Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste

Prologue

Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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The Conch Republic

June 1, 2016

Among the first things we noticed after pulling into Key West were confusing references to the Conch Republic. Hundreds of souvenirs were labeled Conch Republic, including a hat I purchased for Mrs. Chatterbox. A little research provided information on an interesting event.

 

In 1982 The United States Border Patrol, in an attempt to apprehend illegal aliens and drug traffickers, set up a road block and inspection point on US#1, the only bridge leading into the Florida Keys. The mayor of Key West, Dennis Wardlow, made repeated demands for the removal of the barricade as it was destroying Key West’s tourist business, but his complaints went unanswered.   

 

Wardlow decided that if the Feds were going to seal off Key West and treat the Key like a foreign country, they might as well act like one. On April 23, 1982, Mayor Wardlow and a handful of friends proclaimed that Key West had seceded from the Union and would henceforth be known as the Conch Republic, appropriate since the residents of Key West were fond of referring to themselves as conchs after the spiral-shelled mollusks found in the waters off the Florida Keys.

           

The new Conch Republic declared Wardlow its prime minister. His first act in office was to declare war on the United States. The rebellion lasted ten minutes, after which the mayor and his friends surrendered and demanded a billion dollars in war reparations. The trick worked. The next day the barricade was removed, although Key West is still waiting for that billion dollars. These days Key West’s ten minutes of independence is celebrated every April 23rd with a week long celebration.

 

 

The Good Life in Key West.

 

 

 

 

Our resort had four swimming pools. We often had this one all to ourselves.

 

 

 

An ancient Chinese door led to our pool.

 

 

 

Back porch at our resort, facing the mangroves.

 

 

 

The so-called Winter White House. Half a dozen US presidents have stayed here.

 

 

 

Many old houses have been converted into restaurants on Duval Street. We had lunch here.

 

 

 

Robert the Doll, a creepy doll said to be haunted, was frequently seen in a window of this house, providing inspiration for the Chucky movies.

 

 

 

Near the Southernmost Point stands a house Madonna was interesting in purchasing. Unfortunately, she didn't have enough money and was outbid.

 

 

 

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Comments

26 Comments
I LOVE that photo of you. The best! We were in Key West in '89 and love it, despite the fact that the temperature didn't get above 56F until the day we left and it rained almost every day! Did you also got indoctrinated in the "correct" way to pronounce "Conch" in Key West. I never accepted "Conk" as correct but I said it that way to keep the peace. I didn't want another rebellion.
By: Mitchell is Moving on June 1, 2016
I think I need to go to Key West. That photo of you in the chair highlights your great smile. Mmm Mangroves...
By: Michael Offutt on June 1, 2016
I lovvvvveeeee Key West, but I could never live there. I'd wind up a raging alcoholic.
By: Al Penwasser on June 1, 2016
That looks like a relaxing time. Nothing like a private pool. Been as far as Miami and need to venture into the Keys. Funny story. Quick surrender. Was the Mayor French?
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on June 1, 2016
I believe the Keys lifestyle suits you. You look marvelous! Tell the truth... where you and the Mrs. curious about real estate in the Keys? :)
By: Daniel LaFrance on June 1, 2016
What a beautiful place. I'm guessing it's tropically hot and humid, correct? If so, I'm afraid I'll only be able to enjoy it through your reports and photos. And I love the Key West/Conch Republic. Reminds me of "The Mouse That Roared." :)
By: scott park on June 1, 2016
Lovin' the hat! Looks like you had a great time. It's hard to imagine that Madonna didn't have enough money to buy the house, I thought she'd be rich enough to buy Key West.
By: LL Cool Joe on June 1, 2016
Such a nice place, i will have to visit someday!
By: messymimi on June 1, 2016
Key West still looks beautiful and inviting. It is as Caribbean a feel as one can get in the US. You look terrific and rested in that great photo.
By: Tom Cochrun on June 1, 2016
I am loving this trip you are taking. Key West is my family home town and I just love revisiting--even vicariously. Thank you. I do remember the Conch Republic well. It was a fun time.
By: Arkansas Patti on June 1, 2016
You look fabulous in the photo! I hope you didn't embarrass yourself ordering conch fritters and pronouncing it wrong. :-) And how did you ever manage to get a photo of that Southernmost Point without any people in it?
By: Pixel Peeper on June 1, 2016
Looks like Key West agrees with you. Such a robust picture of health, with your jaunty chapeau!
By: Val on June 1, 2016
Yes! Great picture of you, Stephen. When are you coming to Arizona?
By: Catalyst on June 1, 2016
Somebody had a wicked sense of humor to declare independence from the Unites states. I like that one,,,even the name.
By: red Kline on June 1, 2016
I love the story of the secession. So glad you had fun, but maybe we should all send some money to poor Madonna. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on June 1, 2016
It is EXACTLY "The Mouse That Roared"!!
By: fishducky on June 1, 2016
That's all very rustic looking. I'm glad you enjoyed yourself, esp with your very own pool! :)
By: Lexa Cain on June 1, 2016
I've never been to Key West. nice looking resort.
By: Ellen Abbott on June 2, 2016
What a snazzy snappy photo of you! I guess we should go there aswehave sisters in Florida! Cheers!
By: Kathe W. on June 2, 2016
I was in Key West once, about 3 - 4 years ago, just for a day; however, I didn't look nearly as cool as you do!
By: Tom Sightings on June 2, 2016
Private pool, lunch at beautiful refurbished homes, relaxation, geez, no wonder you are grinning so! Cat
By: Cat on June 2, 2016
Great photo of you. You look like a plantation owner. I have been to Key West a few times but never stayed there. We always stayed on the boring Keys to the North!
By: Tabor on June 2, 2016
I love Key West. Now you've made me want to go there (like yesterday). Surely you visited Papa Hemingways and Sloppy Joes, right? Checked out the pirates treasure? Margaritaville? Yep, I need to go back. That's all there is to it. :-)
By: Cherdo on June 2, 2016
It is a nice laid-back place. Great photos and glad you had a good time.
By: Sage on June 3, 2016
I love the Keys. Jilda and I were down there about 10 years ago.
By: Rick Watson on June 3, 2016
OK-Don't know what happened before but here is my actual response:) My brother has been to the Keys twice and loved it. I never have but it looks so pretty and relaxing just from how you look. I love that one house-creepy doll house-love the colour of the house with the shutters
By: Birgit on June 3, 2016

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