Marathon FL, Florida Keys
Posted by Bill
We have found and seen that one of the most difficult things to do when living like this, is plan a land based trip around a definite schedule. A significant, milestone, family event, popped up on the radar a couple of months ago, scheduled for February 18th, in northern Ohio. This is one of those things that you really don’t want to miss, so while we were in Key West, we started to figure out how we could make it happen. Our original plan was to go to the Bahamas as soon as weather allowed, after we left Key West in mid-January. So, we thought about two approaches: 1) Leave the boat in the Bahamas and fly back to Ohio, or 2) Find a place to leave the boat in Florida and fly back to Ohio, delaying our trip to the Bahamas until we return. As with everything else in our lifestyle, weather is the primary factor in decisions, so we favored option 1 if weather allowed us to get across to the Bahamas. We could leave the boat in 1 of 3 places, based on our planned route and our experience with those areas: South Bimini, Nassau/New Providence, or Georgetown in the Exumas. There were marinas in those areas that we felt comfortable leaving the boat, and there were regular flights back to the States. It really depended on how far we could go in the time we had before the 18th of February, and that depended on the weather. If we left the boat in Florida, we could try to find a marina in Miami or the Keys, or we could get a mooring ball in Marathon. If we could get a marina, we would have shore power, but if we used a mooring ball, someone would have to run the generator for us for a couple of hours every day unless it was really windy (in which case the wind generator would keep batteries topped up). Our traveling partners on Sofia Jeanne graciously offered to look after the boat and run the generator. The one thing we didn’t want to do was leave the boat at anchor…for obvious reasons if you read the last post!
If you read the blog, you know that we ended up staying stateside. The Miami boat show is the same weekend as the family event, so every marina in the Miami area was packed full. The marinas in the keys were also booked, as most of them get filled up 4-6 months in advance of the winter season. There was also a fishing tournament in the Marathon area, which put further demand on the marinas. Our only option was to go with a mooring ball. We put our names on the wait list when we arrived on January 18th, thinking that a month was plenty of time to work our way down from our 38th position in the queue. The mooring field employees figured we had a 3 week wait. We set the trip to Ohio up so that we left on the 14th and returned on the 20th. This gave us time to help buy and prepare the food, and help with setting up the venue for the event, and gave us a short window to see our kids and grandkids. The cheapest flights were out of Fort Lauderdale. We had 3 reasonable options to get from Marathon to the Fort Lauderdale airport: Shuttle service, limo service, and rent a car. The cheaper of the 3 was renting a car. Since it is a 2 ½ hour drive, and our flight was at the “butt crack of dawn”, we needed to go the night before and stay in a hotel. The day before we needed to leave, we were number 4 on the mooring wait list. The weather was really good, so we thought there would be plenty of people leaving , and we had a great chance to get one. We find out around 2 PM that we didn’t make it. Since the family event is on Tricia’s side of the family, she has to go without me, and I stay with the boat. I went with her to the hotel and left the next morning, dropping her off at the airport on the way back to Marathon. Three hours after I get back, the marina calls and says “you have a mooring”. I think: great…I can fly to Ohio on Friday and return with her on Monday. However, we find that the cost of the flights have tripled, the cost of the shuttle and limo has gone to close to $300, and because of the boat show in Miami, all of the cheap rental cars are taken. I could probably do it, but it will cost over $600. On top of what we were already spending, this is beyond our budget, so I stay in Marathon.
The really frustrating thing, as if the whole thing isn’t frustrating enough, is that the mooring we were given was open on the day before we actual got it, and that would have allowed us to stick with our original plan! I don’t know why it took the marina another day to assign it to us, especially after we told them our dilemma and asked for as early a notification as we could get. The good thing is that Tricia made it! I am working on getting the boat ready for the Bahamas trip, and will do some major provisioning in Miami on the day I pick Tricia up at the airport. We will hit the high seas for “da Islands” as soon as weather permits when she returns.