We boaters are so fortunate to live here in Southwest Florida. This area is the gateway to the Florida Keys, Key West, and the Bahamas with the Abaco and Exuma chain. Sailboats going south have the opportunity to stop and spend some time both going and returning home in some of the most boater friendly places that I can think of. The great weather here is an added advantage. Many times cruisers think about cruising to well know anchorages and island groups. Some times circumstances do not allow you the luxury of time to do all your want to do. That’s where the Florida Keys plays a most enjoyable and important part in your sailing activities.
Boot Key Harbor is located in the town of Marathon on Vaca Key. It is a haven for cruising enjoyments, a respite for cruisers returning home from down island, a great place to hang out only a short time from SW, FL. There are some wooden docks, but mostly, 226+ mooring balls waiting for you. When you arrive call the “Boot Key Harbormaster” on channel 16 VHF. Give them your boat name, length and depth and they will direct you to a suitable mooring ball number. Be sure to have your boot hook and lines ready when you arrive so that your wife or crew can take the mooring ball pick up pole and be ready as your steer to the correct location. Pick it up, secure it to your cleat and alert the harbor master that you are there and will be in shortly to register. If you arrive too late, pick up an empty one, and call first thing in the morning. Boot Key Harbor is very well appointed and prepared to welcome cruisers from all over the world as they enter the USA or just back from the islands. If you arrive after dark or a very low tide,you may safely anchor just outside the harbor entrance. You may even see boats anchored there as it is safe and for the most part quite comfortable.
Years ago, going to the Keys, the City of Marathon had been reported as somewhat less than perfect. Not so today. Marathon Marina has been updated and has the amenities that cruisers expect and enjoy. Recently the Marina has assured services that most cruisers wanted. There is a brand new token operated laundry section with several washing machines and dryers. While you are doing the tedious chore of laundry in their new Laundromat, you can walk a few steps and sit in a very comfy chair and watch one of the TV’s. The news channel is always popular. Also, you can go into the large gathering room and check your mail to see if it arrived from the States or other places. There are shelves for a book exchange. You know, bring a book, and take a book. If you do not have a book to exchange, you may take a book anyway. If that is not enough, if you have WiFi, you may use your computer for free to access the Internet.
These are some of the land amenities. What else is the attraction to Boot Key Harbor by boat? One the first things we do is to try and see who is there. This is a great first stop for some folks crossing over from the Bahamas or returning from the Island chain from anywhere from the Bahamas Southward. Spontaneous happy hours pop up on a lot of the boats.
Here you will find quite a few restaurants, a large Publix supermarket, liquor store, Bealls Outlet Store, huge West Marine, other well equipped marine stores, boat supply places and the like. There is even a restaurant that has an outdoor swimming pool in which you can swim while your food iscooking and eat it poolside. There are buses that run up and down the main street and even go as far as Key West. Also there are cabs all over town. They are not the usual yellow and black cabs. They are just cars with drivers who will take you where you need to go for a modest fee. There is a playhouse which presents live plays, movie theater, bakeries, Home Depot, and on and on. For us it is the best. Restaurants abound here. There is a very well know and popular restaurant near the entrance of the harbor, on your left as you enter. It is a cruiser’s favorite named, BURDINES. The food is always fresh, good, the prices reasonable, and the view ever changing as you watch the boats come in and out. There are other choices to go from the anchorage for food and drinks and easy to get to by dinghy. Breakfast and lunch is always delightful in the back garden of “The Pink Pig” and “Annette’s” which is just across the street from the driveway entrance to the harbor. You may even enjoy a bit of a walk to an old time favorite called, “Herbie’s” which is on the main drag, A1A. Also there is the Marathon Yacht Club which serves lunch and many other places to sit, eat and enjoy the view.
There are two fuel stations side by side as you enter the harbor where you can fill up, buy ice and some sundries. If you have health issues there is the Fisherman’s Hospital within walking distance of the harbor. There is a library next to the hospital. You can go to the library, use their computers for free. I can’t think of anything that is missing from this boaters’ haven.
Frances is a Commodore of the Seven Seas Cruising Association and a member of Sailing Association of Marco Island and AP United States Power Squadron.