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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Missing Out on a Gold Coin and not from the Nuestra Senora de la Antocha...

To the uninitiated random tourist, Key West is comprised of little more than souvenir shops and bars. And though Duval Street might certainly want to make it seem that way, there is indeed more to Key West than just your usual bar scene.

In fact there are a number of attractions scattered throughout Key West. Included among these are the Hemmingway Home and Museum, the Southernmost Point in Continental USA, Mallory Square, Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory, the Truman White House and Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville to name but just a few.

Uh... scratch that last one for it's but just another bar along Duval and an overpriced one at that.

Nevertheless the one attraction here in Key West that might hold a bit of interest for me is the renowned shipwreck museum founded by and named after Mel Fisher.

The museum is described as containing an extensive collection of artifacts from 17th century shipwrecks which include the Henrietta Marie, the Santa Margarita and the Nuestra Señora de la Atocha.

Well the son of famed treasure hunter Mel Fisher and his salvage company are back in the news once again after recently laying claim to a cache of gems found off of Key West by another treasure hunting party.

The cache is said to be worth a reported half-billion dollars which is equivalent to 500 million dollars for those of you who might perhaps be somewhat number-challenged.

News accounts goes on to further explain that a claim has been filed in federal court contending that the undisclosed amount of emeralds, amethysts and quartz crystals found scattered on the sandy seafloor in January 2010 came from the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha which sank during a hurricane off of Key West back in 1622.

Also explained is that although none of the precious stones were listed on the manifests of the Atocha and of her sister ship the Santa Margarita, (the Spanish crown required only gold and silver to be listed) other Atocha inventories suggest that she was carrying a large number of Colombian gems.

But whether or not Mel Fisher's legal claim is ultimately successful is not something that I'll be losing any sleep over for I seriously doubt that I'll be gifted a token gem one way or the other once the dispute is finally settled.

Nevertheless there was an occasion back in the mid-nineties while residing in Puerto Rico that I might have been gifted a gold coin as a token of appreciation had circumstances been slightly different.

For you see I happened to be relaxing with the wife and kids at Marina Puerto del Rey one lazy weekend afternoon when I stepped inside the marina's restaurant/bar to place another order for two additional beverages.

And while waiting for my beverages to be delivered, a rather attractive blond female patron, whom I hadn't ever previously met, unexpectedly saddled up alongside of me only to then greet me in what seemed to be a somewhat forward and inviting manner.

Well after politely responding to her greeting and later perplexedly gathering up my drink order, I went back outside to be with the wife and kids.

Later that evening, a fellow bar acquaintance who had seen me come inside the bar earlier that day, asked whether I knew who the attractive blond was that I had briefly exchanged a few words with.

Upon responding that I didn't know who she was, he proceeded to inform me that she happened to be the heiress to a massive fortune and that she had only very recently arrived to the island aboard a luxurious yacht that could be seen tied off to the very end of the marina's main pier.

My fellow bar-fly acquaintance later went on to explain that she had been "hooking up" with a number of random fellows throughout the marina for a "poke & go" the past couple of days and that afterwards she would gift her new found lovers with a gold coin as a small token of her appreciation.

Well I didn't give my brief encounter with that blond another thought until a couple of months later when that particular heiress happened to make national news headlines.

It was reported that she had been apprehended and taken into custody by local authorities in one of the Lesser Antilles islands for the unprovoked murder of a local citizen.

She allegedly had shot and killed a local water-taxi captain after being delivered back to her boat that was anchored offshore late one evening. This was reportedly after a festive evening of heavy drinking and cocaine abuse at one of the local island establishments.

It was also reported by friends and acquaintances of hers alike that she would on occasion casually speculate what it would be like to take the life of another person.

Evidently it was a morbid thought that she had been contemplating for some time for a number of regular patrons who frequented the bar in Marina Puerto del Rey in Puerto Rico could distinctly recall the heiress casually speculating the same thought while seated at the bar.

There was no doubt in those bar patrons minds that the heiress had indeed casually murdered that local citizen and had done it just out of a sense of curiosity.

She later was reportedly confined to a tiny jail cell for precisely a year and a day subsisting on a starvation diet of little more than bread and water. It was said that she was completely emaciated and near death herself while incarcerated.

I don't recall the case ever going to trial but it was speculated among those who had met her that there must have been a massive payoff by her family for her subsequent release from jail.

In hindsight, I suppose it was a good thing that circumstances were such that I wasn't ever gifted a gold coin.

Marina Puerto del Rey, Bahia Demajagua, Puerto Rico