Travel Series: Key West, Shrimp Boats
The gull wings of the shrimp boats look like ships from another time… jutting anachronisms on the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. After a day of strong winds, the ships will congregate around the White Street Pier. I have counted more than 20. Their awkward, gull wing shape is courtesy of the outriggers that are stretched across the width of the boat. These outriggers hold the nets which troll the bottom for the prized Key West pinks. If a boat comes close enough to the shoreline I can see the sea gulls perched on the cables that hold the outriggers, riding the bobbing waves in hopes of catching an escaping shrimp.
The story goes that the shrimp, known as the Key West pinks, were discovered by accident. A shrimp boat that was stranded at sea put out its nets during the night to alleviate the boredom. In the morning their nets were full; discovering that shrimp do not like the light that penetrates the clear waters so they only come to the surface at night.
Bobbing on the waves, the shrimp boats appear as ships may have appeared in the 1600s rather than their relatively new invention in the late 1800s. From a distance, they appear almost as if they are a fleet of Flying Dutchman’s, silhouetted against the pale blue sky.
At night, their bright lights announce their presence and the hard work that is happening on board. They don’t have the serene, anachronist appearance that they have during the day. I like to bicycle down South Roosevelt at night and see them, lonely beacons in the sea…sort of like me.
Learn more about Key West in these posts from Angela:
Shrimp Boats (this one)
Key West Quirkiness
Key West's Spirituality