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  #1  
Old 05-27-2010
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Trip south to the keys

See bottom for the TL;DR.

Awhile back we started our trip south from Stuart Florida planning to go to Marathon. We came down with 2 other sailboats mostly on the inside. The lead boat had made the trip several times so acted as the mother duck.

We stopped in Peck lake just a bit south to make sure everything was working as expected and to get the last few things we forgot.

We stopped in Lake Worth because everyone raved about peanut island. I wasn't amazingly impressed with it. But was worth saying I had been there. I ran aground as we left but that was my fault for listening to someone else.

We stopped in Lake Boca because the timing was good. I kind of liked Lake Boca Raton. There is not really a lot to do but the scenery is nicer than Lake worth. Getting access to the land is tricky but it is doable. Another boat there pulled up a transmission with their anchor chain and we helped them get it off. So there is some junk on the bottom.

Lake Sylvia in lauderdale was pretty nice if a bit tricky to get into. The Los Olas marina is nice and you can land your dinghy there for a reasonable price and get a shower do laundry and get on the bus. The bus system is a bit on the confusing side and not very well documented but some of the bus drivers are helpful. You can call the city bus people and they are very helpful with getting the right bus numbers.

Next stop was Miami and monument island. We went outside to avoid the bridges and sail some but we got tides slowing us in both inlets and the added distance along with the lack of wind kind of made the outside trip moot. We also had to backtrack a couple of miles coming into Miami. The number of powerboat wakes drove us out of the area pretty quick. Getting groceries/liquor and other supplies is quite easy though. Lincoln road in South beach is kind of neat but we were there in the morning and nothing opens until 10 or 11.

No name harbor is a quick trip to the south. This was the only place we could not get internet. it was a weekend so it was very crowded and we just about got swung into by a 68 foot powerboat and one of the boats with us got their anchor line snagged by someone pulling up their anchor. I was too worried about getting run into to leave the boat and see the lighthouse that is on the other side. There is a free pumpout at one end and a place to buy ice at the other end. If you are a rich guy with a big boat and lots of young girls it seems like the place to hang out on the weekends.

We left no name planning to stop at pumpkin key but we finally got our sails up and we made very good time so went on to key largo and anchored in Blackwater sound. There is not much here. Gilberts resort was recommended in our guide but that is pretty much all that is here. The locals seem to have a game where they send you off with bad directions. We wanted some beer and slim jims but ended leaving empty handed late in the morning.

Islamorada was our next stop. Easy access to just about everything in town and they have free showers as well as some interesting free/cheap things to do. I will say that a danforth does not hold well at all here. We drug our anchor 3 times and the other boat with us using a danforth drug twice. I should have used the Rocna knockoff I had but as they say experience is what you get right after you need it. Loraleis has good food and a really good happy hour. The inside route to Islamorada from Blackwater sound is very tricky with 5 feet of draft. The other boats with us were 4'8 and 4'2 and they no trouble. For us with 5 we had a white knuckle trip but we made it with the help of the tide. I doubt I will ever do it again but I can say I did it anyway.

The trip to Marathon on the inside was a very long one with the wind on our bow the whole way. We left at 8:30 and did not get to Marathon until a bit after 6 motoring the whole way. I gotta say Marathon is a pretty big disapointment. Getting to shore for anything is quite hard. Every store we talked to sends us the city marina for a cab. The city marina wants what I think is too much money to park a dinghy and then not be close to anything. The guides say west marine has dinghy access but I guess someone fell and sued the marina that let them and now they don't. Publix/WinDixie/Kmart used to have a bit of water access but its fenced off now and we had to crawl through some trees to get there. For all I heard about it being such a neat place its quite a let down. The city makes it very hard to get into town.

TL;DR Peck lake was fun, Lake worth was not fun, Lake Boca and lake Sylvia were fun. Miami was fun but had issues. No name harbor and Blackwater sound were not fun. Islamorada was fun but held bad. Marathon is the biggest letdown of the whole trip.
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Old 05-28-2010
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That was a nice writeup. So where to now? Are you still in Marathon?
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Old 05-28-2010
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Still in Marathon. We were planning to spend a few weeks here but I think we will be moving on as soon as we can get some things done. Bahia Honda is just a bit south of here and Key west a bit more after that. Probably go that way and then take a lazy trip back up north.

It seems the Keys are more oriented to visiting by car now. There are still quite a few boats here even in the off season.
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Old 05-28-2010
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We are heading down there in the next few weeks. Probably stop in Key West, then Boot Key. There is a member here called Remetau who said he wanted to babysit our kids, keep our bulldog, and buy us all all the beer we could drink. Heck, after that, I figured teh Keys were the most boater friendly place in the world!!! (now if you see a few sailboats quickly leaving Boot Key, you will know why).

On a more serious note, I have not been to Boot Key or Key West since aroun 2004 I think. I am curious to see how they have changed. I suspect Key West is the same old crazy place it always is, and fun for adults but not the most kid friendly place in the world, so I suspect we will not be there long. Your comments on Marathon suprised me a little. With the shift in the economy, I wonder if they will change back to the old boat-friendly anchorage it used to be??

