We had a fantastic day sailing from Key West to Marathon, FL. We weren’t even sure we were going to leave Sunday morning, but peer pressure got the best of us again. At 7:00 am, we had a call from Pat and Melana saying, “Hey guys! Great day for a sail, are you ready to go?.” Oops. We were still in bed. Peeking out the port light, we saw Drew and Sharon on Z-Raye weighing anchor. Mike checked the weather, saw a southeast wind predicted, and said, “Let’s just go.” So, we did!
Once we escaped the crowded Key West Harbor, we sailed on a close reach all day long in winds from 12 to 16 knots. Sanitas did great! We even had a chance to race a bit against Pat and Melana on Tapati. Our top speed for the day was 6.3 knots, which is good for us slow pokes! Eight hours later, we anchored just outside the Marathon harbor, watched the second half of the Super Bowl aboard Tapaiti, and called it a night.
The Marathon City marina in Boot Key Harbor is a very unique cruiser community. As the web page describes it, they provide “everything you need, and nothing you don’t.” Which is great! There’s a community lounge with WiFi, TVs, a lending library, and mail service. Bikes to borrow. Showers, laundry, and an ice machine. A dinghy dock, water, and pump out service. It’s not fancy, but for $123 a week on a mooring ball, you can’t beat it. About those mooring balls. The mooring field is HUGE, with room for over 220 boats. It’s like a gigantic parking lot for boats of all shapes, sizes, ages, and states of repair. This area was very hard hit by Hurricane Irma in September of 2017. Of the 226 boats in Boot Key Harbor, less than 50 survived intact.
Which brings me back to the amazing community. Since the hurricane, the cruiser community has come together to help each other rebuild and repair. Even in the short time we spent here, we developed a sense of the closeness and willingness to help one another out. Everyone welcomed us, offered a smile or a kind word on the dinghy dock, or gave tips on how to handle the laundry, best place to walk for groceries, etc. We were welcomed as part of the community, although we were only transients.
And we got our first taste of cruiser community via the daily Cruiser Net at 9:00 am on VHF channel 68. What a cool way for the inhabitants of the harbor to catch up on the news! Every day, there is a different net coordinator, who acts as the MC, and anyone within VHF radio range can participate in welcoming new arrivals, sending departing vessels off, making announcements, offering to buy or sell goods, and asking for help. We introduced Sanitas to the group and even found a home for the space heater that we finally don’t need! From the Cruisers Net and from spending time in the Marina, we got a sense of the eclectic community of independent souls who choose to make Boot Key Harbor their full-time home, as evidenced by the tongue-in-cheek motto, “We’re all here, because we’re not all there.”
I even went a little bit fangirl when I met one of my heroes, Carolyn Sherlock of The Boat Galley whose blog and Facebook page have provided invaluable advice on how to get started cruising. I’ve followed her advice on gear to buy, tips and tricks to make living on a boat more comfortable, and just generally have gotten an idea of what to expect from this new lifestyle. Unfortunately, we met on the sidewalk by noisy Route 1, so we didn’t have much time to talk, and I forgot to take a selfie (drat!) we we did exchange boat cards, which felt like the epitome of cruiser cool!