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HomeIn the NewsView From Key West: ‘The World’s Largest Gated Community’

View From Key West: ‘The World’s Largest Gated Community’

Daniel Garcia, III, is a fourth-generation Conch, meaning Key West, Fla., has been home to four generations of his family. The 32-year-old utility company lineman, who has lived in the tourism-based city at the end of the road all his life, owns a 24-foot Progression V-bottom and is the founder of the Keys Island Runners powerboat outfit. In late February, he organized a successful group fun run to the Islamorada Sandbar in Key Largo.

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With his own boat was out of commission, Daniel Garcia caught a ride in this Skater catamaran with friends for the Keys Islands Runners fun run to the Islamorada Sandbar in February. Photo courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

With the March 22 closure of the Florida Keys to all non-residents and large-group activities strictly prohibited in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, that will be Keys Islands Runners last group outing in the foreseeable future.

Normally thriving this time of year as only it can, Key West is—by all accounts—a ghost town. All bars and hotels are closed, Duval Street is devoid of tourists and most locals are observing social distancing guidelines.

Earlier this week, I caught up with Garcia to get a firsthand account of what life is like now in go-fast powerboating’s favorite city. Here’s what he had to say.

You’ve lived your whole life in Key West. It must be strange now.

I have. My grandfather, Danny Acosta, is the original painter of the Southernmost buoy. He is 86 years old. The last time he painted it was after Hurricane Irma.

They are protecting us by keeping tourists out of the Keys, and now the city just set new rules. Everyone has to where mask when going to public places.

They have a road block entering the Keys. You have to show a local ID to enter. If not, they turn you around. Right now, the Keys are basically the largest gated community in the world (laughs).

Monroe County is doing a great job keeping us as safe as possible. It’s terrible for all the people in the hospitality work fields. But we will come together city by city to help those in need.

Are you still working?

Yes, they have us on a fifty-fifty schedule. They split up our crews and we do a rotation. We work five days over a two-week period, just to keep us home as much as possible.

As seeing much powerboat activity?

People have been going out on the boat every weekend—they are just trying to park a little further away from each other. The weather has finally been nice. The winds finally settled down.

Personally, I haven’t been on the water due to work and being boat-less at the moment. I’ve been on 24-hour stand-by this past week. On the weekends prior, I was been able to focus on my new 24-foot Progression build since Keys Island Runners activities are at a standstill. I actually came up with a final draft of the new boat wrap being done by (former Key West resident and veteran offshore racer) Ryan Beckley of Kinetic Animation.

That sounds like a productive use of time.

A lot of guys from the Keys Island Runners group are using this time to get their boats in tip-top shape for upcoming events once this all passes. I’ve been getting messages daily on Instagram with people playing the Keys Island Runners Song—the K.I.R Anthem—working on their boats and just itching to go.

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Garcia’s 24-footer eventually will be dressed in this graphics package from Ryan Beckley at Kinetic Animation.

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