The Conch Republic
Key West, Florida

After three years of trying we finally made it to Key West in February of 2009.  We never really understood all of the breathless excitement that many of our friends had for this place that we now call paradise.  Words are not sufficient to describe Key West until you see it for yourself, experience it and take the whole lifestyle to heart.  Our primary purpose for the visit was to participate in a Civil War Reenactment at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park.  In order to do that we were allowed to set up on Sunset Beach within the park boundaries.  Sunset Beach is acknowledged to be the most beautiful beach on the island and at sunset everyone is required to leave except for those of us participating in the reenactment.  It was dry camping but a fantastic venue at the foot of the fort adjacent to the beach where the sunset weddings are usually performed.

During the reenactment we fired a salute to all soldiers, sailors and Marines at Clinton Square at the foot of Duvall Street, then we paraded up Duvall Street to the Green Parrot where we fired off another salute to the well known establishment.  The next day was a sea battle in which Federal forces on-board the schooners Liberty and Appledore bested the rebel forces on a blockade runner, bringing her captain to justice.  In true Key West form, as we were assaulting the enemy ship with muskets and verbal taunts, the crew of the Liberty was firing off round after round of stale French dinner rolls using a tennis racket.  Jet skiers at one point broke our ranks into the line of fire and were "sumarilly dispatched."  Then, since no one ashore bothered to fly flags over the shore batteries indicating which was friend and which was foe,  the colonel commanding the 14th Brooklyn gave orders to "disable both batteries and let God figure it out."

While all of this was going on the bikini clad ladies (and laddies) on the beach kept sauntering by and the Conch Republic Air Force kept buzzing us in their bi-planes.  Never before has war been so much fun.

The following day Commander Reynolds was involved in the trial of another blockade runner and served as second to the Federal commanding general who had challenged a Reb major to a duel.  True to the lowly nature of the Rebs the major's second opened fire when his principal was felled.  A horrible assault on the manly art of chivalry, and an attack that no gentleman would consider being a party to. The general retrieved his $100 from the rotting carcass of the major.

While at the fort we met Paula and Ken Largin who have been fulltiming in RVs for ten years.  They are knife makers who have retired and now spend their time teaching others how to make knives.  They were demonstrating their craft during the reenactment.  Ken is the most prolific living knife maker having hand ground more than 75,000 blades in his 30 year career as Kelgin Knife Makers, including knives made for Paul Harvey and General Colin Powell who gave them to General Norman Schwartzkopf and all Gulf War POWs.  They are great, laid-back folks who are always looking for a venue to demonstrate and teach.  In addition to being super people and professional artisans, they put on a great show.  They can be reached at

When the reenactment was over we got to spend a couple more nights in the State Park before we had to move.  This time, to the other side of the island to the Navy's Trumbo Annex, adjacent to the Coast Guard Station.  There were guards at the gate--most likely to keep non-Key West attitudes from escaping to the island (or perhaps serve as targets for the French dinner rolls during Conch Republic Independence celebrations).

We did all of the touristy things like the Conch Train tour, the stroll down Duvall Street and the Sunset Cruise.  We did our cruise on board the Liberty Schooner out of Boston.  She spends her winters in Key West and her summers in Boston Harbor.  She is a three masted, gaff-rigged schooner and is the tallest ship in Key West (so long as the Western Union keeps her topgallant folded down).

Time is a marginal commodity in the Conch Republic so we never got around to doing many of the things we wanted to do, including a visit to the Green Parrot for Margeuritas.  We did go past the "Southernmost Point" monument and got a picture of it with a bunch of people we don't know around it.  We never got back to get the requisite photo of US at the monument.  So we have included here a photo of the monument and a drawing that Glenn made to indicate the photo we should have taken.  We will replace it as soon as we get back to Key West and remember to take the photo.  Citizens of the Conch Republic will understand completely, others may be just a tad confused.

But, while we were waiting to board the Liberty Schooner we spied another monument that is exclusive to Key West and the Conch Republic.  Right there on the wharf was a broken cleat that had once been used to tie up ships.  One of the clips was broken off and someone had scrawled "Southernmost Broken Cleat, Key West, FL USA".  The monument apparently pre-dates the Conch Republic (which was founded in 1982, see history below) and is the eminently more unique proof that one has visited Key West. It is located on Schooner Wharf. That is Glenn's finger pointing to the unbroken end of the Southernmost Broken Cleat.

