Saturday, May 31, 2014

Marathon–Tight Squeeze in the Keys.

Posted by Scot

We left Bahia Honda, and continued on up the Keys, bound for Marathon.  I was excited to see this town in the middle of the Keys as I had read a lot about it on other sailing blogs.  It is the boating centre of the area, with lots of resources for people needing to get work done on their boat.

Leaving Bahia Honda
Boot Key Harbour, which is the main harbour at Marathon, has over 200 mooring balls maintained by the city to try and decrease the number of derelict boats that end up getting left in Marathon.  Unfortunately, to get to the moorings, you have to cross under some hanging cables which are 65 feet above the water at mean tide.  The antennas and wind vane on our mast top out at around 63 feet.  Not a lot of wiggle room if we wanted to get into the inner harbour.

In fact, that 65 foot number has haunted us a bit in the Keys.  To sail up the Keys, you can either stay in the Hawk Channel, which is outside on the Atlantic side, or you can motor up the Intra Coastal Waterway, which is on the protected inside of the Keys.  For those that don’t know about it, the ICW is a channel that runs up the entire East Coast of the U.S.  If you want, you can use it to cruise from Key West all the way up to the north eastern states without ever seeing open water.

Watching the bottom through the clear water as we cruise up a calm Hawk Channel
But you have to be able to fit under some bridges to get to it.  In the Keys, the highest bridges provide about 65 feet of clearance.  Again, that is a pretty tight squeeze for us.  We talked about crossing over to the inside a few times, but in the end, decided against it.  Really, we would rather sail anyway, if the wind is good, and we didn’t want to risk scraping the hardware off the top of our mast.

We made the same decision at Marathon.  When we first got there, we anchored outside the harbour and had lunch.  After an hour of rocking in the wakes of all the boats heading in and out of Marathon on the Memorial Day long weekend, we gave in, and called the only marina that we could get into without having to cross under the low hanging cables.

It was so calm and clear on the way to Marathon that we decided to let the kids catch  a ride on a tow rope (don't worry we slowed the boat almost to a stop).
The channel was crazy busy as we motored into the marina.  There were boats everywhere.  We got a weird call on our VHF as we motored up the shallow and narrow channel. 

“Catamaran in the Boot Key Harbour Channel, this is Wind Traveller.”

“This is the Catamaran Monashee in the Boot Key Harbour Channel.  Go to 17”.

“Catamaran, this is Wind Traveller.  We are heading up the Boot Key Harbour Channel.  We don’t think we will be able to fit past you.  How would you like to proceed?”

Huh?  I had no idea what this lady was talking about.

“Uh, Wind Traveller, why don’t you just follow us up the channel.  We will be turning in at the marina.  Then you can keep going up the channel to wherever you are headed.”

No answer from Wind Traveller.

“Wind Traveller, does that answer your question?  I’m not sure what you are asking.”

Still no answer.  We switched back to 16.  They must have thought, for some reason, that we were sitting still in the middle of the channel, blocking all traffic, on one of the busiest weekends of the year.  Weird.  Somebody needs to get their depth perception checked.

Drying off after a swim.
Anyway, we motored up to the marina, and checked out our assigned slip.  Monashee has a 20 foot beam, which we had told the marina when we called.  They had assigned us a 22 foot slip, with a fixed dock on one side and pilings on the other.  Once we hung bumpers over both sides of the boat, there were mere inches to get into the slip.

We radioed in and asked if they had anything wider.  Fortunately, they had a 25 foot slip on the other side of the marina.  We quickly headed over there and backed in. Even that slip was hard to get into, with their super high docks, but thanks to some fancy footwork by Katie and Christopher, we managed to keep fended off the pilings and got tied up. We were glad we did, because about half an hour later, a motor cat came into the slip we had originally been assigned.  Sara and I were at the office checking in, but the kids said they bounced off the pilings three times as they wedged themselves into that slip.

This beautiful blue hulled power boat caught my eye at the Marathon marina.  And he had no trouble fitting into his slip.
Once we got settled into the marina, we called a cab to go check out Marathon.  The town itself was a disappointment.  I was hoping for an interesting historical town like Key West.  Instead, Marathon is just big stores on either side of the Overseas Highway which blasts right through the middle.

We spent a bit of time shopping, enjoying being back in the “land of stuff.”  The contrast between what is available to buy in America and the rest of the world is remarkable.

We headed back the boat, and spoiled ourselves again by ordering a pizza to be delivered to the marina for dinner, just because we could.  Then we settled in for a quiet night at the dock.  The cost of the marinas in the Keys meant we were only going to get one night on the dock, and were going to be heading back out to anchor in the morning.

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