I am also curious what Remeteau thinks about your comments and may ask him to join the conversation (assuming he is not weighing anchor after reading this thread!!).

Thanks again for sharing. How about smoe pics!!

Brian

wife all we wanted if we would grace him with our presense).
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Old 05-28-2010
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Hugely. It's been about 4 years since I've been to the Keys but agree with your assessment of Marathon. I enjoyed Key West but recommend you take a mooring ball in behind Fleming Key. If the weather is right and you have the time, a trip to the Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson is well worth it although if the easterlies have set in it's a long return trip. My avatitar is Loggerhead Key in the DTs. On your way north through Bay of Biscane, Boca Chita Key, about 10 miles south of Miami is a nice stop.
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Originally Posted by ebs001 View Post
Hugely. It's been about 4 years since I've been to the Keys but agree with your assessment of Marathon. I enjoyed Key West but recommend you take a mooring ball in behind Fleming Key. If the weather is right and you have the time, a trip to the Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson is well worth it although if the easterlies have set in it's a long return trip. My avatitar is Loggerhead Key in the DTs. On your way north through Bay of Biscane, Boca Chita Key, about 10 miles south of Miami is a nice stop.
Agree. If there is any way to make the Tortugas, you would not regret it. We just got back from there about a month or so ago.

Brian
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Old 05-28-2010
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Brian,

I think you got our message mixed up. I said you can drop off all your beer and leave the kids in the dink.

Huguley,

I’m sorry you were so disappointed in Marathon. I think a lot of people come down here expecting more. There isn’t really a town here. The stores are spread out the entire length of Vaca Key, and no there isn’t a whole lot right by the city marina. The reason the dinghy dock cost so much is to help pay for the new floating dinghy dock and the new shower facilities. We were paying $130/mo when we were at anchor. Key West is cheaper ($80/mo last I checked), but you get nothing and there isn’t a harbor there.

Last January we were heading from Tampa area over to Ft. Lauderdale. We ended up spending an extra 4 weeks in Key West and have been stuck in Marathon since then. We found the place to be a charm. We like the laid back atmosphere, the friendly people, all the boaters, the warm weather, and of course the water. We were going to leave this past spring and head up north, but we had so much fun down here last summer, we decided to do it again. We are friends with a lot of locals and power boaters so we do a lot of diving, snorkeling, fishing, sandbar trips, and runs to Key West. We have a car down here so it does make it a lot easier, but we did spend our first 2 months down here without a car. A bike really helps.

This weekend, we are heading to the everglades for a day, going spear fishing and diving one day, and then taking our boat out sailing and to the reef another day.

For some dinghy fun, go up into Boot Key on the east side, go to Sombero Beach, in calm weather head out Sister’s Creek and go all the way around Boot Key and then head into the west side of Boot Key, take the dinghy to the reef, or go to the couple of bars that have docks like Burdines, Dockside, Castaways, or Lazy Days. You can walk or catch a cab and go over to The Hammocks or Banana Bay and use their pool or use the pool at Sunset Grill. Yeah, it’s not Key West here, but it is quiet and Key West is only an hour drive or a bus trip away.

If you are heading to Key West, I suggest you stop by Looe Key for the day and snorkel or dive. This is probably my favorite reef in the Keys. There are mooring balls on the south side of the reef, and I’ve stayed out overnight on the balls a couple of times, but I don’t recommend it since it can get a little rough. If you want to go to Looe Key, then head up there in the morning and dive all day and then head into New Found Harbor for the night (just over an hour in from the reef). This is half way between Marathon and Key West.
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Old 05-29-2010
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Remetau do you know why there is no hot water in the laundry at the city marina? And there is no hot water in the sinks either. I had to run the shower to get hot water to shave with. The city marina is actually pretty nice except for the hot water. I really like the tv alcoves and the book exchange. Its not fancy or even especially clean but it is layed out well.

I don't really mind that there is not much in Marathon. The basics are there but without a car you can't really get to a place to buy groceries or hardware. Our guide said west marine had use of a dinghy dock but someone told us that someone sued the marina that let them use it and they lost it. Don't know if thats true or not but it sounds about right for the world.

All we wanted was a place to land a dinghy and let someone run to the store. But in places where the road goes to the water there are bushes or fences and where there are breaks the bank is steep. The city makes it real hard for us to get into town and spend money.
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Old 05-29-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by huguley3 View Post
.......so went on to key largo and anchored in Blackwater sound. There is not much here....................
Next time try anchoring in the Suset Cove portion of Buttonwood Sound and dinghy to the dead end road (public access) leaving Snooks and the yellow resort to your starboard. This road comes to the back of a Burger King and you'll find a small shopping mall across the street. If you have bikes to dinghy in even more will be available. 'take care and joy, Aythya crew
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Old 05-30-2010
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We've been down to Marathon and spent several weeks there for the past 3 years. We have found it to be a great place. We do have our bicycles though, so we are able to get around pretty good.
We eat and drink at 'Dockside', so are welcome to use their dinghy dock for trips to Publix or K-Mart.
The West Marine store is new and no longer on the Marathon Boat Yard property, therefore no dinghy access. So walking and cycling is a neccessity.
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