August 16, 2022

‘For fairly a while it was simply me dwelling out right here… me, the cat and a [rescue] duck, for somewhat over a yr,’ says Kelly McKinnon, who has spent the previous 14 years dwelling on Pigeon Key, a five-acre island off the coast of Florida.

Fortuitously, he ‘doesn’t thoughts the isolation’. 

Plus, he reveals that life there has its fascinating moments – his Amazon parcels arrive on ferries, the fishing is epic and a person as soon as arrived from Cuba on a raft – and the lockdown didn’t actually have an effect on him: ‘When the pandemic hit, this was one of the best place on this planet to be.’

Kelly McKinnon has spent the previous 14 years dwelling on Pigeon Key, pictured, off the coast of Florida. The closest store is round two-and-a-half miles away to the east on neighbouring Knights Key, reached by way of the Previous Seven Mile Bridge, which runs proper over the island however is disconnected to the west

'It’s not a place where if you forget the eggs you’re going to go back. You just do without,’ says Kelly McKinnon (pictured), one of only four permanent residents on Pigeon Key

‘It’s not a spot the place for those who overlook the eggs you’re going to return. You simply do with out,’ says Kelly McKinnon (pictured), one among solely 4 everlasting residents on Pigeon Key 

On the draw back, island life has wreaked havoc together with his love life – ‘the island has eaten up a number of girlfriends’, he admits. 

McKinnon’s minuscule island house is a part of the Florida Keys archipelago that stretches to America’s most southern level and is linked to the Keys in a single route solely – to the east, by means of the historic Previous Seven Mile Bridge, which runs proper over the island however is disconnected to the west.

One in every of solely 4 everlasting residents, he’s government director of the Pigeon Key Basis, a non-profit organisation that works to guard the realm’s tradition and historical past. And with the opposite three residents employed by McKinnon, he may finest be described as ‘the boss of the island’.

The Michigan-born islander lives by himself in a small wood home in-built 1916 – one among simply eight buildings on the island – and has bought what he describes as a ‘fairly good view’. 

The porch has unspoilt views of crystal clear turquoise water and appears out over a garden the place herons fish from the backyard bench, framed by palm timber. 

The closest store is round two-and-a-half miles away on neighbouring Knights Key and with entry solely by way of boat or the Previous Seven Mile Bridge – open to walkers, cyclists and emergency automobiles solely – the islanders ‘don’t depart too usually’ and must plan their meals rigorously.  

‘It’s not a spot the place for those who overlook the eggs you’re going to return. You simply do with out,’ McKinnon says.

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Requested if he’s in a position to make use of Uber Eats to refill on meals and McKinnon laughs heartily.

He says: ‘We don’t get Uber Eats, however generally the ferry that comes out will carry our Amazon packages to us.’  

For McKinnon, the concept of getting a house supply is so alien that when he visits pals in different components of the world, the very first thing he’ll do is order meals. ‘We order an entire bunch of stuff to the door as a result of it’s such a novelty,’ he says. 

The eager fisherman reveals that he will get a variety of his meals utilizing his rod, taking his boat out to catch lobster, tuna, hogfish, allow fish and swordfish. 

This drone photo shows the Old Seven Mile Bridge just before its big relaunch in January, 2022

This drone picture reveals the Previous Seven Mile Bridge simply earlier than its massive relaunch in January, 2022 

A keen fisherman, Kelly McKinnon and his girlfriend, Ananda Williams (pictured above with Kelly), often take a boat out to catch lobster and fish. ‘We’re able to source a lot of stuff right here,’ says McKinnon, who enjoys being self-sufficient. ‘If the bridge blew over tomorrow we could get by.'

McKinnon is pictured here with a permit fish, a game fish native to the western Atlantic Ocean

A eager fisherman, Kelly McKinnon and his girlfriend, Ananda Williams (pictured with Kelly above left), usually take a ship out to catch lobster and fish. ‘We’re in a position to supply a variety of stuff proper right here,’ says McKinnon, who enjoys being self-sufficient. ‘If the bridge blew over tomorrow we may get by.’ He’s pictured on the correct with a allow fish, a recreation fish native to the western Atlantic Ocean

‘We’re in a position to supply a variety of stuff proper right here,’ says McKinnon, who enjoys being self-sufficient. ‘If the bridge blew over tomorrow we may get by.’

Residing off the land on a tropical island may sound like a dream, however as McKinnon has found, it’s not for everybody.

‘I imply, I actually prefer it right here, however the earlier girlfriends haven’t all the time been that enthusiastic about being on the island and being remoted,’ he says.

His present girlfriend, Ananda Williams, is a coral reef analysis biologist and lives within the metropolis of Marathon, which is strung out alongside the keys to the east and takes about 20 minutes to succeed in by bicycle alongside the Previous Seven Mile Bridge. ‘She’s underwater most days and it appears to suit her way of life,’ says McKinnon, joyful to have discovered somebody who isn’t fazed by a solitary life.

'I mean, I really like it here, but the previous girlfriends haven’t always been that excited about being on the island and being isolated,' McKinnon (pictured above) admits

‘I imply, I actually prefer it right here, however the earlier girlfriends haven’t all the time been that enthusiastic about being on the island and being remoted,’ McKinnon (pictured above) admits

Pigeon Key is part of the Florida Keys archipelago that stretches to America’s most southern point

Pigeon Key’s a part of the Florida Keys archipelago that stretches to America’s most southern level

This man arrived at Pigeon Key from Havana in 2016, using a small raft

This man arrived at Pigeon Key from Havana in 2016, utilizing a small raft

Nonetheless, regardless of the gradual tempo, the island has a means of throwing up the sudden.

