40 Years ago, just before ‘Margaritaville’ came to life … it was COLD

The Key West Citizen, January 1977


Forty years ago, as Washington D.C. prepared to welcome President Jimmy Carter, jackhammers were employed to chip ice from the parade route.

Republican senator Ted Stevens invited the president-elect to move the inaugural festivities to his home state of Alaska, where it was warmer than in the nation’s capital.

But the weather sucked everywhere — even in Florida and points east. A 410-foot Panamanian tanker capsized in rough seas. Sailboats were stranded all through the Keys. Helicopters worked to keep the vegetable fields north of the Everglades from frost. Near Ft. Lauderdale, citrus growers lit tire fires to try to protect their crops.

In snowed in Miami, and in Orlando and even in Frostproof, though city officials said they had no plans to change the town’s name. Frozen stone crabs washed ashore in St. Petersburg. Green turtles, some as big as 25 pounds, were found “stunned” by the cold in Mosquito Inlet.

Across the Gulf Stream, at Brown’s Marina on Bimini, Jimmy Buffett sat freezing his ass off on the Euphoria, his new sailboat on her first offshore expedition, waiting for the weather to clear. In a few days, he’d be farther south, and warmer and his new album Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude — featuring a song about a little island the world would come to know well — would be released, and his life would change forever.

And yes, the story of that trip, of Boaty the Loadie, and Tom Corcoran’s navigational (and mix-making) skills, and a little adventure on an island that would eventually be owned by a movie star, and how the whole adventure came to a quick end is in Jimmy Buffett: A Good Life All the Way, out May 9 on Touchstone Books.


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