There were other adventures in the Conch Republic and other facts worth noting.  For instance, when you are walking down Duvall Street you are closer to Havana, Cuba than you are to a Walmart*.  Havana is 90 miles off shore while the nearest Walmart* is in Florida City, about 120 miles north on US 1 (actually EVERYTHING is north on US 1).  By the way, the other end of US 1 is at Fort Kent, Maine, 2,377 miles away.

While in the capital city of the Conch Republic we meandered over to the Office of the Secretary General of the Conch Republic where we were sworn, by the Honorable Sir Peter Anderson, as citizens of the Conch Republic (raising our left hands and promising to stop taking things too seriously).  We ordered our Conch Republic passports and had our U. S. passports stamped.  The motto of the Conch Republic is, "We Seceded Where Others Have Failed."

Key West is Paradise in the United States.  We were continually told that the weather was awful while we were there.  "Awful" in Paradise is so much better than good anywhere else.  And the people!  Even the natives were always happy to see you, offered a smile and were willing to help in any way that they could.  No one ever seemed to get angry or upset.  The Green Parrot calls itself "A Sunny Place for Shady People" and labels itself a "Snivel Free Zone."  There is an open air of decedance just below the surface at all times and on some occasions it blossoms forth into a full fledged orgy.  Everyone accepts things as they are and people as they want to be. A smile and a hearty handshake always concludes even the most heated of arguments.  Key West is simply a beautiful place to put a fantastic attitude of live and let live.  It was truly refreshing, eminently relaxing and, again, fantastically beautiful.

The History of the Conch Republic

The Conch Republic was born on April 23rd, l982 in response to a United States Border Patrol blockade of the Florida Keys.  Since the United States government insisted on treating the Keys like a foreign country, Key West Mayor Dennis Wardlow seceded from the Union, declared war, surrendered, and demanded Foreign Aid.  At the Battle of Key West in the Conch Republic War, the weapon of choice was the stale French dinner roll.  During the intervening years the U.S. never reacted to the secession, thereby establishing sovereignty for the Conch Republic under International Law governing "adverse possession between sovereign nations".   Today, we are dual citizens, U.S. and the Conch Republic.

A l998 study of Conch Republic Sovereignty at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, concluded that the we have a perfect right to exist as a new form of political subdivision, as the "World’s First Fifth World Nation", existing as a "Sovereign State of Mind", seeking only to bring more "Humor, Warmth, and Respect" to a planet we find in sore need of all three; under the International Public Law Principle of a "people’s right to assemble" guaranteed to all people under the Vienna Conventions, and UNO Human Rights Declarations, as well as under the United States Constitution.

The Conch Republic has its own passports, both Citizen and Diplomatic that have been accepted by over thirty countries all over the world including the United States, Mexico, Germany, Spain, Ireland, Sweden, Russia, Cuba, and Ecuador.  We do not represent our passports as valid travel documents, however, and they confer no special privilege with regards to United States immigration policies.

The Conch Republic has Consulates in Innsbruck, Austria, Honolulu, Hawaii; Fort Kent, Maine; New Orleans, Louisiana; Atlanta, Georgia; and Columbus, Ohio.

Our stated Foreign Policy, "The Mitigation of World Tension Through the Exercise of Humor" joins other Conch Republic World Firsts such as our requirement of both citizens and diplomats to respect local customs as well as laws, our governance as the World’s First Functioning Meritocracy, and our recognition of the World Principle of Human Rights and Ambitions (because what good are rights without the ability to realize ambitions?)

We celebrate our Independence annually in a "public and notorious manner" during a ten-day Conch Republic Independence Celebration which will be held the last half of April every year.  Watch for the Conch Republic on the Discovery Channel and on the Travel channel, worldwide, on both the "Travelers" series, and on "Phil Keoghan’s Adventure Crazy".

For more information contact the Office of the Secretary General, 405 Petronia Street, Suite Two, Key West, FL/CR 33040.

Long live the Conch Republic