the safety and security of its passengers and crew is its highest priority. Ships are subject to inspections by the countries they call on. In the United States, ships must pass initial and annual U.S. Coast Guard Marine inspections.

But the Coast Guard is underfunded and understaffed and can’t possibly conduct adequate inspections of the hundreds of cruise ships that call regularly on U.S. ports across the nation. And the ships are getting bigger and carrying more passengers every year. For example, Disney Fantasy — whose safety is not in doubt — is 14 decks high and more than three football fields long and can carry about 5,500 people.

Cruise ships theoretically follow guidelines set forth by the International Maritime Organization and the recommendations in the Safety of Life at Sea. But the International Maritime Organization, a United Nations organization, does not have the authority to enforce its own guidelines, nor can it impose fines or criminal sanctions against cruise lines that flout Safety of Life at Sea recommendations. This obligation falls to flag states, like Panama.

The result is that cruise lines are largely unregulated. They offer low-price cruise fares to get the passengers aboard and then make their profits from alcohol sales; casino, spa and photography activities; and shore excursions.

The cruise lines operate their ships virtually 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. Cruise ships do not make money unless they are operating. The cruise lines push the ships just as hard as they push their crew members. A ship out of service for a week for routine maintenance means the loss of tens of millions of dollars and thousands of dissatisfied customers.

Talk Back: How should cruise passengers be compensated?

It is in this environment that the 13-year-old Carnival Triumph was trying to sail back to Galveston.

Cruise ships, like their foreign-based crew members, are treated as fungible goods. When crew members get debilitating injuries because of overwork and exhaustion, they are left in their home countries. The Triumph, sailing since 1999, will eventually end up being sold to the European market, renamed and abandoned as well.

The push to always keep the show on the road without long delays causes the same problems in investigations of passenger disappearances, shipboard crimes and gastrointestinal illnesses. These investigations are often rushed so the cruise is held up for as little time as possible.

When there is a norovirus outbreak on a ship, cruise lines are faced with the prospect of disembarking hundreds of ill passengers, sanitizing the ship and then reloading several thousands of passengers on board. It is an impossible prospect to locate and kill the virus on the massive ships given the short turnaround on an embarkation day. But the business model of the cruise industry is: Strike up the band and hand out the daiquiris, the cruise must go on.

It is also impossible for governmental entities such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct a thorough, painstaking epidemiology study to ascertain the type of virus and its origin. Cruise lines quickly blame the passengers for not washing their hands, but the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration concluded long ago that the most likely and common source of norovirus is contaminated food or water.

Crew members say that infected workers often do not complain of their illness out of fear of not being paid or of losing their jobs. Cruise lines tell the passengers to use hand sanitizers, but the culprit may be norovirus-laden salad.

Unlike the U.S. commercial aviation industry, with strict Federal Aviation Administration oversight that can ground a fleet of aircraft, the cruise industry is largely accountable to countries like Panama or the Bahamas — which may or may not want to offend their cruise line friends in Miami.

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About Sloan

Darn, that would take a while. Try the autobiographical pages in the header. Ditto for header menu pages at Hatched and raised there, eventually I ran away from home. Here's a short list: Born 1942; male; spoken for; accused of all sorts of imaginable and unimaginable things, perhaps some true. Live on Key West of Weird asteroid. Publish something most days at, been at that since July 2007. That's heaps of catch-up reading, probably not recommended.
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