In 1936 the poet Archibald MacLeish had come down to Key West to visit Hemingway. One hot day, the two of them went fishing aboard Pilar. But the fish weren’t biting and soon the talk became as overheated as the summer air. Ernest grew even angrier when MacLeish told him to “have just another drink and calm down.” When they decided to continue the discussion on dry land, Ernest eased the boat into the shallows near a small key between Boca Grande and Snipe Keys. Archie went ashore first. Then Ernest backed out of the shoal waters and gunned Pilar for Key West.
When he reached home, Pauline wondered why an angry Ernest was muttering to himself. Finally she learned he had marooned his old friend on an island that belonged to the Lower Keys mosquitos.
“You can’t do this, Ernest,” she said. “You’ve got to go back and get him. That’s all there is to it. He may be going crazy with the insects, and there’s no fresh water on any of these keys.”
Pauline insisted that Ernest go back and rescue Archie. He finally gave in, but relations were never again the same between the two acclaimed writers. Leicester included the anecdote in his book about his brother, but MacLeish later said it never happened.
In the years that lay ahead, Hemingway would accumulate a staggering number of experiences aboard Pilar. Perhaps his finest tribute to his storied flagship was contained in a piece he wrote for Holiday magazine in July 1949: “She really is a sturdy boat, sweet in any kind of sea.”