McKinnon recollects the weird day in 2016 when a person arrived on the island having paddled over from Havana, over 100 miles away.

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He says: ‘In the future we noticed a gentleman working on a chunk of the outdated bridge. Then he jumped within the water and swam as much as the island. He had arrived utilizing a small Styrofoam raft and claimed he had jumped in at Havana harbour.   

‘We stated good day and bought him some water. I believe he was allowed to remain.

‘It was an fascinating day.’  

Unreliable plumbing, we study, may also disrupt McKinnon’s schedule.

The sewerage system is the primary offender. Being lower off from the mainland means waste can’t be pumped away, and when issues go flawed it’s McKinnon that has to take care of it. ‘You’re actually working in s*** every so often, in order that’s not too glamorous,’ he says.

McKinnon says: ‘We don’t get Uber Eats, but sometimes the ferry that comes out will bring our Amazon packages to us.' Pictured is one of the houses on Pigeon Key

McKinnon says: ‘We don’t get Uber Eats, however generally the ferry that comes out will carry our Amazon packages to us.’ Pictured is likely one of the homes on Pigeon Key

When the job wants doing, it’s so atrocious that ‘I don’t even really feel proper about pulling rank and saying “hey – the boss isn’t doing this one”‘, he provides with a shudder.

The sleepy island has additionally seen some unusual goings-on come dusk. Other than the twinkling phosphorescent glowworms that gentle up the ocean (McKinnon says it’s a spectacle to not be missed), some residents declare to have seen ghosts.

Individuals who’ve stayed on the island say they’ve seen ghosts in home windows of homes, heard spectral trains going by within the distance or felt a heavy weight on their chests at night time.

‘I’ve by no means skilled any of these items. I don’t actually wish to,’ McKinnon says. ‘If there are ghosts out right here hopefully they know I’m doing my finest to deal with the place and hold the historical past and cultural elements going.’

For McKinnon, the ghost sightings may be all the way down to folks’s wild imaginations, sparked by the island’s fascinating historical past. 

Within the early 1900s, it was the work camp of the 400 males who constructed what’s now the Previous Seven Mile Bridge.

The bridge – initially referred to as Knights Key-Pigeon Key-Moser Channel-Pacet Channel Bridge – used to hold steam trains and was made to the exacting requirements of Henry Flagler, a railroad magnate who saved a detailed eye on his workforce. He was teetotal, and didn’t consider that consuming was conducive to laborious work. 

McKinnon says: ‘The truth of it’s, it in all probability wasn’t a really good place to work. 4 hundred guys on a small island. No deodorant, restricted contemporary water, no ladies, no booze, no playing.’

It’s these visceral particulars, along with the outdated Florida appeal of the place, that McKinnon desires to protect.

 ‘When the pandemic hit, Pigeon Key was one of the best place on this planet to be

Pigeon Key resident Kelly McKinnon

The Pigeon Key Basis seems to carry the island’s historical past to life with excursions and exhibitions, and so they obtain properly over 200 guests a day. That quantity is simply set to extend following the $44million renovation of the Previous Seven Mile Bridge earlier this yr.

‘We’re not seeking to flip Pigeon Key into Disney,’ McKinnon says. ‘It’s an unbelievably costly atmosphere to take care of as a result of the whole lot is 100 years outdated, made out of wooden and in one of many harshest environments you’ll be able to think about.

‘We wish to hold the vibe with out ruining it for everyone – and me! I dwell out right here, so 500 folks within the yard a day looks like greater than sufficient.’

McKinnon is pictured here on the Old Seven Mile Bridge with a visiting childhood friend

McKinnon is pictured right here on the Previous Seven Mile Bridge with a visiting childhood good friend

The road bridge next to Old Seven Mile Bridge (above) was built in 1982

The street bridge subsequent to Previous Seven Mile Bridge (above) was in-built 1982

The marine science centre is one other massive a part of the Pigeon Key Basis work. At the moment, the centre is researching Alzheimer’s and most cancers medicines derived from creatures within the water, in addition to finishing up coral restoration and mangrove plantings.

McKinnon has assist in working all of this, after all – the opposite three island residents work on the environmental and academic programmes.

‘We’re a tight-knit group,’ McKinnon says of his choose group, who all began out as interns. The longest-serving worker has lived right here for 10 years now, and the shortest, three.  

'When I hire people, I’m not just hiring an employee. I’m hiring a neighbour,' says McKinnon

‘After I rent folks, I’m not simply hiring an worker. I’m hiring a neighbour,’ says McKinnon

McKinnon takes a gradual and regular method to hiring folks – and who wouldn’t? There’s no escaping that annoying colleague while you’re dwelling subsequent door. 

‘After I rent folks, I’m not simply hiring an worker. I’m hiring a neighbour,’ he says about his recruitment course of. 

The hints within the questioning appear to land with McKinney, who rapidly provides: ‘And I’m not seeking to put anybody else on the island.’

Properly, that’s our Robinson Crusoe desires dashed, however at the least we will console ourselves with a takeaway.