Hi Everyone! Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving (for those that celebrate it). We sure did!! For those that don't know, we sailed down to Marathon in the Keys. It's about 110 miles or so - which makes a pretty good haul. We elected to do it in an overnight run, leaving around 200 pm that afternoon and arriving around 0730 am the next day.
For those that have not been there, I thought I would share a lot of my thoughts and a lot of pictures. These are simply my impressions... so many may dissagree with them. But at least I will share them to give you an idea of what we thought of the place.
Marathon (and the associated Boot Key where the Mooring field lies) is the next major 'city' east of Key West. It is not nearly as large or developed as Key West and in my opinion does not have quite the same liberal attitudes. Marathon struck me as an old fishing town where the last many years of development created two kinds of people - have's and have nots. There are some extraoridinary homes there... many, many $$ millions. And there are a lot of trailer parks (especially around Boot Key). There are no shortage of Mercedes and other luxury cars, and no shortage of cars that are doing good to run and I suspect that a lot of the people walk everywhere. Everything is theoretically walkable, but as the island is laid out like a long strip, some things can be a long walk to get to. There is a Home Depot, a nice Publix (food store), a CVS, and many other major stores. It has a small hospital and a West Marine. Some of the buildings are new (Home Depot and West Marine) while others have been there for many yeras and probably date back to when it was more of a fishing village atmosphere (like the CVS). That was our impression from driving a friends car around the island.
From the water, you may never see some of these things. Staying boat-side, you will find a very large community of boaters and very friendly people. I would almost say that the people in Marathon (especially Marathon Marina) were some of the most friendly people we have ever met, anywhere. It seemed that everyone kept coming up to us and saying hello. Everyone was willing to help out. They had a big Thanksgiving party and invited everyone. It is a wonderfully open and inviting atmosphere where no one takes themselves too seriously. There are million dollar+ boats and boats that are doing good to stand up right. Yet, everyone seems to get along and we did not feel any kind of a culture-class between the very well-to-do's and the not so much. In contrast to many places we have been, we also found that most people were very knowledgeable boaters. Very little of the 'Sea Ray' crowd. And I would be shocked if there was anyone that does not actively fish or know how to!
Without seeing it first hand, it is hard to grasp the enormous number of boats. I would venture that Boot Key could hold several hundred boats, and often does during season. THis is not counting the many condos, anchorage, and marinas that surround the key with docks. We saw boats from all over the world, from New Zealand to Canada to Texas.
Boot Key is definitely a outstanding stop over point between the Bahamas, Cuba, Tortugas, Sailing between the East-West coast, South America, you name it. Because the mooring field is totally protected on all sides and there is an abundance of stores and yards, it is the perfect place to wait out the right weather window for whatever your destination.
And it's funny too - because Marathon reminds me of a place where many people sailed to as a jump-off point, then liked it so much they never left. And why not? The gulf stream and world class fishing is maybe 8 miles away, you can coastal fish in your tender without a problem, the water is beautiful, there are gorgeous reefs to snorkel and scuba within 5 miles (and mooring balls to tie to to do it), it is cheap ($330/month roughly for a mooring ball and $7.5/foot/month for a nice marina with elec, water, cable tv, and all associated costs included), and the people are very friendly. Everyone's a cruiser and everyone is looking to the next destination - just like you.
One of the very few negatives we found at Marathon was that there were NO kids. Not a single boat kid anywhere. Now I am sure that changes and I am sure that there were some in the mooring field that we never saw. But compared to other places we have been where there were at least some boat-kids/Live Aboards or cruisers, this place had none. Other negatives I will point out is that during crab season, the bay is literally littered with Crap Traps. I could not even begin to count the many thousands of crab traps we sailed and motored by. We also would be a bit nervous of being there during Hurricane season because the island is low and any approaching storm will call for a evac and evacuating that island chain would be quite a adventure as there is only one way on-off. On the flip side, short of a direct hit, Boot Key has to be one of the most protected harbors in south Florida and would be a good place to lay low for the Hurricane season.
The botom line is that I would love to go spend some more time in Boot Key/Marathon, but not sure if I would live there long term. It is a beautiful place and has some great people. Marathon Marina is very nice and the cruisers there are wonderful, as is the staff. We also had a very nice dinner with Remeteau (Don and his wife Diana who frequent Sailnet and other Forums) who are wonderful people and very representative of the classy folks you will find at Marathon. Thanks Don and Diana for spending the evening with us!!
Hope you enjoy the many pics. Please feel free to ask any questions.
Brian & Family
The view and sunset while under way!
This is the 7 Mile bridge (south side of it) as we passed through. The approach from the north is easy. You can make it without incident under 65' tall and 6' draft. We saw no less than about 6.5/7' depth and 67 feet clearance. Do be aware!!! - there are a LOT of shoals and very strong currents so I would not attempt the apprach at night if you ahve never done it before. Just good ole seamanship.
The view approaching Marathon Marina (note - this is different than Marathon City Marina which you will see later). This is the first marina on your port side as you enter. We had 7-8 feet coming in, but hug the green markers as you approach. Again, read carefully, hug the green markers as you enter the marina.
The view facing Southwest off our bow from our slip in Marathon Marina... beautiful!!!
Berdines lies just before the bridge into Boot Key Harbor. Very cheap burgers and beer and actually pretty good food! Make sure you stop there and buy a coozie before you leave.
The approach into Boot Key Harbor. Boot Key lies just through the removed span of the bridge. You can see form the pics that it is huge and totally protected on all sides.
You will find boats in Marathon of every shape and size and from probably every part of the world. It is a boaters hangout like no other!!
Marathon City Marina (on far end of Boot Key)
Some boats are authentic antiques (like this 130 yo Junk)
And some are, well, not so authentic!!
You will find all kind of wildlife, including these big fellas!!
And of course mermaids and very large fish!!
Good looking Women...
Vicious Guard Dogs...
And what is a Thanksgiving trip without sharing our Thanksgiving Feast!?? We had: A 9.5 lb Turkey (fit in the oven...yahoo!), deviled eggs, green bean caserole, squash caserole, homemade cranberry sauce, homemade chocolate pie, homemade stuffing, and homemade giblet gravy!! All home-made in a boat!!!
We had so much Turkey and leftovers, we even had it on the way home! Here is our second Thanksgiving Feast as we motor back to Fort Myers Beach.