Monthly Archives: January 2019

The Boot Key Anchorage Blues

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon FL
Position: 24 42.238N, 081 06.069W
Posted by Bill

I know…long time…no blog! It has been more difficult to write blogs more often for some reason this year. I think it is because this is year 5 of our cruising, and we have pretty much “been there…done that” from Southport to Key West and through much of the Bahamas. In the first couple of years, there were many new things to share. This time around, especially in the Keys, we have just settled in to our normal routine, and for those of you that follow the blog…you already know what it is like!

The blog left off in Key West just after Christmas. We continued our Key West routine of exploring the island, hanging at the pool, happy hours, entertainment every night, boat maintenance, and enjoying the luxury of being tied to a slip with fresh water and power. Here is a picture of Dante’s pool, which is directly in front of our marina:
The weather was really nice while we were there, although very windy. Lots of friends visited us while we were there, so we naturally spent lots of time on Duval street, showing them the craziness. We spent New Years Eve outside of Sloppy Joes Bar and watched the big lighted conch drop. The streets were pretty packed:
New Years Day we had a pot luck on the dock with some of the other boaters and Key West locals. After New Years we focused on getting the boats ready to leave. Just normal maintenance and provisioning. It takes several days to get provisions because we go by bike or walk, limiting how much we can get at one time. We had until the 17th of January to leave, but we saw a perfect weather window on the 13th, and we took advantage of it. It was a very calm day and I was expecting a comfortable passage. Turns out there was a 1-2 foot swell on the beam, which is not bad at all. Unfortunately, our boat does not like a beam sea with a short wave period, especially when you don’t have enough wind to get a sail up. The swell would start to roll the boat, and the next wave would hit just as the boat was starting its second roll period, thereby accentuating the first roll…and it just continued until you were getting thrown back and forth. If my speed dropped under 7 MPH, the motion was horrible, so we reluctantly pulled away from the group and maintained over 7. When we arrived at Boot Key Harbor in Marathon there was a waiting list of over 20 people for a mooring, which is normal this time of year. When a weather window opens up, a lot of people go to the Bahamas and moorings are freed up. So like everything else in cruising…it all depends on the weather, which began to deteriorate (winds pick up) the day after we get there. With no mooring, the only choice is to anchor and the anchorage was pretty full. We all squeezed into spots we thought were ok, and I thought we had a good one. As the winds shifted from NE to NW we noticed that the 2 boats that were tied together and anchored on our starboard side had the anchor line all twisted up. There are typically 2 types of boats in the Boot Key Harbor anchorage: 1) cruisers like us either waiting for a weather window or a mooring ball, and 2) people that live aboard permanently, and cannot afford any other type of dwelling. The liveaboards typically have boats that are very run down, barely floating in some cases, and most cannot be navigated. When they anchor, they typically put out at least 2 anchors and a normal amount of chain or rope (here we have 65’ of chain out) just like everyone else. However, over time and many changes in wind direction, the chain or rope gets twisted up effectively shortening the length. So, you anchor next to them expecting they have 65’ and will swing with the wind like a normal boat with 65’ of swing, and you space your anchoring so you will not hit anyone as the winds shift. As the winds did shift, we noticed that these 2 boats next to us had an effective swing of about 25’ due to the twisted lines, and we were coming very close to them. Thankfully, the winds didn’t shift any more to the west or we would have had to move, but I had several sleepless nights watching. After 3 days of stress, the guy in front of us left and we pulled anchor and moved further away. This is one of the reasons I hate this anchorage. I do feel bad for the permanent boats. It is so expensive to live in the Keys, and people who work the lesser paying jobs cannot make ends meet with any normal living method. That being said, these types of boats are anchored throughout the anchorage and effectively reduce the amount of boats that can anchor in here. Plus, when you anchor you aren’t really sure how they are going to behave because you can’t see their lines or anchors under the water.

The weather has not been good since we got here. In 2 weeks of being here, there have only been a couple of days where the winds weren’t blowing in the mid to upper 20s or low 30s. With exception of a few cold days (temps in the 60s) it has been very comfortable and very little rain, which is good. We dinghied to the beach a few times and have been doing our normal Marathon routines. You can dinghy and walk to many good restaurants and bars, and there are great happy hours every day. There are daily chores, including jugging water from the marina faucet via dinghy, managing power and running the generator, almost daily walks to the grocery store (about a mile from the marina), and of course…boat maintenance. There have been many days that it was so windy that we didn’t get off the boat. We only run the generator to charge batteries or when power is needed for projects, so we don’t have TV. Consequently, we have been reading LOTS of books. Looks like in a few days the weather is going to break. We should be able to get a mooring ball, and we will be able to enjoy the beach and other activities away from the boat.

One of our major projects is replacing our solar panels. We have 4 100 watt flexible panels installed on the top of our bimini. They are 3 years old and the acrylic finish has hazed over, so they are not working very well. They are under warranty and we purchased them here from a company called SALT, who has honored the warranty and is getting us new panels. They are not here yet and we really need them before we leave for the Bahamas. That plus the fact that all of us traveling together have tasks to be completed before we can go, means we have a couple more weeks until we can head offshore. It is looking like we will likely plan to depart Marathon the first week of February, work our way up the inside of the Keys, stop at some of our favorite places, then depart for the Bahamas from Key Biscayne. As always…it all depends on the weather!

Some pics!
The dinghy landing part of Sombrero Beach:
The normal people part of Sombrero Beach:
Boot Key Harbor at night…check out all of the anchor lights:
Sunset from our boat in the anchorage: