Marathon FL, Boot Key Harbor
Position: 24 42.217N, 081 06.083W
Posted by Bill
We wrapped up our visit with Tricia’s sister and her husband and headed back to “reality”. Our visit was great. Great to hang out with them and some friends that visited from Ohio while we were there. We found a great place to get fresh seafood, and the girls prepared a feast of lobster tails, shrimp and tuna, with fettuccine alfredo:
Man was it good! We also enjoyed a few “drink and drift” sunsets. This is something we picked up in the Bahamas. Participants would take their dinghies out into the harbor, tie them all in a big flotilla, and enjoy cocktails and appetizers while watching the sunset. Here in Buttonwood Sound we used our dinghy, kayaks and a row boat. We had some great sunsets:
We stayed there almost 2 and ½ weeks, way longer than originally anticipated, and we needed to get back to Marathon as we were getting low on the wait list for a mooring ball. You have 2 hours to get to the marina office after they call, or the mooring is given to the next person, so you need to be close. The boat had been anchored out for close to 10 days in the same spot, and we visited it daily to charge batteries and open it up, but we were only there an hour a day. Around day 8, I started to notice a cormorant (sea bird) sitting on the bow, using the anchors as a personal toilet. Not too bad to clean up…but day 8 had 4 birds, and day 9 had 7 birds. Needless to say, the entire front half of the boat was an absolute mess, and smelled horrible. Before we departed on the 6th, we spend several hours cleaning the boat as best we could on anchor. Here is a picture of the bastards on day 8:
We stopped at the anchorage where the Lorelai bar is on Islamorada, and spent the night. Lorelai’s was one of our favorite bars in the Keys, but they have cut back on happy hour drink portions and have no happy hour food specials anymore…damn! It still has a great view and live music, but we have that on the boat…including cheaper food and drink. Too bad. The next day we made it to Boot Key Harbor on Marathon. We were still number 12 on the waiting list, so we had to find a place to anchor. With over 50 boats on the waiting list, the anchorage area is jammed full of boats. Many are permanent residents, with dilapidated boats. The holding is not the best either, so it can be a crazy place to anchor. We found a good area with room for the boat to swing, put down 70 feet of chain and set the anchor well. I ask the guy next to us how much chain he has out, something you should do to make sure that neighboring boats swing evenly and anchor. It also lets you know if someone has too little anchor line out and they could possibly drag anchor and hit you. The guy says “I guess 60 feet”, so I am good. We are only expecting 10 knots or less of wind for the next 3 days, so I am not at all worried. The next day we dinghy to Burdines (restaurant) to get lunch, and in the middle of lunch the marina calls me. “A neighboring boat says you are dragging anchor…can you check it out?” The wind has just shifted from east to west, but there is less than 10 knots. You could almost hold on chain alone in that situation, not to mention the 60 pound anchor we have. We go back to the boat and sure enough, we are right on top of the boats next to us. We didn’t hit anything, so all is good, but the guy starts to lecture me about anchoring. I asked how much chain he had out (again…the same guy as the day before) and he says 6 to 1. That is “captain-ease” for 6 feet of chain for each foot of water depth. We are in 10 feet of water, so it should be 60 feet of chain. I didn’t like being next to this guy, so we moved further down the anchorage. After looking at the track we took while swinging at anchor, I realized that we did not drag at all, and merely swung on our 70 feet of chain when the wind shifted. If he had 60 feet, he would have swung too, and there would have been 150 feet between our boats. His boat had obviously been there so long, I don’t think he had a clue how much chain he had out. So, we pick this new spot and get a good set. We were expecting a front to move through with 25 knot winds, the typical Florida winter pattern. The anchorage is so crowded that I only put out 60 feet, because we don’t have room to swing with more than that. With winds in the mid to upper 20s, I put out at least 90 feet. As always, the high winds and major wind shifts occur in the middle of the night, and last night was no different. We shift from west winds to north and the speed picks up. At midnight, I go on deck to see how we are holding and we are ok, except the guy that was way in front of me with the west winds is now beside me, his boat still pointing west. All of the other boats are pointing north-east into the wind. We keep swinging closer and closer to the back of this guys boat, and I keep waiting for the wind to swing it away from us. At about 4 AM, a fender that is being used as a float for something in the water, pops out from under this guys boat, and the boat finally swings with the wind! We were as close as 15 feet to hitting him. I was watching all night, and if necessary, would start the engine and motor away from him until we could move our anchor. The wind is going to shift to the east, so I can see that this will place us in contact with this float. I don’t know what is under the water, and I know that it held the stern of his boat against 25 knot winds for 4 hours, so I know that I don’t want to get hung up in it! It is 6:30 AM, and I can see that we are also dragging ever so slowly…ugh! I get Tricia, and we pull the anchor up, move it forward so that we can avoid the float, and put out more anchor to keep from dragging. We successfully move and put out almost 90 feet of chain. We avoid the float, stop dragging, and as the wind shifts we see that the guy who we almost hit, has less chain out than the other boats. We swing about 30 feet in front of him in an east wind. If we had not moved, we would have swung into him. Ugh again!!!
Anchoring is almost an art. The benefits are worth the troubles, but in an anchorage like this, sometimes it can suck bad, for days at a time. We do have a nice view of the harbor from here though: